Nature

95521308_10219588833844791_3710056259966205952_nMarch 25 the stay-at-home order took effect by Gov. Tony Evers and was extend through May 26. Stay-at-home does not mean quarantine. Thank goodness, nature is not closed!

Nature has been my salvation for my body, mind and soul. I have discovered incredible parks, hiking trails, lakes and wildlife all within 30 minutes of my home.

Most weekends, I would Google, “Dane County Parks” and then randomly pick a new place to explore. Being in the parks also gives me a sense of closeness to our participants at Operation Fresh Start.

To know the trail I am on, the boardwalk I am walking over, the beautiful flowers in bloom were created by the hands of our young people.

I have a new appreciation of our parks and all the staff, volunteers and our crews, who keep them looking beautiful for the public to enjoy!

Here is a list of parks I have visited so far:

  • Viking County Park
  • Lake Kegonsa State Park
  • Indian Lake County Park
  • Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area.
  • Prairie Moraine Park
  • Donald Park
  • Dane County Park Tenney Locks

It is hard to pick a favorite because they all have their unique charm.  So far, I would have to say Indian Lake County Park is my favorite. The blue loop is a good physical hike to get the blood flowing. There is the cutest little chapel at the top of an overlook of Indian Lake that makes all the stairs you have to climb worth it. Across the road from the main entrance, is another park – Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area.  Really cool old barn and home that is still standing.

On my hikes, I pack my camel back with water, snacks and a good book. I like to hike awhile and then find a scenic spot to stop, eat my snacks and read my book. There have been times the sun would feel so good on my face and I would close my eyes and fall asleep on the bench I was sitting on.

Being in nature has helped me appreciate this slower pace we are in. As most of you know, I don’t let any grass grow under these feet, but since my social butterfly wings have been clipped, I am finding comfort in the quiet.

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I AM an Iron-Volunteer!

Ironman 2014 is where I fell in love with the city of Madison, and now one year later it was crazy to think, I live here. All summer long, I looked forward to Ironman 2015.  No, I am not an athlete participating, I am a cheerleader and volunteer.  It takes 3,700 volunteers to support the almost 3,000 athletes who have spent the last year training for one goal – to cross the finish line and hear their name “You are an Ironman”.

The swim wave goes off at 7am, so at 6:15am, I pedal my cruiser down the Capital City Trail to the swim start near the Monona Terrace. It was a perfect day for Ironman. The water was calm, the sunrise was beautiful, and by the excitement and energy of the crowd, it was hard to believe it was only 6:30am.

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Beautiful sunrise over Lake Monona.

IMG_20150913_065931238_HDR7:00am the horn sounded and off they go to swim 2.4 miles. I had a few friends from Green Bay participating again this year, so I met their support crew on the helix to wait and watch. This is probably one of my favorite spectating spots. The crowds are crazy loud – a mixture of cowbells, air horns and mega phones. Most of the athletes at this point are smiling as they are running up the helix because they made it — one down, bike and run to go.

As a spectator and volunteer, you must also pace yourself. The cut off time is midnight for the athletes and I planned to be their to cheer on the last person crossing the finish line. My friend, Toni and I took a pit stop to The Old Fashioned. After a good carbo load of eggs, potatoes and bloody marys, we where ready to cheer on the lead athletes as they made their way back from the 112 mile bike course and start the 26.2 mile run.

Toni and I for two hours cheered on all the athletes as they came through the run out. At 2:00pm, it was my turn to perform.  I was volunteering at the aid station on State and Lake Street. The city streets now a criss cross of runners as the looped around the city of Madison.  As I got to my aid station, I was seeing some of the runners I saw as they where just starting the run. My station was mile 6.5 and the athletes also passed again at mile 20.

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We had two stations on each side of the road handing out first water, then Gatorade, ice chips, coke and sponges. At first when you get there the station is a little crazy, but then you find your role and begin. I was handing out water on the second loop, so after they passed me they had 6.2 to go to the Capitol. You start to recognize these faces and outfits – Guy with pink tutu, fireman running in his gear and tank, friends with double dare t-shirts, a visually impaired women tethered to her running guide and I hoped I could see them at the finish and fulfill their dream of becoming an Ironman.

I had completed my volunteer role at 7:00 pm and now I was headed to the finish line and meet back up with my friend Toni. We stood and watched the runners go by – one side of the street they had 1/2 a mile to complete their Ironman journey – the other side they still had a 1/2 marathon to go.

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Magical view with the Capitol in the background.

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One by one, I saw my friends getting close to their dream – Cooch, Andy and Mike cheering them on for that last 1/2 mile.  Toni and I then moved to the finish line. It was after 9pm but the bleachers and crowds surrounding the finish chute was incredible. We squeezed our way onto the bleachers and there we stood and cheered for the next three hours. The best part of the Ironman was the last half hour. A second announcer goes down in the finish shoot and as the athletes cross they get the crowd into cheering for each one —  “You Are an Ironman”.  It was incredible to again see those faces I have become so familiar with cross that line – the pink tutu, the friends going across holding hands, the visually impaired runner and with 13 minutes to spare Fireman Rob.

I have never witnessed an event that is so filled with emotion and that is why I love being a part of this event and many other endurance events – true test of the human spirit at its finest! The reaction and emotion on the athletes face as they cross that line also brought tears to my eyes. As I watched I also thought why can’t we support everyone in life the way myself and these crowds are supporting each of these athletes? Think how different our world would be.

20150913_142824_resizedI might not be an Ironman, but I am an Iron – Volunteer for life!!!