Category Archives: Nature

Glorious sunshine

We have finally been getting some unbelievably nice weather here in Wisconsin, and we have been taking advantage whenever we can. It has been in the 60’s with sunshine for several days in a row now, which basically feels like heaven. We have been playing in the yard, went running with the stroller (that is harder than I remember, though Kai is so big now that the stroller is easily pushing 60 lbs), and playing at the park.

Kai loves to find sticks on the ground, and once he has some good ones he carries them around indefinitely.

This kid loves being outside so much. Today after his nap he wanted to go outside immediately, forgoing his usual post-nap snack. It looks like it is going to stay nice out for the next week or so, which is awesome. There is nothing worse than having a day or two of nice teaser weather followed by a snowstorm (which I am aware might still happen, let’s not talk about it).

He contemplated the slide for a while, but didn’t end up going down. Last summer he had no fear about going down face first, he loved it. I think once he gets over the initial fear and tries it, he will love it this year as well.

So what else is new with Mr. Kai? Most notably, this kid is so incredibly vocal. He talks non-stop, and his vocabulary is growing every day. He is speaking in short 3-4 word sentences often, and he repeats absolutely everything we say. Everything. He can count to 10 by himself, knows his colors, and can identify tons of animals and make the corresponding sounds. He is like a little sponge, and continuously surprises me by saying something that he heard us say yesterday. He also sings nursery rhymes, which is pretty much the cutest. He doesn’t get nearly all of the words, but he gets the melody right and i can always tell which song he is singing. I guess the time he spends watching his nursery rhyme videos on youtube is paying off. Here is a video of him doing his animal flashcards:

Man, I love this kid. He is certainly a challenge at times, but aren’t all toddlers?


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Filed under Fun, Kai, Nature

Devil’s Lake Camping Trip

A couple of months ago, Steve and I decided we wanted to do one more camping trip this year. I have very fond memories of camping at Devil’s Lake when I was a kid, and I thought it would be beautiful to go in the fall. This past weekend we headed up on Friday evening. We got there around 6:30, checked into our site, and got set up. I don’t have any pictures of the first night because it was dark and I was trying to feed Kai a quick dinner while Steve was setting up the camper. It always takes a while to get everything set up, but we eventually did, and I think we put Kai to bed around 8:45 that night. He has always slept great in his pack n play and in the camper, which is awesome. Steve and I roasted weiners on the fire for a late night dinner because we are super classy like that. We followed it up with s’mores as camping law requires.

Saturday morning we all slept in a little bit (for me at least) and I think we all woke up around 7:30-7:45. I made pancakes in the camper and Kai and I ate them all up (Steve is not a breakfast person, which I will never pretend to understand).

After breakfast we all took a walk down to the camp store for a trail map.

Devil’s lake is surrounded by bluffs and is known for it’s awesome hiking trails. By the time we left for our first hike it was probably almost 10am. We decided to start at the north end (where we already were) and headed up the East Bluff Trail.

I carried Kai on my back because I knew I wanted Steve to carry him on our more difficult afternoon hike.

We stopped at a few look out points and snapped some photos. It was so pretty up there.

We didn’t hike too long because before long it was time for Kai to eat lunch and take a nap. We headed back to the campsite and I made Kai a sandwich. Kid loves dining al fresco.

Steve got to work setting up the new to us screen room on the camper. Not really necessary on this trip, but we wanted to try it out. Verdict – love it!

Kai went down for his nap, and Steve and I enjoyed a beer by the fire. Yes.

We also made pudgie pie sandwiches for lunch.

Kai slept for about an hour and a half and then he was ready to party. He loved walking around the campsite (and into the road, silly boy). Good thing we brought his cage play enclosure along.

For our afternoon hike, we drove around to the south shore of the lake to do the Balanced Rock Trail. Let me just say that since it has been years since I hiked this trail, I did not recall exactly how difficult and treacherous it is. Thank goodness Steve was carrying Kai and felt confident in his footing, because there is no way I would have felt comfortable with him on my back. The trail is all steep rock steps that are uneven and slippery, and some of them move. One wrong step or slip and you could literally tumble down the bluff.

On the way up we somehow missed the off chute of the trail that leads to the balanced rock itself. The views however, were amazing.

On the way back down we did find the balanced rock and stopped for a photo op.

I took this shot on the way back down so you can see how steep and technical the trail is.

Once we reached the bottom I stopped having a heart attack and spotted a giant rock that I knew I must pose atop of.

After the hike we stopped at the concession stand and I got ice cream, obviously. We let Kai loose to play on the playground there for a while before heading back to the camp site. I should have snapped a pic of the playground because it was pretty cool. Instead of wood chips, the ground was covered in ground up tires so it was nice and soft and bouncy.

Back at the campsite, I put Kai in his snuggly suit because it was kind of cold and windy, and because it is adorable. I made him a quesadilla for dinner which he would not touch (even though it is one of his favorite foods at home).

Kai was pretty worn out and I think he went to bed around 7:30 this night. Steve and I made tacos for dinner and sat by the campfire. The wind was a little ridiculous and was blowing the smoke every which way, but we finally figured out where to put our chairs to get the least amount of smoke in our faces. I practically fell asleep in my camp chair before calling it a night. I slept horribly this night due to the wind being obnoxiously loud and a pole above our bed in the camper falling on me no less than five times (yes, the parts have already been ordered to fix this little problem for next time). Kai was up around 7am Sunday morning, and I made pancakes again. We all felt lazy and hung out in the camper for a long time before getting motivated to start packing up. Kai made himself useful in rearranging one of the cabinets.

I chased Kai around the campsite while Steve popped the camper down.

Turns out our little man is very handy like his Daddy and helped get the trailer hooked up, no problem.

We tried to stop at the nature center on the way out because I thought Kai would enjoy it, but turns out it was 300 yards straight up a steep trail from the parking lot. After all of our hiking the day before, Steve vetoed that plan immediately. It turned out ok, because Kai was asleep with in three minutes of leaving the park.

And with that, Claudette is safely stored away, ready for the camping adventures that await us next year.


Filed under Family, Fun, Nature, Travel

Camping at Pinewoods

Saturday night we took Kai camping for the first time. We recently upgraded our pop up camper, and wanted to try it out at least once before our annual weeklong camping trip to Door County in August. We packed up, stopped at the grocery store for supplies, and made the 25 minute drive to check in at Pinewoods campground around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon.

We brought Kai’s walker along not thinking he would really be able to get around much on the dirt and gravel, but he was immediately driving that thing all over the campsite without too much trouble at all. He was very helpful in making sure Daddy was properly setting up the camper.

As Steve was finishing all of the set up, I gave Kai his dinner. Dining al fresco is his favorite.

We still had a little more setting up to do in the camper, so we made use of a Friday night rummage sale purchase.

It’s a plastic play enclosure, and we just spread out some blankets underneath. Kai loved it. He was busy with his toys in there for quite some time, and his favorite thing to do was pull up on the sides and let go, seeing how long he could stand all by himself and how much he could impress his parents.

Steve made a fire that we got to enjoy for a few minutes before Kai’s bedtime.

A little after 7pm, we got Kai ready for bed. He only took one nap this day, so he was extremely tired, but he never got crabby like he would have at home. Kid LOVES to be outside, and I hope he never outgrows that. We made his bottle and heated it in a pot of water on the stove. His sleeping arrangement was a pack n play up on the platform for one of the beds in the camper. We took the king mattress off and doubled up mattresses on our side, so the pack n play sat directly on the wooden bottom. He also had a curtain that blocked off his sleeping area from the rest of the camper. I failed at taking a photo of the set up, but it was kind of like he had his own little bedroom. We brought his white noise machine, and hoped that it would stay on all night without killing the battery. I gave him his bottle and read him some stories, then zipped him into his sleep sack and put him in bed, hoping for the best. He immediately cried when I closed the curtains and left, but it only lasted a minute or so and he was quiet. We could hear him moving around for a little bit, and he was out.

Steve and I enjoyed sitting by the fire, then we cooked our gourmet dinner of weiners and potato chips over the fire (the weiners, not the potato chips). Of course no campfire would be complete without s’mores, which we had as well. It got a little bit chilly outside, and I was worried that it was getting too cold in the camper, so Steve went in and turned on the furnace. When he turned it on, it ended up killing the sound machine (something about the inverter blah blah whatever). I was a little worried about Kai staying asleep since he is used to having the sound machine all night, but there’s nothing we could do about it if we wanted heat.

Kai cried a few times in the night, but never enough to warrant checking on him or even making him aware that we were in the camper with him. He made some noise around 5:30am and I thought he was up for the day, but he went back to sleep and the same thing happened at 6:30. It started raining pretty hard (and it was loud!) around this time, and we could not believe that he went back to sleep. He officially woke for the day at 7:20, which would be seriously sleeping in at home. Since it was raining, we hung out in the camper for a while.

Also since it was raining, Steve and I tested out the toilet in the camper (yes, our pop up has a toilet and shower) to avoid walking to the pit toilets with an umbrella. I gave Kai his breakfast, and around 9:30 it was done raining. We decided to go for a hike with the stroller. Our campsite backed up to the Scuppernong hiking trails, which I have run many times.

The BOB did a great job off roading, even on the hilly rocky sections.

Kai fell asleep during our hike, and when we got back to the campsite I kept walking with him so he could continue his slumber while Steve started packing up. He slept for about 40 mins, a nice little morning nap.

We finished packing up, and once again Kai was very helpful with the trailer.

Though it was a short trip, I deem it a total success. Kai seemed to really love being out at the campsite, and the pop up was great. We even made a list of a few things we need to get for it before our big trip in August. I am hoping we can find another weekend to go camping before then, but that may prove difficult with all that is going on in the summer. Either way, I can’t wait for our trip this year, which will be Kai’s first week long camping experience.




Filed under Family, Nature, Travel

Ocean breeze

What a week! In short, I ran my highest mileage ever including a 34 mile trail run, worked, prepared to go on vacation, and drove for 20 hours to the Outer Banks in NC, which will be our home for the next seven days. Here is our back yard:

Let’s back up. Saturday morning there was a group build up training run for the Ice Age 50. It was slated to start at 7:30, but I opted to meet up with three other guys bright and early at 6am to hit the trail. I figured the earlier I got done running, the earlier I was on vacation. I ended up running 34 miles and felt fantastic. We took it slow, and I made sure to eat a ton of food as an experiment for race day. Things I ate during the six hour run include 2 PB Gu’s, 1 Tangerine PowerGel, 1 apple pie Larabar, peanut butter pretzel nuggets, pretzel M&M’s, and roasted potatoes. I never thought I would be able to stomach all of that while running, but I did it with no problems and never bonked at all. That run brought my total to just shy of 90 miles in 7 days. I am feeling confident for the 50 mile race in three weeks, especially because Saturday’s run was on the race course.

Right after the run I came home, showered, finished packing, and Steve and I were on the road. We drove straight through to North Carolina in about 20 hours to meet his family. It was raining when we got in and we couldn’t check into our house yet, so we stopped for lunch. I thought it appropriate to kick off vacation right with a big glass of sangria.

Now we are relaxing on the couch enjoying the ocean breeze and the sounds of the surf.

And later tonight…hot tub!

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Filed under Fun, Nature, The run, Travel

On slowing down

I have spent the past few years developing myself into a faster runner. I shaved 18 minutes off of my marathon time, ran Boston, and completed some speedy 5k and 10k races. I was able to hit paces that I never thought possible. I found myself wondering how much faster I could be, and excited to find out.

Then I signed up for a 50 mile race. I am finding day by day that high-mileage training and speed do not go hand in hand, in fact quite the opposite is true. Last week I hit an all-time high of 67 miles. That’s not a lot for some serious runners out there, but it is for me. Broken down:

Monday – easy 7 mile trail run on a snowy trail

Tuesday – group run, 6 miles easy

Wednesday – 8 miles hilly, faster pace

Thursday – 10 miles flat, faster pace

Friday – rest

Saturday – 15.5 miles very slow with the group I coach

Sunday – 20 mile trail run slow and incredibly difficult

Come Monday, I ran a 5 mile recovery run and couldn’t even break a 9 min mile. My body was tired, my legs exhausted. Could I get by with running fewer miles? Yes, I’m sure I could. But I am experimenting right now to find out what my body can handle. If I continue to feel abnormally run down, I will cut it back. I have a feeling that after a couple of weeks I will begin to adapt. In any case, I have learned to embrace the slow.

During my 20 mile trail run on Sunday, I knew from the beginning that I would be out there a long time.

It was a beautiful day with temperatures warming into the 60’s, so I decided to take my time, walk when I felt like it, and enjoy the run. When I took the pressure off of myself and ignored my pace, I felt freedom. Though I had my ipod with me in case I needed a little pick-me-up, I never took it out of my pack. I took in the scenery,

made friends with some giant birds,

scared them away by getting too close,

and finally ran into a snowy/icy section of trail that forced me to turn around a little early.

By the time I returned to my car I had been out on the trail for 3 hours and 40 minutes. That is 20 miles at 10:50/mile average pace. Translation: it was a long run. But it actually went by faster than some of my 20 mile road runs at nearly an hour faster. I am loving the trails, the time to myself, the scenery, the animals, even the mud. Something about the woods just makes the miles pass by without much thought. I know that someday I will be itching to get my speed back, but this is what feels real to me right now.

“The farther you go outside, the farther you go inside.” -Unknown



Filed under Nature, The run

Last day on the mountain

It’s hard to believe the week is over and we are returning to Wisconsin today. Of our four days out on the mountain, the last one (Friday) was the best. It was beautifully sunny and not terribly cold. We started bright and early and hopped on the gondola.

One of my favorite things to do is go out to breakfast on top of the mountain, and we usually do it once a year.

After taking one more lift chair up, we were at the top and ready to eat. The special of the day was banana pancakes, which made ordering for me a no brainer.

Let’s take a closer look.

They were thick, fluffy, and packed with bananas. You better believe there was not a bite left on that plate. Gotta carb up for a full day of snowboarding, right?

After breakfast, we did a few groomed runs before deciding to hike up to a run called Long Shot one last time. As the name implies, the run is about 5 miles long and un-groomed. When there’s powder, it is my favorite run. The view from the top is amazing.

We stayed out riding until the lifts were ready to close, taking full advantage of our last day.

Picnic table in the middle of the mountain? Don’t mind if I do.

Ah, I can never get over how beautiful it is in the mountains.

Until next year…

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Filed under Food, Fun, Nature, Travel

Glacial Trail 50k

October 9th, 2011

I have no feelings of nervousness for this race. No expectations. Driving in the dark I am calm, indifferent. The race starts and I am chatting with friends, joking around. I know these trails will be tough, but my head tells me thirty-one miles will be no problem. It could not be a more perfect day. Unseasonably warm, summer melting into fall. The fallen leaves, the brilliant colors, and a cool bite underneath the mild breeze are the only signs of October.

I run easy, stepping carefully over rocks and roots. There are constant obstacles hidden by the leaves, constant opportunities to succumb to the trail. I walk up the steep hills, saving energy. My pace is steady, slow, even. I try to take in the beauty of these woods, to breathe in the trees, the ancient landscape. A few close calls and I realize it is nearly impossible to take my eyes off of the trail.

I hit the turnaround feeling great. I feel like I can pick up the pace, finish strong. Fifteen miles seems like nothing. A few minutes later it hits. My stomach which has been on the verge of iffy all day twists itself into knots, my intestines wringing, cramping. I know I will not be able to continue to fuel. My pace slows as the pain fluctuates between tolerable and so sharp that I am forced to a sudden halt.

I sip as much fluid as I can tolerate, but I can feel the energy draining from my legs. Picking my feet up off the ground becomes a struggle. My hips strain with every step, my knees ache. Miles twenty through twenty-five are the worst. At twenty-two, the trail wins and I go down. I want to cry. I tell myself to get a grip, to keep moving forward.

I reach the last aide station and refill my water bottle. Time to regroup. Seven miles to go. I tell myself to suck it up, this is nothing. I swear there are twice as many rocks on the trail now, the hills twice as steep. Relentlessly rugged. With two miles to go I am back on even ground. It is such a mental relief to not have to focus on every step. I am able to pick up the pace to the finish. I see friendly faces right away and can’t help but smile. We recount the race, everyone with their own stories to tell. As soon as it’s over, the pain begins to fade. It always does. We forget about the hard parts and remember it as just another beautiful day in the woods. This is why I run.

Time: 5:09:44

3rd Place Female


Filed under Nature, Races, The run