Vistas and Visitors

Happy Spring!  Yesterday truly felt like spring time in the Mile High City!  It was nearly 70º and perfectly sunny.  Today, although sunny, gave way to cooler temps and a threat of wintery weather for tomorrow.  Regardless, it is technically spring, so there!

This spring guarantees to be an exciting time here in Denver.  The hubs and I will be hosting a slew of people within the next 2 months, and have a number of great adventures in store.  Beginning tomorrow, we will officially have our first house guests in our new home.  I am one of those people who gets far too excited about houseguests.  I buy flowers, clean sheets like it’s my job, and plan out activities to my heart’s content.  We have friends coming to town from our home town of DC, which is always so exciting.  I really enjoy showing off this beautiful state, particularly along the front range, to our East Coast pals.  Alex and Julia, whose wedding we were blessed to attend this past October, are friends from the DC area.  In contrast, Colorado is the perfect dose of modern western mountain culture.  We’ll roam the city tomorrow and end the evening with drinks at the Hyatt sky bar, Peaks Lounge, and dinner at Colt and Gray (one of 5280 Magazine’s top 25 restaurants this year).  I think there’s no better way to see the city than to see it from above.  Without the mountains, Denver would look like any number of mid-sized cities.  But the stunning views of the mountains mixed with the urban setting make this place truly spectacular.  Sunday we plan to partake in some beer tours, focusing in Boulder, and dine at Brasserie TenTen (one of my absolute favorite restaurants).

Next month my parents will be coming to town for their annual Colorado trip.  Perfectly enough, my dad has a conference in Boulder every April (Space Weather, very exciting stuff!), which was absolutely ideal when we were living there.  Although we’re not in Boulder anymore, we’ll have my folks over the

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are among the prettiest places in Colorado!
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are among the prettiest places in Colorado!

weekend before and after.  We’re hoping to visit Garden of the Gods, definitely one of the most spectacular natural formations in the state, and take the train up to Pike’s Peak from Manitou Springs.  The last time my folks were out to stay, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, where we toured the Stanley Hotel (the birthplace of “The Shining”) and meandered through the charming little town.  After the floods this past September, Estes Park is still rebuilding, but it’s always a place I recommend.  You are seconds away from some of Colorado’s best, most stunning hiking trails, and it’s a great getaway in both summer and winter!

The beautiful Stanley Hotel!  Too bad the movie version was filmed in Canada...
The beautiful Stanley Hotel! Too bad the movie version was filmed in Canada…

Finally in May, Samantha and her husband Michael will be joining us for the BOLDERBoulder, but this will be their first time visiting us in our new home in Denver, and during the springtime. Our last visit consisted of a tour of Coors (it is a quintessential brewery tour after all, you actually do get to taste the Rockies) and a near-death January hiking in Chautauqua’s Gregory Canyon… adventure.  Luckily with warmer weather, hiking won’t be an issue this go-around.  We may venture to some great trails surrounding the city of Golden and hit up some local Denver breweries.

January hiking can be a dangerous business...
January hiking can be a dangerous business… Luckily Samantha and her hubby were all smiles!

To say the least, I am proud of my home.  Being able to “staycation” in your own state and discover something new each time is a real blessing!  It’s been a phenomenal transition from the hustle and bustle of mid-Atlantic living to a calmer, more appreciative life-style.  No matter the time of year, there is always something to do in Colorado.  From hiking and biking, to skiing and snow-shoeing, the outdoors is our wonderland.  To top it all off, we live in the Napa Valley of beer with outstanding eateries to boot!  Now if only we could improve the standard of attire, and add easier access to an ocean, then this would be my heaven.

What do you do when you have guests visit?  What are your favorite aspects of where you live?  Anything fun planned for the weekend?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! PR’s for Everyone!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone – it’s a day for cheer and a day for beer!  I am a quarter Irish so I am absolutely allowed to say that with all the pomp and circumstance.  And I am wearing green today, so no pinching!  But don’t worry, I am not drinking beer at work.  Although a snake bite black may be in order this evening (I am willing to break my New Year’s goal to appropriately celebrate a holiday in honor of my lineage).

This past weekend I participated in the Lucky Laces 10K in Denver’s City Park.  The event was more about the 5K than the 10K, but I am holding true to that extra lap.  It was an amazing event, particularly for a local race.  My friends Samantha and Christine have determined that runners fall into two categories when it comes to preference of races: you either prefer the “Big Box” races with large registration numbers and premium sponsors, or you love local races that are more intimate and unique.  I will freely admit, particularly after the BOLDERBoulder and the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I am a big box fan all the way.  I don’t have to think about a thing for these races.  Everything is planned out to a tee, and all elements are carefully executed.  It’s an experience more than just a race.

Although Lucky Laces was a large local event, it had all the makings of a great big box race.  The day started around 8:00am, but I arrived around 8:20am.  To kick off the morning, there was a bagpiper playing, welcoming the runners and families.  Once I arrived at the main venue, there was a Celtic group, Pandora Celtica, singing traditional songs, free coffee, hot cocoa or cider (it was around 35 degrees with an icy wind), massage chairs ready for post-race relaxation, and a fantastic stand with cup of noodles.  I grabbed a free cup of joe and sipped it slowly as I waited for the start of the race.  The Little Leprechaun fun run kicked off at 8:30am, which was so fun to watch.  The kids and their parents all looked so happy!  As I lined up for the start of the race, an instructor from Camp Gladiator led the crowd in fun warm-ups, much appreciated due to the cold.  I was running on my own, but some of the exercises were to be with pairs, and the great folks around me joined in spiritedly.  Finally it was time to go and we were on our way.

The race was fun even before I began running!
The race was fun even before I began running!

The race itself was great.  It was a nice big loop around Denver’s City Park, with a maximum elevation change of 68 feet.  Much better than my giant hills at home.  Although a grey day, the runners were so jovial and friendly.  I was listening to the “Book of Mormon” soundtrack during the run (how PC of me I know…), which made me spontaneously burst out laughing, so I am sure I looked like a lunatic at parts.  As I reached the 5K mark, I had a moment of complete jealousy of those veering off for the 5K finish.  At that point “Man Up” began playing, so I carried on with a renewed sense of vigor.  My only complaint was that there were 2 water stations for the 10K and none for the 5K.  Granted, I brought my own water bottle so as not to have to stop along the way, but for those without, and particularly at elevation, there should have been at least one more station.  As I pulled up for the finish, “I Believe” began blaring through my headphones, so I unknowingly timed my music far too appropriately for my needs.

I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly!
I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly! You know you like my argyle socks. Don’t lie.

After the race, I happily trotted over to pick up my medal (medals make me so happy!) and realized I had PRed in the process!  I was shooting for a 60 minute 10K (I am not that fast, but for me that’s great), but ended with 1:04.  Not too far off, and potentially without such an icy wind, I may have gotten there.  Regardless, I was quite excited.  I knew that I needed something warm so I went over to the cup of noodles folks and happily accepted a steaming cup.  From the main venue, we “followed the rainbow” signs to a mansion across from City Park.  Inside, Delilah’s Revenge was performing, Odell’s Brewery was serving delicious beers, and Flippin’ Flapjacks offered steaming hot pancakes fresh off the griddle.  I was one happy camper.  I chatted with a girl who had also run the 10K and she ended up winning 3rd for her age group.  She and I agreed that she needed to wear that medal to work today, and I hope she did!

Race medal, Cup of Noodles, and Odell's brew make for one happy running lady!
Race medal, Cup of Noodles, and Odell’s brew make for one happy running lady!

I would love to do this race again.  It was supremely well organized, easy to manage, and just a fun, exciting environment.  Although I still love those big box races, there’s definitely something to be said about local runs with a lot of flair!

Do you prefer smaller, local races or the big box events?  Did you do anything fun in honor of St. Patty’s?  Do you listen to music when you run, or prefer the sound of your feet on the pavement? 

Lucky Laces Cheer and Beer

Tomorrow morning I will be running the Lucky Laces 10K in Denver’s City Park.  I’ve been wanting to do a longer local race in Denver.  I’ve really only participated in Denver 5K’s up until this point, and although fun and easy, you never get a great feel for the truer running community.  The BOLDERBoulder, being such a large 10K event, is really more a giant party with people from all walks of life, and from all over the world.  Again, not a true indicator of the region’s running community.  I also was yearning for an opportunity to run a distance race on my own, simply to see what I can do in a race setting.  This is my shot, and I am extremely excited!

The morning will start with some great Celtic music, in honor, of course, of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  Around 8:30am kids and families will line up for the fun run, and by 9:00am, the 5/10K will start.  Initially I was just planning on doing the 5K, but if it’s just me running, why not push myself?  The 10K will take 2 laps around Denver’s City Park, and end with pancakes, sausage, and yes, Odell’s Brewery beer!  Who wouldn’t want to drink a delicious brew at 10:00am?

The course for the 5/10K around Denver's City Park.
The course for the 5/10K around Denver’s City Park.

Not only do you get fame and glory for this race, but there should be some good swag.  I love swag in a sad way.  The tech-T was already mailed to my house (which of course I cannot wear until the race is over, bad juju people!).  Beyond that, participants are promised a T-shirt, medal, goody bag, and event pictures.  Not too shabby for a smaller race!

One thing that I am very intrigued about regarding this race is the use of an app called Bibs.  This app is supposed to allow you to check your time directly upon completion of the race, check the course map, and provide family a friends a way to track you on the course.  I am hopeful that this will be a great tool, and will report back on its usability and accuracy post-race.

It looks like the weather will hold out for tomorrow, with partly-cloudy skies and mid-40 degree temperatures.  Regardless, I am prepared for the ensemble.  Yet again, the outfit played a major role in my preparation for the event.  I’ve also requested a snake bite black later in the day.  It is St. Patty’s Day weekend after all, and I am Irish.  Partly.

Yellow, green and grey argyle socks will be my statement piece.  Rocco also approved.
Yellow, green and grey argyle socks will be my statement piece. Rocco also approved.

What are your St. Patty’s Day weekend plans?  Do you like to party like those crazy Celts or stay in and sip green beer?  Any upcoming races that you cannot wait for?  Do you know of any other great running/tracking apps being used in the race community?

Ode to Beer

It’s always been my opinion that beer is gross.  Don’t get me wrong, I partook in a good number of college drinking games and willingly consumed watery, cloudy concoctions, but to my limited knowledge, all beer was heavy and disappointing.  Trust me, Urban Dictionary says it best: “Natty Light- an important part of every college kid’s nourishing diet. Best when consumed in excessive quantities.”  And boy was it consumed in excessive quantities.  But lo and behold, beer can be good (I did not say is good, and I think I have proved my point with Natty Light).  Little did I realize when moving to Colorado, not only would I happily drink the occasional beer, but I would suggest weekend beer tastings and brewery tours as a thrilling activity!  No wonder people are so active here, because otherwise Boulder would have the world’s highest population of beer-bellied slackers.

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“The Napa Valley of Beer,” is a title I have come to associate with the Boulder Valley region.  I kid you not, Colorado alone has 140 established microbreweries, with new craft beers being poured every day.  The Front Range, which extends from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs along the western ridge of the Colorado Rockies, is heavily populated with phenomenal microbrews, such as New Belgium, Odell’s, Avery, Boulder, Oskar Blues, and Great Divide Brewing Companies. Furthermore, Denver is the home to the Great American Beer Festival, which sold out all 49,000 tickets in 45 minutes this year.   Needless to say, beer is BIG.

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If the statistics and numbers didn’t impress me, the flavors did.  Upon moving here, I expected to see the stereotypical Bud Lite, Miller Lite, and of course a plethora of Coors to dominate the taps in a college town, but instead I encountered Hazed and Infused, Fat Tire, and Colorado Native.  What’s more, it’s cheap!  Not tasting, but costing.  How easily I can access phenomenal blends of hoppy goodness.  I’ve been on five different brewery tours between Fort Collins, Boulder and Golden, and I know the most important ingredient in beer is water (shocking, but here you actually get to taste the Rockies).  Every time friends come to visit, my first thought is which brewery to take them to.   I love the experience, I adore the people, and the delectable drafts keep me coming back for more.

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I know it seems so stereotypical talking about beer in October.  After all, I was born in Germany, and they do Oktoberfest right.  But this past weekend we took some friends from home to New Belgium. This is the largest microbrewery in Colorado, distributed to 26 states, and it all started with a guy mountain biking through Belgium.  Who doesn’t want to work in a place with a swirly slide?  Before we knew what else we would do that weekend, I quickly snatched the last available tour slot, and smiled knowing no matter what, we would have a great time.  And we did.

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