It took three attempts but last Saturday I conquered the Peak to Peak Highway between Estes Park and Nederland. I rode 42 miles, cruising past Longs Peak and reaching a max altitude of 9,400’ in a tiny town called Ward. To a girl who has spent most of her life near sea level, it’s quite spectacular up there.

My two previous attempts were for altitude conditioning and to get a real feel for the 1,700’ climb out of Estes.

Climb

The air is so different and a lot of focus needs to be placed on effective breathing. The thing I like best about climbing on a bike is you have to be right there in the moment. It’s a break for your brain because the physical effort is so intense it requires all of your attention. Adding in the altitude factor makes it even more of a concentration builder.

I absolutely love it when I have no choice but to get out of my own head.

Longs

In Nederland I dipped my feet in the icy Middle Boulder Creek as it ran down to Barker Reservoir. I met my sister at Salto for lunch then hopped on my bike and rode 42 miles back to my car.

Overall I completed 84 miles with close to 4,000’ in elevation gain.

I really underestimated how hard it would be to get back in the heat of the day. At one point after a huge climb up to Allenspark, somewhere around mile 65, I unconsciously stopped on the side of the rode and sat in the shade of a parked pick-up truck. It was a minute or two before I realized I wasn’t cycling.

Sitting in my car after returning to the Estes Park Visitors Center I had a very mild asthma attack for about an hour. My breathing is always hard to get back on track when I finish an extended period of exertion. That happens regardless of altitude but at 8,000’ it was even harder. Even so, my adrenaline stayed high and my smile was huge as I enthusiastically texted friends and family.

I can say this for sure: Colorado is starting to click for me.

So yesterday I rode to Ward a different way. I parked in Lyons, rode the 36 to Left Hand Canyon, took a right and started climbing —> 24 miles all uphill = 3,980’ elevation gain.

Ward

When I got to Ward I turned onto a sand and gravel road that twisted up a hill to the Post Office, which is kind of a cyclist’s landmark. I took a picture to send to Coach C and as I was coasting back down the hill to the little general store for some much needed sustenance, this happened:

Knee

My front wheel twisted left in the gravel and I fell right onto my knee. For a split second I thought I was fine. Couldn’t I just coast down the canyon to my car? But the blood pooling in my sock and shoe made me think twice and I’m glad I did. I got super dizzy and ended up taking a trip to the ER with my sister who swooped in for the save from Nederland. Lucky for me she was drinking coffee at Happy Trails when I called.

Even though I’m off my bike for two weeks with five stitches and a knee I can’t bend, I think this kind of injury is the best – deep and bloody enough to impress the other riders as they arrived at the general store and sat down next to me on the picnic table to check out my gash, yet superficial enough to not cause permanent damage.

And the frustration and restlessness I feel for being stuck at my house today, for having to force myself to keep my leg elevated and not hike Greyrock like I planned – this is the best frustration of them all. This one means I’m alive and happy with a very long To Experience list I can’t wait to check things off of. It means I’m jonseing to get back out there to try all the other canyons – Boulder, St. Vrain, Golden Gate – even the ones that don’t end up at landmark post offices and general stores stocked with treats and hot cyclists.

Here’s hoping there’s a guy out there who digs scars.

Post

 

 

Scott Jurek is the man. As of yesterday he is half way through the Appalachian Trail, on track to beat the speed record and make it almost 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine in a mere forty two days.

Forty two days!! That means he’s averaging over 50 miles a day. On foot.

I was talking to Timmy O’Neill on the phone today. He’s a climber out of Boulder hoping to join Scott at some point on his trek once he gets up into New England if he stays on track.

I couldn’t believe he said it that way. If he stays on track… IF?!!

This is Scott. Fucking. Jurek.

This is the man who won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race seven years in a row. This is the man who ran on the white lines of the highway so the soles of his sneakers wouldn’t melt on the pavement of Death Valley and soaked in coffin sized coolers full of ice on his way to dominating Badwater (twice) – a 135-mile race usually held in mid-July when temperatures soar above 120º with no shade. This is the only American to win the 153-mile Spartathlon, which he did three times in a row! And for a while he held the record for most miles run in 24 hours (166!). And he’s decent and good and determined and kind.

You don’t doubt Scott Jurek!

Yet the uncertainty in Timmy’s voice continued. Because you never know what surprises you’ll face he said… and some useless rant about unexpected injuries.

I’ve never met Scott but there’s one thing I know for sure even so. He is not the kind of person you doubt. He is the kind of person you believe in and then he just comes through. At no point does it get complicated. Believe in him and he will come through.

Questioning someone like Jurek’s ability to conquer a seemingly impossible task is the epitome of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings about worrying – it’s a complete waste of time. What is the benefit of casting a shadow?

Who cares about the possibilities of negative outcomes? What in the world could be the point of focusing on them? The only things we need are loud heartfelt cheers of joy and wonder! Run Jurker Run!

In Scott’s words this is going to be his masterpiece. I don’t have even the tiniest trace of doubt of his impending success. Here’s to 20 more days on the trail! I wish I could be at Katahdin to see him finish.

Scott Jurek you are a rock star and an inspiration!

Track his journey on Instragram here.

 

Yesterday was the Half Ironman in Kona. Hiking in the woods by the flatirons, dragging the dogs over boulders and through scree fields, I was looking for a place to sit and chant, to let go of the frustration I built up over not being there. Try as I might I couldn’t find the perfect spot so I just sat on a big rock and cried.

It only took a few seconds to get it all out though, ultimately proving that maybe I think I might actually be happy where I am. In Hawaii I spun my wheels alone on an island for a few years. It was lovely, highly recommended, and it’s done. I don’t want to spin any longer. I have to move on with my life.

During the four years I was away, I unexpectedly found my maternal side with my staff at the coffee bar – loving, caring, guiding, wanting each of them to grow and explore… delicately interspersed with being an absolute hard ass with tremendously high expectations of excellence and no tolerance for bullshit or excuses.

This wasn’t something anyone else needed to discover about me. So much so that when my mother visited two weeks ago and I told her about my plan to homeschool my future children, she instantly agreed this was a great idea. It made perfect sense to her. Then she and my sister made relentless fun of how I won’t let my kids call me mom when we’re in the basement “at school” and that I’ll probably incorporate my homeschool as my next business.

The business name grew over the course of the weekend and we eventually settled on The Jennifer Ann Lynch Academy for Excellence and Continued Learning Every Day All Day We Never Stop Learning Ever.

I love it because finally and for the first time in my life, parenting seems like something I could not only do well, but also enjoy. I’m excited about this new path, it makes sense to me too, but I don’t yet see how it’s going to unfold. I’m still in the weeds.

A few days after my mom left I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K. It was a blast. I’ll just say you end the race in a stadium full of thousands of people cheering you on and leave it at that. Afterwards my sister and I walked over to the Boulder Creek Festival. I walked into a tent of intuitives offering free spirit readings and sat down facing two complete strangers. I said nothing more than “Hi, I’m Jennifer. What do I do?”

They answered, “You just sit here and we take you in. Then we give you the information that comes to us.” And so for three or four pleasantly awkward minutes we just sat. I smiled. They smiled. I changed positions. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. They did the same then the man spoke first.

“Bear with me,” he said. “All I can do is tell you what comes to me.” I smiled and nodded as he continued. “I see a place of education. You love to teach and I want to encourage you to follow that path. You’re very good at finding the diamond in the rough, the underdog that no one else would even notice. You bring out the best in them and surprise people in the process.”

I did my best to not seem wide-eyed and in awe. He gave me some fitting compliments then it was the woman’s turn. She scrutinized my beaming face. “You seem to have a very high standard for excellence.” Again I did my best to keep my jaw intact as she went on to explain that I’m also a good gift giver. I stood up and bowed, thanking them as I backed out of the tent, stunned and simultaneously over the moon.

I’m walking this line of understanding what I want to do and getting encouragement from all sides to pursue it, yet I’m still alone. What I want to do is very much not intended to be a solo adventure, so where does that leave me?

When we finished our hike and got back to the car my dog Banjo plopped down in the grass under the shade of a tree and I realized that was it; that was the perfect spot. Right there in the middle of the action with kids running around, traffic, hikers, dogs wrestling on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in a very crowded park – that’s where I want to be now.

If I need a sense of peace, the Om Mani Padme Hum is there on repeat in the back of my head, calming my nerves and brain. But the Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya is what comes out of my mouth when I’m hoping and praying with clarity about what I want to manifest. It’s what I sang last month to the full moon and it’s what I sang under that tree in Chautauqua Park yesterday.

Both times the longing and intention were clear: I’m no longer building to 70.3 miles. Instead I’m building to family, community and home.

It’s an odd thing to do when you’re single and have no prospects in sight, but I have to believe that if I start moving in this new direction, someone will cross my path, turn around and decide to join me.

Here’s to keeping the hope alive.

These days I am barely scraping by on a nonprofit salary but groceries are cheap in Colorado so I manage. I share a house with a roommate. She is lovely and it’s nice to not be alone. We have backyard chickens, lilacs and a vegetable garden.

These days I hike in the Front Range amongst rattlesnakes, cougars and bears yet blissfully free of ignorant Hawaiian pig hunters and their hunting packs. I spend a lot of time with my sister. I own two bikes and jog often.

These days I drink hot chocolates at coffee shops instead of beers at bars. I haven’t had a drink in a month and it’s working. I love it.

These days I go to the library and devour books on homeschooling. I don’t know what to tell you about that except that I prayed to the full moon in Scorpio at 9:42 pm Mountain Time on May 3rd, just when it was at its peak, and I woke up the next morning knowing exactly what I want to do next.

These days I feel the shift. It’s coming and I’m excited. No longer anxious, just ready and waiting.

My goodness.

Friday night I finished reading Misty Copeland’s book Life in Motion about her unlikely rise to the top of the ballet world, making history as the only African American soloist dancing with American Ballet Theatre. She is a beautiful rock star of a woman. You can witness some of her magic and inspiration here.

On Saturday my sister and I took the dogs for a walk in Chautauqua Park where the Flatirons are in Boulder and Anton Krupicka ran right past us. Yah. The ultrarunner I wrote about when I was preparing for the Honolulu Marathon… three years to the day actually. I wrote about him on April 11th, 2012 and saw him at the flatirons on April 11th, 2015.

There is something so ethereal about his running. Talk about being born to run, he floats across the earth effortlessly just like Misty Copeland spinning across the stage. It was like catching a glimpse of an elusive wild animal.

Then Sunday I read Amy Purdy’s book, On My Own Two Feet, in a single afternoon. After contracting bacterial meningitis at age 19, she not only endured full kidney failure and beat her 2% chance of survival, but went on to win bronze in snowboarding at the Paralympic games in Sochi… without feet. She had to have them both amputated because her body had sacrificed them to septic shock in order to save her organs.

Two days after returning from Russia Amy joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars and of course, because she’s ridiculously amazing, she and her partner Derek Hough ended up in second place. You can witness her magic and inspiration here.

So I’m feeling pretty rejuvenated and inspired. Knowing these people exist and seeing the amazing things they accomplish amp me up to get out there and bring on the happy.

This move to Colorado has not been easy. For the last six weeks I’ve been quietly binge eating junk food and drinking a ton of beer – there’s a microbrewery on every corner for goodness sake. I’m confident I made the right choice to come here, but I’ve been stuck in a wave of moods regardless.

Now I’m ready to put the discomfort and frustration behind me and find whatever groove this next chapter of life will bring.

Thank you Misty, Anton and Amy for arousing me from my snooze. It is much appreciated!

 

 

A few weeks back I hit a wall. It was something asinine about work that eventually led to a clear image of spinning wheels and wasted energy, the dragging out of something (Hawaii) losing its beauty, something (this actualized dream of mine) that is clearly ready to dissolve and be let go of.

I hit a wall and for the first time in quite a while it dawned on me that, rather than sit here staring up bemoaning myself for not being able to scale it, I am occasionally allowed to simply walk around the stupid thing.

I hit a wall. I made a conscious decision not to berate. I looked to my left and saw a blinking green arrow. On it were the words “Call Your Dad.”

So I called my dad and said, “What do you think?” and he said, “Yah!” and a plan was made.

Notice has been given, flights booked, car rented. My furniture sold quickly on Craigslist and my personal items packed snugly into boxes on their way to my sister’s storage unit just outside of Boulder.

I fly out of Honolulu on March 2nd, four months earlier than expected, landing in Vegas the morning of my 37th birthday. My father will meet me there and we will road trip it with the dogs through the canyonlands of Utah on our way to Colorado.

I hit a wall. I walked around it. I feel very very good about this.

This is just beautiful and awesome:

 

Click here to check out Michael Grab’s website

 

Travis got me out of bed this morning with a simple text hoping I was having a good day. (Thank you T) In truth I had been lying there for an hour piecing together clues from stress dreams. Nothing is actually wrong. It’s just starting to dawn on me that I’m actually moving in a couple of months. And I have very mixed feelings about that.

When I left Connecticut at age 17 I ran north, screaming of FREEDOOOOOM with my arms flailing in the air like a Muppet. My parents are awesome, my upbringing was positively divine, but I could not wait another second to start my adult life.

Leaving Boston seven years later I was chasing love and opportunity in the big city so even if it was hard to go I wouldn’t have let myself notice.

Six years after that, I slipped out of New York under cover of night, depressed, beat down and broken. I couldn’t get far enough away.

For two years I tried in Oregon but I had to go farther for a full recovery. I jumped another 3,000 miles into the middle of the ocean, in search of a crystal clear vision I had in my head and my heart. And I’ve gotten everything I ever wanted out of this tiny landmass between the tropics.

As I’ve said before though, while Hawaii is adventurous and warm and everything I hoped it would be, it is also undeniably lonely.

This next move is so different from all the ones that came before it. I’m leaving something I love in search of something I think I need. Genuinely feeling like the next stage of my life is waiting for me to arrive somewhere else, for some seemingly subconscious reason I’m putting my money on the Rocky Mountains.

The decision feels right but I’m not exactly gung-ho about it. And so far I have no desire whatsoever to put together a plan. Instead I need to focus on slowly moving through a process of making peace with this next goodbye.

It took everything I had to get here and for all the frustrations of my job and my always empty bed, I absolutely love it. I love my house. I love the sun. I love the landscape. I love the few friends I’ve become very close to. And at the end of the day, even though it might sound a little screwy, I have to remind myself that a significant chunk of my soul loves the isolation and craves it whenever it’s not readily available.

I almost can’t believe I’m going to let this all go.

Last night I met up with Coach J to discuss our Half Ironman training regimen. I wanted to get his opinion on how I should be preparing and what he thought of this triathlete/author/trainer I just discovered named Matt Fitzgerald. I’ve been really digging his books and articles. But Coach J’s not really a good planner and mostly he just wants to be social all the time. So instead we caught up and shot the shit over a couple farmhouses at Honolulu Beerworks.

Regardless of where they start, our conversations always end up in a deep discussion of why the heck I’m still single. He has plenty of theories, namely that the men I’m interested in are always unobtainable. They either have girlfriends or wives, or are too concentrated on their sport to have a relationship.

I say it doesn’t matter anyway because no one in this corner of the globe is in the market for a tall broad shouldered blonde chick from the mainland who has a functioning brain and opinions and stuff. I’m not even really that tall or broad shouldered, but when compared to the general population in Hawaii (read : tiny petite Asians) I’m enormous. Plus I don’t surf so…

Two strong microbrewed beers later I felt awful as we left the bar, especially after finding out that my latest crush (one of Coach J’s unobtainable triathlete friends) has a girlfriend. Imagine that! But I refused to give in to the feelings of self pity. At home I opened up iTunes on my MacBook and clicked on Confessions by the Violent Femmes. I spooned by dog Banjo and let Gordon Gano cheer me up with his pathetic wailing:

I’m so lonely / feel like I’m gonna crawl away and die

This is what I do when I feel the twinges of loneliness coming on because the song is so pathetic it cracks me up. No one’s actually got it that bad.

Two minutes later I got out of bed, geared up, turned my bike lights on and headed out the door for Tantalus.

Climbing Tantalus in the dark is pretty intense. I did it once before with a seasoned cyclist who I swear had sixteen lights on his bike. There was no chance of us not being seen. But by myself with my one dinky light was another story entirely. I forgot just how black it gets in the long stretches with no streetlights and 100% tree canopy.

What was more intense was getting to the top and my headlight going from blue to red, the indicator that the battery was about to die.

Tantalus is steep. Cruising down at top speed in the bright light of day is exhilarating and kinda scary. Speeding down in the pitch black of night to save battery power for when I’d really need to be seen down below in traffic… was absolutely fucking fantastic.

I felt so alive. Please don’t tell my mom. Please. But holy fucking shit I was so thrilled and excited and nervous – three of my favorite feelings in the world.

The experience allowed me to switch the conversation in my head to hover over the thoughts of why aliveness is unobtainable for me in the boring sameness of a stable job and steady paycheck, the repetition of commuting and soul crushing bullshit.

I have to dig deep to unearth this feeling and the hard truth is I cannot live happily without it. Sometimes the search makes me do some crazy shit but when I do it, when I commit, I never ever ever regret it.

I wonder if there’s something about me that makes me unobtainable to men. What if instead of always focusing on how wrong I am for everybody here, I just remember to concentrate on all the things that are beautiful and good?

For years leading up to my Grandmother’s death I had conversations with her before I fell asleep at night. It was always the same. I would hug my pillow and talk out loud to her, recounting my memories of our time together, imagining myself on the floor of her living room next to her favorite rocker. With my head in her lap she would run her skinny fingers through my hair, the ones that look exactly like mine just older, and I would regale her with dozens of stories in very specific detail.

In my bed at night talking to the ceiling I was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that she could hear me 6,000 miles away and that she knew I was with her. I pictured her in her hospital bed laughing out loud for each of the family jokes I reminded her of. And when the present moment predicament crept in and things inevitably got a little sad, I would tell her over and over, “I got you. It’s scary I know, but you’re OK.”

My father picked me up at JFK International Airport in Queens, NY on a very cold March morning at 7:00 AM, five days after my 36th birthday. Bleary eyed from a complete lack of sleep on the red eye from Hawaii, I fell into the winter coat he brought for me and leapt quickly into the front seat of his heated Saturn. All I could say was, “This totally fucking sucks.” All he could do was slowly nod his head and agree, “Yah. It really does.”

I wanted to stay right there at the airport as if refusing to move forward would keep it all from happening. Holding back the tears I once again ran through the countless happy memories as my dad stoically drove us north over the Triboro Bridge.

In my head I could hear her rattling the dice in the plastic cup during our endless games of Yahtzee, the clink of my uncles throwing horseshoes in her backyard. Thanksgivings when we’d put ice in her white wine and throw bread rolls to each other across the table. That time we all went to Europe and the cruise to the Bahamas. How she would sit under the Christmas tree every year and hand out gifts like Santa. How it would seem like everything was funny to her and we would never ever stop laughing.

When we got to Connecticut we took a deep breath and silently rode the elevator to the fourth floor. In her hospice room I took off my coat and climbed into her bed. Spooning my Grams I whispered the sentiment that was almost impossible to articulate, “Hey we gotta talk. This totally fucking sucks but it’s time.”

She couldn’t speak to respond but I knew she could hear me. So I sang her the song I’d been singing for years every time I visited the convalescent home she was moved to when the late onset Alzheimer’s got too much for anyone to handle. Snuggled up and wrapped around her, holding her hand, my forehead against the back of her head, my mouth as close to her ear as I could get it, I repeated Lou Reed’s chorus.

It’s such a perfect day / I’m glad I spent it with you

Such a perfect day / You just keep me hangin’ on

For five hours rather than cry, the six of us reminisced and laughed, sometimes a little too raucously. It was me and my mom and my dad, plus my aunt, uncle and cousin. When we got too loud we shushed each other then quickly burst into guffaws over how crazy the nurses and aides must have thought we were.

What kind of family laughs like lunatics on the deathbed of the long standing matriarch? The ones who have been living and laughing with her all their lives. The ones who understand exactly what she wanted: to go out the way she lived – surrounded by a rambunctious bunch of nuts making jokes until the bitter end.

As a child, and even through my twenties, I never believed the end would actually come, but in the early afternoon of March 8th 2014 it did. She took her last breath and with it the laughter temporarily died.

Up until that day I had never seen anyone die before. It gutted me unlike any other loss I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t understand how to leave the room but thankfully my father stayed with me and the two of us had no clue together.

My grandmother’s death is undoubtedly the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Two months after that day I lost my dear sweet perfect Arugula Roo to kidney failure, the final stage of her years long battle with Feline Lymphocytic Leukemia. For sixteen years she had been my only daily constant. Through the ups and downs of life, 15 apartments, 4 states and everything life threw at me in between. She was an angel and perfect in every way, just like my Grams.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and say that 2014 was a very sad and difficult year.

Good things happened. But mostly I just had a hard time and felt unbearably lonely. I barely exercised. I drank too much beer. I didn’t participate in any races or go on many dates. I hardly wrote at all.

The first week of December I flew to Maui for the day and sang kirtan with Krishna Das at a little church in Makawao just outside of Paia. Right down in the front row I started crying with the first note that came from his harmonium. The tears kept coming as I chanted my little heart out. I cried for the loss of my grandmother, shaking from the pain, begging her not to leave me.

All year I felt so consumed by the emptiness and then suddenly there she was, gently pointing out how much of a dope I had been. “I’m not going anywhere, silly! I’m right here. For goodness sake, just because I’m dead doesn’t mean I left you!” I could see her throwing up her hands and shrugging her shoulders like “Duh!” And just like that I stopped crying and the hole started to close.

A few weeks after my excursion to Maui I did a seven day juice fast and life started to spring out of me again. Today I ran to Hanauma Bay. I climbed a mile to the top of the ridge trail and looked out over the ocean. Just as I crested the hill, Puja from Krishna Das’ Door of Faith album came through my headphones and I started laughing. Because that’s how life goes when you’re in tune and paying attention – everything you need appears without asking at exactly the moment you need it to.

Hanauma 2

I stretched and balanced in tree pose as KD om’d and woke me back up. Then I walked down the hill and ran home.

I can’t say I’m ecstatic or energized. Maybe that will come tomorrow when the New Year is really here. But for now I can say I am at peace, unbelievably grateful that I got to spend 36 years with my favorite person on the planet. And I’m ready to let the loss go so I can move on to whatever is next.

Happy New Year my dear ones. May it be filled with blessings and happiness for everyone. MUCH LOVE!

Hanauma 1

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I Can Feel The Love

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