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Life After Kids: Adventures of an Empty Nest Mama

I distinctly remember the day I met my mother-in-law for the first time. As I stepped into the hallway of the home she shares with my father-in-law in San Marcos, Calif., my husband pointed to STACKS of finisher medals draped around the neck of a statue. There were dozens and dozens of them: marathons, half marathons, 5ks. What really impressed me is that she had placed in the top three in her age group in most, if not all of these races. What impressed me even more? Each of these races she completed after she retired.

As I’ve gotten to know her I quickly realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg. In a casual conversation with my husband about any given mountain peak in Southern California, often his response is, “My mom did that one”.

Diana Field on the descent of Cactus to Clouds, a point to point hike in Palm Springs, Calif.

“Oh yeah, Mt. Whitney? My mom did that.”

“Oh, you want to train for Cactus to Clouds? My mom did that. Call her up. She’ll probably do it again.”

Guys, my mother-in-law is amazing. Read on to learn more about what she’s done and how she got started:

Kristi Field: How did you get started in running?

Diana after completing the Santa Rosa Marathon.

Diana Field: In 1961, President Kennedy started a youth fitness program. I was seven years old. We were able to perform all kinds of events from jumping jacks, push-ups, the long jump, and running. This was the first time that I ever did running as an organized event. I loved running. It was so different than it is today. Girls wore dresses or skirts to school and we brought shorts from home to perform these events in. The tennis shoes we used were the old fashion Keds.

Throughout my life, I continued to run. My physical education classes in school and college always centered around running. When my children were little, I would find time to get in a run. Most mornings before work, I would get up at 4:30 a.m. to get a run in before getting kids up for school and getting ready for work. I ran because I needed to push myself to achieve personal goals.

I never ran more than 5-10 miles until I retired at 57 years old. Then I began a series of organized runs that included five marathons and numerous half marathons. It has been exciting and self-rewarding to accomplish these running events. I would always start a running event with the mindset that I was going to place in the top three of my division. Which I usually did.

Diana enjoying the view of her local mountains with friends.

KF: Tell me about some of the peaks you climbed once you retired.

DF: Once I retired and in between running, I began hiking. I took on the same mindset that I had in running: to complete the goal the best I could. I joined a hiking club which mostly consisted of women, but we did have an occasional man join us. We trained three times a week in order to accomplish Cactus to Clouds, Mt. Whitney, and the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (42.8 miles, elevation 10,500). We hiked all the major peaks in Southern California numerous times including San Jacinto Peak at 10,834 ft, San Gorgonio Mountain at 11,503 ft, and Mt. Baldy at 10,064 ft (Mount San Antonio).

Diana at the summit of San Jacinto Peak.

Cactus to Clouds was my favorite hike. It’s been rated as one of the hardest day hikes. It is a difficult hike beginning at 500 ft elevation and reaching to 10,834 ft in 16 miles. The total hike is 19 miles. After you summit, you have to hike down five more miles to take the tram down to Palm Springs. The hardest portion of the hike is in the first 8 miles because you climb over 8,400 ft. The biggest challenge for this hike is the weather and picking the best month and date to do it.

I hiked this peak in October 2015 and I was 61 years old. The temps at the start of the hike range somewhere in the 100’s and the peak can have snow. For our hike in October, we started at 2 a.m. using headlamps and ran into snow once we reached the upper trail. The hike was exciting and challenging. Because we started in the dark, I had to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.

Diana enjoying the summit of San Bernardino Peak.

Another challenging hike was Mt. Whitney. The elevation is 14,504 ft. and it is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. The hike is 22 miles and I completed it in one day at the age of 61. This was not one of my favorite hikes. I trained very hard and made sure this training occurred at certain elevations. Yet, within the last five miles before the summit, I experienced extreme altitude sickness. At this point, my husband and I were hiking on a narrow pathway in between two deep canyons. My husband wanted me to stop and go back. I still remember telling him “I will crawl to the top”. Unfortunately, that is what I had to do. I remained sick all the way back to the trailhead and through the night in the hotel room. The next morning, I was well and very hungry.

KF: What is your advice for staying motivated?

Diana showing off her swag from the Bike the Coast century ride.

DF: Stay active. I always have, ever since President Kennedy’s fitness program. I am now 64 years old and can no longer run due to osteoarthritis. In my early 50’s, I had each of my hips totally replaced because of this. Yet, I kept running marathons and hiking peaks. Now, though, I have taken up cycling and plan to complete my first century ride (100-mile bike ride) in November. It is my belief that we can all achieve whatever goals and desires we have, we just need to keep moving. Exercise has always been important to me. It has helped me relieve stress and to face all of the other challenges in my life. Training for something gives me the motivation to keep moving.

Guess what mamas? She did just that. Diana completed Bike the Coast, a century ride in Southern California, at the beautiful young age of 64. Her attitude, drive, motivation, and spirit motivate me daily.

It doesn’t matter what your age is. It’s never too late to set a goal and smash it. Get out there and get after it!

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