Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ironman Chattanooga Race Recap

So this blog is named "Mom Swim Bike Run" but there hasn't been much of that going on up in here lately.  I think following Tracey's (my BFF) training both terrified and inspired me.  Here is her story:

It all started with texts back and forth between Kelli and I last September.  The next thing I knew we were signed up for IM Chattanooga.  We were both so excited, but it seemed a long way off.  Fast forward a few months to February when I started swimming again and building up a base.  Our 20 week training plan started in May.  We decided to follow the intermediate plan of “Be Iron Fit”.  It is a plan that is based on heart rate and time instead of distance and consisted of training six days a week.  Over 20 weeks, I put in a lot of time swimming, biking and running.  The hardest part was working my schedule around my kids, especially during the summer.  There were a lot of very early mornings and later nights on the trainer, but somehow it all got done.  

The week of the race, I was a mess.  I was really, really nervous which really isn’t like me.  I don’t know if it was the idea of the distance, the fact that it was something my body had never done before, or that I put it all out there and didn’t want to let anyone down, especially Owen..  Everyone told me to trust my training, but I was still nervous.  Then Thursday came.  Kelli and I were leaving Thursday night.  Thursday afternoon we found out the swim was cancelled because of flooding and high levels of bacteria.  It was devastating.  All of those hours in the pool, the open water swims at Moraine, and we wouldn’t be able to swim.  We were both so upset.  That also made me anxious.  I couldn’t sleep or eat and that is what I needed to be doing.

We left for Chattanooga Thursday evening with Kelli’s husband Matt driving us through the pouring rain that had just made its way out of Tennessee.  We stopped halfway to stay overnight and finished the journey on Friday.  When we arrived Friday, we went to athlete check in and Ironman Village and stayed for the opening night ceremony.  Being around the other athletes eased my anxiety a little bit.

Saturday we went for a short 2 mile run and then rode our bikes a little to make sure they survived the journey okay.  Then we checked in our bikes and run bags for Sunday.  My family arrived Saturday afternoon with the best surprise ever- one of my best friends, Susan, came with them.  I was so happy to have her there with my family.  It meant the world to me that she put her life aside to be there (and endured the ten hour trip with my kids!).  Saturday night we all went out to dinner and dessert.  I tried to get to bed early, but I tossed and turned all night.  I truly don’t think I have ever been that anxious about anything.  Felling like that really took me by surprise.

Sunday morning Kelli and I got up at 5:30.  I forced down some oatmeal and a banana.  We got to the start around 7:00 and dropped off our special needs bags.  Special needs bags are bags you can pick up halfway through the bike and run.  You put things in it that you think you may need, but you don’t get them back, so you don’t want to put anything important in there.  In my bike bag I had an Uncrustable pb&j sandwich, a granola bar and goldfish pretzels.  In my run bag, I had a mini Snickers, some Pringles, gummy bears, a stick of gum and an extra pair of socks.  I wasn’t sure what I would want at that point.  

I was really nervous before the start.  Because the swim was cancelled, the race started at 8:00 with 17 pros starting one per minute.  At 8:25 the rest of the field started in number order (females first) with two athletes leaving every 5 seconds.  Numbers went from youngest to oldest, so Kelli got to start ahead of me.  I started around 8:55.  The bike is an 11 mile ride out, two 47 mile loops, and 11 miles back to make it 116 (a standard IM is 112, but Chattanooga has always been 116).  The bike ride was very enjoyable.  The majority of the ride was in northern Georgia and it was just so beautiful.  There were rolling hills but nothing too steep (compared to what we trained on).  

I did stop halfway for my special needs bag and I saw my family right past that and I got to wave to them.  Shortly after that I saw Kate and Anne (our awesome friends who were also there cheering us on). That gave me motivation to hit the second loop as hard as I pushed on the first.  The bike ride went extremely fast and I was just so relieved not to get a flat since I saw many people on the side of the road.  I love riding my bike, but 116 miles is far!  My total time for this segment was 6:45:49, averaging 17.09 which is pretty fast for me.  I even stopped twice to use the bathroom since I was drinking so much.  I was very happy with that time.  

Nutrition on the bike:
Mile 20- peanut butter and chocolate chip granola bar
Mile 40- Uncrustable PB&J
Mile 60- half a banana
Mile 80- Uncrustable PB&J
Mile 100- half a banana
I also snacked on handfuls of goldfish pretzels throughout the second half of the ride. I wanted to be fueled enough to run.  I drank a ton of water because it was getting hot.

I came into transition and saw my family right before I got off of the bike.  My youngest, Jenna, was holding a sign that said “I want to be you when I grow up”.  That totally melted my heart.  

I got off of my bike, handed it over to a volunteer and it took me a few minutes to stand up completely straight.  I grabbed my run transition bag and headed into the changing tent.  I decided to totally change to be more comfortable on the run and I wanted to wear my MDA shirt in support of Owen.  I also stopped to use the bathroom again and have the volunteers cover me in sunscreen.  My transition time was 12:07, but it was worth every minute.

When I started on the run, my family was there.  That gave me the motivation I needed to go.  So many people were walking the first hill, but I was determined not to.  It was 4 pm at this point, 83 degrees, sunny and very humid.  I quickly realized that this would be a matter of making it mile to mile.  So I came up with my plan to run from aid station to aid station.  

I stuck with this plan and it seemed to work for me.  I would run a mile, walk the aid station and then start running again.  I drank at every aid station- water and gatorade and I put ice down my top.  I did this until about mile 7 where I caught up with Kelli.  

We ran together for a bit and then I went ahead around mile 10.  When I got to the half, I saw my family again.  I picked up my special needs bag, but only took the gummy bears and my stick of gum (which was awesome!).  My feet were soaked from sweat and water, but I couldn’t imagine sitting down to change my socks.  So I kept plugging away.  

At the next aid station, I walked a little longer hoping Kelli would catch me, and she did.  We were able to run/walk the rest of the marathon together which was a lifesaver.  I don’t think I would  have run as much alone and finishing this with Kelli by my side meant so much to me.  We walked the hills and ran the downhills.  This course was HILLY.  We heard that, but thought it couldn’t be worse than Pittsburgh.  Well, we were wrong!  The worst part was we had to do the loop twice, so those hills were still there the second time around.  

We just kept going mile to mile and eventually we were so close to the finish line.  I could see the lights and hear the announcer and the crowds.  As we ran down the shoot, I was high fiving everyone who had their hands out.  We saw our families and I told Kelli to go ahead so we could both hear our names.  And then I heard it, “Tracey Smith, you are an Ironman!”  I was filled with so much emotion at that point.  I put up my hands and had a huge smile on my face.  It was a such a sense of accomplishment and relief that it was over.

Total run time: 5:06
Total race time: 12:04:40

Seeing my family and Susan after the race was so wonderful.  Everyone was really proud and I was so glad they could experience this with me.  After the race, I became very nauseous and had to lay down on the grass for a while.  I think I drank so much in fear of dehydrating and cramping.  I couldn’t eat on the run- just a few gummy bears and lots of fluids.  I told Nate that I never wanted to drink water again!  Just the thought of it at that point made me ill.  After, a while I felt better and we headed back to the house.  My shower that night felt so good (minus the surprise chaffing that I got!)

Overall, it is hard for me to find the words to express the feelings I have about this race.  I mostly loved it but I hated it at times.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that at 44 years old, I decided to train and compete in something that scared me. I feel proud that I set a goal that I stuck to and showed my kids to never give up.  I feel a little less helpless that I was able to do something so meaningful for Owen.  

But, I also feel an incompleteness because the full Ironman was not completed since the swim was cancelled.  So many emotions all wrapped up in my head and my heart.  The one that trumps them all though, is that I feel grateful.  I am grateful for my body to be able to do this.  I am grateful for my friends and family and the support that I received during training, during the race, and after.  I am grateful that I was able to raise $8,120.00 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  

I never in my wildest dreams thought the number would be that high.  So thank you.  Thank you to everyone who donated.  Thank you to everyone who supported and keep supporting Owen and I.   Thank you to my many friends who shared my training.  Thank you to Kelli, who shared this journey with me.  And thank you to my family, especially Nate, who endured my training and my schedule and my crabbiness and my hunger.  I could never do this without all of this support.  It is truly overwhelming and the words thank you don’t seem like enough.  I hope everyone knows how much I truly appreciate your love and support.

Now off to plan the next one.  You knew I couldn’t do just one!

Congratulations Tracey, you are truly an inspiration.  I'll join you on the next one!  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Weight Loss Journey: How I Lost 17 Pounds and 18 Inches

Ok so this will probably be a long post, but if you clicked then you're probably ready to read it. If you're not ready to read a long post I'll sum up what I'm going to say in one sentence.  I lost weight with dedication and consistency to both diet and exercise!

I also decided to invest in myself and hired a nutrition/accountability coach, Tracey, to help teach me what food to eat when and let's face it, to hold me accountable.  You can visit her website here.  She was absolutely instrumental in my success.  I wouldn't be where I am without her.  If I'm anything, I am 100% confident in that.  She's tough when you need her to be, compassionate when you falter, and most importantly passionate about health and fitness.  It goes without saying that she knows her stuff!    If you're looking for someone to help you in your journey Tracey is your girl. #notanad

Also some of the pictures I will post are embarrassing, but it's all part of the story so I'm willing to share.  Some pictures I'm proud of but it by no means indicates that I think I'm perfect or don't still have areas to work on.  I 10000000% am still a work in progress.  Ok now that the disclaimers are out of the way.  Here goes!

Where did I start you ask? On February 26th, 2018, I weighed in at...

Yup I got there.  149.4 pounds.  I'm 5'4". I work out 4 to 6 days a week primarily doing CrossFit.  I've been working out for 10 years and my weight has always yo-yoed.  You know why?  Think about it.  If the exercise was the same then I obviously it was the food I was putting in my mouth.  I finally made a decision.  I wanted my body to look like I worked out as much as I do.  Vanity.  Yep that was my motivation (but wait later it changes).  Here's what 149.4 looks like in the flesh.

February 26th 2018

I will tell you the above person is healthy and she's also happy. I just made a personal decision to get uncomfortable and change my eating habits once and for all.  Through my coaching with Tracey I took a "clean eating" approach.  I avoided wheat, dairy and sugar (for the MOST part).  I focused on the simple concept of proteins, veggies, and fat at EACH meal with carbs mixed in mostly around my workouts.

Tracey believes that both wheat and dairy are inflammatory to the body and asked me to avoid those things.  I agreed to pretty much eliminate them from my diet.  I did/do eat soft cheese like feta and fresh mozzarella, some Kerrygold Dublinger and sheep's milk manchego.  I'm not sure Tracey would agree with my choices at all times, but adding SMALL amounts of these fats to my salads etc. kept me satisfied.  I didn't believe I had a problem with wheat or dairy until I quit eating them.  I did wonder however, why my belly always looked like this.

This is what I honestly believe is wheat belly.  I felt bloated all the time even thought I didn't necessarily realize it at the time.  I mean clearly I had fat to lose but if I'm being honest, my belly was never my problem area.  Remember everyone, nothing changed really with my workouts, but my belly bloat is gone!  

July 2018 
If I wasn't a believer before I'm a believer now!  I miss bread.  Bread is heaven on Earth and I wish I could eat it every day.  White bread with a hard crusty edge to be exact, but we are not friends.  We broke up and I'm here to tell you bread is like a bad boyfriend!  Even if you think it's not bothering you (like I did) it probably is.  

Protein and veggies have to become your friends, but they don't have to be boring.  Find what flavors keep things interesting and eat that.  

I absolutely love huge salads with protein (salmon and mahi are my favorites).  I tend to like fattier meats and prefer chicken thighs to breasts.  Again, maybe not what Tracey wanted me to eat ALL the time, but I found balance.  I ate all the foods I loved with some modifications.  It doesn't have to be boring.  It can be delicious.  Use your fats! 

I also still ate out.  My son and I still went on our monthly burger dates.  I ordered the healthiest burger on the menu bunless with a side salad.  

I thought it would be so hard to go without a bun and to not eat fries.  What?  Like is that a thing?  People do that?  To be honest, once I cleaned up my palate, I didn't really NEED the fries.  Did they still look good?  Yes, absolutely yes!  What I found though was when I ate a normal portion of clean food with my beloved fats (I'm looking at you mozzarella on that burger) I felt satisfied.  I didn't feel deprived and I didn't feel like I NEEDED that fried fatty foods (or bun).  Also if Nicholas got fries I'd definitely steal one of his and normally it would just take one bite and I was fine to move on.  You might have a serious eye roll right now, but it's true.  I'm a self proclaimed junk food junkie but I didn't need it.  I was actually HAPPY eating this way.

Now I've talked about what I DO eat, let's talk about what I DON'T eat.  I'd be lying if I said there weren't MANY sacrifices. For the most part my family eats what I eat but I make modifications.  For instance tacos without the shells or I'll have cauliflower gnocchi while they eat pasta (with their crusty bread-- jerks) but it's easy to cook for the family and for myself at the same time.  However, my kids are kids and they like food that is NOT ON MY MEAL PLAN.  

So there were days where they wanted pizza and I ordered it for them and I ate chicken and brussel sprouts.  Yep it's not all unicorns and rainbows people there are sacrifices and a LOT of them.  Something that Tracey told me once really resonated with me (so many things she said did, but this one in particular sticks out).  She said that EVERY DAY you can find a reason to cheat so you have to PLAN when it's worth it.  I NEVER (I think I can say that honestly) cheated when it wasn't planned.  No random Friday night pizza, no weekend ice cream.  My cheats were planned and FOR A SIGNIFICANT REASON. I think this concept was key to success!  If I didn't plan it, it didn't happen.

I vacationed pretty much from June 15th to August 4th.  You read that right.   I traveled with George to Vail, went to NYC with friends, Nashville with my family, dad and niece, visited Ocean City, MD for a dance completion, and topped it all off with a family vacation to the beach.  That's 8 weeks of fun, 56 days and 168 meals all with reasons to cheat.  If I had treated EVERY DAY and every meal as a vacation I certainly wouldn't have reached my goals. 8 weeks could have been 8 pounds and right back to where I started.  So does this mean that life can't go on, you can't EVER eat indulgent food.  Absolutely not!  I had indulgences on EVERY trip, including this...

NYC Bagel top 10 of best things I've ever eaten 

and this...

But I worked out hiking through the mountains...

outside literally running and squatting with a gallon jug of water, in cramped ill-equipped hotel gyms and on the beach.

There were a million excuses why not but Tracey didn't take any of them.  I remember one day she innocently asked me if I had any down time at the convention center for Ella's dance competition.  I told her I did and she made up some horrible workout for me to do during my break.  Full makeup and all.

post burpee workout from hell in the loading dock of the convention center 
I'm pretty sure it was 100 degrees and I smelled the rest of the day, but I felt better because of it. ALL the wheels weren't falling off the bus.  I might be stuck at the convention center for 10 to 12 hours a day with fried chicken tenders at the snack bar (I didn't eat that) but I was in control of my exercise and what I decided to do with what little time I had.

I'm proud to say I made it through the 8 week vacation tour unscathed.  It was pretty much a period of maintenance for me.

Before vacation and After vacation 
After the vacation tour ended, I went right back to clean eating the MAJORITY of the time. Cheats consisted of sushi or gluten free pizza or simply eating out when you're not in control of EVERYTHING you're eating.

I started to notice more changes in my body.  I was leaning out and some of my muscles were actually starting to show.

2010 vs 2018 

I knew I had muscles under my fluff and I did.  Now you can actually see some of them.

Didn't actually go to the camp (hahaha)

So while the journey started because of vanity, slowly it evolved.  I feel amazing.  I have tons of energy for my workouts.  I rarely feel sluggish at all during CrossFit.  My weight is going down but ALL my lifts are going up.  Again, nothing at CrossFit has really changed, so I can only attribute it to consistency and my diet.  Did I mention everything got better when I changed my diet?  I feel empowered by what my body can do and THAT is what now motivates me.  Not hating what I see in the mirror is icing on the cake.

So why did I decide to blog about this now?  Have I reached the end of my journey?  Absolutely not! I have a ton of work left to do.  I'm looking at you LEGS!  Tracey and I decided together to take a period of maintenance.  I've spent a long time in a deficit (losing weight) and it's time to see what true maintenance looks like. 

My current weight is 132 pounds.  That means in 6 and a half months I lost 17 pounds.  However, and this blows my mind, I lost 18 inches! I went from a fluffy size 6 to a small size 4.  I feel confident and liberated.  Food no longer controls me.  

February 2018 vs September 2018 
I didn't write this post to boast or brag.  I wrote it a) because people asked me to and b) because I'm all about paying it forward.  Working with Tracey and changing my diet really did change my life.  As a mother of 3 children there are so many things that are out of my control, but I am in control of this.  I decide what FUEL I put in my body.  I decide my health and wellness.  If I inspire ONE person to take control of their lives, then all these half naked pics were worth it!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buffalo Creek + EQT + Win Gear Courtesy of XShadyside Pilates in Shadyside!!!

I am hosting a giveaway Courtesy of XShadyside Pilates in Shadyside.  You'll have the chance to win some gear of your choice, but first you'll have to read some random thoughts by yours truly to get the chance to enter. Ok honestly nothing is keeping you from scrolling to the bottom, but don't you want to read?  I thought so!  

I've been such a terrible blogger as of late.  I guess I just don't make it a priority in my life.  I have no excuses, but I miss it.  I miss telling you my thoughts and feeling about my running and everything going on in my life.  It's such a creative outlet and therapeutic too. Anyway, I'm here to talk about a few races I've recently done.  

I struggled with injury all summer.  I have my normal shoulder issues, but in June I got a bulging disc in my back and the effects of that lasted pretty much all summer.  So as school started so did my quest to comeback from my injury.  I've been working a lot lately (I'm looking at you competitive dance bill) so my workouts haven't been exactly what I've wanted them to be.  Again, excuses really.  I know I get out of training what I put into it.  I haven't been a good running student if you will.  

Nevertheless, I signed up for the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon that took place October 15th. I knew I wasn't prepared.  I'd worked my way up to 8 miles.  8 miles is a lot, I get it, but it's 5 miles from 13 and 5 miles is a lot too.  Ha!  I know myself, however, and I knew I could finish the race without injury if I just ran it smart.  

Charlene, Lisa, Jaime, Tracey, Me before the race
I was afraid to really make a goal for myself because I honestly didn't know what I was capable of, but I've run enough races to be able to set a realistic goal for myself so I said 10:30 pace (or better).  I'm not going to lie, Buffalo Creek is a generous course (read flat) but it kicked my ass.  I finished in 2:16:42 or a 10:26 pace.  How's that for knowing myself?  Not bad.  I'll take it.  I was truly pleased with what I did that day, but not pleased overall.  I wanted/needed to get back to running faster.

Post Race 
After Buffalo Creek came the EQT 10 Miler.  I had been signed up for it, but honestly I was kind of dreading it.  Who looks forward to another lackluster performance?  I did ramp up  my running and finally felt like I was getting back in a groove, but with just 3 weeks separating races, I wasn't overly hopeful beyond my 10:26 pace.  

I talked to some friends about what my goals should be.  Kim told me I HAD to beat last year's pace of 9:47.  Kortni told me to shoot for running better than a 10:00 minute mile.  I decided Kim was crazy (love you Kim) and I'd go with Kortni's goal.  I was, however, secretly mad that I couldn't beat last year's time.  Remember though, you get out of training what you put into it.  Last year I was training for a marathon and running a LOT more.  I was barely back at it.  10:00 minute miles seemed logical.  

Laura, Charlen, Kate, Jaime, Me, Tracey pre EQT
I lined up for the race with Jaime.  We discussed our goals (Hers: 9:15  and Mine: that 10:00 mile).  We talked about our last year's times and I explained there was NO WAY I could run a 9:47 pace.  I just wasn't prepared or ready.  I wished Jaime luck and we started our own separate races.  

I did tell myself I would push as hard as I could for as long as I could.  I'm usually pretty good about pacing and holding back for when it gets hard in the end.  I also know I'm tough and I don't give up.  So I told myself push hard and if the wheels fall off at the end, dig deeper.  So that's what I did.  I pushed and it was hard.  There were times I wanted to stop, times I questioned why I was pushing, but I remembered the feeling I was chasing at the end. I kept pushing.  

Trust me when I tell you the EQT course is a moderately tough course, but it is sprinkled with unicorns and fairy dust.  I honestly don't know how I did it, but I set a PR that day running 1:36:40 or 9:40 pace.  It took me til about mile 9 to really do the math and realize PRing was possible.  I gave it all I had at the end to make sure I got that PR.  

I felt so happy at the end.  So happy I got tears in my eyes.  It means so much to not believe you can do something (like I truly did NOT believe it was possible) and then it happens.  I beat my last year's time by less than 30 seconds.

Pure joy!
I'm still not back to my former running self.  I can't even imagine how I ever ran a sub 2:00 half, but I'm getting there.  I'm happy to be healthy enough to run and I'm focusing on what my body CAN do and not what I can't.

As your reward for making it to the end, you have the chance to win some gear ($25 Gift Card) from Dick's Sporting Goods Courtesy of XShadyside Pilates in Shadyside.  All you have to do is head over to Dick's Sporting Goods and LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG POST telling me what you'd buy if you won.  Enter using the Rafflecopter below or simply by commenting on the blog post.  Thanks for reading and thanks to  XShadyside Pilates in Shadyside for sponsoring this post.  

   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When Your First Born Becomes a Man

I remember sitting in my 5th grade parent/teacher conference with Nicholas' teacher who had been a teacher at that time for nearly 40 years.  She gushed over Nicholas telling me what a wonderful young man he was, an who she knew he would become.  She gave him so much praise that I cried. I've never heard anyone (other than family) tell me so many wonderful things that they see in my son.   She also told me that in January of 5th grade year, something happens and 5th graders change.  I tucked that information into the back of my mind and I waited.

And waited, and waited.  Nothing happened.  He didn't change at all.  I still had so much respect for his teacher that I didn't chalk it up to her being crazy, I suspected instead that Nicholas was different.  Then last year I was talking to a new friend of mine (also a fifth grade teacher) and she told me that something happens to 5th graders after Christmas and they change.  Wait what?  The SECOND time I've heard this, but I'm well past January of 5th grade and nothing had changed.  Or had it?

Things had changed just not abruptly like I had expected, it was gradual.  I'm not sure if this was the change Mrs. 5th Grade teacher was talking about, but it was distinct and it was real.  If I'm being honest, it probably happened sooner than I realized, but I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for.

I look at my son and I realize he's almost a man.  He may not be 6 foot tall (he's 5 foot 1) but he's a young man nonetheless.  His voice is deeper (most of the time), he's hairier and pimplier (I made up that word), but it's more than his physical appearance. My son doesn't look at me the same.  Gone are the random hugs and kisses and snuggles.  Gone are mommy and me moments that you enjoy just because your kids is.... well a kid.  It's sad and it's a process to understand and adjust to.

Don't get me wrong.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my son loves me.  I feel it deep down. We have a great relationship that I really wouldn't change.  We have, however, arrived at a point where he doesn't need me the same way.  He'd rather spend time in his room on his phone or in the basement playing Playstation.  He barely notices if I walk in a room, let alone acknowledges me.  It hurts, but I know it's normal.  It's part of him becoming less of my little boy and more of the independent adult I'm raising him to be.

So gone are the days walking hand in hand, but here are the moments I've honestly been waiting for.  I often wondered what type of young man my son would grow up to be.  And guess what?  My kid, my quasi-adult little being, is a pretty cool.  He makes me laugh with his sense of humor.  He gets my jokes and I can say a swear word around him if I want to.  He's kind and considerate, well-mannered, smart and hard-working.  I no longer have to dream about who he will become.  I mean sure I haven't sent him to college and I don't really know what type of an adult he will be, but I know I'm on the right path.

No one ever tells you when you become a mom that one day you'll have to mourn the loss of your little kid.  No one until Nicholas' 5th grade teacher.  I think that's what she was telling me would happen.  It might have just taken until now for me to realize.  Goodbye my sweet and precious little boy.  Hello to the young man you are and the wonderful man I know you'll become.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Banff Vacation: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (AKA The Most Gorgeous Place I've Seen)

Everyone keeps asking me how I found out about and decided to go to Banff.  Well the answer is easy.  This...

A friend of mine posted a picture of Lake Louise on Facebook and I swear it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I asked her where it was and when she mentioned Canada, I knew I had to go.  Nicholas has always had the dream of going to Canada (Toronto didn't get it out of his system) so I started doing my research and booked the trip.

We visited Lake Louise after being out in the Columbia Icefields all day and when we got to Lake Louise I got the dreaded dead battery on my camera.  I was so devastated.  The pictures I took on my iPhone do not do the place justice.

But right now you're still thinking you want to go right? Isn't it the prettiest.  You just wait to see what we find next.

It was later in the day when we arrived at Lake Louise, which meant it was a lot less crowded.  I highly recommend going later in the day to avoid the crowds.  I also heard before 10 am is good.

Even with just an iPhone, I took no shortage of pictures. 

Including the "will you please take our picture" picture.  

Also this might be the coolest hotel ever.  The Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise.  I almost stayed here, but I'm glad I didn't.  Not because it's not beautiful, clearly it is, but because it's a little too far away from the town of Banff.  It might be worth it to stay here a day or two though.  

We only walked around Lake Louise a little bit, but there were plenty of trails for hiking.  We were just on a tighter time frame and I knew I wanted to see Moraine Lake too. 

I honestly wasn't expecting much from Moraine Lake, I just went on the recommendation of a friend. I thought it would be smaller than Lake Louise but not as impressive.  Smaller it was, but less impressive it was not.  

As you can see even late in the afternoon/early evening it was still very crowded.  The logs you see are actually floating on the water.  You step across those to get to the rocks and climb the "mountain."  I made a wrong step at one point onto a non steady log and submerged my whole foot and almost fell. Some poor young girl caught me.  She was so sweet and I was so embarrassed.  

We climbed and it wasn't that difficult.

It was pretty fun to earn that view at the top.

No, not that view.  This one!  

Is that not the most beautiful thing you have seen?  Again, all taken with an iPhone camera!  Pictures can not do it justice.

I loved the "ten peaks" as they call it.  I think there's more than ten, but who am I to say? 

My kids wanted every picture and I had to oblige.

This is one of my favorite pics from the trip.  Love him! 

I never thought I would see such things in my life.  You can't even image anything like this.  I'll say it again, pictures do NOT do it justice. 

Moraine Lake was definitely a highlight of my trip.  There was so much hiking we could have done there, but again we did not due to time.  We spent a full week in Banff and didn't nearly touch all the things we could have done.  I'm glad we at least got to enjoy a small glimpse of Moraine Lake.