Oct 23, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 10/23/2014
I am continuing with my story from this past summer, as I was cycling from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR with my 4K for Cancer team. You can read the previous installments here:

Part 3- Into the Tetons and the Best Hike Ever
Part 2- Back to Jackson, WY
Part 1- Life Updates

In my last post, you could probably sense the tension building and can guess what happens next. What comes next in my story is probably the most thrilling moment of my life. In both a terrifying and exhilarating way. 

Where I left off last time was nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, precariously perched on the ledge of a mountain in the Tetons. My small group of hikers just split up; Chris and I were staying put while the other three continued to climb. We agreed to meet back together at 6, at the latest. It was only four, and I had an uncomfortable feeling about staying so high up the mountains so close to dusk. We did not have the foresight to bring headlamps and getting stuck in the mountain after dark would be potentially dangerous. Although I wanted to start heading down soon, the other hikers really wanted to reach the summit. 

As the sun was getting lower and the temperatures cooled, the mosquitoes started coming out. They were relentless. We kept moving from one place to another, trying to avoid them, but they would return in swarms. The later it got, the thicker they came. Thankfully, I brought a few long sleeved layers and a bandanna to protect most of my exposed skin, but they were still driving us nuts. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I decided to head back to the trail in hopes that there would be fewer mosquitoes there. We left a message for our three friends who were still climbing so that they would know where we were. 

In order to get back on the trail, we had to descend down that grassy slope that I felt sketched out by, cross a boulder field, and a stream. Chris let me head down first and waited until I was safe distance away to avoid getting hit by loose rocks. I started down the steep slope very slowly and carefully. I knew that there were some patches that were slippery and a lot of the rocks were loose. When I cleared the trickiest section, I hollered to Chris to start descending. I continued on and started to retrace the path I took climbing up. The slope wasn't as steep at this section, so the steps I took were bolder and I didn't step as gingerly. 

It's when I let my guard down that accidents happen. I took one misstep, hopped slightly, chose a poor landing spot, and landed on my ankle wrong. I heard a dull pop and screamed. I knew instantly. 

There wasn't immediate pain. More like a gradual awareness of it combined with fear that made it worse. Panic started to creep into my mind as I realized the implications of my injury and my physical location so high up the mountain. So inaccessible. 

Poor Chris. He was out of my line of sight, though close enough to hear my scream and my calling out to him. I must have scared him nearly to death, which made me feel worse. He got to me as quickly as he could, and tried to calm me down as he assessed my injury. I had already tried to elevate it on a rock, which was not easy because I was sitting on quite a steep slope. I tried to move it a bit, but that made the pain nearly intolerable. 

Chris asked me if I thought I would be able to stand on my ankle. I didn't think that I could.

Carrying me out was out of the question, since we were seven miles from the trail head down some pretty steep terrain. Not to mention that boulder field full of loose rocks and stream that we would have to cross to even reach the trail.

Getting rangers/medical personnel to hike me out was also not possible for the same reasons. And it was getting closer to dusk and by the time they reached me, it would be completely dark. 

The only option that I could see would be to get airlifted by a helicopter. The only problem was contacting Search and Rescue and have them locate me. There were a few factors that wasn't working in my favor: I was in deep into Garnet Canyon. I didn't know how to describe my location since the other half of my hiking party was navigating and were currently out of reach. We all had low cell phone battery and very spotty service. Night was approaching, so time was of the essence. 

I fought to keep the negative thoughts out of my head. When you're stuck in a situation that can potentially get much worse, you can't help but think "what if". I tried to stay positive, make jokes, take selfies. Anything to keep my mind off of the pain and the deep shit I was in. We would figure a way out. 

Oct 20, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 10/20/2014
I am continuing with my story from this past summer, as I was cycling from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR with my 4K for Cancer team. You can read the previous installments here:

Part 2- Back to Jackson, WY
Part 1- Life Updates

July 20th was our rest day in Jackson, WY. I was really looking forward to spending a day here since it's a mecca for everything outdoorsy. They have it all: mountain biking, rafting, hiking, rock climbing, skiing in the winter. The Tetons in the backdrop of our campsite was calling my name, and I knew that I wanted to spend the day hiking into the mountains. Being in proximity to the grandeur of the Tetons enthralled me. We had spent over a month and a half to get to this point of the trip, and being here was pretty unbelievable. We biked to the fucking Tetons. In the beginning of the trip, when we were fighting headwinds and boredom cycling through the Midwest, I would frequently ask myself why we were going across the country the hard way. The winds travel west to east, so going with the wind would've made our lives a lot easier. As if cycling across the country wasn't enough of a challenge. But once we really got to the west, I understood. The incredible views of the mountains that we wake up to every morning is pretty great reward.

 The night before rest days, we usually have fun exploring the town and end up going to bed late since we can afford to sleep in the next day. It was no different in Jackson, and we sat around the campfire late into the night, which meant that no one wanted to get up in the morning. When everyone finally emerged from their tents and figured out what we wanted to do, it was already pretty late in the morning. Some people planned on heading into town to get lunch and do some shopping. Marge, Chris, Max, Ryan, and I decided we wanted to go on a hike. About 7 miles up the mountain to reach a peak, with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. And since it took forever to get everyone organized, we ended up starting the hike around noon. Not the best start to the day.

Despite our late start, we figured that we would still have enough time to finish the hike and planned to have the van pick us up by 8pm at the latest. Since we were camping and didn't have electricity, most of our phones were low on battery. We turned them off to conserve battery so that we could call the van when we needed a ride back to the campground. 

The trail went around a couple of lakes at the foot of the mountain, then started winding up a lot of switchbacks. As we ascended, the trees were getting more and more sparse, and the view was getting better and better. I would pause every now and then to take it all in (and catch my breath). 

Can't help but smile the whole time when the views are so gorgeous :)

The trail ended as it approached a boulder field in Garnet Canyon, and that's when we decided to get off the path, cross the boulder field and across a stream to get to a peak on the other side. We were planning on going up Nez Perce as far as we could. 

 This is the view from the other side of the canyon. You can see the trail and the stream we crossed to the lower right of the picture. The boulders were a bit tricky, since some were loose and at some points I had to use both hands to climb over them. Above the boulder field was a steep grassy slope with a snowbank that made the surface moist and slippery. I was sketched out climbing up, and we had to be especially careful since there were loose rocks that could come crashing down onto whoever was climbing below. Let's just say there were some close calls.

After climbing up the grassy slope, there was a leveled out section where we stopped to rest and take pictures. We were getting close to the summit on one side, and the other side was a spectacular view of the canyon, lakes, and the valley. 

Again from this picture, you can see the trail on the opposite side of where we were. That's how far we were off the trail.

After resting for a bit, Ryan, Marge, and Max wanted to continue on to see how high up they could climb. I was feeling a bit nervous after climbing the last section, so I decided to take it easy and stay behind with Chris. I explored the area a bit, took more pictures and video with my GoPro, and sat back to enjoy the view. With my feet hanging off the edge and looking at how far away the trail head was, I thought how great it would be to turn into an eagle and just soar down the mountain. It would be so easy.

Oct 19, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in | 10/19/2014
In my last post, I gave you all an update about what I've been up to recently. Mainly busy with dental school. Exams and fun things like that.

Let's pick up where I last left off, which is in the middle of my summer cycling journey from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR. I had left Baltimore on June 1st with the 4K for Cancer Team Portland on our mission to bike across the country to spread awareness for young adults with cancer. At the beginning of the trip, we had no idea what was ahead of us, what an incredibly wild ride it was going to be. We experienced literal highs from climbing mountains, kindness from strangers, crazy thunderstorms, a terrible tragedy, and an incredible, unbreakable bond among my teammates, which I now call my 4K Family.

 Our team was scheduled to arrive in Portland, OR on August 9th. However, the last day that I rode on the trip was July 18th, riding from Lander, WY to Dubois, WY. It was a tough day, fighting headwinds all day. I was literally losing speed going downhill if I stopped pedaling. At times, I felt that I was riding into a wall. I was getting weary and decided that I wanted to drive the support van the next day. It was my turn for van duty, anyways. Little did I know that I wouldn't ride again for the rest of the trip.

The next day, we were riding into Jackson, WY. It was a gorgeous ride through the mountains, and we were greeted by the Tetons as we approached Jackson. Fun fact: the Tetons, which means "breast" in French, are named so because I guess they looked like the breasts of the earth. So we were treated to lovely views of the earth's breasts. And let me tell you, it was breathtaking. I was riding in the van, which I kind of regretted because it would have been an amazing ride. But it's funny how things work out for a reason. I'll get to that later.

I was in the food van, which meant my job was to go around restaurants and grocery stores to beg for food donations. Our team was running low on food since we were passing through increasingly remote areas. Jackson was our best bet to stock up on food, since it is a touristy town with a lot more shops than we've seen on the road for a while. We also had a rest day in Jackson, so we would have more time to ask around.

In addition to our food-begging duties, my teammate, Helen, and I were responsible for securing camp sites. We usually stay at host sites, such as churches and schools, but we weren't able to secure one for Jackson. Which meant that we would be camping for two days. Camping is usually fun (and it really was), but when you're on the bike for over 10 hours a day, it's nice to have creature comforts such as a solid roof over your head, showers, and hosts that feed you.

Helen and I got lucky and we were able to get a huge group camp site for the team. It was three times larger than we needed, and in a pretty great location. With that out of the way (which was a huge concern), we drove into town to try to get shower donations at a gym, and some food donations. We got the food, but not the showers. Oh well, we would just bathe in the ice-cold stream by our campsite.

Funny story as we were going around town asking for donations. As Helen and I were walking back to the van in the parking lot of a strip mall, a car drives by us and honks. A woman in the car waves and gets out to introduce herself. Turns out, she's the sister of a host that we had back in Louisville, KY. She recognized our van with all the 4K logos and window paint, and knew who we were. Helen and I ended up chatting with her and her daughter. We had a long, pleasant conversation and she was even kind enough to give us a donation.

After a few hours of asking around and getting a few donations, we decided to head back to the campground to set up. We actually got a box full of raw chicken from a grocery store, and even though at first we had no idea what to do with it, we took it (beggars can't be choosers). I was determined to cook the chicken and have it ready for when our riders got to the campground so that they would have a lovely snack waiting for them, so I got a roll of tin foil and BBQ sauce and planned to cook it over a camp fire.

Since it was just the two of us with all the camping gear and the rest of the team was arriving later in the afternoon, we got to work setting up the campsite. We set up ten tents, collected a pile of firewood, cooked the chicken, and unloaded the 15 passenger van of all our teammates' duffel bags. It was exhausting, but we got it done by the time everyone got to the campground. And the chicken was delicious, by the way.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening, the team settled in their tents, bathed in the stream, a few of us went into town for dinner while the rest of the team cooked their dinner over the campfire. I was determined to get an elk steak, so that's what I got. We sighted moose, hung out by the campfire, stargazed and saw shooting stars. Then crawled into our tents to get ready for the next day. It was a going to be a great rest day. Jackson was such a great location to have a rest day since there's so much to do. I was looking forward to going hiking and seeing the mountains up close. And I did. I had the best, most spectacular view of the Tetons, but I'll get into that more next time.

Oct 18, 2014

Posted by Jo W. 10/18/2014
If you have been following my blog since this summer, you would know that I was posting updates on my cross-country cycling journey and abruptly stopped blogging in mid-July. A lot has happened since then, and it'll take me a while to fill in the gaps to my story.

Where to start... before I pick up where I had left off, I'll start with what I've been up to recently.

New City, New Beginnings

My cycling trip ended in Portland, OR in mid-August, and I flew back to where I started from, Baltimore, MD. Although my home is in Maryland, I spent only three days there packing my things and getting ready to move up to Boston, where I will be going to dental school for the next four years. I had spent the entire summer constantly traveling, sleeping in a different place every night, so settling into my apartment in Boston felt a bit strange and pleasant at the same time. I'll always have that wanderlust, and at times, being constantly in a city feels oppressing after all the wild and open spaces I've ridden through this summer. But it's also nice to feel at home in my own little place. I had been really looking forward to living in this historic and vibrant city and I couldn't wait to explore it and call it my home for (at least) four years.

Since moving up here, I started school and met my class of 195 dental students. We started school in the beginning of September, and since then, it's been very busy. Between classes, projects, and studying for exams, I have met and gotten to know quite a few people from my school. We work together, party together, and navigate this rocky first semester of first year together. There have been some rough patches (I'm currently in the midst of an exam block), but overall, it's been a great experience. I'm loving what I do, and I am where I want to be. The hard work will pay off in the end.

Running and Cycling in Boston

Of course since this is a blog about running and cycling, I should be covering all the great runs I've had along the Charles, right? The truth is, I haven't been running or cycling much at all.

What?! And I call myself a runner.

I haven't been running much lately (for the past three months, more specifically), because I wasn't able to run. Believe me, I definitely would've been running more if I could.

Since July, I had been sidelined by an injury, and that's part of the reason why I stopped blogging. Only recently have I gotten back to running and cycling again. I started with a 1 mile slow jog on October 10th, and a 3.75 mile run last Thursday. And I am still sore from that last one. It's going to be a long journey to regain my fitness and get myself back to where I was prior to my injury.

So what exactly happened? That's where I'll pick up next time.

Oct 17, 2014

Posted by Jo W. 10/17/2014
So I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, and I do realize that I haven't posted anything on my blog since July. This past summer, from June 1 to August 9, I was on a cross-country bike trip with 4K for Cancer to raise awareness for young adults with cancer. I tried to post updates of my trip as frequently as I could, given my access to wifi, cell phone service, and whether I wanted to sacrifice sleep to blogging. In mid-July, I abruptly stopped blogging, with my last post from Yellowstone National Park.

Since then, I had finished the trip in Portland, OR, flown home to Maryland, packed up within a few days, and moved to Boston to start dental school. It's been a busy time becoming acclimated to a new city and a new school. Before I left for my little jaunt across the country on my bike, I wasn't sure whether I would be able to continue blogging regularly. I knew that it would be difficult blogging from the road (it was) and that dental school would consume my life (it has), but I really enjoy writing my little blog. And I miss it.

For some reason, I had an all or nothing approach to blogging (as with other things in my life). I would either be consistent and blog every day, or if I couldn't do that, I would just throw in the towel and not touch my blog at all. I figured I could make a compromise, and stop making the excuse that I am "too busy" to sit down and write a blog post. So I will try to catch up on all the things that I missed, both during the trip and after. There are so many stories that I want to share from the road! In the next few weeks, you can look forward to posts about:

1. The story of the end of my trip, and why I stopped blogging
2. Portland, OR
3. Recent bike rides
4. Visit to NJ and MD
5. My running life
6. Dental school


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