A guest post and surprise from my wife, Krista, on our 10th anniversary today. Our love story…running through life, step by step together.
I woke up early to start my last coffee shop shift and went about the routine of mixing muffins and grinding coffee beans. I had graduated from college several months prior and been enjoying a summer at my family’s cabin on 100 acres of farm country and midwest forest – I called it my hermitage where I grew a huge garden, read countless books in a hammock, ran on soft forested trails and enjoyed being surrounded by continuous aromas of coffee.
I can visually, physically, emotionally remember the moment that he walked inside the door. The sun was bursting in through the windows in a blinding morning light and I could only make out his shaggy silhouette. My heart dropped into my stomach with instant butterflies and intense beating pulsating throughout my body and in that very instant I knew that I was in love and I would marry this man. All at once, he turned my life upside down or right side up and I knew I was home. I will admit that I am a hopeless romantic and I had always dreamed of a cute meet but it was always more of a fairytale concept and I did not actually believe that it happened in real life but it did for me.
He confidently strode up to the counter and ordered three drinks – a black coffee, a fruit smoothie and a hot chocolate. One of my favorite entertainments at the café was sizing up people by their orders – more than once these burly strong Wisconsin farmers would come in and order a caramel latte with an extra shot of vanilla and hazelnut, which always made me smile. I love that everyone is their own unique self with all sorts of wonderful idiosyncrasies. I am an avid black coffee drinker, who makes coffee that my dad claims is darker than a sailor brews, as in if there are some gritty grinds mixed in the bottom, that’s how I like it. Being that I met my husband in a coffee shop, of course he ordered the black coffee! He drank coffee with me for one week before admitting that it wreaks havoc on his stomach….and that he had actually ordered the fruit smoothie. Well I still love him…and it makes me giggle a little but truth be told, he a fruit smoothie kinda guy.
In that short conversation we covered many key topics – he talked about coaching cross-country and I mentioned running a few half-marathon races each year. We both dreamed about opening up a coffee shop (the current shop was for sale) and talked about how fun it would be to create your own place like this café combining good food, drinks and community. As I made his drinks, each topic we covered was close to my heart and it just naturally flowed. But there was a line of people behind him and after I handed over the last drink, he left and we both set about our days.
He went back to his dad’s hardware store across the street and told him, “I’ve met a girl…and I think I need to go back for lunch to ask her out.” I called my best friend all, giddy and said that I had thought I had met “the one”. I had made sure to mention it was my last day at work and thought maybe, just maybe he would come back in that day.
Tim lived in an apartment on the same block of the coffee shop two doors down but had never came in that summer. He had been on an epic road trip west where he fell in the love with the mountains and found himself after some trying years prior. This road trip was probably the biggest turning point of his life where he found a steady pace in trail running that saved him and would continue to provide a grounding rhythm in his life. During his several months on the road, he hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and made it all the way west to San Diego to look out at the vast ocean. I had actually graduated from college in San Diego the month before and he literally walked down the street I had lived on just a few weeks prior. After graduating, I went on a road trip from San Diego back to Wisconsin, where we literally drove across the country during the same days, in complete opposite directions. I also walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon but again just a week prior to Tim. We both crossed the country brief moments apart, both exploring this beautiful earth through hiking and running adventures through the mountains.
Back to the coffee shop, on my last day of work, the lunch rush came on and I was busy in the back kitchen preparing sandwiches and salads when there he was, back behind the counter to talk to me. He was a complete mess from his day at the hardware store where he’d been blacktopping a driveway but said, “I know I don’t look like much, but I clean up well. Would you like to go out with me tonight?” And that was it. From every day after, we spent every moment together.
That day when we met, I was wearing a long orange flowing skirt with a scarf tied in my long slightly wavy hair. Tim thought he’d met the hippy girl he’d always dreamed about…which is comical as I’m anything but. I’m a type-A, happiest caffeinated and multi-taking, go-getter type of person. On the flipside, I had always thought I’d marry a preppy businessman and live a metropolitan type of life. Tim is a chill yet passionate hippy, happiest barefoot and shirtless in nature on an easy-going wandering sort of day. Neither of us found the person we had been looking for but both ended up with exactly where we needed to be. Tim’s free spirit challenges me to live a little more wild and my focused determination helps give him a little more direction.
During our first weeks together, there was this night that I couldn’t sleep. We’d already stayed up way too late, as all of the nights before, talking, dreaming, being infatuatedly in love. I woke Tim up and at 3am, we laid outside together, looking up at all the stars, being there in that moment together and realizing what a big world there is out there to explore together. In those first couple of days, in the quiet endless open space of the midwest, it was almost as if we knew what a wild and crazy future of adventures would unfold.
I met his Grandma Sonja on the day after we had met in the coffee shop. We stopped by the hardware store and in her vibrant & strong personality; she was going about her business talking with the other employees. A little further, up the way in the town, I met his mom and two sisters. This was my second day of knowing this guy and I’d already met the fam. Have I mentioned that we met in his hometown of Amherst, Wisconsin, a town of about 1000 people?! Four days after meeting, my dad was running a half-marathon and he met my mom while we waited to cheer for my dad and sister as they ran by….who were dressed as pirates. My dad donned a pirate skirt and long black pirate hair….grabbed Tim’s coffee and asked “Arr….is there rum in that coffee?!” If you’ve met Bob, you’ll have further explanation that this isn’t any surprise. So again, on day four, running and all the craziness that it entails interwove into our story. We both fell hard and our love story raced ahead in a blur having both met the entire family by the end of the week.
When we met, we both enjoyed running on a very casual level. I wouldn’t even quite call it a passion but maybe more of a hobby. At the time, I trained for a handful of half marathons a year to get in shape. Tim had never ran as far as a half-marathon and we decided together it would be a fun challenge to train for together so the run dates began right from the beginning.
We met at the end of September and the autumn brought exceptionally bright red maple leaves throughout the forest that year. I remember, again, laying under colorful trees together dreaming about our future – how many kids we’d have together, he’d be a stay at home dad, we’d roadtrip west to start our lives together. We moved in together after just one month. That Christmas he brought me shopping for engagement rings.
As April rolled around, our big race had finally came – the Earth Day Half Marathon in St Cloud, Minnesota. During the weeks prior, Tim had started lovingly teasing about the running hat that I would wear and so in the final preparations for the race, I braided my hair up and laced up my shoes. Little did I know that my hatless race would be captured and forever remembered in a much more pivotal way than I could imagine. We warmed up during our first few miles and settled into a casual (the only way I know) pace. Suddenly up ahead, I spotted his two sisters, which was quite strange since we were 5+ hours from home.
Right before our trip to Minnesota, I had a girl crisis moment of worrying about when he was finally going to propose to me. Patience has never been a virtue of mine.
Fast-forwarding several years later when we lived in Oregon and decided to travel the world for a year. I called up my friend to tell her about my idea. She knew I’d been restless and looking for the next chapter in our life. I told her we were going to rent out our home, live homeless and free, and travel for a year around the world, with our one year old. She told me to wait a month and see if I still wanted to go for it, as it was a big life decision. The next day we listed our house on Craigslist and we moved out a week later beginning our first road trip and our year of travels. You see, just like that day in the coffee shop, sometimes in less than an instant, you just know that this is what you need to do and how your life was destined to be lived.
Back to my engagement crisis, you see I was anxious because we had already began making wedding plans and putting wheels in motion to move west in the fall so as it was April, I didn’t know how I’d possibly plan a wedding before the end of that summer since I wasn’t even engaged yet! I called up a friend who told me, you need to relax. Give him some space so he can surprise you. To ease your anxiety, buy a couple wedding magazines so you can start planning but give Tim some space to arrive to the moment on his own. My version of this was to very obviously read wedding magazines for the entire 5-hour drive that Tim drove us to Minnesota. Subtle, right?!
Tim did his homework and wanted this engagement moment to be very special. He asked me what I wanted and I gave him some ideas…. photos to capture the moment, something out of the ordinary to make it special, a surprise to make it fun and lastly you have to have a spiel to convince me that I should say yes…this is a proposal after all!
Back to the race, in the instant I saw Tim’s sisters, I turned to him and said “Are you proposing to me?!” I am an impossible person to surprise but Tim’s amazing and low and behold, he did it. Both of our families were there along the race course at a small park next to the Mississippi river. Stargazer lilies were spread all over the grass. He pulled a small paper from his running shoe that had his spiel scribbled down on it, got down on one knee and said the perfect words asking for my hand in marriage. I of course said “yes” and just like that in the middle of our first half marathon together, we were engaged.
A surprise to both of us was that my family made the world’s corniest shirts (see below) and proceeded to join us for the last 10 miles with my sister on our right wearing a sign that said “Just” and my Dad on our left wearing a sign that said “Engaged”. There were several out and back sections where we passed countless runners and received so many congratulations and had an immensely unforgettable moment become our first experience of the incredible running community that we had somehow stumbled upon.
We are here in Chamonix for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc where we also celebrated our fifth anniversary on UTMB race day several years ago. But it was the year before that milestone that we first came to these beautiful alps and together we had the biggest running adventure of my life to date as we ran the 56 miles over two days from Courmayeur back to Chamonix. Like everything in life, even my great love has had its ups and downs. There have been wins and losses, summits and falls…but in it all, we have been through it together, always. That adventure was epic with the most stunning mountains I had ever seen, that shot straight up and plummeted back down to the earth in awe-striking formations. We I enjoyed espresso mid run at the refugios (fruit smoothies for Tim ;). The openness of the valleys combined with the space of our kidless days led to wandering conversations and satisfying silences. But like any relationship, there were also more technical routes to maneuver…not all journeys can be douche grade, rights? In this case, I thought on Day 2 that putting a chocolate bar in the front pocket of my running pack would be a great treat later on. Instead, at mid-day, with the sun relentless beating down on me and the immense exhaustion of every cell in my body hurting, chocolate started flowing down my body and I was a whole new level of a hot, sticky mess. Tim could not hold back the laughter because it was a hilarious, ridiculous situation. But I felt vulnerable, unprepared and without having anything left to put out there or pick myself back up, I immediately burst into tears adding extra salt to the steaming mess. My tears turned to frustration and anger with all those rationale emotion one feels when they are so exhausted they’ve been stripped down to a primal state. It was not our first fight or tears on the trails and it surely will not be our last. But what makes it work in those “sticky” situations is that just like persevering through an ultra race, we take care of each other – he was there for me, gave me a hug, kind words and love. We backtracked to a stream a half a mile before to clean me off, started fresh and brought it home to Chamonix.
Both Tim and I have had the life-changing experience of wandering this earth for 100 miles on our own two feet. What an amazing crazy world this is that human beings can push themselves to such an incredible feat of endurance. And although we’ve both made it to the finish line, we’ve both had moments that we thought we couldn’t continue on. At mile 80 of my Pine to Palm 100 mile race, I had been plotting my DNF for the 15 miles prior after feeling nauseous for the entire race and irrationally choosing to stop eating 9 hours prior – I’d been silently been marching it in to the quitting point. (Check out in our race video at 15:30, where Tim does not yet know this and does some wonderful happy arm pumps to contrast my beyond over it grimace of defeat.) Of courses after some love and support, I continued on and eventually (albeit very slowly!) crossed the finish line. At Hardrock 100 during the infamous mattress situation, we made it through one of Tim’s lowest points. He mentally, physically and emotionally felt like the weight of the world was pushing down on his chest and could not find a breath of air. Of course, when I saw him laying defeated, I laid down next to him, full of compassion and love. Laying there literally on a pad of filth together at his lowest, we took a moment to just be raw together and accept the struggle. Then I assessed the situation realizing that it totally sucked but that nothing was life-threatening – no broken bones or kidney failure – and that yea, he was miserable but that Tim would be disappointed later if he didn’t carry on. Moments like this have taught me how to rise up, support him how he does not even realize he quite needs and bring on the tough love. After a few more minutes of space to feel sorry for himself, I pulled him off the pad and marched him forward to cross that finish.
It only seems fitting that our love story would begin with casual conversation about running, grow over training together, deepen during low moments of almost DNFs, heightened crewing pregnant for a pivotal race win, promise our future during our first race, and now fast forwarding many steps forward, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary on the very day of the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. I’m sharing our ridiculous romance story today as running is now wrapped around every part of our life – it’s our deepest passion, the thing we do for fun, our professional aspirations, world travelling explorations, our greatest challenge, our family adventures together, deepest conversations over run dates and it’s our friends, family & community. Beginning in Amherst, Wisconsin, to Saint Cloud, Minnesota, to Ashland, Oregon, to Boulder, Colorado, and now all over the world, we have both shared 100-mile races, the ups and downs together but also with the wonderful runners that we have met along the way and we are so grateful to be living this life alongside such a beautiful community. So to help bring another circle of this wild and crazy life back round, can you help me celebrate the greatest gift life gives us – love – by helping share a few well-wishing words, some love and congratulations towards Tim on our 10th anniversary today as he adventures round Mont Blanc.