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Turned 30 on Wednesday. Slept late, ran 4 miles, shared coffee and donuts.

Drove south, a little, to the woods. Wandered around, laid on a rock for 30 minutes before scaring some deer and sharing my life mess with the wilderness.

Spent 15 minutes on a swing set.

Got accosted by a goose and then chased that goose through a field, flapping my arms and yelling. Because 30.

Came home. Didn’t want to.

Flowers, IPAs and opening presents.

Cake and lady friends, beers and champagne.

To bed, late. Not happy, but not unhappy either.

So cheers. New beginnings and all that jazz.

Chasing the sun, coveting armor and disconnecting in the desert.

DSC_0415This is story of how I got lost and found in the desert, at Joshua Tree National Park.

Megan had a wedding in Palm Springs, which is why we detoured to southern California on our way to Oregon and so I took the car and drove to Joshua Tree to get lost. It’s silly, really. This was Sunday and we’d been in the car all day, every day since Wednesday, and so instead of spending the day looking amazing poolside, I got back in the car, drove to Joshua Tree and spent the day there, meeting lizards and chasing birds.





The desert holds a special sort of magic for me, an East Coast girl who grew up in the mountains of Virginia and the caves of Ohio. Joshua Tree is it’s own world, different from everything and anything I’ve ever experienced.

I lost cell signal seconds after entering the park and was plunged into a sort of aloneness that doesn’t feel familiar anymore. I couldn’t text, couldn’t call, couldn’t instagram my adventures and I found myself, alone in that park, startlingly okay with being disconnected from everything and everyone. I didn’t have an agenda that day, it was just me and the desert and as much time as I needed to see it and feel it and live it.

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DSC_0189When a heart is broken it takes a lot to fix it, when the rug is pulled out from under you, when everything and everyday feels hard, it takes a lot. But being alone in the desert – really, really alone – healed something, some part of me that wasn’t sure I knew how to be alone.

Because here’s the thing – I didn’t know, until I went to Joshua Tree, that I could have adventures on my own. I didn’t know that I could walk away from the world for a little bit and get lost, alone. I didn’t know that I could be okay without him, until I found myself alone in the desert, but there I was, standing on top of a rock pile I’d climbed, the desert and the trees and the earth spread before me and even though there was this overwhelming sort of sadness that comes with heartbreak, there was also an incredible moment of peace. I wished him there a handful of times, because he’s my best friend and we’ve always adventured best together, but for so much of that day being alone in the desert felt exactly like the right thing to be.


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I spent six hours there, at Joshua Tree, driving through the entire park, shocked at the changing landscapes, amazed by the little lizards I found at the base of one of the trees, impressed by this one incredible blue bird who greeted me on a trailhead. I chased the crows and the sun and arrived, at sunset at the southern edge of the park, pulled over on the shoulder, not wanting the day be over because the peace I found there rivals nothing. I heard a coyote yip, got bit by bugs that swarm as the night begins to break and I felt, solidly and epically at peace, with all of it, with the pain and hurt and the anger and the inability to understand how something so perfect could ever be broken.



One thing about the desert is so much of the beauty is covered in sharp edges, spikes and thorns. You see a beautiful tree, bent by the wind and approach it to find it covered, solidly, in spiky armor. There’s a protective layer on so much of the desert.



I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay, sprawled on the hood of the car, to watch the stars come out. I wanted to go wild in that park, walk into the wilderness and not come out until my heart is healed. I’m still a little impressed that I managed to pull myself away from it, that the feral parts of me didn’t take over and force me into the rocks. I think the only thing that stopped me from going into the wild was my lack of provisions. And a slight fear of rattlesnakes.

A mostly brief synopsis of a very grand adventure.


I’m also over at the Hooray Collective today, with a post about the truth.

I don’t know where to start, in the telling of this story, the one about how I drove, with Megan, from Richmond, Va. to Portland, Or., with a side trip in Palm Springs along the way. It’s so much, this trip. It means so much. It was so much.

There are the individual adventures, like our experiences along Route 66, at the Grand Canyon and among the giant redwoods, or the solo side trips I took to Joshua Tree National Park and the Oregon coast, stories that I have to break apart from the pack, from the basic telling of this story because they meant and mean so much.

And then there’s the rest of it, the part with the feelings and the logistics of traveling across this great big country, the new states I’ve visited, slept in and driven through, the lessons learned and the towns and cities, forests and seas that I’ve fallen for.

I was gone for 11 days, traveled something like 3,700 miles though 12 states, visited three National Parks and had what just might have been the best adventure of my life.

Day-by-day, it looked like this:

Day 1 || Richmond, Va. >> WV >> Frankfort, Ky. || 512 miles

Highlights: Last minute route changes, snow the moment we passed under the West Virginia welcome sign, burritos for dinner and the shadiest hotel of our trip.

Day 2 || Frankfort, Ky. >> IN, IL, MO >> Oklahoma City, Okla.  || 804 miles

Highlights: Snow fields in Indiana, seeing the arch as we drove past St. Louis and freaking out about how huge it is, accidentally getting off the interstate – twice, sit-down dinner and an avoided pet fee of $75.

Day 3 || Oklahoma City, Okla. >> TX, NM >> Holbrook, Ariz. || 776 miles

Highlights: The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Whataburger for lunch, rapidly changing landscapes, the desert of New Mexico, a 360 degree sunset, the Wigwam Motel, Mexican for dinner with beers and altitude, chatting across tables with strangers, singing the Eagles’ “Take it Easy” in restaurants, the car and the wigwam, and finally settling into our wigwam for the night.

Day 4 || Holbrook, Ariz. >> Grand Canyon National Park >> Palm Springs, Calif. || 790 miles

Highlights: Waking up in a wigwam, taking pictures of old Route 66 establishments, breakfast with books about how to deal with idiots, standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, road trip purchases, the Grand Canyon, elk, fat squirrels, crossing into California and officially being on the West Coast, $8 beers in Palm Springs, the smell of Abercrombie and the comfiest, coziest beds.

Day 5 || Palm Springs, Calif. >> Joshua Tree National Park >> Palm Springs, Calif. || 143 miles

Highlights: Running in Palm Springs, mountains, venturing into Joshua Tree National Park for a solo adventure while Megan attended a wedding, making lizard, raven and bird friends, climbing rocks, hiking trails and feeling like I was on a different planet.

Day 6 || Palm Springs, Calif. >> Sacramento >> Anderson, Calif. || 641 miles

Highlights: In-N-Out Burger, happier cows, meeting up with San for nachos (!!) and seeing trees I hadn’t known I’d missed.

Day 7 || Anderson, Calif. >> Redwoods National and State Parks >> Portland, Or. || 549 miles

Highlights: Fresh air, big trees, mountains, hotel breakfast, Chance (the dog) celebrating grass, the Redwoods, the forest, the rivers, the streams, the air, the coast, a winding little road through the forest, a new book, a new park checked off the list and the final push on to Portland.

And there are the days I spent based in Portland, wandering the city and driving out to the coast to touch old trees and marvel at the Pacific Ocean and the jagged coast that’s so different from the one I grew up close to.

But this? This is only the beginning of this story.

Also, thank you, internet, for being awesome and for having my back, always. I love you, internet.

Running Richmond, the Second Half & some smile crying.

1476060_10101445552368516_1011232151_nIn November, I ran my second half marathon. It was totally different from my first half marathon experience, back in March. I was ready. I knew I could run 13.1 miles because I had done it before. I was stronger this time, better fueled and faster. Plus, it was here, in Richmond, and I was really excited to run the streets of my own city.

I won’t lie – I was moody about the race in the days leading up to it. I had expected Andrew to be home and hoped to have a few friends running as well, but none of those things happened, so, for the first time ever, I got up alone on race day, got myself ready and headed out the door to run this race for me, and me alone.

The weather was tricky, with no wind, 80% humidity and intermittent rain that dampened me on the way to the start line and then drenched me while I was running miles 3-5. I’d opted for a tank and shorts that day, the exact same outfit I’d worn during the muggy days of July, because humidity kills me and I was determined to not be broken on race day by poor wardrobe choices.

Once I got to the start, I ate my customary pre-race banana with almond butter (a WaWa pretzel and a kashi snack bar had been downed earlier), hit the porta-potties one last time and then found my corral.

At 7:42am, 12 minutes after the gun start of the race, my corral was released and I was off, knowing I would set a personal record no matter what, but hoping I’d run a sub 2 hour half marathon that day, a secret goal I’d only voiced the day before, but that I’d been silently around with me for months.

The Richmond Half was capped at 9,000 runners so it wasn’t the crowded madhouse I’d experience at previous races. I didn’t need to weave through crowds and, as I set off down Broad street, my legs felt a little tired, but good. I wasn’t sure how the race would go, but I was hopeful.

I walked briefly at every water station, positioned every two miles and equipped with both water and Powerade. I carried my own 10 oz water bottle too, so I could sip water whenever I wanted and especially when I started downing Gu.  I’ve found that a few seconds of walking and a sip of Powerade or cold water gives me a solid energy surge that more than makes up for the seconds I spend walking and sucking down fluids.

By mile 4 it was raining, but I was in familiar territory, running the same streets I’d trained on. The familiarity of the course gave me a little boost before we headed into Bryan Park, the hilly part of the course. I was nervous about the hills and knew they could make or break my race.

But the hills? They were fine. They were soft and rolling for about two miles and then they were done. I started sucking down some Vanilla Bean Gu right before we left the park, at mile 7.

One one of my favorite things about this race was the spectators. They were everywhere on the course, holding signs and swinging cowbells and it was incredible to see so many people lining the course cheering us all on. There were also coaches from the half marathon training team all along the course and they were great, cheering on their trainees, but also anyone else who needed some encouragement. As I pushed up one of the final hills in the park, I smiled at one of the coaches and he yelled that I had this, that I could do it, and right about then I realized he might be right.


As I approached mile 10, I prepared to check my overall time to see if I could finish the race in under 2 hours. My watch was just a little bit ahead on mileage, so I knew I needed to check my overall time at the actual mile mark to get a solid idea of how I was officially doing. At mile 10, I’d been running for just over an hour and a half, which meant I had a little less than 30 minutes to run a 5k, something I was almost sure I could do. I’d been running pretty consistently at a 9 minute mile pace, so I sucked down some more Gu and pushed for the finish.

I ran the 11th mile in 8:53.

I ran the 12th mile in 8:36, checked my watch for my overall time again, saw that I had just under 12 minutes to finish that last 1.1, and I knew, then, that I was going to make it.

So I cried, for the whole first quarter of the 13th mile, while smiling too.

I ran the last full mile in 8:07, my fastest of the day, helped in large part by the massive downhill finish and, just before crossing the finish line, I heard my name yelled from the sidelines and I turned to see two of my friends, who braved the rain, cheering me on. So I smiled, threw my arms in the air and booked it to the end.

Final time: 1:57:13.

Me, near the finish:

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photo 1-1Not only did I PR by nearly 18 minutes, I also achieved my super secret running goal with a few minutes to spare.

It wasn’t the race day I thought I wanted. I wasn’t running toward my husband like I’d envisioned when I signed up to run and I didn’t get to congratulate any friends on running that day, but it was still perfect.

I’m still, two weeks later, trying to process everything this race meant to me. I know it means I’m starting to understand what it means to be a runner, that I’ve learned how to better fuel and hydrate my body in order to get it to do awesome things, but it’s so much more than that too. It’s everything.

That time I got bit by a lion in Alabama.

I went to Alabama in the middle of September, and while I was there Andrew and I headed just outside of Troy, Ala. to a place called McClelland’s Critters. I had heard about this place, this strange little zoo in the middle of the Alabama wilderness, and I demanded a visit, because there were tigers and lions and bears and camels and it sounded like a sort of Snow White paradise.

The place is down some winding Alabama back roads, but, once you arrive, and once you start exploring, it’s like a magical wonderland. It’s $9 to wander around the place, and for $5 you can get an actual bucket of food and you can hand feed buffalo, goats, sheep, a camel, some big ass birds, tiny little horses and a handful of funky little deer friends, among others.AlabamaZoo20130922_001



AlabamaZoo20130922_002I was freaking out a little, because I get crazy excited about feeding goats at a petting zoo and here I was handing alfalfa pellets to a camel and, better yet, a buffalo. I love all the little and big critters, in true Snow White fashion, but there was just something about feeding the buffalo that was sort of magical. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t ever gotten to do that before, or what, but standing there, gazing into the eyes of a big ass lady buffalo, while Andrew entertained the REALLY BIG gentleman buffalo, was incredible.

We wandered around some more, after we had exhausted our food bucket, and said hello to tigers and bears and raccoons and monkeys and then we saw that Mike, the owner, along with some other visitors were actually IN the cage with the lion cub, and so we wandered over, me probably sticking my head out like a curious little bird, then Mike invited us into the lion pen, with Thor, the 5-month-old lion cub, and he told me to pet him, on his belly, and so I handed the camera off to Andrew and I got down on the ground, right next to this little lion guy and I pet his little belly and it was a crazy and terrifying because he might be little, but he’s still a fucking LION.

And then he bit me. Just a little.

AlabamaZoo20130922_041Not aggressively, but mostly playfully, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. He put his little lion mouth around my knee and nibbled, just a little bit, and it reminded me so much of the way my terrible little orange cat would nibble me when she was just a little thing, except for that she was like three pounds and this lion guy was like 50 pounds and there’s a real big difference between my house cat and that lion cat. It was a little bit terrifying because there was an instant where the most logical and life-protecting part of my brain was like, YOU JUST GOT BIT BY A LION HOLY FUCKING SHIT, RUN!! and then the other part of me that was all like, oh, this lion nibbled on me! How cute!



AlabamaZoo20130922_038Andrew also got in on the lion-petting action, but only because I told him he had to, because really, how many chances are there going to be in life to pet a baby lion? Andrew is far more cautious than I am, in a lot of ways, including lion-petting ways. He is the steady state of calm to my pandemonium.

Incidentally, the day I got bit by a lion was also the day I got snakes put on my head.

AlabamaZoo20130922_052I always think I’m afraid of snakes, but then when I actually get to meet them, I really don’t mind. I don’t think I’d be a very good Snow White if I was all weirded out by snakes, especially snakes like these, who seemed quite content to slither around on my face. Also, that python gives one hell of a neck massage.

Just before we had to leave the zoo, so I could catch my plane back to Virginia, this happened:


AlabamaZoo20130922_057BABY GATORS!

AlabamaZoo20130922_059So, yeah. I went to Alabama, got bit by a lion, had snakes put on my face, hand fed some buffalo and snuggled some baby gators. All in a days work for Snow White, I guess.