“Look at me…I’m a pretzel!”

Happy New Year, folks!!

New Year’s represents a new beginning for many.  A fresh start.  Reformed goals.  Reenergized ambitions and targeted resolutions.  It is an exciting time and can serve as a fresh slate.  It is also a time to reflect on the past year.

Snapshot of van life, from this summer’s 10 weeks, 1 campervan.

2016 was a phenomenal year for us.  As to be expected, we experienced the ups, downs, and quick twists and turns that life throws at us to keep things interesting.   As I reflect on it all, however, the last 12 months carried an evident theme.   A theme of learning.  I love trying new things and mastering a variety of different skills.  But this year was especially loaded with “new” for me.  From mastering my trad and alpine climbing technique, to learning to fly on a mountain bike, I have enjoyed reflecting on my progress in these pursuits — and then giving myself a few pats on the back.

Frankly?  I am not good at high-fiving myself.  My bar is always rising, my goals always lofting above.  Now, I believe it is good for goals to change as skills/ambitions/progress are made.  But, these goals must be attainable and little victories celebrated.  As both a blessing and a curse, I have always had high standards and expectations for myself.  I have always tried striving for BETTER.  Yet, little victories in my climbing, running, biking, skiing?  Sometimes have just not been enough.

With this year being full of new and rediscovered experiences and skills, I have had to reacquaint myself with the process of learning and celebrating little victories.  After nearly five years of mastering trail running, training, and racing hard, I, in many ways, forgot how to enjoy the process.  The process of taking longer to prep for whatever activity, losing skin, bruising, falling, crashing, shedding tears, making sloppy turns, and just trying to keep up.

It was damn hard reunion with ‘the process’.

Over the holidays, Eric and I traveled to Puerto Vallarta where I had the pleasure of being out of my element once more before year’s end — we went scuba diving!  Growing up on shallow creeks, rivers and calm lakes in Iowa did not help in preparation for this.  Submerging myself 40 feet underwater was, ugh, slightly unnerving for me!  Eric has dove over 150 times, being a certified diver.  He reassured me it was easy and that I just needed to relax, relating to how I calmly breathe when I run up mountain passes.  I did just that, and what I saw was incredible.  While the water was slightly murky due to rough tides, the huge school of fish, stingrays, starfish, and many other species from Finding Nemo, were enchanting and brought me back to the days I wanted to be a mermaid and dance with dolphins.  It was a blast!  I was having so much fun trying new things in PV, that I thought I would also try food poisoning out for good measure.

Our dive site, Los Arcos.

Our return to Breckenridge was short-lived.  With the massive winter break and tourist crowd overrunning our home, we decided to head to Crested Butte, located about three hours southwest of Breckenridge, for a New-Years-backcountry-skiing-extravaganza.  Four days full of fun, friends, touring, beautiful weather, and soft, amazing powder!

But, don’t let me fool you.  I am far from an expert when it comes to the backcountry, and skiing for that matter.  It only took Eric and I skiing together once before I realized I had been taught to ski entirely wrong.  And then throw in the backcountry skills you must know – how to read terrain, mitigate and analyze avalanche risk, use your beacon, probe, slope meter, avy shovel, and more.

And so continues the process of learning.

Eric, skiing Coney’s, Crested Butte.  Photo: Matt Madsen.

The process can be trying at times.  After a few days of touring and skiing in powder, the last day was most tiring.  As Eric and I traversed through some tight trees and slopes, my exhausted and clumsy legs gave out.  I carelessly caught my ski tips in hard snow, falling, and landing in a tangled mess.  I laughed at myself before trying to stand up again. Eric laughed too, before he realized I was having a very hard time getting my drained body back on its feet.  I got frustrated, saying, “Wow, this is embarrassing”. Eric responded in a loving and caring way, “Babe, why should you be embarrassed?”

I stopped, looked at him and said, “I mean, look at me…I’m a pretzel!”

That made us both laugh hysterically.  With Eric’s help, I was able to return upright and out of my mess, smoothly skiing back to our van.

As I have been reminded – when learning something new, everything is hard, sometimes harder than it feels like it should be.  Many times this year I have felt clumsy, weak, tired, slow, or simply incapable.  But with every day out and every continued ounce of determination, I got better at whatever I was working towards.  I improved.  I even had fun through moments of frustration, later telling humorous stories about that time I fell over standing still or turned myself into a human and ski pretzel.  The process is an adventure and certainly a journey.

My steady and unwavering constant in all of this year’s new adventures has been Eric.  Eric is my best friend, companion, teacher, and cheerleader.  He, most of all, has taught me to hug the hell out of that newbie frustration, and helped me rediscover the love of the journey.

It feels oh-so-good to be back in the thick of learning.  Goodness gracious, it is messy sometimes.  But it also is enlightening, helping me discover my strengths and new, unlimited possibilities.  Thanks, 2016, for throwing me back in the game.   After reflecting on all that we have accomplished and learned, Eric and I are very excited for what 2017 has in store.  The learning and adventuring is not stopping here.

Happy 2017 to you.  Here’s to lots of falling, crashing, bruising, bleeding, laughing — and dusting off and doing it alllllll again.

*Our ‘Photo Highlights’ page has been updated, watermarking at all!  Check the page out for additional photos of our fun.

One Comment on ““Look at me…I’m a pretzel!”

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