White Ranch Run 6.5.2014

6.34 miles. 1:22:10
1400′ vert
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140605-1838.”target=”_blank”

Pretty easy outing overall, but body is carrying some fatigue. Knee felt a little loose/ sloppy. Time to start resting towards LT26.2.

Glad I was paying attention at one point because the herd of 6 or 8 mountain bikers flying down the trail sure weren’t.

Gorgeous evening and lots of runners out. Most I’ve seen. Found out it was the Denver Trail Runners club. 6:15 every Thursday apparently, but at various parks around town. Met a dude doing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning! Fair play to you, brother. .

20140605-203733-74253993.jpg

Updating in a Mobile Fashion

So, for some time I’ve wondered about using a mobile app to update this blog. And so, now, here we go!

It’ll be a bit of time to really feel out the app to see what it’s capable of…

Here’s a picture from a run the other morning!

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This is on the way up Belcher Hill at White Ranch Open Space in Jeffco, looking back east.

So. Let’s see how this goes when I post it!

#LT100 Training Update – Week(s) Ending May 11, 2014

The source of my angst.

The source of my angst.

May 12 - 8:34 PM

And just like that, it’s been a month since I’ve updated!  Aaaacck.

But, one of the main reasons I’ve not posted is that I’ve been discouraged because I’ve been battling (unsuccessfully) a sore knee.  Internet research and anecdotal evidence seems to point to Patellar Tendonitis, aka “Runner’s Knee.”

I had a long, flat “fast” run that started the issue off, followed by a week of “strength” training, pulling a tire, that moved it from “discomfort” to “pain.”  So, I’ve rested a bit, done a bit too much, and am now resting more.

I’ll confess that it’s so hard a) to actually admit that there’s a problem and b) STOP running to do something about it.  We’re such strange creatures.  We hurt but we try to push on like nothing’s wrong… because sometimes nothing actually IS wrong.

 

Me, with Christoper McDougall, who wrote a little book you may have heard of, and Scott Jurek.

Me, with Christoper McDougall (of “Born to Run” fame) and Scott Jurek. I got to run (read: huff and puff and hike slowly uphill) with Scott while he told stories. It was incredible. It was also really cool of him to laugh and/ or look bored while he waited for my slow ass to chug up the trail.

Several years ago, in a Q&A with ultra-legend Scott Jurek, I asked his opinion on when to keep running and when to stop and rest… His answer actually appears above. He stated that he’s had to learn the difference between discomfort and pain.

I love this differentiation, this designation because it is very personal.  Quantifying pain on a scale of 1-10 is always hard for me, but for whatever reason, this description of the difference between discomfort and pain is incredibly helpful to me.

And, I believe it might be helpful in other areas of life… maybe in dealing with things like grief or depression?  Hmmmm…

Anyway, here’s a brief recap of the training… and this is long and boring.  If you can get through this, you’ve got what it takes to do an ultra.

Monday, 4.14 – Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.15 -7.06 miles @ To Pomona High School, Track Workout, Then Home
Jogged over to the high school, then did 4 miles worth of “speed work,” meaning hard on the straights and recovery on the curves.  Then jogged home.  Was still super sore from The North Face workout.  Felt pretty funky.

Wednesday, 4.16 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Still so sore.  4 miles on elliptical machine.  Core and upper body circuits between.

Thursday, 4.17 – Massage!
Had a great massage at Denver Integrative Massage School.  Postponed run until Friday morning to fully benefit from massage.

Sun rising on the Flat Irons in the distance, with Standley Lake in the fore.

Sun rising on the Flat Irons in the distance, with Standley Lake in the fore.

Friday, 4.18 – 6.14 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140418-0605?r=d

Did this run early, to make it as close to Thursday as possible. So rough to get out of bed, but got it done. Felt okay by end.

Saturday, 4.19 – 20 miles on Big Dry Creek bike path
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140419-1711?r=d

Did this run as late in the day on Saturday as possible, to allow maximum rest from Friday morning.  By far the fastest I’ve ever covered this distance.  Pushed pretty hard the whole time.  Also, used “home made” food as fuel, which was AWESOME.  I have more to share about THAT later…

Sunday, 4.20 – 2.6 miles walking around neighborhood
Leisurely walk around with friends/ fan for Easter!  Super-fun day, taking it easy after hard effort yesterday

Monday 4.21 – Rest Day!

IMG_2018Tuesday 4.22 – 6.89 miles Tire Pull @ Arvada Reservoir
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140422-1815?r=d

First hints of knee pain.  Pushed through.  Used this as a chance to scout out Arvada res for fishing!

Wednesday 4.23 – Cross Training – 3.41 miles @ The Pond
Jogged out and back from house, then did TNF Mountain Athletics Core and Upper Body Circuit, Repeat.  Made my own sandbags and pull-up bar.  Pretty friggin awesome. And exhausting.

Thursday 4.24 – 7.35 miles Tire Pull @ Standley Lake and Surrounding “Hood
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140424-0543?r=d

My note in Runmeter was simply “Tired.”  Also, my knee was beginning to bug me, too.  It’s funny to write this all out and see the downward spiral I was in for these several days.  Just getting beat down.

 

Elevation profile of Table Mountain Double.

Elevation profile of Table Mountain Double.

4.25 – Rest Day!

 

4.26 – Early Afternoon: 8.02 miles Table Mountain Double Cross Tire Pull
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140426-1342?r=d

Knee didn’t feel great to start and got worse.  Had to straight up stop and hobble a couple of times.  Also, didn’t eat enough and it was hot, so I got a bit bonky.  And, I spooked two different horses with the strange sound of the tire dragging the gravel.  That was a bit strange…

Went to Bryce Boyer’s 40th birthday party, had some good food and time with friends and then planned on going back out for another 16 miles with the tire.

 

This is what I look like with that stupid tire...

This is what I look like with that stupid tire…

Night time: 4.55 miles Up and Down Green Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140426-2136?r=d

Shut it down after one lap because my knee felt terrible.  Finally realized that if a friend was telling me about their knee feeling like mine did, I’d tell them to stop running and rest.  So, I did.  Sigh.

4.27 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Usual routine of elliptical and core and upper body.  Knee felt terrible bending over for exercises, etc.  But elliptical didn’t hurt it, so that’s good.

4.28 – Rest Day!

4.29 – Massage! 1 Hour
Another visit to DIMS, but this time was worked on by ultra/ trail runner Salynda Fleury, who won the Pikes Peak marathon a couple of years ago and who’s placed top 10 twice at Run Rabbit Run 100!  But, it was her first time giving a massage and she’s got a bit of work to do… It was still great, though.

4.30 – “Swim” @ Apex Rec Center
Got in the pool and flopped around a bit.  My efforts in water are frankly pretty pathetic but it was something to do that had no impact on legs…

5.1 – 6.27 “miles” on elliptical at Apex Rec Center
Put in an hour on the elliptical, which was fine on the knee, but that’s pretty rough to just do nothing but swing your legs around indoors for an hour.

5.2 – Rest Day!

5.3 – Morning: 2.88 Miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140503-1259?r=d

Went out to test the knee a bit.  Felt stiff for first half mile, but then felt quite good!  Was so excited!

Then went out to Ryan Kliewer’s party to celebrate his becoming a fireman.  So very proud of his sustained effort and patience through pursuing that process.  Very, very cool.

Evening: 6.62 miles @ Standley Lake
http://www.dailymile.com/people/GaryA3/entries/28533874

Over did it on the knee.  Had to walk it in the last mile or so.  Sigh.

5.4 – 2 miles while fishing
Headed down to fish the legendary Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch on the Arkansas River.  Caught a few, but the hatch was a bit of a bust.  Set back the knee a bit more with some scrambling around over and around rocks and up steep banks.  It was so great to spend time with my old friend, Paul Egy, and to do something non-running related.  Felt really good to be out in the mountains!

5.5 – Rest Day!

5.6 – Morning: 3.02 miles @ Standley Lake – Knee Tester
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140506-0538?r=d

Went out early in the morning, knee was not good.  Had to walk the mile and a half back in to home.

Evening: 5 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex Rec Center
Blurgh. Just getting it done, but discouraged about knee.  Didn’t hurt but didn’t feel great.

5.7 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Usual routine of a mile on elliptical, followed by core and upper body circuit, repeat.

5.8 – Extra Rest Day
Felt crappy, like I was getting sick.  Took an extra day for the knee.

5.9 – Rest Day!

5.10 – Morning: 1/2 mile doing yard work, over course of 3 hours or so.
Knee felt okay, but just okay.  Good to get some yard work done, though!!

 

Here's another pic of me with Scott Jurek.  I mean, guys... we're essentially "besties."

Here’s another pic of me with Scott Jurek. I mean, guys… we’re essentially “besties.”

Evening: 14.5 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex
Just feeling like I HAVE to get some extended exercise in to try and keep up fitness.  Got to rec center a little late, but was still able to do 2:22 worth of training.  Did 3.33 miles, then walked a bit, just to loosen up and break up the monotony, repeat over and again.  Pushed the pace and worked hard on this, though.  So, in many ways it felt quite good.

5.11 – 18 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex
Thankful for a long Talk Ultra Podcast to listen to, because that’s the longest I’ve ever been in a rec center at one time… went at a bit slower pace today, as it was the second half of a “back to back” for the weekend.  A good, long sustained effort.  Makes me feel like maybe I’m not losing ALL of my fitness as I wait for my knee to come around.

———————————–

Overall a crazy month.  I ran faster than I ever have, and then… blurgh.  But, it was great to end with a strong back to back Saturday and Sunday.  I did the equivalent of a 50k and over 5 and a half hours of training over 2 days.

I swear, I’m committing to NOT running until my knee has felt GREAT for at least a week.  I have GOT to get this thing under control.  Too many big goals at stake!

#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 13, 2014

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner...

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner…

April 14 – 8:20 PM

Last week, I described how I’ve been training through weekly cycles… this week was a Recovery Week and I fully enjoyed it.  Here’s what the training looked like…

Monday, 4.7 – Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.8 – 6.05 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140408-1810?r=d

We now live very close to a large reservoir called Standley Lake, and up to this point I’ve only run around the gravel roads below the dam.  But finally, the single track trails actually around the lake were dry and it was a blast to explore some new areas around our home.  An absolutely beautiful evening that inspired a bit of prose… Legs felt a bit heavy from last week’s effort, and I only intended to do 5 miles, but it was just so glorious out that I had to keep going!

Trails around Standley Lake

Trails around Standley Lake

Wednesday, 4.9 – Cross Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Pretty easy going, low impact effort on the legs but worked the core and upper body a little harder.

Thursday, 4.10 – EXTRA Rest Day!
Have just felt pretty beat down, so I took an extra rest day and I’m so glad I did!

Friday, 4.11 – Rest Day!
2 in a row! Hasn’t happened in a long while…

Saturday, 4.12 – 3 Runs/ Workouts

#1: 2.5 miles @ Wash Park
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140412-0645?r=d

Saw on the social medias that ultra-legend Hal Koerner was going to run at Wash Park in the morning and that if anyone wanted to join him… So I went stalking… I mean, erm… uh… looking for him but didn’t find him, so I just did one lap and called it good.  Not a huge fan of that park or track.

 #2: 5.34 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140412-0931?r=d

Melanie needed to put in 5, as she’s training for both the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon AND for pacing me the last 13.5 miles at the #LT100.  So, I took her out to the paths I’d run earlier in the week.  Another gorgeous day!

IMG_1991#3: 1.75 miles @ BRC-CC and The North Face Mountain Athletics Event
The brand new Boulder Running Company store in Cherry Creek was hosting an event for The North Face, showcasing their new Mountain Athletics line of gear and training plans. I drove to the store and then jogged to the park where the event was to be held.  Met Anne and Sarah there after they’d done 13 miles out at Mount Falcon.  We had no idea for the smoking we were about to receive!!  The workout is very cross-fit-ish and was made to work the core in a functional strength kind of way.  There were sandbags.  There were weighted backpacks.  There were pushups an sit-ups in the goose pooh on the grass.  There were “Jane Fondas” (you don’t want to know…).  I’ve done more core and upper body work this round of training than any before and I was utterly unprepared for that workout.  I’m still sore 55+ hours later.  Can barely walk.  Unfortunately, I tweaked a niggling injury in my left quad… we’ll see how it goes but I don’t think it’s anything too threatening to the big goal.

You know, just frolicking on the beach... shirtless.

You know, just frolicking on the beach… shirtless.

The best part of the event, though, was getting the chance to just chat with two stars of ultra-running in Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe.  Hal’s written a book that’ll be out in August that’s a “field guide” to ultra-running and he shared more about that, and I picked his brain a bit about Leadville.  Mike Wolfe is another stud of the highest order and he shared more about how he mixes in these kinds of workouts into his training.

The fact that one can get so up close and personal with these guys is pretty amazing.  For golfers, it’d be like getting to hang around a putting green with Tiger Woods.  For baseball fans, it’s like playing catch with Jeter.  Hal and Mike are at the absolute top of the ultra-running galaxy and yet this is still such a niche sport, that you can just hang with them for a bit, no big deal.

1_robertsont_130804_6269--1030x690

Celebrating completing the John Muir Trail…

For perspective on what these guys can do, check this report of their running the length of the John Muir Trail (220-ish miles long, mostly above 9,000 feet, with stupid amounts of vert) all in 3 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes.  Most people do this trail in 9-14 days.

As individuals, they’re also ridiculous.

Check Hal’s race report where he schooled some youngsters on the toughest 100 mile race in the world.  Hal was also featured in a recent edition of Outside Magazine.

And apparently the girls find him dreamy. :-)

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

And then read through (or watch) this interview with Wolfpaw after he won a 50 mile race after cracking his head on a tree and bleeding all over his singlet.  He’s done more cool stuff since then and had big wins and great showings all over the globe.

The event then rolled back to the store where there was free food, free massages and more nerdy running conversations with other like-minded people.  A really fun event!

Sunday, 4.12 – Rest Day!
Was still so sore… took another rest day.

———————————————————–

I am pretty convinced that having a low-key recovery weeks is a real secret to successful ultra-running.  Embracing rest days and listening to one’s body can be a challenge though.  The down side of this week was getting so worked on Saturday that I’m still soooo sore here on Monday.  And I’ve got to start running again tomorrow!!

But, overall, I feel energized to step into another cycle of tough, tough training!  Looking to get speedy this week!

On an Evening Run

photoApril 8
7:36 pm

To run
With strong legs and lungs
And healthy heart

On an evening like this
With deep warmth and no hint of cold
And ample light late

Over trails dry and dusty
With breaths and breezes
And effort, but not too much

To hear
Water lapping shore
And birds and “dogs” and frogs

To see
Shadows long
And views stretching up and out and on and on

To return
To a place I love
To another’s heart who’s love is home

Today is a very good day

#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 6, 2014

IMG_1967

Table Moutain, from Long Lake Ranch Park to the north

I’ve been inspired of late by various training blogs (like this one, or this one, or my current fav…), where ultra-runners share their efforts and ruminate about running and life.  I’m not sure what it is about these blogs that gets me, but I love them.

And frankly it’s motivated me to get back to writing again.  So, here it goes, for tonight at least…

I’m deep into training for the 2014 Leadville Trail 100, and I’ve adopted a plan for training that works through a cycle of weeks, with each week having a different emphasis.  I’m now in the midst of my third cycle, with 4 more cycles to go…  it takes a long time to prepare for 100 miles at 10k feet.

The inspiration for this plan came from reading up about people calling out the need for speed work and strength work and endurance training and so on and on and on. There is, apparently, no shortage of advice out there for runners regarding their training.  And I was having trouble fitting it all into my training last year.  I did a wee bit of speed work, and a smattering of strength work, but mostly I just ran long.  And it worked, but I felt that there could be something more…

And so, as I began to think of how to prepare for this peculiar race, I knew I needed to be strong for the long uphill climbs.  And I wanted to be faster, because that could mean shortening up the time out on the course.  And of course endurance is the greatest need… it IS 100 miles, after all.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

And somewhere the idea of actually making a weekly emphasis out of each of those facets rose to the surface.  I came up with a plan (along with copious input from Ben and Chris) to spend a week on speed, a week on strength, a week on endurance and a week recovering before another cycle kicked off.

Because nothing can replace pure mileage, I also planned to work up in weekly mileage for each of those weeks, and then shortening up the mileage again on the recovery weeks.

So, this is what it has looked like for this current cycle:

  • Speed Week, 3/17 to 3/23, 35 miles total
  • Strength Week, 3/24 to 3/30, 40 miles
  • Endurance Week, 3/32 to 4/6, 45 miles
  • Recovery Week, 4/7 to 4/23 24 miles

The following cycles will continue to ratchet the mileage up further until I begin to taper for the final 3 weeks into race day on August 16.

I fully realize this notion of cycles is somewhat unproven (apart from the ratcheting up of mileage) and that it may be hogwash.

BUT.

I am positively thrilled with the results so far.  I’ve felt continually stronger and stronger, and faster, too.  And on my endurance run yesterday, I had more in the tank to go harder at the end of the run than I’ve felt possible before…

And dang, ain’t I happy that this week is a recovery week.  Here’s the week that was…

Monday, 3.31
Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.1 – 5.51 Miles @ Table Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140401-1836?r=d

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Legs still felt heavy and fatigued from the previous Saturday’s hard effort (4x up and down Green Mountain for 20 miles pulling a tire Marshall Ulrich style). And it was pretty breezy and cold, but not unbearable.  Since we’ve moved to Arvada, I’m really enjoying exploring new places to run, and I’m becoming quite fond of Table Mountain.  It’s close. There’s a measure of vert.  It’s sometimes techy, but mostly buffed out.  And for this evening I went off-trail to see where a little game trail led… and I jogged through a herd of deer and it always makes me think of persistence hunting.

Wednesday, 4.2 – Cross-Training 3 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Mileage is probably generous, being as how it was done on an elliptical machine… which has become something of my routine for cross-training days.  I want to get some cardio, and a bit of a sweat going, but with low impact to legs.  So, elliptical it is.  I do a mile on the machine, then work through a series of core and upper body exercises, another mile on the machine, more core and upper body, then one last mile.  I believe this cross-training is really helping my low back feel better through this round of training…

Thursday, 4.3 – 8.22 miles @ Table Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140403-1818?r=d
Was super bummed to see the predicted 1” of snow had turned into many more than that overnight… knew that the trails would be sloppy.  But, as Ben put it so succinctly, “Hope Pass in August doesn’t care about your snowstorm in April.”  So, I went out.  On my dailymile description of this run I stated that it was like running on horse shit the whole way.  Sticky, clingy mud made my shoes a pound a piece throughout the run.  I find myself really longing for dry trails, warmer temps and consistently sunny skies.  Legs still feel tired.  Looking forward to spring/ summer.

Friday, 4.4 – Rest Day!
Dinner out for date night at Amadeo’s Italian was glorious.  The migraine headache right before bed was not…

IMG_1981

Elevation profile from RunMeter…

Saturday, 4.5 – 26.42 @ Green Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140405-1134?r=d 
Head was still a bit wonky from migraine, and I wasn’t super psyched about heading out for this run.  Originally scheduled myself to do 25, but knew it’d be hard to not tack on extra to get to that magical marathon number.  Trails all over were still total slop from snow on Thursday, so I decided to reprise my route from the previous week going up and down Green Mountain, as I’d stayed mainly on the gravel road.  Last week that route worked for the tire, and this week they were the least mucky route on the hill. But, this week I did 5 laps instead of 4, extending my last lap to get to 26+.
Melanie joined me for my first lap, which is always great.  Second lap was uneventful until I ran into former classmate and 2011 LeadWoman Deanna Adami.  She joined me for the remainder of lap 2 and all of lap 3.  Lap 4, the temps dropped and the wind picked up and I began to fantasize about what food I would eat when I was done.  Last lap was okay but long, as I stretched it out.  Super happy with the day, though. Consistent energy, no bonks, good time with people, good time alone.  Great day on the hill!  Stopped and bought a feast at Boston Market on the way home and absolutely crushed dinner like one only can after a long trail run…

Sunday, 4.6 – Cross-Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Elliptical, core and upper body, repeat.  Very glad to be done with a tough cycle and greatly looking forward to a recovery week!

Countdown to UROC!

The Ultra Race of Champions, my goal race for the year, the focus of all of my training for the last 9 months, is now less than 5 days away!

Yahoo!

And yikes!

I’ve been thinking a bit about my training and I’m hoping to write up a reflection here this week…

GMA

Somewhere around mile 55-56. It will be dark when I move through this area, so it's nice to have a picture now...

Somewhere around mile 55-56. It will be dark when I move through this area, so it’s nice to have a picture now…

 

Nepal 2013 : Post #2

Sunday, June 9
1:02 pm
3 Sisters Guest House
Pokhara, Nepal

Shortly, we’ll be leaving Pokhara to head back to Kathmandu, where we’ve got another day and a half before heading home Tuesday.

Time to reflect has been scarce, and frankly it sort of even feels “too close” to the trip to properly reflect upon it, anyway…

I’d planned/ hoped to document the trip day by day, and there will be a place for reflection like that, too, but not now.

So, here are a few thoughts… scattered as though they may be…

I’m grateful for this opportunity. Anytime one can travel to foreign soil and see how others live and think is good. Very good. Furthermore, it is very good to take the time to reflect back on America to see ourselves through different eyes. That’s a powerful perspective to have.

But, that’s not the main thing I’m thinking at the moment. The main thoughts come from the fact that Vaun, Melanie and I have had several talks, lingering over meals, about the conference and we believe it was a great success. Vaun had done some surveying of the attendants about their attitudes towards women, and some fundamental shifts seem to have taken place, which is great and glorious and the point of the entire endeavor.

I feel a sense of satisfaction that I did exactly what I came to do… I leveraged my experience, my status, my education and my gifts to speak out for those who’ve not had much of a voice, and I encouraged those men in attendance to use their leadership and influence to do the same. I preached the Word as best I knew how and now it is up to the Spirit to take those seeds and grow them to whatever fruit He decides.

Also, another thought is that there’s a reality that this trip and all the associated prayers and preparations and fund-raising and all of that, have occupied all of my thoughts and attention for so many weeks previous that I’m in something of a “let down” now from having it all come to pass… Once I finished that last sermon on Tuesday, I sat down and nearly melted down… from emotional release, exhaustion, heat, weariness, etc, etc. I feel a bit spent, overall.

And now that we’re nearing the time to head home, I feel ready… Ready to head back into my “regular” world with a renewed perspective and experience gained. And I’ll carve out some time and space to look back on these days to see what lessons sprout up. I do want to share some of the travel details, as they’re fun and interesting, and so I’ll continue to post those as the days advance.

We are so very grateful for this opportunity. We very literally could NOT have done it without your support in love, spirit, finances and prayer. I definitely felt carried along at points by you all.

Looking forward to seeing many of you soon and sharing stories together.

Grace and Peace,
GMA

Nepal 2013 : Post #1

Nepal Trip 2013

Thursday, June 6th
10:41 AM
3 Sisters Guest House
Pokhara, Nepal

Finally taking some time to sit and to begin to reflect on all that’s transpired in the last week.

I’m sitting on the bed in our airy 3rd floor room at the 3 Sisters Guest House here in Pokhara.  Even though it’s airy, it is still humid.  Not quite hot, yet, but it’ll surely get warmer as the day moves on.

3 Sisters Guest House, Pokhara, Nepal

3 Sisters Guest House, Pokhara, Nepal

The fan overhead is whirring rapidly.  I’ve just begun playing a bit of music on my laptop.

This feels good to stop and reflect…

But, how to work my way back through these days?  There are any number of ways paths to take…

We have plans for the afternoon and for our remaining days here in Pokhara, and so even though the pace is slow, I feel a pressure to get everything out, RIGHT NOW.

And that’s not helping… relax, Gary.  Relax.

I also feel this pressure to get into the mountains, to see the Himalayas, as I’ve no idea if I’ll ever be this close to them again… But they are shrouded in haze and I’ve not yet been able to see these huge mountains that are so very nearby.  We are investigating the possibility of driving closer to them and hiking around… but hiking here is not like it is in the US.  More on that later…

2 Himalayan peaks poking through the clouds.

2 Himalayan peaks poking through the clouds.

Yesterday, as we flew from Nepalganj to Kathmandu, we saw several grand, mighty and majestic peaks poking up through the roof of clouds.  Mountains bigger than I could have possibly imagined… I’m not sure which peaks we saw, but they were well over 20k feet.  The most prevalent peak near to Pokhara, is Machupichre and it is 23k plus… just a baby by Himalayan standards, but more than 9k feet higher than my home mountains in Colorado.  It staggers the mind.

Back to yesterday… we snuck out of Tikapur furtively in the middle of the night to drive 2+ hours back to Nepalganj.  We had to leave under cover of darkness as there’s a strike on in the country and such overland travel with hired drivers is forbidden during a strike.  The strike is on because a slave girl was killed in Kathmandu several days ago and workers are protesting…

So, we barely slept to rest from the long, long full day of the men’s conference.

Also, robbing us of sleep was the sheer heat and humidity of that region. It’s downright oppressive.  We stayed at a good hotel in Tikapur that had air conditioners in each room, but there are power cuts throughout the country and the generator that the hotel uses to run power during cut times was not working properly… and so we were denied the cool air that had been such a relief the previous two nights.

It was so hot in the middle of the night that I literally felt I couldn’t breathe.  Melanie and I both woke up coughing, feeling we were choking.  We were able to settle down a bit and lay back down, but it was miserable.

Finally, though, the power smoothed out and our air conditioner was able to run for a couple of hours, allowing us some measure of rest before the alarm sounded at 2:30 am.

The front of Nepalganj airport.

The front of Nepalganj airport.

Since we had to leave Tikapur so early, we arrived in Nepalganj far ahead of our scheduled flight, so we sat around the Nepalganj airport chatting, sipping coffee and tea.

A bit about who “we” were at that point… It was Melanie, Vaun and me, along with Udaya and his two children (and they are such great kids!!), Shalom (pronounced with an “S” not an “Sh” sound) and Salome (pronounced Sah-lo-may).

Shalom Bhatta

Shalom Bhatta

Udaya, Vaun and Salome

Udaya, Vaun and Salome

Udaya works with a ministry called ServeLife.  That’s the organization that supports him as he and his wife Bhakti care for 23 “adopted” children along with their own two children mentioned above.  The children they assist are orphans for a wide variety of reasons and who are from all over Nepal.

These are beautiful, beautiful people.

They’ve recently grown to the point that they have split the boys and girls into two homes, with Udaya and Bhakti living in one home and Bhakti’s brother and sister-in-law living with the boys in a home nearby.  We visited with them the first day we were here and had an amazing time.  More on that later…

IMG_0270

I am standing on something of a podium, but stil…

Udaya also pastors Ekta Church, a growing congregation in the heart of Kathmandu.  He and his family are the core of the church and Salome and Shalom lead worship while the other kids help with music and singing, too.  This is the church where I preached last Saturday.  More on that later…

Udaya is also involved in a variety of other endeavors.  He’s working with Daya Girls home, another orphanage for girls out in the more rural western region near to where our conference was held.  We stopped to visit these girls on our drive from Nepalganj to Tikapur… more about that visit later… but for now a pic of the visit… (picture of visit)

And Udaya is also engaging in the foundation of a new political party here in Nepal, as there are elections ongoing as the government continues to grow and stabilize from the upheavals that occurred in 2008-2009 when the Hindu kingdom was peacefully overthrown.  We’ve had some conversation about their political situation, but frankly it’s hard to cobble together… Suffice it to say that the government that’s in place is not the best and it’s full of selfish, greedy and largely un-educated people who have trouble working together for the common good.  And everyone suffers as a result.

Udaya is a key figure in an association of non-denominational churches in Nepal as well, and this trip out to the west was very much a working trip for him, too… and so he was occupied with hosting us, meeting with other leaders and also doing a pastoral visit with an extended family member whose husband had committed suicide the evening we arrived…  Udaya barely slept the whole time we were in Tikapur, it seems.

And so, as we were spending time at the Nepalganj airport, Melanie, Vaun, Shalom and myself sat in the canteen while Udaya slept and Salome rested nearby.

For those that have been to places like Nepal, you'll "get" the humor of a VIP Lounge...

For those that have been to places like Nepal, you’ll “get” the humor of a VIP Lounge…

For those of you who’ve traveled abroad to the developing world (or “majority world,” or whatever descriptor is most appropriate) you understand what these small, local airports are like… For the rest of you, put any and all thoughts of American or European airports out of your mind.  I’m not even sure how to begin to describe them…

Because to describe them individually might take them out of the context of the condition of everything here…

And that requires describing what it’s like to “be” in a country like Nepal.

I’ll say it like this…

They have most everything we have in America… Electricity, plumbing, roads, buses, taxis, buildings, restaurants, hotels, etc, etc… But, there seems to be very little infrastructure or solidity behind these things.  And so, electricity comes and goes during the day.  Water comes out of a tap, but it’s unsafe for us westerners to drink.  There are streets, but they’re uneven and full of potholes and are bustling and crazy and bizarre, with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles all sharing space with dogs, cows and water buffalo.  You flush a toilet, but you have no idea where the waste is going to end up.

And there’s trash everywhere.  There has been no “buy-in” by people to properly dispose of waste, likely because there’s nowhere for it to go… and so, trash gets thrown on the ground and it is absolutely everywhere.  Pokhara, where we are now, is the cleanest place we’ve been by far, but it’s a far cry from even the dirtiest of an American or European city I’ve seen.

There are some strange dichotomies, too… for example: EVERYONE has a cell phone and there’s cell coverage EVERYWHERE.  Just this morning, while I was out on a run, I saw a very “traditional” looking Nepali woman… dressed in colorful clothing, carrying a large basket of something or other to the market, walking down the road… it could have been a picture from 150 years ago… except she was talking on a mobile phone.

Steak dinner last night... maybe beef?  Maybe water buffalo?  Tasty either way...

Steak dinner last night… maybe beef? Maybe water buffalo? Tasty either way…

The food has been outstanding, though, too.  I really had no idea what to expect, but it’s been absolutely fantastic.  Just this morning, we had a little breakfast buffet here at our guesthouse and there were pastries, cereal, yogurt and fruit and they prepared veggie omelets and lemon sugar pancakes (Swedish style, we rolled up a fresh banana in them… amazing) for us, too.  And last night I had a steak with some sort of amazing sauce, grilled veggies and bread smothered with cheddar cheese.

But, the effect, though, of this feeling of lack in infrastructure results living by a LOT of faith.  In the back of your mind, you understand that any bite of food or drink of beverage could potentially make you violently ill.  And out in Tikapur, malaria is an issue, so any number of the mosquito bites we received could have carried the virus.

So, in many ways it’s a strange place to be.

But, the people are absolutely beautiful and kind and gracious and humble and respectful and simple.

I’ll jump into actually telling the tale of exactly what we’ve been doing in my next post.  Thanks for reading and loving and caring and praying.

GMA

From Mom’s Memorial

I shared this as an introduction to Mom’s memorial yesterday…

My name is Gary Mitchell Aronhalt
I am the fourth son and last child of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
Raymond Clark is before me
Timothy Wayne preceded him
Kenneth Lee is the first son
Carolyn Sue is their second child
Brenda Kay is their first born 

We come from Colorado, from Kentucky, from Missouri and Ohio
We come from Marysville, Midland and Sardina and Owensville and Wilmington
From Greenfield and New Berlin, Wisconsin
We come from South Vienna and Plattsburg
We come from Black Lick, Kentucky and Adrian, Michigan

We come from messy haired board games in the kitchen
And from holiday feasts in the dining room 

We come from WIZE, WTUE and WLW
We come from Reds games on the radio
On the porch on a summer evening

We come from gospel and bluegrass
From country and rock and roll
We come from George Jones and Johnny Horton and Charlie Pride and Patsy Cline
We come from Hank Williams
Senior 

We come from faithfulness and devotion
From irreverence and informality
We come from solid, but slightly off

We come from unwavering

We come from strong coffee, with Coffee-Mate creamer
We come from baking and cooking and canning
We come from chili, with peanut butter sandwiches
From soup beans and corn bread
We come from biscuits and gravy 

We come from garages and bowling alleys 

We come from Fords, mostly
From Mustangs and T-Birds, from Crown Vics, LTD’s and Rangers 

We come from the Blizzard of ’78
From flashlights in the darkness

We come from broken hearts and busted dreams
We come from jokes and jabs, from teasing and being teased
We come from fighting
We come from making up
We come from a lot of laughter

We come from love

We come from perseverance and persistence
We come from difficulty
We come from hard, hard work 

We are the children of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
And we are who we are, because they are who they are 

Thank you so much for being here today, to celebrate the life of our Mom