Life Lessons: On Learning How to Value What Our Bodies Can Do Over What They Look Like

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(PC: Unbroken Designs, 2015 Atlantic Regional.)
I started restricting food in ninth grade. I took a cup of cereal to class and made it last until lunch.
Lunch was a bagel with low fat cream cheese and a plate of vegetables. I tried not to snack during the day before my two and a half hour swim practice. Dinner was as small as possible. Small was beautiful, and small was what I was supposed to be, despite the fact that I was already taller than the majority of the boys, and competitive swimming made my shoulders and arms bigger than the majority of the girls'.

That behavior wasn't sustainable, it's hard to swim 8,000 yards a day when you don't eat enough, and my eating habits started to normalize. When I got to college, I had to figure out how to balance the things every athlete has to balance - school, training, a social life, finding a job, and more. I still had trouble coming to terms with how I looked, even if having bigger arms and shoulders than the "normal" girls made me a better swimmer.

I struggled with bulimia beginning in sophomore year of college, figuring if I slipped up and didn't follow all of my (completely arbitrary) food rules, I could immediately fix it (absolutely not how things work). Thankfully, I got those behaviors mostly under control by senior year, and sitting here now, it all seems so ridiculous. Why would I want to be smaller? How would that help me be a better swimmer, hiker, backpacker or mountain biker? How would  that make me happier?

Beginner Downhill Mountain Biking: Lessons Learned at Trestle Bike Park (and Giveaway!)

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One of my first runs of the day. (Photo by Teresa Edgar.)
Summer is the off-season for many high-altitude mountain towns, but some ski resorts are finding ways to capitalize on ski hill terrain year round.

Ski hills are perfect for mountain bike parks, which include trail networks and man-made features that make flying down the mountain on two wheels an absolute blast. That's the primary difference between the singletrack you'll find in the woods and downhill bike parks - long downhill slopes, purpose-built features, and trails designed around them.

Winter Park, Colorado's Trestle Bike Park is North America's fastest growing bike park, and it's also home to the Colorado Freeride Festival. There, you'll find trails rated the same way ski runs are - green, blue, black, and double black - and instead of climbing up the mountain under your own power, you get to take a chairlift to the top. You'll also find skilled instructors for newbies and experienced riders alike (highly recommended), high end downhill bike rental packages, and over 40 miles of trails to explore.

Costa Rica IV: Horseback Riding, a Rios Tropicales Jungle Getaway, and Hiking in the Rain with Columbia Sportswear

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We found this little Blue-jeans Frog, or Strawberry Poison-dart Frog,
at the Rios Tropicales Operations Center near Siquirres.
Today brings the final installment of what I expected to be a short series of trip reports. But with so many amazing experiences to chronicle, I couldn't condense it down into any less than four pieces. Thanks to those of you who've stuck with me through the entire journey, and you can always catch up by reading Part I, Part II, and Part III.

To the Caribbean Side of Costa Rica 

We woke at the Radisson San Jose the morning of June 20th and loaded everything except what we'd need for a jungle adventure into a master room for safe keeping. I packed my favorites, the Women's PFG Zero Short Sleeve Shirt, PFG Zero Tank Top,  PFG Coral Point II Shorts, Sunbreeze Vent Flip, and of course, my OutDry Extreme jacket, among other things.

Costa Rica III: Learning Where Coffee Comes From at the Doka Estate Plantation with Columbia Sportswear

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The coffee plant in the center is two months old. They're called
"little soldiers" because the sprouted seed looks like a helmet.
The first two Costa Rica trip report installments (part I and part II) covered five days of our trip. Today's installment only covers a few hours.  But it was a particularly special few hours for me because we got to discover the origins of one of my favorite things in the entire world - coffee.

I've been obsessed with coffee for as long as I remember, and not just because it got me through four years at Cornell University. Obsessed enough, in fact, that one of my college graduation presents was a fancy burr coffee grinder (like this one), and I currently have a Melitta single cup brewer, Aeropress, French press, and Turkish coffee pot at home.

There are so many variable affecting the taste of coffee, including the bean's country of origin, the roasting process, storage process, age, exposure to air, even the grind and the time between grinding and brewing. It's fascinating, and the resulting product is among the most delicious beverages out there, in my opinion.

Costa Rica II: Ziplines, Tiny Planes, and Visiting Poás Volcano National Park with Columbia Sportswear

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Katie and Weston taking in the view
on the first platform at Canopy Bosque Mar.
Last week, we took a look at how I ended up in Costa Rica with Columbia Sportswear and our first three days exploring the country via land and sea. This week, it's all about flying high through the rainforest, over the rainforest, and exploring one of Costa Rica's coolest national parks.

Canopy Bosque Mar Zipline Tour

Whether a result of my body relaxing in Central America or germs floating around on the various planes I'd taken to get there, I woke up the fourth morning of our Costa Rican adventure, June 18th, with a bad cold. The majority of the group had surfing or other activities planned, but for Katie, Weston and me, a zipline canopy tour through the rainforest was on the menu post-breakfast.