Recently, a friend sent me one of those e-mail quizzes where you have to change all of their answers to yours and then send it back. One of the questions was, "What was the best Christmas present you've ever received?" Without hesitation, I typed in "bicycle". My first two wheeler was actually my 6th birthday present. I nearly rode it into the creek behind our house that very afternoon, nearly, but not quite. I got my first ten speed for Christmas when I was ten. It was too big for me, but I loved it immediately and spent many happy days and years riding for fun, riding to get somewhere, and riding for a challenge. In college, I traded my finicky Ford Mustang in for a Specialized Rock Hopper without a twinge of regret. When I'm riding my bike, I am happy, and as the cliche goes, life is good. My husband bought me my current Trek road bike about 4 years ago and I immediately got busy training for my first triathlon, as well as many organized rides here in the Pacific Northwest.
Still, for the last seven years I thought of myself as a runner. I spent most of my free time thinking about and training for road and trail races of varying distances. But recently I have had to stretch that notion of myself more and more. I'd spent 2008 and 2009 selling a home, buying, moving and then remodeling our new home. Throughout all of that I managed to regularly throw my shoes on, crank up my mp3 player and head out my front door for a 4 to 8 mile run, often with sheet rock dust in my hair and paint on my hands. I always came home feeling better than when I left.
Soon, the kids were fully settled into their new schools, our remodel was winding down, ski season was upon us and I was looking forward to training for the 2009 North Olympic Discovery Marathon in June. I had bamboozled my older sister Susan into signing up for it as well. It would be her first marathon. I was going to train with a PR (personal record) in mind, as well as buoy my big sis along to a positive first marathon experience.
Not being new to marathon training I should have known better, but I ramped up my running to over 50 miles as week (I know my edge is 40 miles!), adding on a weekly spin class, some intense skiing on the weekends and a long session of yoga every Friday. Add to that the household chores, yard work, errands and hikes and adventures with my husband and kids, and well, you see where this is heading. One morning, after returning home from a spring break trip spent hiking at Cape Alava, the Hoh Rainforest and Lake Quinault with my husband and our three kids, I went out for a run and didn't make it past my mailbox. Sharp pains in my hip and pubic bone were forcing me to limp, and badly. I had 7 1/2 weeks to go to my marathon, it was time to make a new plan.
I don't give up too easily and found that while I couldn't run and riding the spin bike was painful, I could use the elliptical machine without pain and began to substitute my scheduled training runs with the elliptical workouts spliced together with deep water running at the pool. If I had a 15 or 16 mile long run on my schedule, I would work out hard on the elliptical for 60 to 75 minutes, then jump in the pool and run in the deep end for another 60 to 75 minutes. Yes, I was planning to keep that up until I could run again, and would try a test run on the treadmill at the club once a week. I also kept tabs on my sister's progress, offering regular encouragement, but felt like I was letting her down since I could not run with her at all.
Then, while signing up my kids up for spring swim lessons, I noticed an adult fitness swimming class that was starting up at the local pool. It occurred to me that since I couldn't run or bike, now was the perfect time to become a better swimmer. I had tried a couple of mini-sprint triathlons a few years back when I had first got my road bike and had wanted to do another, but the swim held me back. I just wasn't at ease swimming long distances in deep water. And so I added swimming to my marathon training.
The fitness swimming class turned out to be a wonderful thing for me for several reasons. Number one being that it helped keep me fit while allowing my body to heal enough that, despite not having run a whole mile outside of the deep end of the swimming pool for over seven weeks, I was able to run the whole marathon with my sister. We finished together and I have a great shot of us laughing across the finish line, she happy to have completed her first ever marathon, and me happy to be there with her. Number two, I immediately started meeting like-minded women who enjoyed not just fitness but training and competition on a recreational level. It was good to get out in my new community and start making some new friends, especially friends who had so much in common with myself. All of the ladies that showed up for the fitness class twice a week were training for one or more triathlons, including Elisa.
Elisa is one of those people who seems to know everyone, and if you hang around her much, pretty soon you feel like you are connected to the world in a whole new way. Elisa has an outgoing nature and an easy, bantering conversational style. She's fun. Also, she trains. Training is very different from working out. There is a purpose beyond just fitness or calorie expenditure. It involves pushing yourself and finding out how far and how fast you can push your body. I am passionate about fitness and the pursuit of excellence, and after getting my butt kicked by Elisa in the pool week after week (for Pete's sake, she had a child under the age of one at home), then hearing about her stellar swim and cycling legs (on her mountain bike!) at triathlons over the summer, I sensed a kindred spirit.
In the past I have always headed indoors to ride a stationary bike during the late fall, winter and early spring here in Western Washington, not knowing any other ladies willing to ride in cold, wet weather. So in that sense meeting Elisa has been like striking gold for me. Since summer we've explores lots of ground on our bikes and also on foot in the trails. After inviting her out on a trail run one afternoon last September and subsequently getting us (temporarily) lost she still agreed to run in the trails with me again; so I knew right then I had a new trail running buddy. Also, Elisa is right about helping to keep me injury free. Since she is new to the sport of running her easy pace is just what I need. After completing a half marathon in November, I pronounced myself completely healed and she said, "Don't be too hasty." And she was right, I had to dial it back a bit. Two steps forward, one step back, and so it goes.
Elisa is also an excellent snowboarder. I knew she love the mountain just as much as I did, but didn't know just how proficient she was until our families met up at Steven's Pass one day in January. We had all paused to regroup after a foggy, steep patch on the backside. We had everyone in the group accounted for minus Elisa and Sam, Elisa's preschool age son. We waited and Max (1st grade) was wondering if he'd been separated from his mom; starting to worry a bit that she had taken a different route. Then, through the fog, we spotted a snowboarder making their way down the steep slope. But where was the little figure that should be nearby? We didn't see Sam. As the boarder got closer, my husband Shawn looked at me and said in disbelief, "Is she carrying him?" I looked, and sure enough she had Sam perched on one hip as she boarded smoothly down through the fog. Shawn and I just looked at each other wide eyed. A woman boarding through the fog down a steep, icy slope with a preschool age child on her hip-and making it look easy- is not something you see too often. Yeah.
So that's us. We're the Northwest Adventure Chics and we will be sharing our adventures with all you interested souls out there. Hiking, skiing, boarding, riding, swimming, running, climbing, boating.....So many places begging to be explored, so little time. The Pacific Northwest is a great place to be if you want to enjoy the great outdoors and it is always more fun with a friend who's game to go. So to all you ladies (and guys!) out there who hunger for adventure and want to live life large, this blog is for you! Maybe we will inspire you to try something new that you never thought you would or could do, and if so, I am already glad that we've taken the time to share some of our adventures with you.