Denver’s Liberty Run 4 Miler Race Recap

Can you tell I was excited? It is my go to pre-race face!

Can you tell I was excited? It is my go to pre-race face!

It’s time – the LONG overdue race recap of the Liberty Run 4 Miler in Washington Park on July 4th!  This was one of my favorite small, local races to date.  Everything about the race was so well organized, carefully planned, and just plain fun.  The race began at 8:30am at the southern edge of Wash Park in Denver, right along E. Louisiana Avenue.  As per usual, the emcee was making announcements, commenting on the awesome patriotic ensembles, and pumping up the crowd.  Packet pickup occurred race day, and was a very smooth process.  The hubs and I picked up our bibs and awesome tech tees, dropped off the goodies at the car, and prepped for the race.

This race contributed towards the Make-a-Wish foundation, which is a charity I have always admired.  Fulfilling incredible wishes for ailing children will always tug at my heart strings.  Furthermore, all of the volunteers were absolutely incredible – decked out in red, white and blue attire, completely friendly and cheerful, and full of great energy for all of the runners, walkers, and kids participating that day.  Before the start of the race, the emcee directed us through our pre-run warm-up: the Chicken Dance!  It was pretty cute, I must admit.  And finally it was time to run!  The first wave included the more seasoned athletes, then runners, and finished with the competitive race walkers (it is an impressive sport, and to learn more, check out the T-Rex Runner’s recounting of her race walking experience!).

Pre-chicken dance race line up.  Gotta love that red, white and blue!

Pre-chicken dance race line up. Gotta love that red, white and blue!

The first mile took a loop around a third of the park, and then back through the starting line to begin a loop around the perimeter of the entire park.  It was a lovely morning, but incredibly humid for Denver (about 85% humidity when we started), so the weather warmed up quickly.  There were two water stations on course, which we very welcome.  Once the perimeter loop was complete, we ran back through the starting line and took the smaller loop through to the finish line.

The course was easy to navigate, well marked, and fairly level - great for race day!

The course was easy to navigate, well marked, and fairly level – great for race day! Source

I was particularly pleased with the post-race loot.

I was particularly pleased with the post-race loot.

Upon finishing, the emcee was great about cheering folks on and maintaining momentum.  Volunteers were there with bags for us to grab the incredible loot that we could line up for.  Once in line, there was free sunscreen, awesome beer glasses, packs of Tylenol Allergy/Sinus, and other great giveaways.  Naked juice was handing out smoothies, and BornFit provided the great race day tech tees.  My favorite RunColorado store had a booth promoting their running gear.  It was all around a fantastically represented and coordinated race.

Following the Run/Walk portion was a Kid’s Firecracker Fun Run, which looked like a blast.  The best part was seeing the costumes and creative ensembles.  There was a legitimate Captain America (complete with head gear), and tons of red, white and blue all over the place.  My favorite group of runners donned kid-sized animal innertubes, fun sunglasses, and tossed beach balls all throughout the race.  They even had water squirt guns and cooled people off as they ran past.  They were my new best friends for about 30 minutes.  I decided to recycle my BolderBoulder outfit, but this time paired it with my Patriotic starry Sparkly Soul headband.  I managed to attract a fantastic group of volunteers who would yell “SPARKLE SKIRT!! WOOO!!!” each time I made another loop around the course, which obviously made my day.  The hubs donned a blue RunColorado shirt, although I couldn’t convince him to rewear our patriotic sunglasses.

I would love to run this race again next year.  I do wish it had been even half an hour earlier given the heat and humidity of the day, but otherwise it was a superb race.  So much fun, great energy and atmosphere, and the perfect way to start the holiday weekend!  It made me feel less guilty about the giant burger I consumed later that day.  What can I say?  The hubs makes a mean burger – on a pretzel bun, to make matters awesomer.

Check out this amazing race day video!  The hubs and I managed to repel the cameras that day, but it’s such a perfect way to showcase the race!

What has been your favorite small, local race?  Don’t you just love the 4th of July (yeah, Americuh!)?  How do you feel about races less than 6 miles?

Return to Grace

Isn’t it just amazing how quickly life catches up with you?  June was one of my favorite months this year, maybe even of the past few years.  I was able to travel, spend time with the hubby and my pup, celebrate my birthday and anniversary, hone in on my health, and take advantage of parts of Colorado I love.  Then came July… It has proven to be a crazy tornado of a month, primarily due to work.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job.  I am one of those rare folks who actually loves going to work: I really enjoy my coworkers, appreciate the institution for which I work, and adore my boss.  I am truly lucky, and I know it.  However, about eight months ago I was tasked with coordinating the move of our office, which at the time seemed so easily manageable, but I have learned so much in that timeframe.  The move took place last week, and the weeks working up to our scheduled move date are in every way a blur.  Being the planner, Type-A, mild control-freak, OCD person I am, this was quite the endeavor.  During this same time, my dear friend Ms. BakeNBurn was moving to her new home (which is fabulous), so we were able to commiserate on the crazy, thankfully!

However, throughout this process I learned one important distinction between moving homes versus moving an office: you are not in control.  There are some elements during a home move you can’t control, of course,

Moving an office is a messy business.

Moving an office is a messy business.

that’s inevitable.  But with an office move, you have absolutely no control.  There is a move team managing the actual movers, how many boxes you get, the day you move, when your space is reviewed and repaired.  There is a planning team that picks your furniture, layout, and overall style.  There is an architect, lead contractor, and building team who all seem to work on their own timeline, whether you’re scheduled to move in or not.  It’s a control-freak’s worst nightmare.  Imagine my utter dismay.  Despite all of this, we did it.  We are in our new space, moved in, and thankfully I was given the time to organize our storage (I became extremely close with our office label maker…) and get things set up before the rest of my coworkers got here – my one moment of control!  Hooray!  With all that being said, blogosphere, I apologize for my incredible absence, and I am so glad to be back.

Going from an office to a cubicle... not ideal.

Going from an office to a cubicle… not ideal.

The Liberty Run 4 Miler was a blast, as was the loot!

The Liberty Run 4 Miler was a blast, as was the loot!

Besides the move, a lot of other fun things have happened in the past few weeks.  I ran the Liberty Run 4 Miler with the hubby on the 4th of July, and must admit that it may have had some of the best swag for a small race – I got an awesome beer glass (which I feel more proud of having earned by doing exercise) among other fun things.  I attended a performance by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in which they presented a number of pieces from each of the eight Harry Potter movies (if you don’t know, I am a HUGE Harry Potter geek… I started reading them in middle school and never stopped loving them) with some awesome friends.  One of my closest friends from high school just moved back to the US from teaching English abroad in Turkey for the past two years, and decided to move to Denver (I AM SO EXCITED)!!  I rediscovered an awesome running trail that I can access from my front door, and have been loving my weekday evening and weekend morning runs there (the hubs and I are in training mode for two half marathons this fall, so it’s the perfect option).  I made my first batch of gluten free red velvet cupcakes which were a HUGE success (recipe to come, of course).  I started a cleanse this week, and have been feeling pretty positive about it so far – more on this later!  So overall, it’s been a great, busy, whirlwind of a month, and I am so glad to be back on the normal side of things.

Don't worry, I will share this recipe - they were amazing!

Don’t worry, I will share this recipe – they were amazing!

Getting adjusted to our new space - thankfully!

Getting adjusted to our new space – thankfully!

Have you just had a month where everything seemed to get away from you?  Ever been in charge of moving an office?  Was July kind of a crumby month for anyone else?

Fridays are Meant for Favorites

Oh happy day, it’s Friday Favorites!  Which in essence means it’s Friday, and therefore implies it is practically the weekend!  So let’s talk favorites.

  1.  Sparkly Soul Headbands

I discovered Sparkly Soul headbands while working my way through the enormity that is the Run Disney Expo.  I found their booth, and immediately saw two things that grabbed my attention: headbands and sparkles.  Long ago I admitted my love for headbands and my saddening realization that they would not be a staple in my wardrobe in Colorado.  These running headbands are awesome – they don’t slip and slide, they don’t cause headaches, and they add a little je ne sais quoi!  I have worn them during multiple races and cannot get enough.  I ordered their red, white and blue stars version for the Liberty Run 4 Miler on the 4th of July!  Now through the 4th you can receive 25% off any headband with the words Red, White and/or Blue in the description with coupon code “USA”.  Enjoy!

My "crowning" glory, if you will, for the Liberty Run 4-Miler!

My “crowning” glory, if you will, for the Liberty Run 4-Miler! Source

  1. StrideBox!

My friend and fellow blogger, the Bake N’ Burn Bombshell, introduced me to the concept in April and I received my first box this month!  If you’ve seen ads for the BarkBox, a monthly box of goodies for dogs, this is essentially the same thing for runners!  Brilliant!  For about $15 a month, it introduces you to new products, allows you to explore different accessories and companies, and helps you find other options for fuel, apparel, training sessions and workouts.  This month’s box came with a number of great goodies, including a chocolate peanut butter PureFit bar (which I ate before LACYFit yesterday), Muscle Milk Energy Chews (which I plan to try this weekend on my long run), Water Sensations water infusions, and Paper Shower body wipes (I think these will be awesome to save for post-Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!).  Each month provides something different, and so far, I am pumped and can’t wait for July’s delivery!

Loving my monthly delivery of StrideBox goodies!

Loving my monthly delivery of StrideBox goodies!

  1. Chap Ice Revo

I admit, I am super late to the chapstick sphere club, but after getting a free Chap Ice Revo ball from CU Denver, I am obsessed!  This minty, moisturizing ball of awesome is constantly in my purse and is so refreshing.  Let’s be honest, the sphere is just too fun.  I will branch out to eos soon, but I am also a plane old chaptstick kind of girl sometimes.  It’s hard to go wrong.

I have the mint version, which is so refreshing and tingly on my lips!

I have the mint version, which is so refreshing and tingly on my lips!

  1. Benefit Chacha Tint

I am one of those women who wears “race makeup.”  I protect my face with SPF BB Cream, throw on some waterproof mascara, obviously apply some handy Chap Ice Revo, and finish with Benefit Chacha Cheek Tint.  This tint can be used for both lips and cheeks (I just use it for cheeks), and it the absolute perfect sunny glow.  I started wearing it on a daily basis, and not only does it last, but it looks so natural.  I was not blessed with a natural flush, so I have always relied on blushes.  This blush is by far my favorite.  Especially once I get to my full summer tan, it still pops, but in a subtle, natural, just back-from-the-beach kind of way.

I may need to invest in the chacha balm too!

I may need to invest in the chacha balm too!

  1.  Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance Bronze

I’ve been on a new makeup trying kick of late, and am all about samples to find new products to purchase (who doesn’t love the Sephora samples?).  I discovered this product in this very way, and now have no idea what I did before it.  This makeup primer does double duty: it keeps your makeup in place and lasting from day to night, and it also provides a touch of bronzey glow to amp up your summertime look.  What more could you ask for?  I have been attempting a looks-like-less is more routine, starting with this primer, applying some SPF CC cream, then the Benefit Chacha Tint, along with summery eyeshadow and some plumping mascara.  Beachy and casual, but still polished.

Amazing addition to my daily makeup routine!

Amazing addition to my daily makeup routine!

I hope you enjoy these favorites and give some of them a try (if you haven’t already!).  This weekend I am due for a long run with the hubby, a delectable anniversary dinner at Flagstaff House in Boulder (the best views in town!), and some serious pool time.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Have you tried any of these products or companies – what did you think?  Any fun plans for the weekend?  Please tell me I am not the only one with raceday makeup routines, right?

 

How I Almost Died and a Celebratory Weekend

Last week I decided to try out my friend Amy’s fitness class, LacyFit!  I know, two Amys in one space can get rather confusing, but she is a fabulous representation of the name, in my opinion.  I didn’t quite know what I was in for, but had heard about the class from my dear friend Danielle.  I have been wanting to incorporate more full-body workouts into my routine, particularly to focus on my core and my arms.  My legs get plenty of attention between running and the elliptical, but I very often neglect my arms.  In reading the class description on the LacyFit website, it didn’t sound too daunting…

“The toning circuits focus on a specific muscle group: arms, legs & abs. Light weights are used in the toning circuits to achieve high repetition, so your muscles become long and lean, rather than bulky. After each toning circuit, there is a cardio burst which is what keeps your heart rate elevated for the entire workout, getting you into the fat burning zone. The cardio bursts are intense, but short, so you can get thought it!”

Amy, our fearless leader (shown with the braids), is an incredibly inspiring instructor!

Amy, our fearless leader (shown with the braids), is an incredibly inspiring instructor! Source

The class incorporates barre, boot camp, pilates and a whole lot of fun (and shared groans and laughter), which is just what I had been looking for.  I thought I was in pretty good shape, definitely the best shape I have ever been in.  I was wrong, terribly wrong.

The class I attended took place in Denver’s Washington Park, more commonly referred to as Wash Park.  We began the class with a four minute warm-up run around a portion of the park.  No problem, I thought to myself, I can totally handle this.  We followed-up the run with barre-style leg circuits.  I wasn’t too worried about that, and although tough on the thighs, I can handle a little extra leg strengthening.  After the first circuit we did modified mountain climbers for 30 seconds followed by a one minute sprint.  Easy peasy.

The next circuit continued leg work, with a cardio burst of actual mountain climbers and another sprint.  Next we focused on our arms, using 3 pound hand weights, while engaging our core during some exercises.  I really enjoyed this section, as it’s an area I’ve wanted to improve.  Although I didn’t master the push up, I felt pretty confident with the rest of the exercises.  After the next cardio burst we began our abs circuit.  I thought I was going to die, and that I was indeed the weakest human being on the planet.  I have never had much issue with my core, and didn’t think much of my abs.  While I am not toned beyond belief with chiseled abs, I have always been pretty satisfied with my core.  In other words, I don’t have a 6-pack but I am comfortable in a bikini.  However, I apparently have no strength in my core and struggled through the last two circuits.  And I mean I really struggled…

All I want are some B Spears abs... I will have to work for it.

All I want are some B Spears abs… I will have to work for it. Source

I made it through, and I am definitely motivated to keep going.  Amy did an amazing job pushing us on, pumping us up, and making sure we knew why we were doing each exercise.  She explained the benefit of this workout format, how each movement contributed to our strength and our muscles, and made sure we had fun all the way through.  I cannot wait to go again this Thursday.  As she mentioned, each class is different, so you never get into a “routine.”  My goal is to be able to complete the core circuits easily (maybe not perfectly, but easily) by the time this summer is over.

To say that I could still feel my abs through the weekend would be putting it lightly.  It hurt to laugh.  Getting out of bed in the morning was an actual struggle, and not just because I was sleepy.  Hats off to fitness instructors – I dream to have your core strength one day.  And to not feel pressure every time I give a good chuckle.

Fabulously girly dinner for Danielle's birthday!

Fabulously girly dinner for Danielle’s birthday!

This weekend was all about celebrations!  Friday night I spent the evening with some amazing ladies celebrating my friend Danielle’s birthday.  We went to the 9th Door in Denver, a fancy tapas restaurant with a chic, mysterious vibe.  We all had a great time over tapas and drinks.  Danielle’s weekend was full of surprises, as planned by her boyfriend Scott (our Foodie Friday pals!).  She and Scott spent the day up in Boulder, doing all of her favorite things.  The day was topped off with AN ENGAGEMENT!!!  I am so incredibly excited for them both and can’t wait to celebrate with them soon.

Saturday, the longest day of the year, was my grandmother’s 92nd birthday.  She is one tough lady, and I only wish I could have been home to celebrate it with her.  On Sunday my parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in New York City.  I know they’re having a blast, and can’t wait to hear all about it.  Tomorrow will be another big day: the hubs and I will be celebrating our third wedding anniversary.  How time flies!  I cannot believe it’s been three years already, and that come July, we’ll have lived in Colorado that

Happy anniversary to my amazing parents!

Happy anniversary to my amazing parents!

long.  It’s been an incredibly beautiful whirlwind of a journey together, and I am so eternally grateful for all the blessings I’ve experienced in my life.  Have a great week everybody!

 

Have you ever taken a boot camp style class?  What do you think about them?  Any big celebrations in store this week?  Is anyone else bummed that our days are now getting shorter? #summersolsticeproblems

 

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Denver Father’s Day 10K Recap

This past weekend I convinced my hubby to run another 10K with me, just a few short weeks after the BolderBOULDER.  I am one lucky duck because he lovingly agreed without any begging on my part.  The race took place on Father’s Day, and was therefore appropriately named the Denver Father’s Day 5/10K.  The hubs and I wanted to get him a qualifying time for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November, and because we didn’t run the BolderBOULDER for speed, this was a great opportunity.

I knew the race would be small, given that this was the inaugural race and the route was located in a section of Denver not often used for races.  Stapleton is a newly developed area of Denver that was built over the old Denver Stapleton Airport.  While the airport no longer exists, the control tower still stands, and newly built homes, townhouses, apartments, and parks have taken its place.   The race began in the middle of Central Park along Martin Luther King Boulevard and Central Park Boulevard.  The 5K course ran entirely through the park, while the 10K course veered off onto the Westerly Creek Trail.

People-watching while waiting for the race to start!

People-watching while waiting for the race to start!

The race didn’t start until 9:00am, which is surprisingly late for a starting time, so we leisurely woke at 7:00am, changed into our race-day attire, ate some breakfast, and were out the door by 7:45am.  We were picking up our race packets at the event, and I was worried the line for packet pick-up would be similar to that at Lucky Laces (some folks missed the start because the line for packet pick-up was so long).  However, given the small size of the race, we didn’t have to wait at all.  In fact, we were able to park in the lot just beyond the race-day tents, walk right up, get our bibs, and still had 40 minutes to spare.  We watched the kid’s fun run take off and made note of the speedy 8 year old at the front of the pack.  Afterwards we wandered around and commented on the participants of the ugliest tie contest.  There were some incredibly ugly ties, I am sure it was a close call.

Finally we lined up to get ready for the race to start and noted how few people there were.

My obligatory pre-race photo op.

My obligatory pre-race photo op.

Little did I realize that these small races are breeding grounds for speed.  Local athletes use these races as opportunities to place, focus on their time, and just be downright impressive.  The hubs and I were a little out of our league, but we were there to enjoy ourselves regardless.  Finally we set off and worked our way around the park.  Just over two miles into the run, the 10K group veered off out of the park onto a gravel trail to complete the additional four miles.  The trail took us east onto some questionable terrain.  Portions of the gravel trail were washed away by rain and a nearby creek, leaving large cracks in the earth.  Another section had some construction going on around it, which left large muddy tire tracks in the ground.

Great views of the mountains and the old Stapleton Airport control tower to the west.

Great views of the mountains and the old Stapleton Airport control tower to the west.

Finally, this trail hooked up with the paved Westerly Creek trail, which, one would hope, follows Westerly Creek.  The scenery was lovely, the views of the mountains were awesome, but the entire race was void of shade.  Given that the day was very sunny, and the temps were already warm around 9:00am, it was a bit on the toasty side.  Truly I can’t complain too much, given the whole lack of humidity thing, but I haven’t come across many courses without a spec of shade.  Thankfully there were two aid/water/Gatorade stations along the course: one around two miles, and one just after four miles.  The race volunteers were amazing, signage was excellent, and the event itself was incredibly enjoyable.

Just keep running, just keep running!

Just keep running, just keep running!

Sweet taste of completion!

Sweet taste of completion!

Upon reaching the finish line (obviously hand-in-hand yet again), we knew we were among some of the last to finish.  At that point we were so happy to be done, get a qualifying time for the hubs, and grab some Naked Juice and burritos before heading home.  When you run with the pros, you just can’t worry about being left behind.  Overall it was a good local event with awesome race volunteers and workers, a quiet laid-back atmosphere, and a whole lot of impressive people.  I would probably do the race again, although an earlier start may be worthwhile.

Up next I will be participating in the Liberty Run 4 Miler in Washington Park, a nice easy drive from my house.  The Run/Walk takes place on the 4th of July at 8:30am and includes a competitive race walk.  I didn’t know this was a thing until recently reading The T-Rex Runner’s blog post on the sport.  I am pretty excited to see this first hand.  While I personally plan on running it, I am intrigued!  You can be sure that I will be decked out in something obnoxiously Patriotic – Americuh!

 

Something legendary, perhaps?

Something legendary, perhaps? Source

Hey Barney, I can be legendary too!

Hey Barney, I can be legendary too!

How was your Father’s Day?  Did you have any races this weekend?  What are your thoughts on small, local races?

Another awesome year running the BolderBOULDER!

Runbelievable BolderBOULDER and Jam-Packed Weekend

Well I feel ashamed I have not yet recounted the results of the BolderBOULDER yet.  It’s been nearly three weeks… but a fun and crazy three weeks it’s been.  After Samantha, aka Miss Bakenburn, and her hubby departed Colorado, the hubs and I hosted another guest, had an amazing weekend trip to Vegas, and continued preparing for another 10K.  I’ve decided our home is much more like a bed and breakfast than a home, which is perfect because I love being the hostess with mostest!

But back to the BolderBOULDER… I am easily distracted on Fridays.  This is honestly one of my favorite running events.  It is so much more

We were looking rather Patriotic ourselves!

We were looking rather Patriotic ourselves!

than just a race.  The BolderBOULDER, or BB for short, is a massive celebration for Memorial Day.  It honors our nation’s Veterans with ROTC running units, military personnel parachuting into the CU Boulder stadium, and an incredible tribute at the very end.  Even if you don’t run the race, watching the excitement and participating in the spectacle are well worth it.  50,000 people participate each year, so it’s a pretty big event!

Our day began at 6:00am, when we left for Boulder.  Typically it is a 45 minute drive from my home south of Denver to Boulder.  Given the enormity of the BB, I gave myself plenty of time.  We hit some unnecessary traffic due to a cop car on the side of the highway, but made it to the parking garage on CU Boulder’s campus by 7:30am.  Our wave, FL (one of nearly 100 waves), was set to depart at 7:39:50am, but after the walk to the start line and stop at the bathroom, we arrived 5 minutes late.  Luckily you can always start in a later wave than your assigned one, and so we were off with group GA!

Before starting the BolderBOULDER, on the way to our start wave!

Before starting the BolderBOULDER, on the way to our start wave!

We found the start line- ready to go!

We found the start line- ready to go!

We started the race at a good, easy pace, taking in the sights and sounds.  There are bands and performers located all throughout the course.  Seriously though, there are 36 groups performing over 6.2 miles – that’s pretty amazing!  Each kilometer and mile are marked, including the highest point of the race, Casey Hill, at 5,391 feet located just after mile marker 4.  We ran fairly steady with our friends until just about mile 3.  Elevation can be a beast when you aren’t used to it, and because you can’t “see” elevation, you don’t really think about it until it is hard to breath.  On a vacation to Colorado before moving here, I experienced elevation sickness, and I felt absolutely horrid.  We didn’t want them to go through that mid-race.  At that point the hubs and I went on ahead so our friends could get into a comfortable rhythm and ease their pace a bit.

We really enjoyed the race this year!  We had a bit more practice this time around!

We really enjoyed the race this year! We had a bit more practice this time around!

Aren't our ensembles super cute?

Aren’t our ensembles super cute?

The hubs and I ran all the way through to the finish, constantly commenting on how much easier it was this year.  Last year’s BB was our very

You definitely feel like a rockstar crossing the finish line!

You definitely feel like a rockstar crossing the finish line!

first race, after only discovering running 3 months prior (and starting a running career at altitude no less)!  While we had a blast, it wasn’t easy.  This year, however, was a breeze.  We were able to enjoy the belly dancers, local bands, Irish Step Dancers, the group of fiddlers, the cupcake break, doritos, and slip-n-slides so much more.

By far, the best part of the race is the end.  You run up Folsom Road into the side entrance of the CU Boulder stadium, then loop ¾ of the way around the stadium with spectators and completed runners cheering you on.  It’s a barrage of sound, excitement, and glory.  In that moment, you feel like a pro!  Needless to say, the hubs and I locked hands and sprinted through the finish line.  After crossing, you work your way through perfectly calculated post-race check-points: first timing tag removal and finisher photos, then Gatorade and water, and finally lunches in bright green lunch bags and beers for those of age.  You emerge from the stadium into an impressive post-race expo with local and big-name vendors scattering the campus.

Yeah, we were that couple - holding hands through the finish line!

Yeah, we were that couple – holding hands through the finish line!

After meeting up with Samantha and her hubby, we wandered the Expo for a bit and then decided to head back to Denver for a delicious barbeque and cocktails.  Ultimately it was the perfect Memorial Day weekend, and I cannot wait to run it again next year!

What an awesome accomplishment!!

What an awesome accomplishment!!

As I mentioned, the very next week one of my hubby’s dearest friends from high school and college came to stay for a few days before throwing his other friend’s camping bachelor party.  It was a great visit, and was the perfect way to kick off my birthday week!  He arrived on that Wednesday and we went to Barolo Grill, an incredible Italian restaurant nestled in the Cherry Creek district of Denver.  What makes this restaurant so phenomenal is the dedicated wait staff.  Each year, the restaurant sends its staff, and of course chefs and line cooks, to Italy to learn more about the cuisine, the wine, and the culture of food in Tuscany (makes me want to be a waitress again!).  The service is excellent, the food divine, and I got an amazing little treat for my birthday.  What can I say?  I don’t celebrate the day, I celebrate the month!  The next month we went to my favorite steak house of all time, Del Frisco’s, home of the best filet Oscar and the VIP – Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian pineapple. INCREDIBLE.  May and June are turning into some amazing months for friends, fun and food!

This weekend marks 2 big things: Father’s Day and the US Open (golf of course people).  The hubs began watching the first round yesterday, and is so thrilled for the weekend.  I see gin and tonics in our future… But besides that, the hubs and I are running the Denver Father’s Day 10K this weekend!  We wanted to get a 10K in the books together, and as it is also puppy daddy day, we thought it’d be fun to do something together that we both enjoy.  This race will take us through north Denver, in the Stapleton area.  It’s looking like it’ll be a perfect weather day – mid-80’s, partly cloudy, and a light breeze!

Any plans for the weekend and Father’s Day?  Have you ever run the BolderBoulder – what did you think?  Are you going to watch the US Open?  Any predictions on the victor?

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How to Have the Best Birthday in Vegas

This summer is shaping up to be my best one yet in Colorado!  Wonderful hubby, great home, awesome visits from friends, incredible getaways

Yup, that's right, we WON in Vegas!  All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.

Yup, that’s right, we WON in Vegas! All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.

and adventures, all topped off with a job I love and a city to call my own.  This past weekend was my birthday weekend, and I requested one thing from the hubs: a trip to Las Vegas.  Given its proximity to Denver, unending food options (I am a foodie, that often plays a part in my decision making), plethora of shops, non-stop shows and performances, and as my coworker put it, a chance to be glamorous, I knew it’d be the absolute perfect weekend getaway.  So the hubs took my lead and made all of the plans, from the hotel, to the shows and restaurants.  He planned the best birthday vacay possible – boy am I one lucky lady.  And to top it off, we actually won money (yes, that’s right, we left Vegas in the positive monetary direction).

Birthday Chai!  Best boss ever.

Birthday Chai! Best boss ever.

Given that my university hosts New Student Orientation each Friday during June and July, I wasn’t able to take off work that day.  So instead, we planned to leave late Friday evening, at 9:05pm.  I arrived to work in a daydream of the weekend to come, but was pleasantly, nay delightfully surprised by the incredible outpouring of birthday surprises from my coworkers.  My boss brought me a birthday chai latte from Starbucks (she and I share a love of chai), while my coworker picked up Denver’s famous Duffeyrolls (light, fluffy, perfect cinnamon rolls – you simply must try them).  Finally, my boss’ boss arrived later that morning with a lavender plant in hand.  I adore lavender, as does Robbie, for a number of reasons.  Lavender lemonade may be the best invention ever, but lavender itself, I think, smells so wonderful and herby.  It was simply the best pre-birthday birthday celebration ever.  Orientation went smoothly and the duration of the day flew by.

What great coworkers I have!

What great coworkers I have! You must try Duffeyrolls – too delicious!

I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages... mmm...

I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages… mmm…

The hubs picked me up from work and we went straight to the airport.  Typically traffic on a Friday at 5:00pm is positively horrendous.  The stars aligned, however, and we arrived quickly, parked our car, and were through security with hours to spare.  We found Mesa Grill on the top floor of Terminal A, order margaritas and dinner, and enjoyed the ease of evening.  A few hours later, we boarded the plane and had a smooth flight to Vegas.

We decided to stay in City Center for our trip.  Our last adventure in Vegas was our mini-moon, shortly after moving to Colorado.  This was the

Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.

Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.

first time we’d experienced City Center, which is comprised of the Aria, Vdara and Cosmopolitan.  All modern, luxurious-looking hotels with great amenities, close to the Bellagio and Mandarin Oriental, as well as Crystals, the shiny new shopping center.  The Aria is an awesome resort, with a series of fantastic pools, good spa and salon, fun bars, and all styles of restaurants.  I personally love the innovative air filtration system – you can barely smell smoke, even if the person is next to you (I am picky like that).

The first night there we grabbed a drink at the Lobby Bar and people-watched like crazy before calling it a night and heading back to our room.  The next morning, we got Starbucks and headed to the pool.  Keep in mind that the temperature that day reached 102º.  We spent some time lounging, but the rest of the time directly in the pool.  After about 3 hours, we

Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.

Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.

headed to the gym and spa before getting ready for the evening.  We had reservations at CUT, Wolfgang Puck’s unique steakhouse in the Palazzo.  We arrived early so stopped into dbBrasserie at the Venetian.  We have already decided to dine there the next time we visit, based upon the cocktails alone.  Once the hubs saw they had quite the selection of champagne, he knew it’d be up my alley.  I ordered a flight of incredibly delicious, unique champagne cocktails and sipped them in utter delight.  Afterwards we had our delectable dinner at CUT, which started with phenomenal steak tartar, followed by a perfectly cooked filet (for me) and amazing macaroni and cheese, and ended with the most perfect jelly filled donuts and crème fraiche ice cream.  Whoa.  So good.  We followed up dinner with a short walk over to the Mirage to see Kevin James’ standup.  He was spot-on and so funny.  It was later that we found out that Billy Joel was performing at the MGM that night that we kicked ourselves a bit, but still a great evening overall.

Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever.  I will be trying these at home.

Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever. I will be trying these at home.

The desserts on this trip were legendary.

The desserts on this trip were legendary.

The next day we started our morning with some epic shopping back at the Palazzo and Venetian.  I promise that I single-handedly helped stimulate the economy this weekend.  I was most thrilled about the Kate Spade store, given that the closest one to me is in Aspen.  We decided

Lunchtime champagne cocktail - what could be better?

Lunchtime champagne cocktail – what could be better?

to grab lunch at dbBrasserie (it was really that good, I cannot wait to go back for dinner), with another champagne cocktail of course (honestly named “The Perfect Champagne Cocktail”).  We headed back to the Aria for more pool time, again followed by the gym (we are trying to be good, even on vacay), and prep for another amazing dinner and a show.  That night we headed to the MGM Grand for dinner at L’Atelier.  It was fabulous.  The dining experience is much like eating at a sushi bar, watching the prep in the kitchen which is entirely open to the restaurant.  Everything was so delicious.  And rather than one dessert, we got three!  Gosh I love my birthday…  We ended the evening with my all-time favorite Cirque du Soleil show, Love.  The entire show is set to songs from the Beatles, and therefore has a very British storyline.  Many of the songs begin with in-studio recordings of the band telling jokes, working on songs and lyrics, and silly renditions of their greatest hits.  It’s spectacular and I recommend it to anyone who loves the Beatles.  This was my second time seeing it, and it still wowed me all the way through.

Three desserts, not just one!  All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!

Three desserts, not just one! All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!

The next morning we had an 11am flight back to Denver, so we leisurely woke and packed before heading to the airport.  The only downside was having to leave our puppy for the weekend, but luckily my hubby’s folks and their pet Chihuahua were a great substitute family in our absence.  I wish we could have had one extra day, but something tells me I may be going back again soon… Although it’s good we left when we did.  An excessive heat warning was issued Monday morning.  Temperatures exceeded 111º… Yikes!

What a great hubby I have!

What a great hubby I have!

What did you do this weekend?  Where’s the one place you love going to for long weekend getaways?  What’s your favorite thing to do, see or eat in Vegas?