Saturday, July 28, 2007

We Conquered the Jay Challenge Ultramarathon!

I don't have enough time or laptop battery to describe all of today's events, but our race was incredible! It took us 8 hours and 31 minutes to run 33 miles on the most insane trails I've seen in my life. It was brutal and beautiful at the same time. I'll start with a few pictures and follow up with more details later. Let's start with the start:

And before we knew it, we were climbing huge hills on narrow trails in the woods. Some sections were so steep there were ropes to help pull ourselves up.

Shortly after that, we started running our first brook section. I enjoyed the challenge, but it sure was dangerous. The rocks are so slick that every step is just begging for a slip and a fall (yes, we both had a few).

After we finished the first brook section we came out of the woods, ran around the corner, and found ourselves at the base of Jay Peak. Wow! This started a LOT of walking....

We finally made it to the top and it felt fantastic! What an accomplishment.

But what goes up, must come down...

And down...

And down...

Eventually back into the brooks and rivers.

As the miles wore on, there seemed to be no end to the variety of terrain or the hills. Here's a perfect example: somehow in the middle of Vermont there's this huge sand dune we had to climb.

And the last five miles or so were a combination of farms, trails, and mud.

We finished step for step after 33 grueling miles, just as the sky opened up and started to pour huge raindrops. We got a warm outdoor shower (really), a bite to eat, and hit the road back to New York. Our feet are beat up and we're tired, but I think we held up okay. I think Mark's had enough of this ultramarathon thing, but I'm already wondering how much time I can shave off this race next year....

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ultramarathon Eve

It's finally here, my first ultramarathon: the Ultimate XC Challenge! On Thursday, our entire family flew with our friend Mark Brucato from Chicago to New York. Today, Friday, my dad drove Mark and me up to the tippy-top of Vermont: Jay Peak. We removed the middle seats of the minivan and Mark and I rode in style in the far back seats.

As we got closer and closer the mountains seemed to get bigger and bigger. We finally pulled around a bend in the road and set our sights on the peak we'll climb tomorrow morning and one of the highest peaks in Vermont: Jay Peak, 3,968 feet.

After we got checked into our hotel we walked out the back of the building to behold the peak right in our back yard. It looks REALLY big. I'm not sure if the course marker at the base of the peak indicates forward or straight up!

When we drove back into town to pick up our race packets, we were welcomed by an EMS truck. An ominous sign?

Before we picked up our packets we had to sign a LONG waiver. The "death" part always gets your attention.

Of course, we signed it anyway.

After signing our lives away, we found a nice pasta dinner at a local restaurant (thanks for treating, Dad). While we waited to be seated I shot this quick panorama off the front deck of the restaurant. Click the small image below for a larger view. It's really beautiful country and I can't wait to run through it with my buddy, Mark.

More updates tomorrow afternoon, after the race....

Monday, July 23, 2007

D is for Demolition

Not a moment too soon, our house renovation project is finally underway! They started by ripping out the vaulted ceiling in our family room, which will eventually be our new kitchen.

Next, they tore out the the large closet in the foyer. The closet is going to be rotated 90° so that we'll have a nicer entry area and a larger place to hang photographs.

The pantry went next, which will make for a nice wide opening between the new eating area and the new family room. Notice the soffits that divide the old kitchen and the old family room from the kitchen? Those are going too!

They also pulled the kitchen out so they can start re-routing gas, water, etc.

Needless to say, this means a lot of debris is going into a dumpster. We're trying hard to keep the waste to a minimum, so we're selling, donating, and freecycling everything we can. So far, we've found a home for all of our carpet, blinds, and kitchen cabinets through our local freecycle group. We're hoping to sell our appliances, wood floors, and a whole bunch of furniture. If you or anybody you know needs a dining room or family room of furniture for a fair price, let us know!

Many have asked if we're living in this mess, and the answer is, so far, NO! We've been blessed to be able to house-sit for different friends on vacation and short term missions trips this summer, but that only takes us through the end of August. We're still trying to find free/inexpensive housing in Wheaton for September-November. If you think of anything creative, would you mind letting us know?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pool Time

This summer we have spent lots of time at our Wheaton pools. We've had so many warm and sunny days that we can't help but be outside enjoying the weather! It is so nice that all three kids like going to the pool and each have founds things they enjoy doing there. Andrew LOVES to jump in the "deep" water (3 ft) and practice his budding swimming skills.

Katie has just overcome her fear of jumping into the water solo and now can't jump enough!

Josh likes the water and has to have a ball or toy to hold, and he also likes crawling around in the sand area.

All of us have enjoyed seeing a friend or three each time we go to the pool, and it is nice for me to have a mom to chat with and for the kids to have a friend to swim with!