Sunday, April 15, 2018

Running My First Ultra - Double Chubb 50k

"It's everything you ever want
It's everything you ever need
And it's here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be..."

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

In December of 2017 I signed up for my very first 50k. Shortly before this, I was chatting with a running friend who I trust about my hesitation to run an ultra marathon. With complete candor he said "you haven't run a 50k yet? You need to just do it and get it over with."

This echoed in my mind from the time he said it until I finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up. My hesitation seems so interesting to me now that I completed the race. The race was tough, don't get me wrong, but as another trusted friend texted me the night before the race, I was "more than ready".

The week leading up to the race was an extremely stressful time for me. N is traveling every other week, and BBZ is having trouble at school determining what it means to stand up for himself physically and what it means to fight. This is a big topic for my deep feeling boy, and one that relies heavily on his dad's guidance. I'm doing my best, but N's absence is certainly felt.

While the week was challenging, it was also a great way for me to find strength in myself to be able to deal with things at home on my own. This was great strength to find before one of the biggest challenges of my athletic life.

N wanted to support me any way he could, and even considered bringing the boys to the race along with me and staying all day. I decided not to have the added distraction of trying to get them out the door with me or worrying about them being entertained the whole time. I took off from home on my own and was ridiculously nervous the whole way there. My hands were even trembling!

I was dealing with some serious self-doubt. I wondered if I could really do this. This was bigger than anything I've done, am I capable? Am I ready? Will my body respond to what I demand of it? Would my GI issues interfere? Every negative scenario crossed my mind. Until I stepped out of my car.

The minute I parked and my feet hit the ground, I realized something...I have logged miles and miles on these trails. This is where I belong. I know trail running, I love trail running, and trail running feels like my second home. The nerves passed and the strength I think I always knew I had overtook any self doubt.

It was a beautiful surprise to see my sister-in-law (SIL) and brother-in-law (BIL) at the start line! They came out to support me and stayed the whole day, even through the rain. They surprised me at the aid station at the tracks and even drove me home since my legs weren't working well and my hands were kind of frozen. Their support meant so much to me.

I chatted with them a bit and visited with some other running friends. Trail running is a small world, so I finally got to meet some ladies who I heard of through mutual friends but hadn't had a chance to run with yet. The RD gave us the go at 7:30am and we were off!

The race takes off up a steep road and an even steeper trail for the first mile or so. I knew I started off too fast but I wanted to get in front of the crowd as much as I could so we wouldn't get bogged down at the single track. I'm happy to move over to be passed, but I didn't want to have to go around people, which is always a bigger challenge for me.

I settled into a nice pace and really enjoyed the trail! My goal was to get to the 7.5 mile turnaround at 1.5 hours, so I settled into a good pace and stayed on track. When I got to the flats I still felt strong, but definitely slowed down because of the mud. It was tough slipping around, but the high of being exactly where I was hadn't worn off. I was enjoying every single mile.

I got to the turnaround at 1:20:00ish and decided I probably came out of the gate too fast and needed to back off a little if I wanted to finish strong. My only goal in this first ultra was to finish. I had a loose time goal of  3:00:00 for the first loop and 6:30:00ish finish because I needed to give N a time to be there with the boys, but finishing at all was my only goal, no matter how long it took.

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I finished the first loop at right around 3:00:00 and was welcomed at the start/finish aid station by N and the boys and my SIL and BIL. It was so incredible to see them! My BIL asked how I was doing and I said I kind of wished I was done, but I was ready to go out for the next loop. It was true, part of me wanted to be done, but a bigger part of me knew I was capable of more than one loop. I grabbed some food and off I went!

The night before the race I set a playlist of only about 6-7 "power songs" to play if I needed the big push. Some were from the movie The Greatest Showman. The whole movie is about trusting yourself and being aware of what we are all capable and worthy of in this world. I turned the playlist on and listened to it off and on throughout the whole second loop. 

At one point, all was so perfect on the trail I felt as though I was floating along the single track. I felt strong, and powerful, and as though everything was just as it should be. In this exact moment, these lyrics played in my ear:

"It's everything you ever want
It's everything you ever need
And it's here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be..."

I was almost brought to tears. This is it. I am here. This is what I'm here for. What I have spent countless hours training my body and mind for. All three of my boys are here with me, waiting to celebrate this with me. It was one of the most beautiful times in my athletic life.

There were moments that weren't so pretty, but even in those moments where I needed to walk when I would have rather been running, I wouldn't call them lows. I truly felt a huge sense of gratitude throughout the entire run for just being able to be there. A very dear friend of mine has a disability that causes him to live in nearly constant pain. The strength he has to muster to simply breathe in and out each day is difficult to comprehend. I spent this race channeling his strength, and relishing in the fact that I have the legs to carry me, and the strength to be able to do this race, and I refuse to take it for granted.

 Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I loved talking with runners on the trail who either passed me from behind or runners who were ahead of me and heading back to the finish line. I loved sharing the love with fellow trail runners. I fed off of their energy and I hope they did the same with mine.

As I closed in to the end of the run, I was again overcome with incredible emotion. It hit me, that I was really going to finish this thing. It was really happening!!

I came around the bend of the road to hit the last awful climb they stick in at the end, and my whole little family was there. My boys were covered in mud and splashing in the creek near the road. N and my BIL and SIL were clapping and cheering and I could feel how proud they were.

I climbed that last awful hill and circled around the loop and saw the finish line. The last little hill was super slick and I had just run nearly 30 miles and I was not going to fall in the last .10 mile mark! As usual on the downhills, my arms went out like an airplane, which should totally be my trail name!

Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and pride in my heart. I did it.

 Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography

Two little boys, always watching :) 
Photo Credit: Mile 90 Photography


This was the 20-year anniversary of the Double Chubb, put on by the St. Louis Ultra Runners Group (SLUGs). I ran the 25k distance in 2016 and knew this was typically a well run event, and this year was no different. The aid stations were well stocked, the volunteers were kind and generous, and the vibe was a positive representation of this incredible community of which I am now a full part. They even got a personalized beer made for the occasion from one of my favorite breweries, 4 Hands Brewery, called Single Track.

Friends reached out from all corners of my life to congratulate me on this finish. Well versed ultra runners reached out to see how I was recovering. I am one lucky lady to have the opportunity to be a part of this community. And tonight my boys took me out for a huge dinner to celebrate. And now, to plan for the next goal!

Official stats:
50k (31 miles)
6:39:54
1st loop: 3:01:30
2nd loop: 3:38:23
Pace 12:54/mile
33rd of 55
4th female of 13
Age Group 2nd of 8 (1-39 years)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

When I know better, I do better.



We've had raccoons in our attic before, but because their entry point didn't cause immediate issues, we were patient and managed to successfully encourage them out. This time was different.

The night before we left for Orlando, we heard and saw a raccoon causing some trouble on our roof. We chased her off, but the next morning I saw some roof shingles on our deck and investigated. I saw that she had dug a hole directly into our roof! We did our typical steps to try and get her out, but we had to be on a plane and did our best to cover the hole in a way that didn't trap her in, but would protect the soffit from too much rain damage.

When we returned from vacation, we figured out that not only had the mama not left, but she also had babies. We did a lot of the same things to try and get her to move her nest that worked last time, but we had to get our roof fixed, so we became impatient.

We called a company that helps in these situations, and trusted them to take care of it. They covered all of the possible entry points and set a trap at the main point and covered it with a tarp. Yesterday morning, I saw some shingles on the deck again, so I went out to investigate the hole. The tarp had blown off of the trap, and the mama raccoon was caught, and she was dead.

Suddenly it hit me. This was their plan all along. We had been so naive. We didn't ask enough questions, and now we had a litter of orphaned baby raccoons in our attic. Nate tried to contact the company, but they did not call him back. It became clear that the intention was to let the babies starve to death.

This was heartbreaking. I understand that a lot of people see raccoons as a nuisance and that's okay. Nate and I live near the woods and want to coexist with the animals who live around us. We had no intention of destroying this little family, but that's exactly what happened.

After some research we found that the Wildlife Rescue Center helps in situations like this. I called them and reluctantly told the story, and asked for their help. They connected me with a man who dropped everything to come out to the house and get these babies out of the attic, and into the hands of people who will care for them. My only wish is that I had thought to call him first.

My goal now is to tell everyone I know that there are humane ways to remove wildlife from our homes. It is just as easy, and there are people who dedicate thier lives to helping us live side by side with the animals we see as a nuisance. Lesson definitely learned.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break 2018

We had an incredible trip to Orlando, FL for spring break!

This was the first time we have traveled over spring break. My best friend from high school is on an epic adventure with her family where they sold their house and most of their belongings to travel in an RV. They knew they would be in FL during our spring break, so we coordinated a trip to see them, and made a vacation for our family out of the 6 days we were there.

All of the kids at the RV park  

 We went on lots of our own epic adventures!

And enjoyed lots of swimming in the much warmer temps 

We visited a cool place called Disney Springs, which has lots of restaurants and fun things to do without the cost of a park. It was super fun, and hot! 

One of the highlights of our trip was going to Universal Studios and the Isle of Adventure. We bought the 2-park pass so we could ride the Hogwarts train from one park to the other. The whole day was magical! 

 This was the first Harry Potter ride we rode, and continued to be my favorite one! It was a roller coaster with a simulator aspect where we had to escape from griffendorf. It was SOOO much fun!

Then we ate at the leaky cauldron, which was pretty much the best thing to ever happen to BBZ. I was a little grumpy about going there because it was pretty far away from where we were in the park and I was hungry, but I am so glad he insisted. The food was awesome and the eating there was a huge part of the experience. 

We spent another day driving to the coast of Florida. We couldn't be that close without visiting the ocean! We toured the museums at the Kennedy Space Station, and saw the spaceship Atlantis. It was incredible to see the actual space ship that went into space! It was also cool to see photos of many of the people who played a small part it meeting their goal of making a spaceship that could fly into space and reenter without being destroyed. It only took them 12 years :)

We made a quick trip to the beach, where BBZ jumped into the cold water without a second thought. I had no idea how much he loved the water! We hope to go on another vacation in August and plan to go near water since he loved it so much. 

Our last stop before heading to the airport was the Ripley's Believe it or Not! museum. This place was so cool!

We are so lucky to have jobs that not only allow but encourage us to get away and recharge. Well, since N is working for himself now, he can do whatever he wants, really.

This was an absolutely perfect trip. We relaxed, swam, rode a bazillion rides at Universal and were able to connect as a family. 

“In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!” 
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Saturday, January 13, 2018

STRETCH

That's my word for 2018. Stretch.

Each year I choose a word that will be my mantra for the year. 2018 is stretch! Both literally as in working in a good weekly yoga and cross training program to keep my muscles loose and healthy, and also figuratively as I stretch myself beyond what I think I am capable of.

I have a 50k race on the calendar for April 2018! It was a bit of a quick decision, and N is now pursuing a job contract that will have him out of town every other week. This was not the case when I signed up, and could impact my training, so we'll have to see! I'm nervous and excited and

Bring on 2018!

There is no passion to be found playing small - 
in settling for a life that is less
than the one you are capable of living.
~Nelson Mandela

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

Vulnerability.

This was my word for 2017. I set out to explore my buried feelings of fear, shame and unworthiness to bring them to the surface, welcome them and befriend them. What a year it has been!

This time last year was difficult for N and me. We were not connecting as we had in the past. With 10 years of marriage and 14 years together, we just weren't jiving. We both felt it and wanted to do something about it. I shared what was on my heart and he responded with love and acceptance. And together we worked through what was going on with us. It is safe to say that we are closer now than perhaps we've ever been. We're definitely more honest about our feelings than we've been in the past. We both committed to owning our stuff and dealing with it, rather than stuffing it down and pretending everything is okay, which is the preference for both of us.

I believe the source of our success this past year was our willingness to be vulnerable with each other. Our willingness to reach out to connect without knowing how the other would respond. Our willingness to admit that we can love each other every single day without judgement. That we can simply love each other exactly as we are without expectation every single day.

Being willing to be vulnerable and truthful with myself and those around me has proven to be both challenging and incredibly rewarding.

I did some exploration of my personality type - INFJ. I found podcasts and lectures and read and listened to as much as I could to help me understand how I interacted with the world on a subconscious level.

I was dealing with an issue at work. I was trying to work through it, but could tell I was blaming others and looking for fault and while I tried desperately to figure out what the lesson was for myself, I just couldn't find it. Until one day I figured it out. I wish I could remember what it was that triggered the ah-ha moment for me, but I just can't remember.

Basically, I was living in a "should" life. I had an idea of what success was, and it wasn't where I was in my career. I believed I "should" be running a program somewhere, supervising people and making lots of importance decisions day in a day out. What I intentionally walked away from in early 2016 is what I believed gave me value as a working woman. Anything less was not success as I defined it.

This was all unconscious, and I was not putting my all into my work because I was so concerned about what I "should" be doing with my career. Once this all came to my consciousness, I got it. Once I got past my own self righteousness and saw that I am able to redefine what it means to me to be successful, everything changed.

I can be content with where I am in my career. I can even be proud of what I am doing and the work I did to get here. In order to get to this place though, I had to be willing to explore all of this. It was not easy, and it was honestly embarrassing to admit that I was feeling this sense of self-righteous at all, but once I really felt it, named it and honored it, I could work through it and land on the healthy side of my ego.

I realize my words may make it sound like this exploration and connection is easy, but it absolutely is not. It is a conscious state of curiosity about my feelings and senses where I am always trying to balance my ego and show up honestly and kindly to myself and to others.

It may sound like I have this all figured out but I certainly do not. What I do have is a positive view of vulnerability and how having it as a cornerstone in my life will bring me great understanding of myself and my loved ones. It is the key to human connection. It is what makes us able to empathize and be with others in a meaningful way.

I feel so lucky to have explored vulnerability this past year. I have grown in so many ways! Some of the best resources I found on the topic are "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, and the podcasts related to ego work on Personality Hacker (dot) com.

So many other amazing things happened this year!


N and I had an incredible time in Mexico seeing Widespread Panic. The trip jump started our reconnection that lasted throughout the whole year. 

BBZ participated in his first real theater production of Lion King, Jr. He was so proud!
LBZ started kindergarten and has loved it so much! It's a beautiful thing to see him so anxious to learn and grow.

BBZ found a new love for Harry Potter. He got the full set of movies and books for his birthday, so we watched all of the movies and he is on book #2.
He loves reading and loves the fantasy world of Harry Potter.

We had a white Christmas! We were all so excited to play in the snow and sled. It was cold and really fun! I love the photo of the boys in the snow. It seems like they are so grown up.
We spent a wonderful week in Massachusetts with my parents, and did lots of things that we did when I was a child, like heading to the top of Mount Wachusett.
What wonderful memories we created!

LBZ has a strong love for soccer. It is so much fun to watch him do his thing. 
After a full year of being gluten free, I finished one of my favorite races feeling healthy and strong and ready for the next adventure! 2018 is going to be a big year for me and my running. I can feel it!

Lastly, I finally committed to a new tattoo that I had been designing in my head for months. My best friend and I went together and the artist designed this for me based on some ideas I brought to him. I am so happy with the way it turned out!
It's a perfect way to show my love and commitment to running in the woods. 

Happy New Year to all of you in the blogger world!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Three Reasons this non-believer loved a book about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I have mentioned that I am not much of a reader. I have read only a handful of books from cover to cover in my 37 years, 2 of which were in the last year. So that's huge. I have officially read three books in one year. Crazy.

So anyway, as a person who doesn't read much, When I do choose a book, it tends to really resonate with me and make a mark in my psyche. Otherwise, I simply don't get past the first 2 or so chapters. When the book The Shack first hit the theaters, the trailer was captivating. I looked into the book immediately, and realized it was about god and religion and I didn't even consider reading it. I figured I might see the movie eventually.

Then, a friend who is a strong believer posted something to Facebook stating that the book is not religious and was a great read. I figured if she says it's not religious, she would know, for sure. So I ordered it on Amazon and figured I'd give it a shot.

About half way through I started to regret my decision to read it. You see, I feel uncomfortable even hearing about the stories of Jesus, so choosing to hear his name in this book and hear the stories I have generally not believed was uncomfortable for me. But I pushed on. I really felt that this book sort of chose me, as did the others I have read this year.

So I pushed on, and finished it last night. This book was really, really good. I can't stop thinking about the impact this book has had on me since I began to read it. I have identified three reasons that this book may have changed the way I parent, the way I connect with my spirituality and the way I interact with others.

#1 It validated the reason I became a non believer in the first place.

During my early years in high school, a classmate died in a horrific accident in a car that another classmate was driving. The driver survived, and the story of this tragic accident haunted many of us young folks trying to make sense of it.

It was around this time that I began to explore the ideas of religion on my own, apart from the very infrequent trips to church as a young child, combined with my father's very clear non-belief. I went with my boyfriend at the time to a small church group that was comprised of other students of my school.

I listened to them describe the way they understood Jesus and his life and how it affected the way they live. At one point, it was clear that they believed, as I had already heard, that people who do not accept Jesus as their lord and savior would be punished by an eternity of hell. I asked, point blank, if this meant my friend, who had died so tragically, was burning in hell and they replied, yes.

This was it for me. Never would I love or find peace in a god that punished my friend for anything. I am a bit stubborn, and this was the end of any type of religion, or even talk of Jesus in a positive way for me. While I have found peace in Buddhist practices, nature, and spirituality, a positive idea of Jesus could never be redeemed for me, or so I thought.

In this story, a man has conversations with Jesus, god and the holy spirit in 3 different, yet connected forms. During his conversations with them, they explain the this belief that god (and therefore Jesus and the spirit) as a punishing god is an untrue story created by humans in an attempt to control that which is out of our control.

I will not go into how this conversation goes in the book, but for the first time in my life, I see a god portrayed in a way that shows love for all people. This is a god that for years I have seen in nature, in my children's eyes, and in the beautiful love I feel when connected to my husband. This was not a concept that was new to me, but this book tied this belief that I already have, with Jesus and the teachings surrounding him. I do not know that I believe in Jesus any more than I did before, but I do see how others' belief in him in this way can give them the peace that I feel when I am with what I consider god.

#2 It addresses the biggest fear that I, and many other parents, hold so close to our hearts. The potential loss of our child(ren).

This story is about loss. The death of an innocent child at the hands of the deepest violence that exists in this world, and the fear we as parents carry about this exact scenario playing out in our own life and in the life of our child(ren).

I am terrified that something awful will happen to my children. So much so, that I try to control anything terrible from happening by worry, fear, and any possible chance of being able to keep this from happening. This has negatively affected my life in many ways.

This story puts it all out there. The fear, the worry, the pain of losing an innocent child to violence. It brings it right up to the uncomfortable surface and forces the reader to acknowledge it. It is difficult to explain how this happened for me by reading this book, but reading this story helped me realize that my life is simply my story. The boys each have their own story, as well.

I have written my boys story to include a long life. Great success and health. Perhaps a family of their own one day. No where in their story that I have written, is their death. Well, maybe there is, but it is long after I am gone and they are asleep peacefully in their old age after a long and fulfilling life. The fear I hold, is that this story may not play out as I have written it.

But what I have come to understand, is that I truly have no control over that. While I hope that my story goes a certain way, and that my boys story goes a certain way, and that my parents have as story for me that they hope goes a certain way, the truth is we have no control over our story. When I die, that will become part of my loved ones' story. If something would happen to someone I love, that would be part of my story as well.

This is not unlike other teachings I have read on the Buddhist ideas of life, or even in other books about letting go of control and trusting in fate, or the stars, or the universe or whatever other way we wish to assign words to this feeling of peace over being able to handle anything that occurs in this life. The way this was delivered in the book was extremely powerful for me, and I feel peace over this huge fear that I have carried for years after reading this book.

#3 It emphasizes connection, vulnerability, and the way in which we all could be interacting with each other.

My word for this year is vulnerability. I have been paying very close attention to how I interact with others. Not only those closest to me, but also others in my circle of the world. I have been very impatient, judgmental, and basically kind of crabby off and on for the last few weeks, but I am starting let some of that go.

I read a few other things while reading this book that also helped me see how I react to what others do, so this third reason may have been a combination of those readings, but again this story just captured the potential for connection that is there for us humans. The book talked about god's original plan for humans, our choice for independence and free will, and how this changed everything for all of us on Earth.

While I am not totally on board with all of that, it's important for me to emphasize that my interpretation of how religion works has always included fierce and merciless judgement, holier than thou, and rules rules rules that separated those who worship god from those who do not. This is not how this concept was addressed in this book. This concept was shown as an underlying love and potential for connection that all of us have deep in our being. It talked about how carrying Jesus in your heart can accomplish this, which isn't the way in which I think this can happen, but for the first time in my life, I have an understanding of how OTHER PEOPLE may be using this concept to find connection and love with and within others.

This concept is huge for me. I have spent most of my life feeling judged by the very idea of Jesus and god, and that my beliefs and spirituality were from a different perspective. This story helped me understand how people who believe and follow the teachings of Jesus, as they were meant to be taught with love and kindness and genuine connection vs. fear and punishment and damnation has resonated with me in a way that I am trying to communicate, but is likely falling short.

***
This book, like many that I choose, or that choose me, has made a difference in how I view my little corner of the world. While I am sure my struggle with vulnerability, connection and the fear of something happening to my loved ones will persist, the feeling of peace that I have now is almost in a little compartment, and when I begin to feel a certain way, I can quickly access it and rationalize where I am, and bring myself back to this place of peace and security in myself, and in my future.

I have one story that I'd like to tell, that was buried within me for years but brought to the surface when I was reading this book.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had become fairly depressed. I spent a lot of time in my dorm room alone, as my roommate had moved in with her boyfriend. I was single for the first time since early high school, and was confused about who I was and where my life was going.

On one particularly difficult day, I literally could not get out of bed. I laid there, crying, and said out loud "why am I so sad? What is wrong with me? I need help, somebody please help me".

Almost instantly, I felt a release. I sat up, and felt an incredible sense of peace. I had an idea to go get a haircut, so I got up, I got dressed, and I went to get that haircut. Never again did I experience that type of depressive state.

I tell this story because I always felt that something bigger than me helped me during that time in my life. I have never felt worthy of god's help, as I have spent most of my life adamantly not believing, but I wonder. Whatever it was, it was a turning point in my life that I will revisit, and show gratefulness for often.

Next up? to see the film version of The Shack. Hopefully the screen will do it justice.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Panic en La Playa Seis 2017

Sometime last year, when ticket sales were announced, we decided to buck up and head down to paradise for Panic En La Playa Seis (PELP). We figured with N's 40th birthday and our 10th anniversary we could justify the cost and the trip. Then, for months and months we put it out of our minds. Finally, February 26th came and we took off for our 6-day trip to sunny Mexico.

Day One, 2/26/17

We caught an Uber at 4am as my mom settled in to live in our house and care for our boys while we were gone. Passports in hand I finally learned the ins and outs of international travel.

 Sunrise over southern US as we flew to Houston.

We arrived in Cancun around 12:30pm, and immediately realized we were in paradise. There is a bar at the airport right in front of the ground travel buses where you can buy tropical drinks by the yard. We found the PELP shuttle and settled in for an hour drive to the resort.

The beauty in this place is hard to describe. And the people who work there are so friendly and kind. PELP reserved the entire place, but we came a day early so there were people there vacationing on 2/26 before the whole place was flooded with hippies and the good people you find during a show.

The view from our room.

Sine we were there a day early, we got to catch the sound check. It was fun to hear a few songs and watch the workers begin to set up the concert area for the music that would ensue over the next few days. They played the songs but without much gusto. It was the perfect tease of what was in store.

Sound check, 2/26/17

 I have never been to Mexico before, and have never been to an all inclusive resort. It was pretty easy to put the money we paid over the last few months behind us and pretend everything we were experiencing was free, besides tips. The food was mostly buffet style, and it was fabulous. The restaurant staff were well versed in gluten free eating and often took me around the buffet to show me what was safe and what wasn't. 

Or first meal at Toro, one of the many buffet style eateries. 



The day the tickets went on sale all those months ago, My friend J texted me about 20 minutes before and asked if we were going. I replied yes and for the next 20 minutes she went back and forth about getting tickets, too. The expense is high, so it's a tough decision to make, but at the last minute she bit the bullet and decided to go. It was so great to have another couple to hang with. We had such an amazing time with these beautiful people!

A toast to friendship and the first night in paradise. 

As we explored the resort we found some music in the lobby area near some pool tables and other entertainment.
A Mexican Beatles cover band, which is exactly as awesome as one would expect.

At some point someone, I think it was our waiter, had the idea of bringing us a shot. When asked what kind we wanted, N replied "surprise us". This is what he brought, and called it a Jelly Fish. It was gross, but made for a great photo!

My brain is just a jelly fish in the ocean in my head, 'cause I drank too much tequila, and I woke up seein' red. ~String Cheese Incident

Day Two, 2/27/17

2/27/17 was our first full day at the resort, so we did lots of exploring and taking in the beauty of this place. It was chilly with the breeze off of the ocean, and it ended up being pretty cloudy, but that didn't seem to affect the way we appreciated the beauty in this place.

These iguanas were everywhere! They mostly moved slowly, but occasionally jumped out and scared the bejezus out of us! 



This part is a little scary for me, but here it goes. At some point leading up to this trip, I decided to throw all self-consciousness out the window and wear a swimsuit that shows my stomach for the first time, maybe ever. Seriously. Even as a young teenager I was so self conscious of my mid area that I refused to bare it for anyone in public, But this time? Eff it. I was going to enjoy the pool and the sunshine and get some color to my belly for the first time ever. It felt so amazing and freeing!

Rocking a stomach-showing swimsuit for the first time, maybe ever. 


In one of the many emails we received from the planning company for PELP, they encouraged us to bring decorations for the balcony. We saw so many cool decorations. We brought a Missouri state flag and a Cardinals flag. It took us a while to figure out how to hang in the best way, but we did it! Represent!



They also had theme nights, and one was Space Wrangler, so N bought these little guys for that night, which wasn't until Thursday, so he hung around here until then,

Wrangler, Space. 

This is the only photo I have that shows the inside of our room. It was small and perfect since we really only slept there. We didn't turn on the TV once. I still wonder if there are English speaking channels in Mexico. We didn't find out!

Braids, hair flowers, and a constantly stocked mini bar. 


The stage was set up with the ocean behind it and plenty of room for everyone to see the stage. This was where we stood at each show, and we walked up to this area a few minutes before 8pm, so you can see that there wasn't really a bad view anywhere. The show was incredible. It was easy to get caught up in the "free" food and drinks, the ocean, the pool and the sunshine, and it quickly became clear why we were all here. Because of the music. While the whole show was fantastic, that Bear Gone Fishin' > Blight > Climb To Safety was killer.

Show #1, 2/27/17 

We were standing just to the right of the soundboard, which had a person manning the entrance to make sure only VIP folks walked in. I saw Luther Dickinson enter this area and got really excited! I have been an arm's length away from Luther before, and never felt brave enough to go up and talk to him.

At one point he came out of the sound board area and was standing against the back railing. I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. I told him about my son, LBZ, and how we decided his name. He walked out of the area and we talked for a while. Then we danced to Panic and enjoyed the music. He turned to me and said he was going back to the inside area, and I took his hand and told him how much I appreciate his music and thanked him for sharing his talent with me and with the world.

He invited me into the inside part, but I declined. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed with the moment that I think I needed it to end, if that makes sense. As I turned to walk back to me friends, J came up to us and took this photo. Had she been 2 minutes later, this moment wouldn't have been recorded. Once I returned to N and our friends in the crowd, I busted into tears.

This moment was one of the highlights of my entire music life.
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars

Day Three, 2/28/17

I didn't take many photos this day, I think because we spent most of the day at the pool. They had a side stage where Southern Soul Assembly played a set in the afternoon. It was also fat Tuesday, so they had a Mardi Gras party during the show. It was a crazy good time. A waiter brought us a tray full of drinks and said it was watermelon juice and a surprise. I don't know what that surprise was, but it wasn't good. I didn't feel great afterwards and we figured we spent a little too much time in the sun.

Southern Soul Assembly includes Luther Dickinson, JJ Grey, Anders Osborne and Marc Broussard

We didn't let it stop us from the show! The Mardi Gras costumes were fantastic. So many beads and sparkles and happiness all around. The drums in Fishwater was an insane back and forth between Duane and Sonny and I just couldn't get enough. Tall Boy is always great and the Blackout Blues in the encore was just perfect. We were so tired afterwards that we crashed afterwards and decided we maybe needed to balance the sun tomorrow. It's easy to overdo it in paradise, and we wanted to enjoy every single moment of this fabulous trip.

In Mardi Gras style for Fat Tuesday

Day Four

The day started out just lovely as we took a nice long walk around the resort exploring the beaches and pools on the other side from where we were staying.



We got to the pool around noon and posted up in a place where we could have some sunshine and some shade so we didn't get burned. The sun there is no joke, and we really didn't want to burn. Since the performers are also on vacation, we would randomly run into one at the resort.

Colonel Bruce sat down right next to us in the pool area and swam right by us for a long time. We all chatted briefly, and I noticed when he came back to his lounger, putting his shoes on and heading to the bar. Figuring he was coming back, I didn't pay much attention to the fact that he left his shirt there, but the boys did. We tried to find him to return it, but he was gone. N decided it was just his style.

N wearing Colonel Bruce Hampton's shirt.

Even though the buffets were stocked with incredibly delicious food, we all liked the idea of sitting at a restaurant where they bring us a menu. We chose the Mexican restaurant, and it did not disappoint. We couldn't help but notice the smaller than American portions. This was exactly the right amount of food for our pre-show bellies.

Chicken with rice and mole sauce

N's dessert, which was so pretty!

My dessert, which was nice looking, too.

Night four, show #3 was so good. I felt amazing and we felt like we adulted the heck out of the day so we could hang into the show feelin' alright. The first 4 songs started with the letter G, and I never did find out the significance of that, if there is one. North was pretty great as they sang about Mexico, but the best was probably Genesis, which I thoroughly enjoyed and told the man standing next to me (a guy named Todd who was not a Panic fan but came along with some friends for the week) about a gift N gave his best friend in 2003. N had all of the lyrics to Genesis printed on a poster and mailed it to the writer for his autograph. He then framed it and gave it to our good friends for their wedding. Genesis was their wedding song.

Oh, how I love these good people!!

Day Five, 3/1/17

We woke up on day five feeling great! We knew this was our last full day here, so we got to it. We explored some more and did some souvenir shopping for ourselves and for the boys. After spending the day at the pool, we caught the Bloodkin show and I met a guy named Mike and his wife who were from Orlando and had been to at least 3 of the shows. He sat down next to me and asked if it was okay for him to smoke his cigarette. I said yes, and we talked a lot about quitting and how hard it is. And I took notice of the fact that he actually asked me in the first place.

You see, if you've never been to a Panic show, it is difficult to explain. But if you have been to a show, whether Grateful Dead, Panic, Phish or a similar band, the community is what makes this experience so magical. A woman in the bathroom line snapped at me all bitchy, which happens in the real world a lot, but she actually stopped, came back to me and apologized, which only happens in this world, if the bitchy happens at all. Typically people are kind and generous and looking out for each other. Imagine that community at a show, but now it's in an entire privately rented resort and there are 4 shows and tons of beach and pool time in between. That my friends, is Panic en La Playa.

Bloodkin on the side stage, 3/2/17

The theme of the night was Space Wrangler, so N got these awesome little space men and found the perfect little sparkly cowboy hats for them. They felt like our babies at the beginning of the show, but eventually we put them down against the metal barrier that separated the sound board area from where we were standing.

Our little space wranglers.

During set break a group of resort employees saw them and took them off of the railing. I don't know what they said, but they seemed so happy to find these space men. N and I decided to let them have them, but not before we got a good photo.

I seriously think it made their night!
Even if they did tear the little hats off.

It isn't hard at all for me to talk about the biggest highlight of show #4. The entire set list was full of dance party awesomeness, so I shouldn't have been surprised when they went from >Surprise>Ride Me High>Surprise into the song I have spent 16 years and about 50 shows chasing. My favorite Panic song of all time: Airplane.

During set break I told a lovely lady dressed in a super sparkly space wrangler outfit about my love for Airplane. She said she was in the very front row and if they played it, she would make room for me to go up close to hear it.

As soon as I heard the first 3 notes, I knew. I stood there frozen for a bit, then J asked if I wanted to go up front and said she'd go with me. We wiggled our way to the front row and couldn't find the woman I spoke to at set break, but that didn't matter. I looked at the cute little 20-something hippie in the spot directly in front of JB and told him of my 16-year quest to catch this song. Without a hesitation, he moved to the side and held his hand out for me to take his place.

It's hard to put how much I love this song into words. I sang it to my boys as they fell asleep. LBZ loved it so much, he created his own rendition with a small adjustment that includes a helicopter.
Check it out. This moment was also a huge highlight in my music life.

Front row center for "Airplane"

Show #4 was by far my favorite. They had special guests, they opened with Sewing Machine, which our whole group thought they closed with the night before, but they in fact only played part of the typical combo of Protein Drink>Sewing Machine at show #3. Conrad. Wrangler. Red Hot Mama. Parsons. Time is Free (with Colonel Bruce). Blue Indian. And a closing song of Life During Wartime, another one of LBZ's favs. And of course, Chilly Water. (For a 50-second clip of Chilly click here)

A nice shot of the water being tossed around during Chilly.

Day Six, 3/2/17

Oh, day six. Veterans of PELP tried to warn us about re-entry and the difficulty of leaving after show #4. Many veterans stay an extra day, unlike us who came a day early. As much fun as I had, I missed the boys like crazy and really couldn't wait to get home.

Our plan was to meet at 9am, check out at the main convention center, drop our bags in front, eat some breakfast and catch the 10am shuttle back to the Cancun airport. We met at 9am, went to the convention center and checked out, then walked outside and somehow ended up in the lane to get on the shuttle that was leaving right then. They took our bags and put them on the bus instead of on the stairs for the 10am bus.

We tried to tell them, but at that point we all felt committed. We got on the bus behind our bags and had no water, no food and a one hour trip to the airport. We weren't very happy, but we made the best of it. As we were pulling out of the resort, I realized that not only did I not get breakfast, but I also didn't get a chance to say a proper goodbye to the resort and take any final photos at the resort, but we did get a few of the journey home.



The only vacation sunset photo I caught.
Mostly because of timing and position of our room.

Nevertheless, the trip home was uneventful. Traveling out of the country brought some anxiety, so having the trip go smoothly makes me want to do it again as soon as possible. I was thrilled to see my boys, who were at the airport when we landed, and as I snuggled them to bed last night I realized what a perfect balance this trip was for us. N and I got to have an adventure, to see our favorite band, to connect after 10 beautiful years of marriage and to return home to the loving arms of our boys. It was perfect.

Home, sweet home.

This weekend, on the other hand, has been a little rough. The boys are just off and having trouble listening, the memory of no worries on the beach with nothing but our favorite band's concert on our schedule is fading into the reality of routines and housework and laundry. The workweek is looming, and the struggle for re-entry into the real world is a real thing.

To my friends who could not attend this year, I seriously encourage you to build this trip into your vacation spending plans. Start saving now. It's expensive, but worth every single penny. We will have the opportunity to pre-buy tickets for next year, and I think we just might. We'll be the veterans and can give some good advice going forward. Basically, just do it. Go to PELP.

Other fun stuff to note
(I may add to this as I recollect noteworthy details)

The room key is actually a waterproof bracelet you wear when you check in and they cut off when you check out. So it leaves basically zero chance that you will be locked out of your room.

I read the whole book "Born to Run" this week. It includes a lot of stories about running in Mexico, and it was perfect for this trip.

Even though I didn't run at all during this week, I managed to get over 20k steps every single day we were there, making this week one of the highest in steps I have ever achieved, even with weeks that include my longest races.

If you pay attention, they tell you every single thing you need to know about traveling internationally. Miss something, and your'e pretty screwed.

They took a ton of footage of PELP and will likely make a 4-5 minute video like they did last year. I may or may not be hoping for a cameo in the seis version, 

Street tacos are divine. That's all I have to say.