#SquadUp: Running Loves Company

Every person has someone who inspires them. In fact we all probably have many people who inspire us in different ways. For my running “career,” I owe that inspiration to three amazing ladies: Samantha, Justine and Christine. These are my back home gal pals, sorority sisters, and besties who spurred the inner athlete in me. When I moved to Colorado with my hubby in 2011, it was the first time I’d been “away from home” in 13 years. Although I moved with my family a few times while my dad was serving in the Air Force, I’d never been away from my parents, and truly it was the first time I was distanced from my closest friends. Robbie was definitely my rock during that time, but I still wanted to find ways to continue connecting with my besties back home.

Yeah, that about sums them up!

That year all three of them were ramping up their running game. Samantha had been a runner in high school and was diving back in full force, Justine had already completed at least one marathon by that time, and Christine was working towards half marathons the upcoming year. These ladies were my runspiration. Not only did they transform themselves and their lives for the better, but they could share it together! And to be completely blunt, I wanted in on the action. I wanted to know what the heck they were talking about (PR’s, GU, Glide, BioFreeze, foam rollers, and all the other foreign terminologies). Runner’s World actually has a quiz to determine if you speak runner, and at that time, I did not. Even from 1,700 miles away, I still wanted to be able to connect with my girlfriends, and share in the new experiences they were having. It may not have been the best motivation, but it doesn’t matter how you get to the race, just that you have the courage to run it.

It’s not surprising that they all turned to running. The Washington D.C. metro area is among the top 10 cities in the U.S. for runners, according to Forbes Travel Guide and Active.com (as well as Boulder, CO, my first home in Colorado!). It makes perfect sense, given the numerous lengthy paths and trails, countless races, and the city’s scenic beauty and national landmarks. If only I’d really been into running while I was there!

I have been lucky enough to run a race with all three of these ladies before, the Nike

#GoSquad at the Nike Women’s Half. These ladies have inspired my whole running “career”!

Women’s Half Marathon, before they discontinued the race in D.C. It was the first time all four of us had participated in a race together, and my first race in the D.C. metro area. To say shenanigans occurred would be an understatement to end all understatements. There were moments of skipping, Peep eating, and a lot of photo ops.

This weekend I will return to my former home to celebrate the wedding of my dear friend, Christine. In other words, #squadreunion. We

The last time we were together celebrating a beautiful bride-to-be!

have an amazing weekend planned for the bride, from a winery tour through Virginia wine country to a bridal tea brunch. I won’t say more, because of course we are hoping for a lot of the elements to be a surprise, but it’s going to be fabulous! The other thing to consider is I am still training for my marathon, and that doesn’t stop even while traveling. Thankfully I will be visiting ladies who know the area, know the trails and have trained in this city for marathons of their own.

I cannot deny that last week was an incredibly off week in my training. I only managed to run a total of 15.1 miles, in part because of a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow in Denver in less than 12 hours, and also because

2016-03-27 10.03.19
Sunday’s run was not only shortened, but I had to forgo running on my usual trail. SO MUCH SNOW!

of work and personal issues. Even when I tried to fit in a 14 mile run this Sunday, my usual trek along the Highline Canal Trail was completely covered in ice and frozen-over snow. Needless to say I turned around after two miles in and finished my run on pavement. Every runner, every athlete, nay every human experiences an off week. It’s how we bounce back and not let it bring us down that defines us. So I am moving on and letting this week be a good one. Because let’s be honest, we are hardest upon ourselves. No one else is going to judge my progress or feel guilty about not fulfilling my goal except for me. So why carry that burden and let it affect the rest of my training? No one has space for that kind of mentality in their lives.

Furthermore, I am hoping that this week I will be able to fit in 18 miles while visiting in D.C. Weather is extremely permitting, with thunderstorms clouding the forecast. The weather gods may need a serious sacrifice… My friend, Samantha, has it all planned out and is going to bike along with me on the Mount Vernon Trail if all goes well. I am hoping to be able to run past monuments and the tidal basin, currently blooming with cherry blossoms. It would be nice to switch it up, and running at sea level doesn’t hurt either!

These days, though, I have many runspirations. My hubby is probably my biggest supporter and source of encouragement. He and I have been training together for the Colfax Marathon, and it makes the miles all the more wonderful to share them with him. He has been my rock and motivator this entire time. Often he will tell me, “I only started running because of you,” and I know it’s true. Better still is that is gives us another way to spend more time together. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Our second Denver Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon together in October 2015.

Here’s last week’s recap – on to a bigger and better week of training!  Have you ever had just incredibly off weeks when training? Who is your runspiration? Do you speak runner?

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 3/21/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.1 mile run
Tuesday, 3/22/16 Active Rest: 45 minute walk Rest
Wednesday, 3/23/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Coconut Core and Booty N/A
Thursday, 3/24/16 Zumba,  TIU Burn HIIT Up, TIU Band Workout N/A
Friday, 3/25/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 3/26/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Sunday, 3/27/16 N/A 12 mile run

Be Bold, Be Bolder, Be BOLDEST! BolderBoulder 2015 Recap

My very first BolderBoulder in 2013!
My very first BolderBoulder in 2013!

I am pretty sure you all are aware of my deep love for the BolderBoulder 10K in Boulder, CO.  It was, indeed, the race that started it all.  About three and half years ago, I made the commitment to myself that I would run the BolderBoulder, this infamous race in my then hometown, that everyone kept talking about. I knew I wanted to be healthier, and let’s be honest, Colorado has that effect on most people, and I thought running was the best logical first step (pun totally intended).  It didn’t require any hand eye coordination (which is key for my incredible lack of athleticism), expensive special equipment (also key as I was the only one working at the time while the hubs was in school), or a gym membership (hello beautiful outdoor running space – Colorado’s Front Range is exceedingly runner friendly).  So I tied up my laces on a terribly old pair of sneakers, and hit the pavement.

Now here I am in 2015, with a total of 28 races completed, including seven half

Last year's Patriotic BolderBoulder, this outfit has since come in handy.
Last year’s Patriotic BolderBoulder, this outfit has since come in handy.

marathons, and three straight years at the BolderBoulder.  I honestly can say I didn’t anticipate getting to this point.  My running path led me to many other forms of exercise that I would have been too scared or intimidated to try before. Starting last summer, I participated in my friend Amy’s LacyFit classes, which were HIIT bookcamp-esque classes twice a week. I went regularly to the gym with my husband to use the hand weights and elliptical. I take Zumba classes once a week at my campus gym, and who doesn’t want to get their dance on with some salsa and cumbia moves?  Recently, I have been positively obsessed with Core Power Yoga and Tone It Up, which have elevated my fitness routine to muscle toning and sculpting.  It’s been a wild ride over the past 3 years, and I, and my body, are so grateful for the inspiration the BolderBoulder has brought me.

I cannot lie, I may have signed up for the 2015 BolderBoulder the day after the 2014 race… I was pretty pumped about it. So I have been anticipating this race for some time.  It is the nation’s largest 10K, and I would say one of the most impressively planned races I have ever seen.  I have nothing but respect for the incredible details that go into this race.  The sheer number of wave starts alone is mind-boggling, and any race that has 50,000 participants is hands down incredible.  So I went into this year’s race with even more appreciation and a lot of excitement.

Congrats SEESTER!
Congrats SEESTER!

I had spent the weekend, through that Sunday, in Maryland celebrating my sister’s graduation from the University of Maryland, so I was a little anxious knowing I was coming from sea level.  Still, the hubs and I woke early the Monday of Memorial Day to hit the road by 5:45am.  The traffic into Boulder on race day is always a bit questionable. We had a new plan for parking this time around, and decided to park under the 29th Street Mall in their garage.  We were going to begin with our friends Scott and Danielle, as well as their friend Eli, whose start wave was around 7:25am.  Although we left with plenty of time, with the slow line into the parking area, as well as a pitstop at actual bathrooms (halleluiah!), we were still late by 2 wave starts.  Luckily you can join any wave after your own, just not before it.

When we were last in Disney World in November 2014 for the Wine and

Our awesome race buddies. How cute are they??
Our awesome race buddies. How cute are they??

Dine Half Marathon, the hubs and I picked up Mickey and Minnie bride and groom ears.  This amazing couple will be tying the knot this upcoming October, so we thought they’d appreciate a little Disney bling.  Little did I realize this would be incorporated into a full blown BolderBoulder costume!  They dressed as bride and groom, complete with the ears, and boy was that adorable!  So I knew I had to step up our game. Last year’s America themed ensemble was pretty amazing, but what about this year? Well, I had a tiara, and never pass up an opportunity to wear a sparkle skirt, so Aurora it was!  The first time the hubs and I went to Disney we bought him a Prince Phillip shirt that says, “Sorry girls, I’m taken!” So combine that with some navy shorts, and voila! A themed costume! What can I say? I may be a race costume junkie.

My handsome Prince and I making our way!
My handsome Prince and I making our way!
Danielle did the
Danielle did the “Amy” face!!

So we got under way just a few minutes behind schedule.  The morning was practically perfect, even just a little chilly, which is always good for race days.  The month of May seemed like monsoon season along the Front Range, so I was more than thankful for dry race conditions. I passed through the first mile without even realizing it and we quickly made our way through the mile 2 marker. I have come to just enjoy looking around during the BolderBoulder now, given that Boulder once was my home.  Right before mile 4 at the Casey Middle School hill, and the highest point of the race, runners pass my former home on the right, along with my favorite mini Whole Foods ever, Ideal Market.  After that point, the last 2.2 miles are just so much fun.  You find your way onto Pearl Street with cupcakes waiting (although I have never partaken), and then weave your way onto Folsom after passing a chipper group of cheerleaders.  The number of entertainment stations along this course is a bit baffling for as short as it is.  Someday I will have to do a mid-race keg stand.

I enjoy this route more and more each year.  LOVE Boulder!
I enjoy this route more and more each year. LOVE Boulder! Source
One of the best feelings.
One of the best feelings.

Of course there’s nothing like making your way up Folsom and onto the CU Boulder Folsom Field for the victory lap.  The stadium is full of folks who already finished cheering and applauding the runners toward the finish line. The finishers are projected onto the Jumbotron, and there are photographers scattering the finish area.  It’s truly one of the coolest feelings I have ever had when finishing a race.  Oh, and I PRed, best time yet for a 10K! 1:00:31:82.  I was a little bummed, thinking I’d run it in less than an hour, but next year!

Aren't we cute? Too bad we didn't win the #BBBestShot contest!
Aren’t we cute? Too bad we didn’t win the #BBBestShot contest!

After the race, we met all met up for obligatory post-race stadium photos, got our goodie bags (why didn’t they have the lunch bags this year?) and Beer (Oskar Blues, soooooo good), attempted to peruse the Expo (SO MANY PEOPLE), and then headed over to the VIP section. Hello world, I have arrived, a BolderBoulder VIP.  My friend Danielle’s sister works for the race, so we took the elevator up to the VIP zone, which had yummy food, beverages of all types, and a stunning view of the stadium.  No really, it was spectacular.  We got some great photos, relaxed, and enjoyed watching runners make their way across the finish line.

The gorgeous view of the Flatirons from the VIP section.
The gorgeous view of the Flatirons from the VIP section.

Afterwards, we met up with some other friends at the Chautauqua Dining Hall in Chautauqua Park, and all I will say is lemon almond pancakes.  Yes.  A beautiful day, wonderful people, and my favorite BolderBoulder to date.

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?

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

It’s crazy to think how last week and this week flew by.  My birthday is this Saturday and I don’t even know what happened to the month of May!  Two Thursdays ago I flew home from Jackson Hole, WY and shortly afterwards our friends Samantha and her hubby arrived in Denver for a long weekend stay.  It was a much needed respite from work, and a welcome visit from some of our favorite people.

The first time Samantha and her hubs came to Colorado, we were living in Boulder, and had only been in residence for about 6 months.  Colorado was still very new to us, but we were able to showcase some of our favorite things, including Snooze.  My sister and brother-in-law introduced us to the restaurant a few years before moving there.  Snooze is an AM Eatery, with an old school diner vibe infused with unique flavor combinations.  My all-time go-to, hands down best order?  Red velvet pancakes.  No lie.  To be sure, our friends fell just as in love with Snooze as we did.  The first order of their second trip to Colorado?  Snooze, duh!

Delightful Snooze beverages!
Delightful Snooze beverages!

We went to Snooze Friday morning, and only waited about 40 minutes (there are no reservations, and people will line up outside to wait, so anything less than an hour is a blessing).  Thankfully they were still on East Coast time, so it was easy to rally early and head out for a delightful breaky.  I ordered their epic breakfast burrito smothered in green chili.  If you aren’t from Colorado or New Mexico, proper green chili sauce is hard to come by.  Having fresh roasted hatch green chilies makes all the difference in the world.  YUM!  I was tempted, however, by a new pancake on the menu: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie pancakes.  Needless to say, we got one to share for the table.

After gorging ourselves with Snoozey goodness, the boys went off to play some golf while Samantha and I went shopping.  Our first stop was the Run Colorado store in Greenwood Village.  I absolutely love the Run Colorado store.  Their Nike pullovers and running tanks, with great Colorado logos, make my day every time.  I bought some items for my friend Christine’s birthday, but knew that Samantha would love this store too.  To say we did some damage would be fairly accurate.

After hitting a few more stores, I took Samantha to Lark Burger for a small lunch.  She’d been hearing about Lark Burger for some time, and I often rave about it.  We each got a Little Lark and split a side of their legendary Parmesan Truffle Fries!  So fabulous… I am pretty much always sold when it comes to truffle anything.  We jetted home and met up with the boys before going downtown for drinks at Peak’s Lounge and dinner at Osteria Marco on Larimer Square.

The next morning we woke early and readied ourselves for a hike.  The last time Samantha and Michael came to visit was during the month of

This is the map of Castlewood Canyon State Park - beautiful views of Pike's Peak!
This is the map of Castlewood Canyon State Park – beautiful views of Pike’s Peak! Source

January – not prime hiking season.  But we obliged anyway!  By the end we were practically scooting on our rears all the way down due to slick, steep ice and packed snow.  This time was significantly better.  We headed southeast to Castlewood Canyon State Park, south of Castle Rock, CO.  We parked on the east side of the park, started on the Lake Gulch trail, connected with the Rim Rock trail, taking us along the top of the canyon, and then continued on the Creek bottom trail before hooking back up with the Lake Gulch to head back to the car.  In total, the entire hike was about 6 miles and we made great time.  We tired out Samantha and Michael by the end but they were in great spirits.  Samantha and I spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, strawberry mojitos in hand, and had a nice easy evening.

Yay hiking selfies!  And photobombing!
Yay hiking selfies! And photobombing!
Yup! That's Pike's Peak behind the adorable couple!
Yup! That’s Pike’s Peak behind the adorable couple!
Don't jump Samantha!
Don’t jump Samantha!
Gorgeous day in Garden of the Gods!
Gorgeous day in Garden of the Gods!

The following day we went to Whole Foods in the morning to prepare for the evening’s meal (light protein and carbs in preparation for Monday’s race) and our Memorial Day barbeque (Robbie’s famous burgers!).  Afterwards we drove south to Colorado Springs, meandered through Garden of the Gods, and then hopped on the Cog Railway train in Manitou Springs to head up Pike’s Peak!  The train was packed, but we made the most of it.  We made it to the top this time, although it was surrounded in clouds, and just as we were departing the clouds broke for a few moments, and the rest of the world (it seemed) lay below.  You could see all the way to the state of Kansas, so that in itself was pretty awesome.

The top of Pike's Peak!
The top of Pike’s Peak!

With the BolderBOULDER the next morning, we prepared fish and sausage on the grill with a side of purple rice.  Monday morning we were ready to leave by 6am.  We got to Boulder around 7:15am, parked at CU, and walked to the starting line.  We missed our corral by about 5 minutes, but given that there are nearly 100 start waves, it wasn’t an issue.  We started the race in red, white and blue style!  Samantha bought us all patriotic sunglasses to wear during the run and they were so fun!  Robbie wore a Captain America shirt, Michael had Superman, and Samantha and I decked out accordingly.  We ran the first three miles with Michael and Samantha, but separated after that point so they could take a bit more time due to the altitude.  The hubs and I ran straight through to the end, noticing how much easier it was this year versus last year.  We are a bit more in practice this time around!  Shortly after finishing, Samantha and her hubby joined us and we wandered through the after-race expo.  The crowds were pretty enormous, so we grabbed a few things here and there, and then headed home.

BolderBOULDER awesomeness.  I love coordinating outfits and Patriotic sunglasses!
BolderBOULDER awesomeness. I love coordinating outfits and Patriotic sunglasses!
Another awesome year running the BolderBOULDER!
Another awesome year running the BolderBOULDER!

That afternoon was spent on our back patio, eating hatchamole (guacamole with hatch green chilies!) and chips, mixing up delicious cocktails, and dining on my hubby’s homemade burgers (hello pretzel buns!).  It was the perfect Memorial Day weekend celebration.  I couldn’t have asked for a better visit!

We celebrate in delicious style.  Strawberry and blueberry mojitos and watermelon slices!
We celebrate in delicious style. Strawberry and blueberry mojitos and watermelon slices!
My boys chillin' outside - still rockin' the shades.
My boys chillin’ outside – still rockin’ the shades.
I worried Samantha and Michael would try to take Rocco with them...
I worried Samantha and Michael would try to take Rocco with them…
Perfect weekend!
Perfect weekend!

How was the start of your summer (okay so technically it starts on June 21st, but it’s the symbolic start to summer, right?)?  What are your go-to’s when friends come to visit?  Don’t you just love our Patriotic ensembles?

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

What a hiatus! Last week, through this past Monday, was just an incredible culmination of fantastic moments and awesome memories.  I was lucky enough to spend Monday through Thursday exploring beautiful Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.  Sadly Yellowstone was a bit too far to fit into our schedule, but my coworkers and I made the most of our time in Jackson.  As previously mentioned, we ventured through Teton National Park, particularly around Jenny Lake and hiking up to Taggart Lake.  To say it is stunningly beautiful would be an understatement to end all understatements.  Ah – mazing.

Just to recap: one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to!
Just to recap: one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to!

The following two days in Jackson were spent primarily in some awesome sessions for the conference I was attending.  We met great people

This section is called the "Sleeping Indian," not so politically correct, but there you have it.
This section is called the “Sleeping Indian,” not so politically correct, but there you have it.

from around the region with good ideas we hope to incorporate into our current work structure.  I was able to go for a 5 and a half mile run on Wednesday between conference sessions and dinner.  From our hotel, which was located at the very southeast corner of Jackson, right up next to Snow King Mountain (I use the word “mountain” liberally, but apparently it is the steepest north facing ski slope in the US).  I followed Snow King Road west until I could hook up with the main road in and out of town, Cache.  I ran down this stretch until I was clear out of town, about a mile and a half.  Once you emerge from Jackson Hole and are heading north, you run right into the National Elk Refuge, which parallels much of Teton National Park.  During the winter months, the locals host actual sleigh rides which allow you to get right up to herds of elk, while explaining the history of the refuge and more about the animals themselves.  While that sounds awesome, for that day, running alongside it, without snow and ice, was fine with me!

There’s a fairly new, and outstanding, bike path that follows the edge of the refuge.  Now I was not up for renting a bike, so I decided to risk it and run along the path for a while.  Some of the views were breathtaking.  At this point you are shielded from the Tetons, but on the eastern range are some awesome mountains and formations.  The day was perfect, the sky was blue, and it was like being in a world of my own.

Honestly, the perfect day, and ideally located bike trail, for an afternoon run.
Honestly, the perfect day, and ideally located bike trail, for an afternoon run.
Perfect views of the Tetons from atop Snow King Mountain!
Perfect views of the Tetons from atop Snow King Mountain! Sleepy Jackson Hole just below.

The next and last day of the conference, I woke up at 5:50am and jetted out of the hotel to hike up Snow King Mountain.  I will give Jacksonians credit: it is steep.  I took the Summit Trail three-quarters of the way up (I had to watch my time since I needed to be ready for the morning by 8am), and from there, the views were phenomenal.  Suddenly the Teton Range comes into view above the ridge surrounding Jackson Hole.  The entire valley invades your view, and it’s like the entire world is resting below your feet.  I have gone on plenty of hikes in Colorado, but this vista was particularly enthralling.

My coworkers and I left that afternoon (after a two hour delay spent in the airport – time wasted when we could have done another hike!), and within a few hours our friends Samantha (the lovely Miss BakeNBurn) and her hubby arrived for the most wonderful long weekend ever.  Wow, did they spoil us.  Our hubbies got to play golf, we basked by the pool, there was some excellent shopping, we went hiking through Castlewood Canyon State Park, we took the cog railway up Pike’s Peak (and made it to the [cloud-covered] top!), we wandered through Garden of the Gods, and topped it all off with their first high-altitude race – my favorite – the BolderBOULDER (I may have already signed up for next year…)!  I’ll get into all that later, but the past two weeks have been a reminder of how fun life can be, what great friends I have, and how many amazing places I have yet to explore!

BolderBOULDER awesomeness.  Yeah we were all in red, white and blue (Go America!). I miss them already! Come back!
BolderBOULDER awesomeness. Yeah we were all in red, white and blue (Go America!). I miss them already! Come back!

Are you like me – do you take advantage of every moment you have when exploring a new place?  What is one place you’ve been to that has just taken your breath away?  What did you do for Memorial Day Weekend?

Jackson Hole & Workin’ for the Weekend

Yesterday I was planning on sitting down to write a nice Friday favorites post about my upcoming trips, both work and pleasure, Ms. BakeNBurn’s visit, my all-time fav the BolderBOULDER, and all other sorts of Friday goodness. My plan was quickly halted when I learned I would be taking my first student as an academic advisor. I know that doesn’t sound scary or intimidating, but having to learn programs for five different schools and colleges, resources across the entire campus, and make sure to cover everything a brand new student needs to know caused a moment of panic.

I work in an academic advising office at CU Denver, but as a project specialist, much more behind the scenes. Every day is a little bit different, and I love that about my job. I’ve been in the process of trying to incorporate advising into my job duties to help the team, but had only shadowed appointments to this point. When my coworker called out, it was game time. Rule number 76: No excuses, play like a champion.

You may appreciate this compilation of amazing rules.

It was so much fun meeting with a great student and his family, and finally putting the months of preparation into practice. The excitement of the week was not over there, however. This morning I rose before the sun and, well, went back to work! Today was our spring commencement ceremony. I love graduations – the excitement, the pride, the accomplishments! It makes my giddy little Higher Ed heart sing.

With all our graduates graduated, I can now focus on the week ahead: Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Samantha and Michael’s visit for the BolderBOULDER! On Monday I head out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with 2 fellow coworkers for a regional conference. I’m so thrilled for this adventure. We’re getting in a day early due to timing conflicts, but that means we’ll have time to hike in Yellowstone and Grand Teton! One of my coworkers is also an avid hiker and mountain climber, so he’s going to lead the way. While I’ve been to Yellowstone before, it’s been nearly 11 years, and we didn’t do much hiking at the time.

I return home Thursday, which is coincidentally the day Samantha and her hubby arrive for five days! We’ve obviously planned the whole weekend, being the Type A’s we are, to include a trek up Pikes Peak, a hike in the front range foothills, golf for the boys and pool time for us, a little retail therapy, and of course the BolderBOULDER on Memorial Day! This next week and a half is bound to be pretty fantastic and a whirlwind of fun!

Ill check in later, hopefully with great adventures to share!

What adventures do you have coming up? Are you as in love with your job as I am? Do you just love graduation ceremonies, or find them a dead bore like my hubs? 😉 Have you hiked in the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone – recommendations?

Congrats CU Denver graduates!

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?