Category Archives: Adventures and Racing

Sunny’s Pedal Day 2: What the Hill???

I rarely sleep when I’m not at home.  It usually takes me until day three before I finally get a decent night’s sleep.  I had hoped that the 86 mile ride on day 1 in nearly 100 degree temperatures would have remedied that, but sleep escaped me that night even though I was tired.  No matter.  Any day that we get to ride bikes all day is a great day! The menu for day 2 would include a 105-108 mile ride from Pullman to Grangeville (depending on whose Garmin or online app you followed), over 5000 feet of vertical climbing including a 22 mile climb out of Lewiston, and a side of 100+ degree temperatures. My kind of day! 

Wait, what?  Did I say 22 mile climb?  Yes, I did.  Here’s a preview from one of our tracking devices.


And this wasn’t the only climb.  It was just the most impressive one.

We started the day with a quick breakfast in Pullman at Daily Grind Espresso before heading out.  We decided to stick together until we reached the top of the glorious decent into Lewiston.  Several of us settled into a nice pace line to warm up the legs on a smooth road with wide shoulders.  I knew we’d likely split up once we hit the big climbs, so I took advantage of the team effort and got in some more drafting practice while it lasted. 

With Haley at stateline

With Haley at stateline


I learned a roadie tradition on this trip. Apparently it is customary to sprint to welcome signs.  The trick is to catch your compadres by surprise, but not start sprinting too soon so that you bonk before the finish line. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off with this group of cycling rockstars but it was in the back of my mind.

We gathered at the “Welcome to Idaho” sign.  I’m not sure who won that sprint but it wasn’t me!  



Spiral Hiqhway; I have no words!!!  It is a definite hill repeat destination next summer. 

Ray at the top of Spiral Highway

Ray at the top of Spiral Highway

Seriously, Lewiston friends, I’ll be on your doorstep. Climb a killer switchback hill and then fly down in spiral fashion over and over again?  I’m in!! 


spiral hwy

At the bottom of the hill, Sunny Lane.  A little hard to see the sign here, but it’s there.  She was smiling over us.

sunny lane

Thank you Meg and Natalie!

Thank you Meg and Natalie!

 I cannot say enough about our road support along the way.  They did a great job of traversing the course, chasing us down and making sure we had what we needed, when we needed it.  This is no easy task when eight riders are split up throughout the day.  This was the welcome sign they drew on the bike path, leading us to our rest stop in Lewiston.



 Fueled up and ready for that 22 mile beast, we continued on.  Moises and I stuck together for a while but I was no match for his carbon fiber roadie with race wheels (it’s a beauty!), with my 22 pound steel frame of a road companion. 
Really Fast Carbon Beauty

Really Fast Carbon Beauty







Stunning Steel Turtle

Stunning Steel Turtle

I love my bike!  I just have to work harder to keep up with others.  She’s solid, full-figured, and she’s no wimp!  She carries a spirit of determination, so we always finish.





1170950_10151577651913456_1629050036_n[1]The long climb starts with false flats.  I hate false flats. They’re so deceptive.  If you’re gonna be a hill, just be a blasted hill already!  The high temperatures started to kick in and we heated up fast.  Alongside us was a creek and we were both thinking the same thing.  We parked the bikes in such a way that we hoped our fellow riders will see and join us. We had to scale down some slippery rocks to get there, and we were only able to get ankle deep but that was the best “dip” in a creek I’d ever experienced! (Until day 3, that is!)  Afterward, we split up. I didn’t want to slow him down and I was ready to focus on the slow grind ahead. 


There is nothing quite like making it to the top of an enormous hill. You push and pull, slowly grinding your way up at “mock” speeds of 5-9 miles per hour, taking in the scenery as a distraction from the lactic acid that is building up in your legs, listening to whatever playlist on your iPod helps you dig-dig-dig deep and keep climbing.  And then you see it it.  The top! 

Your Rocky moment has arrived and you claim VICTORY at the top of your mountain!


Or you rest in the shade and wait for others to climb to victory…

moises shade

Tom and Moises rested under small tree at the top of the hill and welcomed the rest of us as we summitted the beast.  Patrick and Cris were both long gone and we had no idea how far ahead they were.  Patrick would go on to be the first to reach Grangeville where his family was waiting to pick him up to head to the Oregon coast for a family vacation.  Thanks for cheering me on as I was oh-so-close to the finish line!  Nice to meet you, Patrick.  See you down the road!!  (Actually, I’ll be documenting my Coeur d’Alene Fondo ride in the near future — WHAT and adventure! — and wouldn’t you know it?  Patrick was the announcer at the finish line!)

There is something about people cheering you on that enables you to get the job done.  It’s how Rocky reached the top of those steps, afterall.  That fist pump and cheer out the window from Patrick gave me the boost I needed as I hit a strong headwind heading into Grangeville.  The dark clouds above looked ominous and I wanted to make it before the impending downpour.  (Oh man, stay tuned for my Fondo experience!)  As I reached Grangeville, my Garmin said 106 miles, others said 107 and still others, 108.  Whatever, it was a long way and I burned about 4800 calories.  FOOD!!  Best thing about training and being active!!  In fact, EVERY meal after a long day of exercise is the best meal you’ve ever had.  I highly recommend it if you are not already in the habit. 

We had initially planned to camp out but there was clearly a crazy storm heading in and Sandi Lebsack was so worried about how exhausted we were and about the storm that she got us some rooms at a motel.  Hot showers!  Thank you so much, Sandi.  You saved the day.  Again!

While we took turns getting cleaned up, I took in some recovery beverages. 🙂recovery drinks

sandy and me

Thank you, Sandy!!

After de-salting and washing the stink off, we dined in style at the Pizza Factory.  Another donated meal thanks to friend Sandy Kantner and my sister, Wendy Kaschmitter.  Wish my sister could have been there for the event!






What. An. Awesome. Day!

The Gang With Happy Bellies

The Gang with Happy Bellies

The best moments of a day like this are sitting around a table with the group, exhausted, refueling, silly and loopy, recapping the day’s events and knowing that tomorrow, you get to do it all over again.  Did I mention the cause?  I believe I did, but if you missed it, refer to Day 1 and this website for the incredible full story.  And if you’re not currently an organ donor, please consider it.  It’s such a beautiful and easy way to make an amazing impact on so many lives as you end your own journey. 

Day 3 (and my last for this ride) recap coming soon.  Plus Coeur d’ Alene Fondo 108 mile crazy adventure bike ride, and marathon relay fun.  Until then, keep moving, keep believing, and never give up. 

Sunny’s Pedal Day 1, Part 2: “Don’t Falafel Your Bike!”

The ride to Pullman was quite simply, a beautiful blast.  We had to resist the urge to go all out in the downwind, knowing that we had more 100 miles days and tough climbs ahead of us.  As an enthusiastic cyclist, this was the most personally encouraging ride I’ve ever been on.  I stuck with the guys in the front, some of whom are members of a local racing team.  I wanted to increase my skills in preparation for an upcoming big cycling event and knew this would be a great opportunity.  For most of my cycling years before the giant shift in my severe asthma, I rode alone.  Mostly because I would inevitably have some asthma trouble and I don’t like to slow others down OR scare them with my breathing issues so I learned to ride solo.  It was a pleasant shift to be able to start riding with others a few years ago and enjoy the camaraderie and occasional competition that comes along with that!  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with these guys but I was determined to for as long as I could.  They gracious enough to have me along and I walked away from that ride feeling more confident than ever before in my cycling skills and conditioning.  I had never learned proper technique as a roadie versus as a triathlete. Heck, I don’t have proper technique even as a triathlete.  I just ride – ha!  I jumped right in, drafting, pulling, and playing right along.  A long, beautiful paved road is really just a giant playground and we had a blast!  Thanks so much, guys.  I learned so much from you!

with the guysthe guys







The scenery of the Pacific Northwest is beyond words.  I wanted to stop constantly to take pictures but we had a destination to reach and we were on a roll.  The chatter helped pass the time and I was amazed at the skill of the guys around me. They have been racing for years and made it look so easy.  I had to focus all of my energy on the tires ahead of me, keeping close enough to feel the pull, yet far enough away to not cause an accident. That meant I didn’t notice some of the details of things around me along the way like they did. I did my part a couple of times and pulled the group along but I have no gauge for how fast I should go. I was so relieved when my buddy came alongside at one point and said, “That was one helluva pull, girl! We’re gonna make it to Pullman in record time if you pull like that!”  My heartfelt response: “Oh thank you for saying that because I’m DYING!”  Being new to true roadie technique, I’m learning how to set the speed for a pull.  In my attempt to do my part, I obviously I overdid it but I was ecstatic to know I could handle it!

Town Greeter at an old gas station. We assumed he worked here back in the day and is wearing the uniform he wore then. What a sweet soul!

Town Greeter at an old gas station. We assumed he worked here back in the day and is wearing the uniform he wore then. What a sweet soul!

We stopped for lunch in Rosalia and we just can’t resist getting a photo with this guy who happily greeted us, allowed us to take the photo and then warmly wished us well and insisted we be careful. What a sweet soul.

Lunch!  We find our support crew just beyond the chalk signs they left us on the road, and they greeted us with cow bells and cheers as we rolled in. We ate at the small park and rested for a bit.  Great conversation and laughter as we got to know each other better.  I had no idea that entertainment would be provided but the combination of personalities in this group made for quite the comical dynamic.  Nothing like a day of riding bikes and belly laughing!

Shortly after we depart, Cris has a surge of…..well something, and rockets past us and into the distance. Patrick and Moises can’t resist trying to catch him and I know I can’t hold that kind of pace and make it through the next two days as well, so I settle in and take in the scenery.  We meet up again as they stop in LaCrosse and we join forces once again to the finish.

We practically fly through the 96 miles into Pullman in 4 hours and 39 minutes of seat time.  Wow!  Actually it ended up being 98 for us because we took an unexpected detour which ended with a ½ climb at about 18% grade!!!  Geez! We make it to our destination for the night, a home which was generously donated to us while the owners were out of town.  Thank you Morse family!

Speaks for itself!  :-)

Speaks for itself! 🙂

We enjoy a donated meal for the riders at South Fork Public House. So much support and generosity on this trip! Guinness never tastes better than after a day of riding like that.  We’re tired and hungry and around the dinner table, it becomes downright giddy. Everything becomes a play on words and having the predisposition of being easily entertained anyway, I’m practically on the floor with every goofy joke.  Even my meal isn’t safe from jabs; I ordered falafel and was taunted with,  “Don’t falafel your bike!” for the rest of the evening.  I know.  It’s not that funny in black and white and when you weren’t there, but it was hilarious at the time and still makes me laugh as I think about it!

In case you are wondering….YES.  I am the “go-to” person for testing out silly jokes!

A fantastic first day and a prelude to what would be an epic day two.  What an amazing day of riding that would turn out to be.  Stay tuned!

By the way, to my fellow asthmatics:  No rescue inhaler needed.  Not once.  What I want more than ever is for you to know that there IS a better way, that you CAN be as active as you want to be, and you should NEVER give up.  EVER!

biz cards

Sunny’s Pedal, A Sunny Ride for Organ Donation

Sunny’s Pedal, Day 1: Something Special is Before Us

Have you ever jumped into something spontaneously because you were drawn to it based on what is known at the time, but somehow you know that there will be something so much more than you can see initially?  Or perhaps the actual experience that you expected morphs into something so much bigger in the end and you can’t do anything but smile and know that God brought it across your path for good reason, beyond anything that you could have come up with yourself?

Enter Sunny’s Pedal

On July 24th, a friend of mine announced that he would be participating in this epic journey to raise awareness for tissue, eye and organ donation.  Two things caught my eye:  The cause itself, and that the means for accomplishing it was a 580 mile bike ride in 7 days…through Idaho! Be still my heart!  1094466_405932132861235_1539202229_o[1]My friend was seeking support and I had planned to offer it, but I knew immediately that I wanted to do so by participating as one of Sunny’s Pedalers.  I didn’t even think about it; the pull was so strong and I knew I was supposed to do this for some reason beyond my comprehension at the moment. There were immediate obstacles. The time for signing on had since passed, I would have less than two weeks to raise enough for the cause in order to participate, I had to take more time off from work (oh, how sad!), I’d have to find transportation back home once I reached my final destination, and I was literally about to move to a new (and fabulous!) place that very weekend so fundraising wouldn’t start for several days.  I had zero angst about any of it; I knew it would work itself out.  Sure enough, within 24 hours the details were covered and over the next 10 days after my move, my supporters jumped on board, providing enough donations to the cause in order for me to participate.  A heartfelt thank you to all of them, whether they contributed monetarily, or with love, encouragement and prayers, or the ride to the starting line! And to my sister who helped arrange for a meal at one of our destinations; more to come on that.

Game on!

My schedule only allowed me to take on the first three days of the journey but what a journey it would turn out to be!  My friend was in the same boat on that so we agreed to make it to McCall (can’t miss White Bird Pass!) and carpool back.

Sunny’s Pedal Eve, Friday, August 9th (also my cousin’s wedding at the same time and I was able to swing by for a short while – so happy for them both!).  We gathered at Hogan’s Diner on the Spokane South Hill for a launch party for the group.  It was PACKED!!  A big shout out to Hogan’s for hosting this event and making so many arrangements for SP!  Add this little gem of a restaurant to your list of places to go.  I only knew my original friend Cris so far, so this was my opportunity to meet the other riders and supporters as well as get the necessary information we’d need for the journey before us.  We met, we ate, drank carbs, took photos and readied ourselves for what was to come.  Sunny’s Pedal would begin at her alma mater, Lewis and Clark High school the next morning, and finish up in Sun Valley 7 days later, where Sunny was living at the time of her death 20 years ago, subsequently impacting 100 lives by being a donor. Staggering to think of and a thought that would keep me going as I put on the miles in the saddle.


What a crowd!

at hogans 2

The first riders! A motley crew 🙂

Day one!  We gather at the High School and prepare to depart._MG_0137

Mayor Condon gives us a send-off but before he does, he reads and presents a
declaration to Sunny’s mom, Sandi that this day was officially Sunny’s day in
Spokane.  A special moment for the family and a fitting way to begin the journey._MG_0180

Sunny was a cheerleader, so it was a special touch that the LC cheerleaders showed up to see us off as well.

And then we were off!

Today’s destination, Pullman, Washington. Shortly into a beautiful warm-up along the trail, we stopped at the cemetery where Sunny rests.  I didn’t know her, but I could not help but feel the emotion among family and friends who were there to gather and greet us, and that emotion spilled over in my own spirit.  This was something special.  Fresh flowers were carefully placed at Sunny’s gravestone, stories shared, tears shed, light laughter at the good memories._MG_0191

As we prepared to depart again, Sandi presented us with cooling neck hankies – I can’t think of another name for them.  She put some kind of binding agent in them that absorbs and holds water like a diaper and keeps our necks cool.  They were fantastic and a life saver in the heat that we would be riding in over the next several days. Thank you, Sandi! _MG_0203 _MG_0199 _MG_0204

I’ll continue with our fun-filled, amazing ride to Pullman for day one soon enough.  For now, I think it’s more appropriate to pause and direct you to the specifics of Sunny’s story, in her mother’s words.  It will give you an idea of not only the emotion and how special this event was, but it also shines the light on the gift of life as a result of tissue, eye and organ donation.  I’ll let the story speak for itself.  If you’re interested, and I hope you are, please visit this blog for that part of the story. It’s extremely impactful.

Stay tuned…

Rom 8:28

Rafting! My New Love

I have backed off a bit from training for a few weeks in order to nurse an injury and because life is happening, distractions and responsibilities everywhere. But I’m managing to stay active in spite of all of that and September 25th marks my official “jump back into serious training” day. I’m happy to report I am STILL asthma symptom free. The only exception to that is the recent air quality due to the many forest fires in our state right now.  My bronchial tubes have been slightly scratchy but not like they used to be during times like this.  I’m making it through just fine and staying indoors on particularly bad days with few symptoms.  YES!  I have more to report on what I’m learning about controlling these symptoms before they have a chance to surface but for now, it’s adventure time!

Though I’ve backed off a little, I’ve been having fun with leisurely training, if there is such a term.  Riverside State Park is essentially my backyard so trail running and road biking are always on my regular agenda. Every time I’m out there, I have to stop at least once just to marvel at the scenery. I find myself taking pictures and realizing they are the same pictures I’ve captured before. So be it. I have an incredibly beautiful view of the Spokane River any time I want.  Pictures just don’t even begin to really capture it, but here is an idea.

Aerial view of “Bowl and Pitcher,” Spokane River. Part of my regular ride. I know. It’s not fair. 🙂

I call this “The Enchanted Forest” part of the river. You practically expect fairies to appear from behind the trees.

The river has calmed lately, rapids not so rapid. A few weeks ago, I consulted my list, eager to try something new. Some refer to this as their “bucket list.”  Somehow in my mind, assigning “before I DIE” as the impetus for tackling my “I really want to do these things!” list, sort of deflates my tires. (Pun intended).  I rarely cross anything OFF of it, unless I’m not completely thrilled after I’ve tried it.  More often than not, my original instinct in putting it on the list in the first place is correct and I quickly become addicted. So I simply call it “my list.” On this day, I knew exactly what I wanted to charge into next. Whitewater rafting is something I’ve wanted to do for years and until now, just hadn’t made it happen yet.  I wouldn’t say that asthma kept me from it, although it wasn’t very long ago that on a day trip like this, I would have had to use my inhaler a few times even if it didn’t involve high aerobic activity. I made a reservation with a local water adventure company for a friend and myself to go on a full one-day rafting trip. We were heading to Superior, Montana to play on the Clark Fork River!  The day would consist of a two-hour road trip to reach the initial meeting place, a quick rundown of the day from two of our very charismatic guides (who really set the tone for a great day right from the get-go), an entertaining bus ride to the let in area, a thorough safety lesson, meeting our guide and raft mateys for the day, and finally…to the 13’ paddle rafts!  We had five rafts in our group.

Our guide was known as “The Wizard.”  Very laid-back and personable; a bit Zen-like. He wore a great hat which he acquired in his travels to Asia. He essentially moves from one rafting gig to another.  He had just put in a visa application to go to Australia and was hoping to hear back about that soon.  When I listen to stories like that, I find myself wishing I was starting over, now that I know what I know about controlling severe asthma so that I can do what I want to do. But I’m not the kind of person to lament for very long; I like moving forward.  And this just means that I have a lot of catching up to do! I can handle that.

Most of the trip was rather calm, extremely beautiful.  We watched an osprey dive into the water and catch a fish.  That always amazes me. We saw a bald eagle, marveled at the purple/rose-colored cliffs, and basked in the serene and secluded environment that is the river. This is how I meditate. Rafting, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, running, swimming, camping, hiking….it doesn’t matter.  I’m not so great with sitting in one place and focusing my energy on nothing; I’m working on that.  But THIS.  This I can do.  And it doesn’t take long for the stresses of life to literally evaporate from my mind and body.

The front is the best spot!

Soon we hit the easy class II and III rapids!! Perfect for my first time. We bounced and laughed through Fang, Boat Eater, Cliffside, and several more with much scarier names.  We stopped at some diving cliffs for more thrills and then the gang in our boat decided to show off by attempting a “peelout.”  That is, crossing the eddy line back into the current, facing upstream about 45 degrees, with the intention of turning downstream.  (I love learning new languages). We gave it three tries but failed.  But it was sure fun trying!

Here you get a glimpse of our guide with the fun hat in the back. What a ride!!

We stopped for lunch and I have to say I was quite impressed by the fancy schmancy spread that our guides put together for us, including appetizers.  I felt like I was at the Country Club.  Nice work, gentlemen! While eating lunch, I recognized an old friend who was in one of the other boats and we spent some time getting caught up.  How cool is that?!

Check out our guide in the back and how far into the water he is! Maybe the BACK is the best spot….?!

Needless to say, we had a blast.  I can’t wait to raft my own river, or better yet, I’ll add to the adventure by going in a kayak or “daring ducky” which is like a kayak with a short squared up front.  But really, I’m ready for other rivers with bigger rapids.  It’s official; I’m addicted!  Is it spring 2013 yet?

I highly recommend this trip. It’s great for families, small groups or individuals, and there are several companies who offer them.  Well organized and the guides really enhance the day with their antics.  One of them had us believing he was Cuban the entire day and it wasn’t until the bus trip back that he announced that his “accent” was fake and that he is a native.  Hilarious!!

See you on the river!

Finding Inspiration

Who or what inspires you?  What makes you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to start the day? If you’re an athlete, where do you find your motivation to get that workout in on those inevitable days when it’s the last thing you feel like doing?  When life kicks you in the gut, where do you find your resilience to see it through and come out on the other side?  When you’re having a perfectly normal day, is there anything that moves you to kick it up another notch? At the end of a grueling race, whatever that race may be, from where do you “dig deep” to unearth that last surge of power to propel you to the finish line and then beyond?

Faith?  Others?  Yourself?

For me, it’s a combination of all of the above and in the end I think it comes down to relationships; people connecting with and inspiring one another, whether they are aware of it or not.  A reciprocal relationship with some, an anonymous dynamic with others, and ultimately a responsibility to find within ourselves the will to keep moving forward.

At least that’s my take on it.

Here are a few people who inspire me; maybe they’ll do the same for you…

My friend Janine bought me a shirt while I was in the midst of my recent journey.  It was my birthday present and she said that this particular shirt reminded her of me.  I was touched when I saw it.  It says “Never Give Up.”  When I looked up the story behind this shirt with the mantra I had already subscribed to as Janine was aware, I was moved and inspired by the story of Jessie Joy Rees and the Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) Foundation.  Jessie fought two brain tumors in ten months and ultimately “became an angel” on January 5th of this year at the age of twelve.  Her desire was that all kids fighting cancer would find the strength to “Never Ever Give Up.”  As a result, the NEGU Foundation was born and is still quite active.  The shirt was part of a fundraiser for the foundation; I was so moved by this gesture and the shirt has a place of high honor in my closet.  I wear it when I need inspiration and I think of Jessie and the kids she inspires when I do. You can read all about Jessie and her Joy Jars for kids who are fighting cancer at the above website.

Brenden Nichols is 19 years old.  He was salutatorian of his high school class in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and planned to become a neurosurgeon. He started his path towards that goal in the fall of 2011 at Carroll College in Montana.  On October 15th, on his way back to college after a brief break, he was the victim of a serious car accident which resulted in a collapsed lung, broken neck and ribs, a traumatic brain injury, and rendered him in a coma for nearly four months. In just a few seconds, his life was violently propelled into the world of neurology, the very subject he was preparing to study, but not in the way he expected.

Graduation. Brenden was Salutatorian and gave his speech on the influence of Bill Nye – hence the bow tie.

But he has undeniable courage.  He has shattered every dismal medical prediction. He digs deep within himself to find his inspiration to move forward. He has to. He is learning to speak, walk, and function again. He is limited to a few words at a time which are not clear to most around him except his family. He has the most amazingly supportive and loving family. His dad is his constant companion, translating Brenden’s words so that we can communicate with him. His spirit and positive attitude are  palpable but you know there is a voice in there screaming to be released. He is learning to release that frustration by writing his story and thoughts despite his self-described “shaky hands.”

“One of our good friends gave us some Jesus bandaids. Seemed appropriate to put on the place where the “bolt” was in his head to measure intra-cranial pressure.” Ken Nichols, Brenden’s dad.

“November 27, Brenden was still in a coma. We captured a moment with his eyes wide open. His was still in ICU at Post Falls. We had to prop his head up with a pillow when he was sitting.” Ken Nichols

Brenden has also had a dream of becoming an Ironman and is passionate about triathlon. He finished his first sprint triathlon this past July; a team effort resulting in a first place podium win! On days when I feel like I can move a muscle, I remember that Brenden would give anything to make his muscles do what he wants them to do.

Brenden doing the bike leg of the course on his semi-recumbent bike, accompanied by his ever-loyal dad.

Brenden crossing the finish line with his dad and teammate assisting. What a moment!! Photo by Brittney Price, PKP Photography

More on Brenden later but for now, you can follow him on his Facebook page.

My cousin is a mom, wife, school counselor, teacher, runner, constant cheerleader, party coordinator extraordinaire and the list goes on.  But beyond that, in the midst of what is already a more-than-full plate, she still finds the time to encourage those around her in a way that she knows will inspire them.  It’s never the same from one person to the next.  She possesses an uncanny ability to target exactly what will encourage someone, and she does it; no matter how busy she is. She does things quietly and behind the scenes and doesn’t need or want recognition; my favorite kind of person. She receives awards for her efforts and each time, people comment that they had “no idea she did that too!”  She’ll put a great deal of effort into the most thoughtful and creative gift for someone and you wonder how in the world she had time to do that. Below is a photo taken at a party she recently threw for me.  She truly thinks of everything.  If someone in her life is struggling with anything, you can bet she is quietly in the mix somewhere making a difference for that person.  I’m convinced she is holding out on us and hiding a twin sister who shares the duties incognito.  Or she just never sleeps.  She has her own blog where she shares her running adventures.  When I think I have too much on my plate, I think of Smarty.

My mom led by example.  She had no idea that her actions would teach me to always get back up again, no matter how many times I may fall.  There is no fanfare for her; no news story, medal, or video documenting any deed of any kind. But her actions have left an indelible mark on the world.  And yet, she was simply living her life, doing what she felt was the best she could do, completely unaware that she was inspiring others.  She is my hero.

Sister Madonna Buder; a truly unbelievable woman.  I had the privilege of seeing her finish Ironman Canada a few days ago.

This faith-inspired woman completed her first Ironman race in 1985 at the age of 55.  That’s right; you do the math.  She finished yet another Ironman race this past weekend at the young and spry age of 82!!  You should have seen that crowd cheering her on all day long.  I volunteered in coveted spot all day; I was in the transition area where athletes mounted and later dismounted their bikes, and then began their run.  That meant I got to see every one of my friends at each of these spots and run with some for a short distance as they began their marathon; and I proudly added Sister Madonna as well.  She doesn’t know me, but you just cannot help but erupt with emotion every time you see her out there.  There is nothing like it. At the end of her race, before the huge crowd began to see her approach, I heard one spectator yell out as he unexpectedly saw her running past him, “Sister Madonna!!  Are you KIDDING ME?!! That is so freaking awesome!”

And it was.

She is a local hero here in Spokane. The Iron Nun has her own Wikipedia page, where they have already added her latest accomplishment of finishing Ironman Canada last weekend, noting that she will once again be competing in Kona this year.  I’m still shaking my head.

When I am tempted to say “I’m getting too old for this,” for any reason, I think of Sister Madonna.  Unless we’re talking about staying up past my bedtime.

Sister Madonna on her way to another victory.

I watched friends and strangers persevere last weekend.  I was inspired by those who are considered average athletes as they strived to reach new goals, as much as those who were competing for the first time.  I witnessed dreams achieved, others shattered; triumph and heartbreak wrapped into one day.  I watched my friend Karin literally gut out the last mile of her race in excruciating pain, racing against the clock in the dark to the “magic carpet ride” that was her Ironman finish. I learned of a friend’s surrender of his hopeful race and my heart broke for him; though I know he will bounce back, because he has everything he needs to do so and he’ll continue to inspire and lead by example as he does so well. I marveled and cheered as Paula, Randy, Eric and Connie crossed yet another finish line, my admiration for them boiling over.  I watched Natalie smile through her entire race to her first Ironman finish line, looking as though she was just getting started, giddy as a school girl.  I wept joyful tears as an 82 year old woman crossed another finish line to the deafening cheers of an inspired crowd.  I watched the clock tick past cut off times and said a silent prayer for everyone who was left behind that day. I hope they know how inspiring they are for making it to the start line.

But ultimately, I know that it is still up to me to get up, get out there and get it done.  That sentiment is not limited to training and racing. The actions of those who inspire me will guide and motivate me, stir me to move when I don’t feel like it, and give me the occasional wake-up-and-stop-your-whining kick in the pants that I need.

But I think it’s also imperative to look within yourself and find what is unique to you that will keep you going. In those quiet, private moments as you contemplate your next move, think about those who inspire you, but recognize that you have your own story.  It is extraordinary because it is yours alone, and unlike anyone else’s.  That, I believe, is where we create that reciprocal motivational relationship with those we know, while possibly inspiring those we don’t.

Some of the best lessons I have learned are from children.  They have such a simple clarity about the world around us, while we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.  I will leave you with the following video that is guaranteed to inspire with a side of ear-to-ear grinning and perhaps some audible giggling with a fist-pump.

I am certain that I have broken some basic rules of writing with overuse of the word “inspire.”  So be it. I am freaking inspired.

Racing the River

SUPing On the River

The great thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that there are numerous events and activities one can participate in which could fit under the title, Racing the River. Two weeks ago, I went SUPing (Stand Up Paddleboarding) with some friends for three and a half hours down the Spokane River from Coeur d’ Alene to Post Falls, Idaho. It was gorgeous.  And while I wouldn’t categorize it at racing (except for the last 90 minutes when we realized that a supposed two hour trip was going to take much longer and I was about to miss a swim session!), it was a fantastic way to spend a summer morning. We paddled down the river, which lends itself to the illusion that you are walking on water, looking at beautiful homes that you can only really see from this vantage point, some of which look like they should be on an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. We all decided which one each of us would buy (right!) as we propelled ourselves along the water.  I also had a chance to pass through the section of river I’d be racing down a week later.

With my friend Michelle.

Hmmm, which house shall we buy?

Race the River Triathlon

Race the River sprint triathlon is in its 6th year and is now a qualifier for the Sprint National Championships. Not that I am a candidate…..ever. Unless of course, they open up a Turtle division, which I happen to think is a great idea. It’s a fun race, catering to all ability levels. The day would turn out to be one of inadvertently winning the odds for me, but that had little to do with my actual race. The swim is a .5 mile jaunt with the current, followed by an 11 mile, 3 loop bike course, and finishing up with a 3.1 mile run. I had been juggling a number of things and was feeling like I had thrown everything together for this one but I didn’t mind. My big triathlon for the year was done and I was ready for a laid back, fun morning with hundreds of athletes.  I still couldn’t shake that feeling that I had forgotten something but I went with it. This race sells out every year and is always packed with that electrifying triathlon energy.  We walk the .5 mile up Centennial Trail to the swim start where we wait for our wave to launch. I walked and chatted with a spectator. Turned out his wife has severe asthma and couldn’t make the trek down to watch their nephew race.  Boy, did I have something to share!  He seemed dumbfounded when I told him I have it too.  “But you…..are doing this?” After watching his wife suffer for so many years, he wanted to know how it’s possible for an asthmatic to do something like this.  His wife doesn’t want to participate in triathlon but she does want to breathe freely and participate in life. It absolutely made my day to share and I’ll never forget that smile.  It was a great smile.

What are the odds?

I was one of the few who decided not to bother with a wetsuit.  The water was 72 degrees which feels like bath water to me anymore; a side effect of training in low to mid-50 degree water temperatures. As I was mingling, someone reached out and commented on my jersey.  I was wearing my FCA Endurance jersey that morning.  As I responded to her, I realized that it was my long-lost friend, Leah!  Wow! She and her husband moved away from this area about 15 years ago and we lost track of each other.  I literally had come across a photo just two days before that she sent me when her two kids were toddlers and I wondered once again, where my friend could be.  And there she was standing in front of me! That usual long wait before my start time was reduced to what felt like a couple of minutes as we hastily tried to get caught up. I was amazed to hear that those two kids have been joined by five more. We have so much catching up to do.

What are the odds?

Everyone PRs on this swim.  Except me. Honestly, this is my third time at this race and every time I manage to botch it.  Granted, my first twenty minutes of swimming is generally miserable as my lungs slowly warm up but still, you’re swimming downstream! Even just letting the current carry you gives you a PR for crying out loud. Geeez, Cathy! Our wave started and I don’t know what happened but somehow I inhaled a gulp of water that went straight down my pipes. I gagged, coughed, choked for about a minute and then it took me another minute just to be able to swim. I don’t know what it is about THIS race but every time, my goggles leak.  Today was no exception.  Uuuuggghhhh. They don’t leak during any other race or swim session.  Just this race.

What are the odds?

Still, it was fun.  I’m not afraid of the swim anymore and that’s progress.  I crossed the timing mat into transition as my colleague crossed to head out on his run.  Great timing!  Odds?

The bike course is described as “technically challenging” on the website.  This is because it’s a short 11 mile course, with three loops. This means a LOT of racers get bunched up along the way. Plenty of turns, hills and flat stretches, rough and smooth road surfaces; a little of everything. As I began my ride, I realized I didn’t have my Garmin. In fact, I now distinctly remember leaving it on its charger on my kitchen counter.  I knew I had forgotten something.  Eh….so I would race without it.

I made quick work of my ride and started looking towards my finish. As I crossed the timing mat onto the run course, I was greeted by a couple of friends who had already finished.  I love starting my run with high-fives.

While on the run, I came upon a woman who was struggling a little bit. I asked if she was okay and she said she was fine, just needed some of “this.” She pulled out her inhaler. I pulled out mine to match, although I didn’t need to use it. Another great conversation with another new friend.

What are the…..well, you know.

I should have bought a lottery ticket that day. What a great day.  Of course as I always do, I enjoyed a Hammer Recover Bar (LOVE these!) along with Recoverite.  Good stuff!

Post-race with the Guerreros.

Enjoying the River

The Spokane River is about .5 mile from my home, in Riverside State Park. It’s gorgeous. I frequently run and ride along the river and have recently spent more time trail running. I am positively addicted. I constantly take pictures but they never really seem to do the scenery justice.  This area promises numerous adventures. I’ll have plenty to share in the near future.

Along my regular bike ride.

Just a little farther down the road.

Rafting the River!

Two weeks from today, I get to fulfill another wish item on my list.  White water rafting!  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. We’ll be driving out to Superior, Montana for an all-day rafting trip down the Clark Fork river. I’m pretty certain I’ll become addicted to this as well. In fact, is it possible that I am already? Is that weird? Full AR (adventure report) to come!

Also Coming up…

“My First Lung Collapse,” followed by, “My Magic Formula.” Edge-of-your-seat stuff; bring the popcorn.

And in the not-so-distant future, I want to introduce you to someone who inspires me. I’m certain he will inspire you too. In fact, I’m betting on it.