Friday, October 21, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Arizona Recap Part Two



RACE DAY!
The plan was to be leaving Breezy’s by 5-5:10, walking into transition by 5:30, out of transition by 6:15 (to wait forever, this was the worst part of the way this race was set up), wetsuit on around 7:30, gun goes off for the swim at 7:56! Mission accomplished. We chatted with Ron, cheered on the guys that started at 6:20 when they came out of the water, took more photos, and went to the bathroom a billion times (stress man, it’s no fun). I got my wetsuit on at 7:30, kissed my husband goodbye, took one last photo with Ron and then off to the swim! 
I'm right in the middle! You can see the glare of my goggles from the sun.
The swim went well! The best part was swimming along the sea wall and having Chris and his parents walk with me the entire time. It was so encouraging to look up to breathe every time and see them cheering. They motivated me to really smooth out my stroke, concentrate on attempting to swim in a straight line and to be as fast as I could while still feeling pretty comfortable. Let me just say, the water was pretty gross. It was a great temp but it was murky as all heck. You could not see someone kicking directly in front of you! However, I’ve swam in similar conditions so it wasn’t too big of a deal. I did get a quick foot cramp maybe 10 minutes into the swim and I remember thinking ‘this is not how I wanted to start this race!’ I was able to relax my foot enough that it didn’t come back but then on the backside of the race course I dealt with cramps in both my calves (thankfully not at the same time!). I told myself if I could just use my arms the rest of the swim then my legs would feel fine on the bike and that I could take a salt pill as soon as I got to transition. I finished up, was helped up the stairs and then helped out of my wetsuit. Seriously, all tri’s need wetsuit strippers. I saw so many people not take advantage of this and I’m just confused as to why you wouldn’t. SO HELPFUL.
Swim time: 39:54.
I was having A LOT of trouble with my dang watch. Thankfully one thing remedied this: wetsuit strippers ;)

Transition 1: 4:28
Salt pill in, socks and cycling shoes on, helmet on, slather on sunscreen as well as I could, chapstick, wave to Chris and tell him I have calf cramps lol and then on to the bike!
The bike course was three loops in and around Tempe. For the most part it was flat and FAST with one hill and one longer gradual uphill that I disliked more than the actual hill. There were lots of turns and I was really grateful that most of my practice rides also include lots of tight turns. They were no big deal! I went out a bit too fast on my first lap but heck, this is my first rodeo so I’m okay with it. I was having a lot of fun. Smiling at spectators, passing people (!), and enjoying my aero bars. The one major hang-up was some bizarre cramping about halfway through the first lap. I was just in so much pain. I couldn’t inhale fully and was having to really focus on pushing my stomach out with belly breathing. I think it was the salt pill which helped the calf cramps but possibly caused some GI issues. Also, it was really hot. That second and third lap it really started to heat up and I was looking forward to the aid stations just so that I could grab a bottle of water and douse my head and back with it. My race plan called for UCAN at 1:30 which helped and then rice cake at 3 hours. Worked perfectly. I did not want that rice cake and I remember fighting back tears on the last lap of the bike course because my quads were cramping but I was scared of taking another salt pill, my nether regions were sick of sitting on the damn bike and that this was fun but not some miraculous experience and that I should’ve put more raspberries in my rice cake lol. The emotions you go through! I did stop on the second lap to fill up my two bottles. One with cold water (which wasn’t that cold) and one with ¾ water, ¼ Gatorade which I was using to try and stave off cramps and foggy brain from needing sugar and forgetting my honey stingers. Overall, I averaged 15.7 mph! I have never ridden this fast in my life, it completely makes sense that I was in quite a bit of pain when I got off my bike. This is also proof to Chris that I am very much a “recreational rider” for the most part but that I can bike much faster than I normally do. To which I say NOPE. Flat and fast is so much different than the hills we ride on in Vegas!
Bike time: 3:33:49, avg 15.7 mi/h
Transition 2: 4:28 (yup, exact same time. Who knows how I pulled this off)
Bike shoes, socks, gloves off, helmet off, suck down part of a UCAN, swig of Gatorade (disgusting, it was SO hot), race belt on, visor on, balegas (run socks) and run shoes on, wave to Chris and family, tell them the salt pill nearly killed me lol, shuffle out of transition!
 
The run course was 2 loops around Tempe Town Lake and let me tell you, it was HOT. I ran by Ron right out of transition and he complimented me on my good rhythm and form. I was feeling slow but my legs felt surprisingly okay. The race plan was to skip nutrition on the first 4-5 aid stations. This wasn’t going to work as I was pretty darn thirsty coming out of T2. I aimed for a little bit of water for those first couple aid stations and knew I would add in Gatorade on the later ones. The best part of racing Ironman (and something I witnessed firsthand when I volunteered for Silverman) is that they do a REALLY good job of taking care of athletes. If the day is hotter than expected they make sure there is ice at every aid station, they stock their aid stations full of volunteers so you don’t have to work hard to get nutrition, they WANT you to succeed, it is awesome. I chatted with other athletes when I needed to walk, tried to run as much as possible and accepted that the run was not going to be my fastest because it was just so darn hot. That being said, I somehow got a second wind on the second lap. I knew that I just had to make it one more time around the lake and then I would be DONE. Then I could cheer and celebrate and get out of my wet kit and everything else I had been hoping for. I ran a good portion of miles 6-9 and got so many encouraging comments that I was looking strong, that I was killing it on the run when so many people were walking and that I was almost there. I dumped ice down my bra and did water-gatorade-water at every aid station. It worked perfectly. I took pretzels on lap 1 and on lap 2 around mile 10 to help with quad cramps but for the most part felt good (just hot). On mile 12 I told myself to run that last mile. I kept looking for Chris as he had met me at mile 5-6 on the first lap but eventually realized that he would likely be in the finishers chute and that I had better pick up my damn legs and finish. I walked for a bit and then picked up the pace when I had maybe a half mile to go. The thrill (and pain) of that last section is something I will never forget. The energy is infectious. So many people are cheering for you and they don’t even know you! I gave Ron a high five, ran up that last hill and then threw my hands in the air as I crossed that finish line! 
Overall finish time: 6:59:31
DONE AND DONE. Officially half crazy, officially completed 70.3 miles in 90+ temps. I collected my finisher’s medal and hat, took my water and shuffled over to my family to cry lol. We took photos, I stood in front of the mister truck (which was AMAZING) and then was even more thrilled to find out that they had PIZZA, fruit, cookies, beer, etc for the athletes.
You guys, this was one of the best experiences in the world. I got pretty badly sunburned, my tan lines are even more outrageous than they were before, my back is chafed, and for several days my quads felt like they had pins and needles in them but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was so worth it. Worth all the soreness, the never getting to sleep in, the long training days, the lack of work being done around the house, the never-ending tiredness, the not always getting to eat what I wanted because food=fuel and all the $$ that went towards this dream. I loved it, I love this sport and I really can’t wait to do another one.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Arizona Race Recap Part 1



Annnndddd, just like that it’s done. It is such an odd feeling to be on the flip side of this journey that I’ve been hoping and working towards for 3 solid years (and many more years before that). I’ve wanted to compete in tri’s since I worked as a lifeguard in high school. In 2013 I finally got the chance to compete in my first sprint distance tri (Irongirl) and I’ve been completely hooked since then. The race and the entire weekend was (for the most part) everything I wanted it to be. I worked really hard to get to this point and I really am proud for what I’ve accomplished. Today I’ll recap the overall weekend and tomorrow I’ll post about the race!
Overall weekend:
SO much fun! We left on Friday morning after getting brunch at our favorite place and it was a wonderful way to start the weekend. Traffic wasn’t bad heading down to Tempe and I did a good job at making sure I stayed hydrated as I knew the race was going to be a warm one. We got my stuff dropped off at my dear friend’s house and then headed over to athlete check-in. This part of the weekend was one of the parts I’ve been looking forward to the most. I remember being a lifeguard in college and seeing the Ironman village at multi-gen and wanting so badly to be a part of it. I remember seeing friends post about their Ironman athlete wristband and wanting so badly to have one of my own (still have it on by the way). So to go to the check-in and sign the paperwork and walk through the merchandise tent knowing that I was days away from being able to call myself a (half) Ironman was so overwhelming. We picked out the bag I was eyeing and a hat and took a few photos before heading over to my other bestie’s house to have dinner and make rice cakes :)


On Saturday my main goal was to stay hydrated, memorize my race plan, stay calm, MEET MELISSA HARTWIG and get to bed at a decent time. Mission accomplished. We got my shakeout bike and run done (which helped calm all my nerves), went to the athlete briefing, got a delicious breakfast, dropped my bike off and then headed over to a local bookstore to meet Melissa. You guys, this was the second best part of my weekend. She is even more gorgeous in person, so kind, so down to earth and genuinely wants to see every person succeed with Whole30 and life after Whole30. I know I can be a bit of a nut job with Whole30 so this was like a dream come true. To tell her (quickly) about how whole30 has changed me for the better was just so exciting. She is awesome. And we got a couple photos and I about died from excitement! To end the day, my dear friend's Nikki and Niki found this awesome restaurant where we could order gluten-free delicious food that was pretty much exactly what I wanted. It took SO much stress away from me. The restaurant was gorgeous and it was so fun to chat with my girls about whole30 and the race and life in general for a couple hours before heading back to Breezy’s to go through my bag one more time and get some sleep! 

Tomorrow: Part 2! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

3 Days Out


That’s it. 3 full days away from my first 70.3 and of course I have ALL THE FEELS. For the most part I have done a really good job distracting myself. Over the weekend I was worried that I would become a stress ball so to circumvent that I just planned lots of activities! On Saturday I slept in (it was glorious), made a lazy brunch, prepped the dessert/main dish I was bringing to the family get together that evening, shopped for birthday presents and enjoyed getting a bit dressed up. On Sunday I got up early and visited the local orchard with my sister. We picked apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, greens, and zucchini. We ate apple cider donuts and kettle corn and it was wonderful! I came home and Chris and I began painting our bedroom (something we’ve put off for MONTHS). We still have one more wall to do and some touch-ups but it looks so good! And on Monday I had the day off so I cleaned the house, did more painting, went to lunch with Chris, got my race nails done (!!) and cooked dinner. ALL these things have worked miracles on helping me manage the stress excitement of the race. And for the most part I do feel really good.
In previous races I’ve been just so worried about everything that could go wrong for the week up to my race. This time, I KNOW I’ve put in the training. I know that I am very well prepared for this race and I know that come race day, everything I’ve been working towards will kick in and the stress will melt away because I’m doing something fun, something I love.
After 4ish days off from working out I was so incredibly grateful to hop in the pool yesterday. It didn’t matter that I was swimming later than normal because my usual pool is closed, or that my stomach wasn’t feeling the greatest. All that mattered was that I was in my element. One, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe, kick harder, pull stronger, turn on the ‘after burners’, rest, start again. Those thoughts are the best part about swimming. Everything else just tends to fall away and all that matters is that you’re working hard, fighting for that pace despite it being the last set and racing the person next to you without them knowing ;) And for that, I am grateful. Grateful for this body that has adapted to every challenge I’ve thrown at it, that has leaned out in ways I didn’t think were possible (not that I really care these days what it looks like), and that has carried me to this point. I CAN NOT wait to toe that start line on Sunday. To pull harder than I have on a swim, to use these legs to their fullest potential, to fuel properly, to push hard on the run even though it’s going to be hot and then to cross that finish line so I can give my husband the biggest hug ever for putting up with this training and to hug my best friend for constantly listening to me ramble on about bike seats and tri kits and to kiss her adorable little baby because I hope she grows up knowing that she can do ANYTHING she sets her mind to. Wow. That was a run-on sentence if there ever was one. But really, this is going to be good. I really really hope it goes awesome. Catch you on the flip side ;

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kokopelli Race Report



Well, I am entering the week of training that marks ONE month till race day and I have A LOT of thoughts about it. This past weekend I raced at the BBSC Kokopelli tri in Hurricane, UT and it went relatively well. Leading up to the race I was STRESSED, as usual. I worried that my leg injury would deter me from doing well, that my lack of open water swims would mean that the swim would be too difficult, that the amount of rest I’m getting (or lack thereof) would mean I wouldn’t succeed, that not having my nutrition nailed down 100% would mean I would feel awful on the run, and on and on. Really, I could go on for hours regarding the things that stress me out pre-race. But I had gone over the course maps, I’d planned out my nutrition, Chris cleaned and prepped my bike and I was ready to just get it over with by the time we left for St. George around noon on Friday.

We checked in and unloaded our stuff quickly so that we could get over to packet pick-up and then off to meet my coach and the teenage tri kids that he is coaching, for dinner. Prior to this race I normally prep my dinner and just heat it up in the hotel room. It’s a little sad lol but it means I know exactly what I’m eating the night before and I know exactly how it will react with my stupidly sensitive system. My coach invited us to the potluck they were planning with the stipulation of bringing a side and I jumped at the chance as I hoped it would allow me to calm down a bit being around other anxious triathletes, the food would be healthy and it seemed like a better option than being anxious in my hotel room while Chris tried to get me to calm down. In retrospect, it worked well but I really do need more carbs the night before. I had grilled chicken and a huge salad with lots of avocado and while that meant everything went well, it also meant that my body didn’t feel as primed as it could have.
The day before the race the water temp was 80 degrees so I had planned not to wear my wetsuit even though I brought it just in case. Of course, on the day of the race they found a spot where they could measure 75 degrees so the race turned out to be wetsuit legal. I still didn’t wear my wetsuit. I missed the buoyancy but that was more than made up by the fact that I felt comfortable in the water and I could breathe easily. 



Swim: 31:53
The gun went off at 7:40 and we were off! My age group was pretty small which was nice. I ended up veering a bit off course (I am directionally challenged) but eventually found a few people to sight with and made it out of the water in 31 minutes. I was hoping for closer to 25 but no big deal.
T1: 2:39
Annnddd on to the bike! My super conservative goal was to be under 2 hours, my coach’s goal for me was to complete the bike in 1:30-1:40. I’m happy to report I made it in exactly 1:30! The bike was a lot of fun. Lately I’ve felt that I’ve been putting a lot of time in on the bike and it’s paying off. There was one huge hill (aptly titled ‘The Beast’) and I had to take a very quick break on it as I just couldn’t get my breathing under control but after the break I powered up the hill half standing and the other half sitting and felt like the rest of the ride would go well. The ONE complaint I have is that the road was so incredibly rough. Oh my goodness, I wanted to be in aero position as much as possible but my arms were shaking too much from the road that it just wasn’t the most comfortable. While I did start to get a little uncomfortable towards the end I did my very best to encourage each and every person I passed with a ‘Great job!’ Tri is an individual sport (one of the reasons I love it so much) and so on race day it can feel like you’re just out there doing a long bike followed by a long run. The best parts of tri are seeing people push harder than they ever have, seeing people not give up even when it’s hot and tired and getting passed by the lady that just fixed her own flat and has 20 years on you ;)
Bike: 1:30
 
Off the bike quickly to change my socks and shoes, grab my visor and water bottle and head out for the run!
T2: 1:58
It did not go as well as I had wanted it to go. I felt slow, it was hard to get my legs going, I walked A LOT. I told myself if I could make it to the turn-around I would run the whole way back. I did not run the whole way back. BUT I finished and I tried hard and I know the work I need to do in order to make sure this does not happen at Tempe as I have 13 miles to run, not 6.
Run: 1:19 (gah, trying not to beat myself up over this time)
 

Lessons learned:
- I need more food than macadamia nuts and strawberries. My arms felt sore and tired during the swim, something a little unusual as I normally feel pretty darn comfortable in the water even if I’m not considered “fast” by most standards
- I will need more UCAN in T2 for Tempe rather than just 1 shot of it at 1:30
- I need more carbs the night before, I really missed the sweet potatoes I normally have
- I need more salt before and during the race. My quads began to cramp during the last half of the run and it wasn’t something I was expecting this time around as that normally happens with me on the bike. Realizing that this is a time-dependent problem makes it an easy fix but still a little annoying.
- I need to drink LESS Gatorade on the run. As I expected, I never get to drink anything but water and UCAN on my runs so I always get a little excited at the thrill of Gatorade (I’m telling you, it’s the little things) and I end up drinking it at every aid station. WHICH, to be fair, was what my race plan was according to my coach. The problem is, my stomach just cannot handle that much Gatorade/liquid while running. I need minimal water while running and just ended up with too much liquid in my belly which meant that those last couple miles when I can normally “turn on the after-burners”…I could not push harder.
- I need to put body glide ALL OVER my neck lol. This is the second race where I’ve chafed terribly on my neck and I originally thought it was from my wetsuit, nope, even just a tri-kit will cause chafing. Use body glide EVERYWHERE
I’m sure I’m missing more lessons but this is all I can think of right now and they’re pretty big ones.
Another thing I would like to touch on is that during parts of this race (and for the past couple weeks) I’ve lost the fun of triathlon. Something that I think every athlete deals with and yet I don’t see it mentioned much on social media or blogs. It needs to be said: sometimes training is not going to be fun. It’s going to feel like work and that is NORMAL. You are allowed to get burnt out, you’re allowed to feel annoyed at constantly being sore and tired and you’re definitely allowed to take a rest day when you need a rest day. During parts of the run all I could think was that this was not fun. That parts of me were hurting that I was sick of hurting, that I just wanted to nap, etc etc. BUT the difference is that after having a couple weeks where I’ve just been feeling unmotivated I’m ready to turn things around. I chose this race, I chose this goal, I am putting in this work so that at the end of October 16th I can say that I completed 70.3 miles. That I swam over a mile AND THEN I biked 56 miles AND THEN I ran a half marathon. Something that a select few get to say. Something that I will relish and cherish because this summer hasn’t been the most fun summer. I miss swimming Friday afternoons for fun, I miss lifting weights in a class and I do really miss sleeping in on the weekends. But I’ve got plenty of time left to do those things and as much as I am looking forward to life after 70.3 I’m still really looking forward to that race day.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August update

Well, once a month updates aren't bad, right?! I have no clue what week I am on for training just that vacay number one is up next week and then the week after that is peak week. The week I've affectionately thought of as "throw everything you possibly could at your body and see how it goes," which should be fun [insert wide eyed emoji].

Life on the whole has been really good these days. I had a solid two weeks in the office/at home which does wonders for my mental health (even if I go a little nuts being in the office), I spent a weekend in Phoenix with my best friend and her new baby and it was so much fun to hang out, catch up, cuddle that little babe and get to run somewhere new. I spent another weekend in Oceanside with ALL of my sisters and it was a blast. So much good food, a little time spent at the beach and lots of laughs. I can't wait until Shelly moves back to Vegas so we can hang out more often. And training, training is going well. I'm dealing with a small setback of peroneal tendinitis (again) but I've got a plan of attack and the pain isn't so bad that I can't train.

Now for photos!

This was a 40 (technically 42) mile ride. It was HOT and so so smokey but I remember it going really well despite those conditions. Chris had a bit of a tough time but I'm just so grateful that he's been willing to do so many of my long bikes with me. They are a challenge and they are always made better with him. 


8 solo miles and it was kind of lovely. My goal on long runs is always to negative split, however, this doesn't always happen (heck, it almost never happens). I did make it happen on this run though and it was so exciting! I was able to keep my average under 10min/mi and really pushed to hit a 9:30-8:30 pace on that last mile. I may have overheated a tiny bit hence the sitting selfie but it was a good one.

Swimming with Kristen! I am so so grateful for this wonderful girl. She is always up to join me for an early morning swim and I love the company. She got to use fins on the 300s we did because...300 hard is really freaking hard. 

Another group of incredible ladies! I try my very best to make as many group rides and group runs as possible because so much of my training is alone (something I'm still trying to find enjoyment in). This week was hard efforts for a 1/2mi, easy-ish 1/4mi then hard again for another 1/2mi and 1mi cool down 5 times through. The first time I rode with this group I had a hard time keeping up with everyone. I was perfectly fine with being at the back of the pack but took it as a bit of a challenge to be better the next time I showed up to ride. Well, what do ya know, I was able to keep up and even pass a couple ladies this time around and it was a pretty good feeling ;). Just a few words about the increase in strength and speed...HILL REPEATS ARE EVERYTHING. Seriously, if you want to kick things into high gear you need to be doing hill repeats. I am getting so much better because of them.


A beautiful sunrise on my 6 mile run in Phoenix. It was humid from the storm we had the night before but it was just so beautiful. I came upon an intersection around mile two and there was a woodpecker singing on every corner. It was such a fun experience. I cannot wait till I can visit again and Niki is back to running so that we can enjoy these views together!

Obligatory photo of me with the new mama and baby :) Reagan is just perfection and I was so happy to help Niki with anything she needed for the weekend. She is killing this mama thing!

Shopping in Encinitas! Super gorgeous city and perfect weather all weekend!

 Hanging out at the San Diego botanical garden. So gorgeous. It overlooks the ocean in parts of it and there were too many plants I loved.

My goal of this trip was to take lots and lots of group shots because I just don't have enough of me and my sisters. I think we accomplished it! This was in the bamboo garden part of the botanical garden. I had no idea there were so many species!

This took like five tries to get and we got A LOT of laughs and looks from other beach goers...all totally worth it. I cannot wait to print and frame some of these in the new house! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

70.3 Training

So I'm on week 6 (I think) of half-ironman training. The last time I wrote, training had just began and I was PUMPED. Guess what...still super excited over here ;) with a heavy dash of tiredness lol. My coach is super run focused (which I love) so my training doesn't look much different than when I was training for a half marathon except for the long bikes on the weekend and the addition of bricks. There have been really good days and there have been days when I'm just done.

 A few weeks ago we did 7 miles and ran down to the dam and back. While it was super hot and I was still having a lot of trouble adjusting to the heat (and possibly dealing with a super wacky hormone fluctuation) the views were absolutely gorgeous and I was so grateful that we pushed through it.




 And this one was from one of the hardest workouts I've completed to date. Gah, it was so bad. We rode the loop (35 miles) and dealt with 20-30mph gusts THE ENTIRE TIME. I was thisclose to shedding tears multiple times on that route. At one point we were headed up the biggest hill on the route and going a whole FOUR miles per hour and man was it defeating. The plus side to this is that from here on out any bike ride I do is going to feel significantly easier lol. Perspective, its a useful tool!

This run was serious proof that running in the heat is so much harder than running in cooler temps. We had a monsoon roll through the night before my long run (8 miles I think) so my starting temp was 73!! Oh, what a difference it made! I still wasn't super fast but I was much faster than I had been simply because my body wasn't working SO hard to just stay cool. So worth being completely drenched in sweat from the humidity.



I am incredibly grateful that my coach and I are on the same page when it comes to lifting. I'm currently still incorporating it in twice a week and while those double workout days are rough they are well worth the gains you make in speed and strength. Having strong legs makes swimming, running and biking so much easier! This is when I hit the goal I made this year to be able to squat my body weight. Ha, granted I now weigh 5lb more than when I made that goal because #gainz (HA) so I need to adjust it but it was still so exciting to know that my body can handle that much weight!



Last one! This was from my first brick this weekend (20 mile bike + 5 mile run) and it was SUCH a rewarding workout. So much of training just feels like putting in the time and effort and feeling tired and hoping that it's all working. It was a lot of fun to push myself a bit harder on the bike and to really try and push it on the run even though I knew I was going to be fatigued. It ended up going SO well! I was a mph faster on my bike than I normally am and although my run time could have been faster I put in a really good effort and felt I could have gone longer (which is good!).

Overall, I'm still excited, still mostly happy that I chose to do this and trying to maintain as much perspective on it. I still have a long way to go. My schedule is done through my race and it is so overwhelming to look ahead and see that I will have a 60 mile ride or a 13 mile run (on my birthday no less ;) but it is also so exciting to see my body change and adapt to what I'm putting it through. Its easy to see why people get hooked on this stuff ;)

Up for this weekend: 10 mile run on Saturday and 40 mile ride on Sunday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Garter Snake Work Trip

There was close to 25lb of traps on my back at this point. So much fun!

Several weeks ago I got to go on one of the best work trips of my career. We recently found a species of snake at one of our restoration sites that hadn't been found in the area since the 1900s. Because of this rediscovery they will most likely be added to our list of covered species that we build and maintain habitat for. In order to survey for these snakes, we need a permit and in order to get a permit you need trap hours and experience. Thankfully, Arizona Game and Fish were planning on a survey this summer and they invited us out in order to gain the survey hours needed! To be honest, I was apprehensive about the trip. I was to stay in a field house, bring all my own food, possibly share a room, do field work I was not used to annndddd socialize more than I am used to. I spent the better part of a weekend preparing for the week and had mostly calmed myself down about the trip. I was rewarded with one of the most fun trips I've taken in a long time!
 
The above photo is the view I had every morning while I ate my breakfast [insert heart eye emoji]! It was so incredibly pleasant to work hard enough that I slept well each night, get a full 8 hours of sleep, have 1 1/2-2 hours to prepare for the day, eat exactly what I wanted and to be disconnected from most of social media for the week. 


These petroglyphs were right behind the house we were staying in and the sunset was incredible every evening! On most of my trips, I'm relatively quiet while we're doing field work and the time we have outside of work is spent in my room reading or checking out Pinterest. For once, I did not have that option and in preparation of it, I downloaded several books on my kindle so that if we did have downtime I could just read (aka avoid people lol). What surprised me most is that instead of reading, I played dice games with the other part of the crew, chatted about work and life stuff while eating dinner, explored the entire ranch and in general just chilled. It was so very relaxing.


 As most of my work is spent in converted agriculture fields, spending so much time in the water was a blast! The work was challenging, let's be clear, we hiked over 8 miles each day and it wasn't a leisurely stroll. I was happily surprised that the lead biologist was as speedy of a hiker as I was and that it was a fun challenge to keep up with him ;)
 

And last but not least, we actually didn't end up seeing any snakes of the species we were hoping for (they hadn't been seen in the area for over 30 years so hopes weren't super high) but we did see this awesome guy as well as a couple Colorado river toads, skunks, raptors, a California king snake and one other diamondback!

I can't stress enough how important it can be to step out of your comfort zone every now and then. I LOVE routine, not having a plan seriously stresses me out. BUT if I had turned down this trip or done my usual recluse thing every night I would have missed out on such fantastic conversations, a whole lot of laughs and a small group of new biologist friends that I hope to work with again. So totally worth it.