What Lessons have Animals Taught You About Life?

I am a firm believer that animals can teach you some of the most valuable lessons in life. I try to learn from them every day. My dogs show me everyday how to live in the moment and enjoy life. I am posting below photos a few important teachers I have had the privilege of meeting. Even if we only met for a brief moment, or if I knew them for a lifetime, I am ever grateful for what these special creatures have taught me.

I would love for you to share some of the important lessons you have learned from an animal or animals. Please comment below.

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esther and me

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Melissa with a deer

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Melissa with a dolphin in Mexico

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Don’t Change that Channel, Exploring the Channel Islands

Time for another girl trip!! G and I have been doing backpacking and camping trips since 2007. She is my friend from vet school and we started by hiking the grand canyon in ’07 and tend to have adventures together once a year or so. She is one of the coolest people I have ever met. She lives in Oregon, I live in Arizona.

We were talking on the phone and discussed doing another camping and hiking trip and she suggested hiking in the Channel Islands, off the coast of California. I jumped at the chance to see another national park. She arranged a ferry ride to Santa Cruz island from Ventura and arranged two nights of camping. As I was preparing for the trip my friend and neighbor stopped by, he was interested in the trip. He asked who I was going with because he was curious what other “rugged bitches” I knew. I took that as a compliment.

On Saturday I drove out to Los Angeles to pick G up at the airport. The airport area in L.A. is somewhere I spent a lot of time this summer during my work for G Adventures. I felt happy in the L.A. traffic in a Civic and not in a large commercial van with a trailer attached. I picked her up and from there we stopped at a Ralph’s grocery store directly across the street from the hotel that I had stayed in it so many nights over the summer.

We headed out around L.A. to do some sightseeing for ourselves. We went to the La Brea tar pits near Hollywood and to the Page museum which has displays of bones found in the pits and information regarding them. It was very fascinating. We went to the Hollywood walk of fame and posed with some stars and saw the Hollywood sign in the hills, then we headed toward Ventura to try to find a campsite for the night. We couldn’t find a site and ended up staying at a hotel for the night.

Our souvenir photo from the La Brea Tar Pits (Sabertooth tiger ate my middle)

Our souvenir photo from the La Brea Tar Pits (Sabertooth tiger ate my middle)

Display at the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles

Display at the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles

Hollywood walk of fame

Hollywood walk of fame

Hollywood stars!

Hollywood stars!

In the morning we got on the Island Packer’s ferry bound for Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. We had all of our camping gear and got onto the ferry. The ride was about an hour and a half from the California shore. We saw some California sea lions and a few dolphins along the way to the island.

 

Ferry to the Channel Islands

Ferry to the Channel Islands

California Sea Lions

California Sea Lions

When we arrived at the island all of the campers, a group of maybe 15 or so, were gathered together and greeted by a park ranger, Ranger Cole, who laid down some island rules. Ranger Cole seemed like a no-nonsense sort of guy, he was the only ranger I had seen who carried a gun and a set of handcuffs. He didn’t seem to be in a joking mood, and actually seemed quite sick of people’s shit. He was about 30 years old, tall, dark, muscular and handsome. G and I both noticed he didn’t wear a wedding ring. He laid down rules regarding obtaining fresh water, cleaning at the campsites, checkout times, fire restrictions, and talked about the importance of not littering, and about packing all trash back off the island. The island has no trash services and all trash must be taken back to the mainland by campers. He also discussed the importance of staying safe on the island and discussed how little emergencies can escalate into big problems due to our remote location. He told us to come to him immediately with any medical emergencies, even minor ones “like a sprain or a fracture.” G and I glanced at each other sideways trying not to snicker because we wondered how Ranger Cole could classify a fracture as a minor injury. He also talked about some of the unique wildlife on the island. The Channel Islands are sometimes called “the Galapagos of North America” because there are varied species on each island and many distinct species of animals are found on the Channel Islands that are found nowhere else on earth. Santa Cruz is home to the island fox, which is the largest predator on the island, there are about 1300 on the island. He also told us about the native people who once lived on the island and that there are sacred burial sites present. He told us to never disturb a site and told us that some sites are still being discovered, and if we think we discover one we should tell him. Ranger Cole didn’t smile once during his speech and dismissed us at the end of it. G and I shouldered our packs and started heading to our campsite, which was about a half mile away from the harbor.

On the way to camp we discussed some hiking options and we talked about packing out trash and we resolved to also pack out any other trash we found on the island as well. We decided we would leave the island cleaner than we found it. We also talked about how we wished we could see some more sea life, hopefully some whales and more dolphins and sea lions. We also wanted to see some island foxes. We joked that we had already seen one fox, Ranger Cole, and we debated about how often park rangers likely get laid. We had different theories on this subject. We joked about how Ranger Cole told us to find him for medical emergencies or if we discover a sacred burial site on the island, but he didn’t actually tell us where to find him. We wondered where he stayed. We wondered how often he used his handcuffs.

We set up camp and then went to the visitor center on the island. We learned about how the island used to be used as a ranch in the late 1800s, but then sheep and pigs got loose and became feral and took over the island and fucked up all the environment and threatened native island species. Eventually the sheep and pigs were trapped and relocated back to the mainland and all ranching activities were stopped. The island and its wildlife are still working on recovering from the insults of ranching.  After our learning experience at the visitors center, we hiked up to a viewpoint called Cavern’s Point, and out to another scenic point called Potato Harbor. The island scenery is stunning and the coastline of the island is very beautiful. We looked for whales but didn’t see any. After hiking we went back to camp and cooked a dinner of dehydrated food using water we boiled with a Jetboil and then made a dehydrated dessert. It was good. A scruffy looking fox with a limp and previously injured ears walked into our campsite. This fox obviously had been living off of food scraps and wasn’t scared of people. Ranger Cole had made it clear never to feed island wildlife. We sat and watched this fox as he wandered through our site, he even walked right up to G and waited by her feet for a moment before continuing on through the site. We called him Scar.

Huge eucalyptus trees near our campsite were fun to climb

Huge eucalyptus trees near our campsite were fun to climb

Near Cavern's Point on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park

Near Cavern’s Point on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park

View of Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Islands, Channel Islands, California

View of Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Islands, Channel Islands, California

View near Cavern's Point.  Channel Islands National Park.

View near Cavern’s Point. Channel Islands National Park.

This beat up limping old fox came into our campsite.  We called him "Scar"

This beat up, limping, old fox came into our campsite. We called him “Scar”

Island fox we nicknamed "Scar"  He is looking for a handout.  He came right up to G

Island fox we nicknamed “Scar” He is looking for a handout. He came right up to G

The next morning we got up and Jetboiled some water and made oatmeal and granola and coffee. We packed some more dehydrated food and a bunch of water and headed out for an all day hike to another shore of the island called Smuggler’s Cove. (I never found out how these different places on the island got their names.) We walked up and down hills in the sun and along the coast through stunning scenery to the other side of the island. We saw another island fox along the way. The fox wasn’t scared at all and I got very close to it taking photos and I made G pose with it. As we hiked we picked up garbage along the way and had a competition as to who could get the most trash or the most usual trash. We reached Smuggler’s Cove around lunchtime. There was a beach and a nice view of Anacapa Island, another of the islands of the park. We combed the beach for more trash and found some unusual items including a walkie talkie, some plastic letters, part of a camera and part of some glasses. We also found an almost full pack of Camel cigarettes in smokeable condition. We had also been finding numerous bones all over the island. The bones we suspected to be pig and sheep bones.

Island fox with mats on his back refused to look at me for his photo op

Island fox with mats on his back refused to look at me for his photo op

G with Island Fox

G with Island Fox

I was actually surprised by how little trash there was on the island overall, but we still managed to find enough to stress our small daypacks. (We didn’t take any bones but left those where they were.) Before we packed the trash all up we played with it and I decided it would be a waste if I didn’t smoke a cigarette. I lit one with the Jetboil flame and was immediately shocked by how disgusting it was. I think I forgot how gross cigarettes are. I took a drag but couldn’t bear to inhale any; it tasted like my chainsmoking grandma’s morning breath. I stubbed it out and packed it back with the other trash. G had no desire to try to smoke a cigarette, but we took some self timer photos posing with the cigarettes and other trash for fun.

Some of the trash we picked up off the beach on the Channel Islands.  We strove to leave the island and ocean cleaner than we found it.  Saving the world.

Some of the trash we picked up off the beach on the Channel Islands. We strove to leave the island and ocean cleaner than we found it. Saving the world.

Playing with trash we picked up on the beach

Playing with trash we picked up on the beach

We made backpacking dehydrated meals again with the Jetboil. G forgot her spoon and although I offered to share mine, she preferred to use a piece of a broken shell to eat soup and mashed potatoes with instead.

Gretchen eats soup for lunch with a seashell.

Gretchen eats soup for lunch with a seashell.

From the beach we headed past another building that used to be a part of the ranching operation on the island in the late 1800’s. We hiked up a trail called the yellow banks trail and enjoyed the views from there. We decided it would be nice to live there.

We hiked back to the campsite in the late afternoon and along the way discussed very important life topics, like having crushes on Bill Nye, the science guy. We also discussed having crushes on members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have had a crush on Anthony Kiedis since I was in high school, and G made me feel inferior for this, telling me that I had blindly went along with the masses. She made it clear that Flea was clearly the better choice. He is a good humanitarian, a musical soul, free spirit and caring person. Anthony Kiedis was just plain hot. G recognized this from the beginning, when I took over 15 years to see it. We also discussed other important topics like viewpoints on sailing a sailboat, how we clean the bathtub, and how to protect pigs from getting sunburned. Oh and I found out that G actually proposed to Bill Nye via email when she was in high school…. more proof that she is cooler than me.

I made G take my photo at Smuggler's Cove Beach attempting to live out my dream as a "Globetrekker"

I made G take my photo at Smuggler’s Cove Beach attempting to live out my dream as a “Globetrekker”

Hiking in the Channel Islands

Hiking in the Channel Islands

Back at camp we Jetboiled more dehydrated food. Another island worker, Brett, came over to talk to us. I don’t think Brett was a ranger, but he drove a golf cart. He came to ask us if we were kayaking and told us that someone left their kayaks on the beach in a poor location where they would have been taken out to sea in high tide. He didn’t seem pleased about it, but he was very friendly and chatted and joked with us and was very personable and pleasant. Ah, forget Ranger Cole, we were now fans of Brett. Brett was cool.

Scar came to visit us again at the campsite, eating tidbits of unknown items in the grass as he strolled around the area. We greeted him warmly, but didn’t attempt to feed him or approach him.

The next day we swam and hung out at the beach. The water was cold. Our ferry came to pick us up at 3:30pm to take us back to the mainland. We rode back with a class of elementary school kids on a field trip for the day. We sat on the upper level of the ferry while the kids were on the lower level. Neither G or myself are big fans of noisy children. On the way back was were greeted by a very large school of dolphins who decided to ride in the waves from our ferry. It was hands down the coolest group of dolphins I have ever seen and I was so happy as I watched them. There must have been more than 50 of them. The kids on the lower level of the ferry were so happy and I thought to myself that it must be an incredible experience for these kids to go to the island. It was an incredible experience for me!

 

Scorpion Beach, Santa Cruz Island

Scorpion Beach, Santa Cruz Island

 

Dolphins swim next to our ferry

Dolphins swim next to our ferry

 

We camped on the beach at Point Mugu State park south of Ventura for the night. The campsite was on the sand of the beach and we made a fire on the beach and cooked grilled cheese sandwiches in a mountain pie iron.

Our campsite on the beach south of Ventura

Our campsite on the beach south of Ventura

The next day we met up with another friend, Joyce, from vet school. I haven’t seen Joyce since 2009 and G hasn’t seen her since 2005. It was amazing to see her. We met her at a beach where she was surfing and we spotted her riding a wave in. It felt like a celebrity sighting!!

Our first celebrity sighting!  Joyce!!  Our super smart board certified specialist friend from L.A.  :)

Our first celebrity sighting! Joyce!! Our super smart and beautiful board-certified specialist friend from L.A. 🙂

The three of us went to the Getty Villa near Malibu and had fun looking at all of the antique and historical things there but had the most fun “petting” herbs in the herb garden. We went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant afterwards. It was so nice. G and I went to Santa Monica beach, muscle beach and the pier, it was really fun.

Mini Vet school reunion in L.A.

Mini Vet school reunion in L.A.

Then it was over. I had to take G back to the airport. I had such a fun time. I can’t wait for our next adventure. Looking forward to continuing adventures of the rugged bitches.

I want to choose happiness

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I can say that I was busy, but I suppose I didn’t make the time either. Over the summer I worked as a CEO (Chief Experience Officer, essentially a tour guide) leading overland tours through the U.S. and Canada for G Adventures. I was very busy. I met some absolutely amazing people and had some amazing experiences. I worked usually 17+ hours per day and was utterly exhausted for most of the summer. I drove a van/trailer and had to set up camp and teach passengers how to camp.  I researched areas where I was touring and found the best routes and stops between destinations. I often had to choose between taking a shower or calling my boyfriend. I only showered every 2-3 days and called my boyfriend less than that. My boyfriend hurt his back over the summer and I feel as though I jeopardized my relationship with him between not calling him often and not being able to come home right away when he hurt himself.

Overall working in the tourism industry was an interesting experience.  I truly did love meeting all of my passengers and getting to know them a little. It’s funny that when I went on tours I always figured that the tour guides probably wouldn’t remember me and I’d be lost in the sea of other tourists in their mind. For me that isn’t so.  I remember all of them.  Meeting all of them and the other amazing CEOs that were my colleagues over the summer was the absolute best part of the experience and I lucky to have had the opportunity. Now the summer is over.

I’m back at home. I have picked up some veterinary work since I have returned. I’m not excited about it, in fact I dread it. I dread it more than is likely reasonable to do so.

The bottom line is this: Working in the veterinary field makes me despise the human race; working the tourism industry gives me renewed faith in humanity.

I was sitting at home looking at the veterinary classifieds when I got a message from my friend, who is a veterinary technician.  Her message was as follows: “We had a lady call in saying her dog was bloated. When it came had to carry it on a gurney, because it was completely unable to walk due to a steak knife in its abdomen.  The lady stabbed her dog 3 times to relieve the gas. We took it to surgery, it was a complete cluster fuck.  We euthanized the dog this a.m. of course.”

That is only one example of the many things that make life in the veterinary field difficult. My friend’s text was a bitter reminder of the world I will re-enter if I go back into veterinary private practice. I had the urge to burn the classified ads that I was looking at.

I ended up picking up some work in a small clinic last week, filling in for a veterinarian on vacation, then I returned to looking in the veterinary classified ads. Today I found out that a prominent and talented veterinarian, Dr. Yin Continue reading

Off to New Adventure!

On Wednesday I am leaving for my next life adventure.  Well, first I’m headed to a wedding on the east coast, but then flying clear across the country and re-locating to San Francisco for the summer.  I will start my training to work as a tour guide for G Adventures on May 5th.  I have long wanted to do this and tried hard to get this job.  I’m very VERY excited.

I’ll be taking a break from veterinary medicine for the summer.  Good-bye veterinary medicine, for a while….  I’m definitely in need of a break from you.  Don’t go away mad, just go away.

I’ve been crazily studying the California Commercial Driver Handbook as I will be required to possess a Class B Commercial Driver’s License with a Passenger Endorsement for this position.  I will be leading tours throughout the U.S. and possibly Canada for the summer.  G Adventures caters to adventurous outgoing travelers and offers reasonably prices tours in a sustainable fashion.  I’ve been on three G Adventures tours before and I’d dare to say they changed my life.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with the company.

Provided I pass all of the training program, I’ll start leading tours around the beginning of June.  I don’t know my tour schedule yet, or which sections of the country I’ll be going through.  Most of the tours involve camping, hiking and other adventure, and they seem to focus on national parks and fun cities: right up my alley!!

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I’m planning on blogging periodic updates.

I’m so excited!

The Africa Diaries Entry #2: May 20, 2010

First day in Cape Town, South Africa!! I’m so happy to be here. It’s really cool. Today I went on a day tour of a township called Langa. It is a really poor area in the Cape Flats. It was an eye opening experience. A lot of people live in squalor and garbage and there are animals everywhere. The government does provide fresh water, so that is good. I saw a pre-school there and got to meet some children. They were so happy and they loved having visitors. Even though I’m generally not fond of children, the kids were so happy that they made me smile and they made me happy too. They liked to pose and to get their picture taken and then look at it on the camera screen afterward. I gave a tiny girl my sunglasses.

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After visiting the township I went to an apartheid museum and it was quite sobering and interesting. Then I went to visit Robben Island, which was also very interesting. People were isolated on the island for having diseases like leprosy and prisoners were also kept there. Nelson Mandela was a prisoner on Robben Island for 18 years. I got to see Mandela’s prison cell. The tour of the island was led by ex-prisoners and it was a really interesting tour.

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Mandella's prison cell

Mandela’s prison cell

Inside Mandella's Prison Cell

Inside Mandela’s Prison Cell

 

I met a girl named Alex who did the same overland tour as I am about to do, only starting in Nairobi and ending in Cape Town, she loved it, and told me it was amazing. I’m excited.

I’ve been trying to determine if water truly does circle the drain clockwise instead of counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. I can’t tell so far. The toilet water doesn’t really circle the drain so much as go straight down in my hotel room. Yesterday I took a bath and tried to watch the water go down, I still couldn’t tell. Again, it just seemed to go straight down. The water that comes out of the tap here is yellowish. It felt a little strange laying in a tub of yellow water, but the temperature was nice and I just ignored it. Before I let the water out I peed just to see if I could even tell there was urine in the water. I couldn’t tell. It was fun.

Tomorrow I will go on a hike and bike tour and I signed up for cage diving with sharks the day after that – yikes!!

The weather is really good and I like it here.

The Africa Diaries Entry #1: May 19, 2010

During 2010 I toured through Africa.  I kept a detailed journal.  I plan to share it, this was my first entry.

May 19, 2010

I’m in a hotel room in Cape Town, South Africa.  It’s taken over a day and approximately 23 hours of actual flight time to get here.  The flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis was fine.  From Minneapolis to Amsterdam was torture- crying baby, old guy telling war stories, young guy next to me invading my personal space and no leg room.  Flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town was surprisingly enjoyable.  I sat next to a young man named Will who is staying in Cape Town for 6 weeks to help arrange micro-loans for women.  Also next to a young woman named Desiree who is volunteering with horses, children and rhino tracking in Namibia.

As the plane landed my heart began to beat faster.  I have long wanted to travel to Africa, and now I’m finally here.  I was so happy as I got off the plane and my feet touched African soil for the first time.

I was picked up by a guy from the gap adventures tour company and brought to the Saasveld Lodge on Kloof Street in Cape Town.  It’s night so I haven’t seen much yet.  The city seems cool.  People drive on the left.  The city is extremely excited about the world cup this summer.  I won’t be here for it.  I’m taking a tour of Robben Island tomorrow.  I’m so excited.  I need to sleep now.

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(at the hotel after incredibly long travel time)

Ran my first 5K. Didn’t Die. Life is Beautiful!

 

 

 

Today I ran my first 5K event ever!  Being able to finish a 5K race without stopping has been on my “bucket list” for a long time.   Today I achieved this goal.  Today was a good day and I’m very happy! 

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I have always felt as though I was never a good runner, by this I mean that I never managed to run very fast or very far.  I was planning to take running more seriously last year, and I actually agreed to train for a half marathon in January with my friend Jordana.  But as fate would have it I broke my foot the morning after making the pact to run the half marathon.  I broke my foot in August of 2013, and the healing process has been long and slow.  My foot is mostly healed now (it still hurts a little, but I can do almost everything on it.)  In December I signed up to run the 5K course in the Sedona Marathon Event with some friends, and I decided that I’d walk the course if I have to, but I would at least try to run it.  

I trained for the event by running around in my neighborhood as my foot would tolerate it.  My goal each time I ran was to run as far as I could without stopping.  At first I couldn’t run much more than a mile, but I improved as time went on.  Earlier this week I actually ran 3.7 miles (a little over 5K) without stopping.  That was the farthest I have ever ran without stopping in my whole entire life.  I know that it may not be much to some people, but I was very proud.  

I felt confident that if the race was flat and at sea level that I could finish, but in Sedona, I wasn’t so sure.  Sedona has much higher altitude and it also has hills.  As a bonus added challenge to my goal, I have also been fighting a cold over the past two days.  I decided that I’d try to do my best anyway and see how it goes.  

Today the race started at 9:15am.  Me and three friends, Eric, Jordana and Carolyn, all carpooled up to Sedona last night and spent the night at a cute, locally run motel.  We woke up early this morning and had a light breakfast and then went down to the race.  

The “Sedona Marathon Event” consisted of a marathon, a half marathon, a 10K race and a 5K race.  Everyone who had registered in the race got a t-shirt and a “bib” with a number.  The bibs were color coated for the four different races, and every runner needed to pin their bib on their clothes in a visible location on the front part of their body.  

The full marathon started at 9am and everyone in the race had to herd themselves into a “corral” in front of the starting line before the race started.  At nine o’clock the runners for the marathon began their race.  Immediately the half marathoners corralled themselves at the starting line and their race began at 9:05am.  The 10K racers started at 9:10am and then me and my friends and the other 5K racers shuffled into the corral like cattle and waited until we could go at 9:15am.  

At the start of the race, I was jammed pretty much at the back of the corral and had to walk for the first few yards just because it was so crowded, but by the time I made it to the official starting line it was less crowded and I was able to jog at a slow pace.  There was a large mix of people in this race and the backdrop of the scenery of Sedona was very beautiful.  It was about 45 degrees fahrenheit and it felt quite cold.  

I concentrated on jogging a slow and steady pace that I thought I could maintain longterm in order to not ever walk or stop if I could help it.  There was a large variety of runners in the 5K.  Fit young adults were running, old people were running, disabled people were running, teenagers were running, even kids were running.  Little kids who had entered the race with their parents ran excitedly as moms and dads ran more steadily after them.  Some people were running with strollers.  Some people were wearing shirts or signs stating that they were running for cancer, or running for a loved one, or running some other cause.  I wondered what my cause was.  What was I running for?  I never really thought about a cause: just good health, I guess.  Yeah, that seems like a pretty good cause.  

My friends Eric and Jordana ran ahead of me pretty quickly, and they briefly looked back at me as though they expected me to keep up with them.  Yeah right!  Jordana kept the pact that she made back in August to train for the half marathon, and she ran it and finished it last month, and Eric, well…  Eric is a guy.  Eric entered today’s 5K on a whim.  He doesn’t even own jogging pants, and he was running the race in hiking pants.  I, however, did not for one second think that I would be able to keep up with Eric.  In all of my past experiences participating in active sports with guys, I have found that they annoying do great even if they don’t train, and they usually do better than me, even if I trained my ass off.  I supposed he would have no troubles in this race.  Of course he didn’t have any troubles, and he seemed to breeze through it, even beating Jordana to the finish line in the end.  My friend Carolyn ran more at my pace, which was nice for me, not that I really felt like I required a running partner.  For me the race was more about my own personal goals.  

The layout of the course for the 5K was sort of a circle.  The start and the finish line were in the same place.  The course ran down a paved path and then merged with the main highway.  After a short way along the highway, the course turned left onto a side road.  After a stretch on the side road, the course doubled back on itself at a turnaround point, and then turned right onto another road that circled through a hilly neighborhood.  After circling the neighborhood, the course headed back along the original path to the start/finish line.  

Along the first section I was getting passed by all sorts of people.  I got passed by old people, I got passed by people who appeared athletic, I got passed by people who did not appear athletic, I got passed by kids overflowing with energy, and I got passed by people pushing strollers.  I got passed by super skinny, 20-something year old girls, whose legs were so tiny I wondered how they carried themselves.  

By the point of the race where the course turns onto the side road, the shear numbers of people passing me seemed to decline.  The super high energy levels of some of the children were starting to visibly fade.  One kid lost his shoe and limped backwards along the course towards it.  Another girl, approximately 8 years old, sat crying with a skinned knee on the side of the road.  Two boys who looked 12 years old had stopped and were doubled over and panting, and another boy who looked 10 years old announced to his mom that this was really hard and he was going to run really fast so he could just get it over with.  

I kept up my slow and steady jogging pace and I began to pass up hoards of exhausted kids.  I also started passing several people who had begun to walk.  I made it to the turnaround point and doubled back.  Generally, people everywhere seemed happy.  There were people standing along the sidelines of the course cheering on the runners: “Good job, nice work, looking good” etc.  It started to seem warmer and the sun was shining and the day was really beautiful.  The views of the surrounding area and the big red rocks of Sedona were gorgeous.  I was actually enjoying myself.  

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The course took a turn and went into the hilly neighborhood.  It went up a fairly steep hill.  I kept jogging, at a very slow pace, however I didn’t stop, and I didn’t slow to a walk either.  I passed several more people on the hill.  I found that I was one of the few people in my vicinity actually jogging up the hill and not walking, and it made me feel proud.   I passed the skinny legged girls on the way up the hill.  I had had my suspicions that their legs couldn’t really take them very far and now I was glad to know that I was correct.  

I made it up the hill, and by then Carolyn was behind me; she had to stop at a “porta potty.”  I didn’t want to wait for her because I was on a mission to see if I could finish without stopping or walking.  

People continued to cheer me and all the runners on.  I passed water stations without getting any, because I was worried it would break my pace.  I didn’t think I was skilled enough to jog and drink water at the same time, and I usually didn’t drink water on my practice runs at home anyway.  The downhill part of the course through the neighborhood was really nice.  I passed a boy and his dad; the dad was telling the boy that we were about 2/3 of the way done.  I actually felt pretty good.  I thought maybe I was going to make it.  I was amazed that I felt so good.  My foot was doing really well, although it was a little stiff, and my lungs were actually doing ok too!  

During the last third of the race I was passing numerous people who were walking, and it felt good to be passing people instead of them all passing me.  It was a nice feeling to know that some of the people who had smoked past me earlier couldn’t actually keep up that pace the entire time.  It made me feel more normal.  

It was really nice to see all the different people running the race.  It was inspiring to see people of different physical abilities working toward their own goals!  It was nice to know that my goal of running a 5K wasn’t necessarily a small goal, and although I sometimes felt like it, I wasn’t the “last person on the planet” to do it.  

As I rounded the last corner of the course, I saw the finish line in the distance and started to run faster toward it.  I felt really good.  I never would have guessed that I would actually HAVE FUN running a 5K, but I was having fun.  I was actually really enjoying myself.  I sprinted toward the finish line and felt so happy to know that I was completing another one of my “bucket list” items.  A group of people at the finish line were handing out medals to people, and a woman handed me a medal for finishing the race.  I thought maybe this was in error; I thought perhaps she thought I was finishing the 10K instead of the 5K.  Surprised, I asked her “I get a medal for running the 5K?” and she responded “Of course you do, good job!”  It was so cool, and it was nice to know that others understood how important these personal goals can be!  It may seem small to some people, but it is a big goal to those who have never done it before.  

It’s funny, now that I have checked “running a 5K” off my bucket list, I still don’t feel “done.”  Now that it’s crossed off, I think I might add “running a 10K” onto the list.