Runger: The Struggle Is Real

Why did no one ever tell me about real runger? I admit, I should have known that marathon training would require significantly more sustenance to keep me going, and fueling is always really important when training for any athletic endeavor.  But I am hungry. ALL. THE. TIME.  Don’t get me wrong, I love food, and I especially love good, nutritious, and well-balanced food.  I am simply not used to eating this much food out of necessity.  I have been doing a lot of research recently to understand what I should be doing to manage my hunger and ensure I am still fueling properly and thoughtfully.  It is true, I did indulge in a donut last week, but otherwise I am really trying to maintain and healthy balance between good carbs, fueling proteins, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and veggies.  I have to accept the fact, however, that marathon training isn’t designed for weight loss. Maintenance, sure, but not weight loss.  At least I will be toned all over!

No really, I feel like I am always hungry.
No really, I feel like I am always hungry.

In my quest for runger enlightenment, I stumbled upon Amanda Brooks’ blog “Run to the Finish,” in which her “Ultimate Guide to Managing Marathon Hunger” has been a huge life-saver and healthy reminder.  In it she provides her top 10 tips for managing marathon training hunger, which is exactly what I was needing.  I’ll list them below, but please check out her post – it’s hugely helpful!

  1. Amanda recommends refueling immediately after a run with a recovery drink. I am a huge fan of green smoothies, so this has been a really useful reminder for me that I need to intake my smoothie sooner. If you haven’t heard of “Simple Green Smoothies,” you should check them out now.  They have tons of free recipes on their site and through social media, and their book is outstanding.  The book provides smoothies for all different purposes, including recovery.
  2. The post-workout meal should include a slightly higher amount of protein,
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?
    Did I mention that these GF oat muffins are also great with Perfect Fit?

    whether through eggs, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas/hummus, etc. One of my favorites is cooking an egg and preparing half a cup of Love Grown Foods’ Simply Pure Super Oats, which incorporates quinoa and chia seeds.  I also sometimes top the oatmeal instead with a banana, half cup of blueberries and 5 strawberries, or you could even mix in your favorite nut butter.  I also love smoothies with Tone It Up’s Perfect Fit Protein, a great plant-based vegan protein powder.

  3. I am going to quote Amanda here, “Don’t fear fats”! And it’s true, but choose healthy and hearty saturated fats, like coconut oil in smoothies or when making eggs (which also helps enhance your energy levels) or avocados, also in smoothies or with lunch or dinner.  I am going to try this shrimp and avocado salad tonight for dinner, so you know that other half of avocado is going in my morning smoothie tomorrow!
  4. Do not wait too long to eat after your run, because this can lead to overeating. There are some days where I will grab a big bottle of water and make my recovery meal right after I return so I don’t get too rungry. Amanda also mentions incorporating 2-3 snacks throughout the day, so in essence you’re eating about 5 or so “meals” on a daily basis as needed.  Often I will go for bananas with nut butter, carrots and hummus, or a smaller green smoothie.
  5. Carbs are friends, not foes, as long as incorporated properly. Complex carbohydrates are the key, which you can get from veggies and whole grains.  Quinoa and oats are some of my favorite things, and even in baking I am turning to whole wheat and gluten-free flours, like oat flour.  Amanda provides useful links to carbo-load correctly, so it’s worth checking out.
  6. Controlling your sugars is essential. Although last week’s chocolate frosted donut was a real treat, I was aware that it was not adding any value to how I fuel my body.  Sugar has a sneaky way of making you feel hungry even if you aren’t, which can cause overeating.  When you’re already consuming more calories than normal, this is a very slippery slope you want to avoid.
  7. What else can I say? Sleep is so imperative for everything, really, and even more so when training. This is definitely an area of improvement for me.  Sleep can help balance your metabolism as well as give you the recharge your body so needs after intensive athletic exercise.  The standard 7-8 hours fall somewhat short when training for a marathon, and really we should be aiming for 9-10 hours.  My goal for the next 2 months – more sleep!
  8. Focus on the nutrients in food as much as the food itself. Fresh fruits and veggies are a runner’s friend. I know we all fuel differently before a race, and I admit that I cannot eat anything that is more challenging to digest (like raw foods), but the recovery benefits are incredible.  It is recommended to have about 5 -7 services of fruits and veggies a day. Thankfully I love green smoothies and probably should have stock in Chiquita bananas for as many as I consume daily…
  9. Electrolytes provide the power you need to carry on, and running causes us to sweat them out. Lack of electrolytes can cause fatigue and cramps, which no runner wants to experience during or after a run.  NUUN hydration provides fabulous tablets that dissolve easily in water, do not include sugars, and provide a great natural boost of electrolytes.  Post-run coconut water is another wonderful and natural way to replenish your body with electrolytes.
  10. I love Amanda’s last recommendation the best: “listen to your body.” If you are in tune with what your body is telling you, you’ll refuel properly and timely, avoiding the snowball effect of incredible insatiable hunger, overeating, or not eating enough.  She also recommends to drink water before refueling. You may just be dehydrated rather than craving more calories.
giphy
Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. Source

These are definitely some of the guidelines and recommendations I am going to hold

Saturday's 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.
Saturday’s 10K is a great local race on a nice flat course.

onto for the next 9 weeks of my training plan.  On a side note, last week’s training went incredibly well!  I ran more than normal because the hubs and I had the Lucky Laces 10K (finished in 59:36, 9:36/mile!) on Saturday and a long run planned for Sunday.  Thankfully it was a good warm-up for Sunday’s run.  We completed 16.15 miles on Sunday in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 19 seconds.  It is great knowing I can run that far and under a 10 minute/mile pace!  Here’s hoping 10 more miles won’t bog me down too much…

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday 3/7/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday 3/8/16 Yoga Sculpt 4 mile run
Wednesday 3/9/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Thursday 3/10/16 Zumba N/A
Friday 3/11/16 N/A 3.55 mile run
Saturday 3/12/16 TIU Bikini Arms 6.27 mile run
Sunday 3/13/16 N/A 16.15 mile run
Lucky Laces 10K was a success - nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!
Lucky Laces 10K was a success – nice, easy miles to prep for Sunday!

I gave myself a nice running break yesterday, but I will be back at it this afternoon, with 17 miles planned for this weekend – eek!

What recommendations do you have for fueling during marathon training?  Anyone else experience some major runger?  How is your training plan going?

Colfax Half Marathon Race Recap

A month ago I took part in my first ever Colfax Half Marathon.  The Colfax race series is an institution in the state of Colorado, and has apparently been featured in Runner’s World.  Other than the BolderBoulder, it’s the one “local” race that has really become nationally known.  I had been hearing about it since joining the running community three years ago, but hadn’t thought to sign up until this year.  The Colfax has five different options for distances and participation: a 5K, 10-miler, half marathon, full marathon, or team relay.  I still have not committed myself to the idea of a full marathon, so I happily signed up for the half.

The weekend of the race was a really exciting weekend – my boss graduated from CU Denver with her MPA (the same degree I have) and I could not have been more proud!  I rose early Saturday

What a gorgeous setting in which to graduate.
What a gorgeous setting in which to graduate.

morning to attend graduation and volunteer for commencement services.  Commencement is truly one of the most exciting days on any college campus – the air is thick with accomplishment, promise, and aspirations for the future.  It was the perfect day and I was thrilled to be a part of the day.

Coolest race expo venue ever!
Coolest race expo venue ever!

After graduation, I drove out to Denver’s air and space museum (who knew they had one??), Wings Over the Rockies in east Denver for packet pickup. This was BY FAR the coolest location for packet pickup.  You entered and immediately picked up your bib and race reminder information, then the expo led participants through the massive hanger lined with planes from all eras.  It was incredible.  My aeronautics-loving husband would have loved this place but I graciously offered to pick up both of our packets on my way home.

I stopped by a few booths, including the Run Colorado store (I got the hubs a shirt that read “Run Commando” which he and I both got a kick out of), Bani Bands for some adorable headbands, and a local yoga mat vendor which infuses their mats with essential oils – I got a gorgeous purple mat that smells like lavender!  At the end of the expo, I picked up our tech shirts and Colfax 13.1 stickers, and headed back home.

The next morning arrived terribly early. Our race start was 6:45am, but it was recommended we park by 6am… oof.  Because we couldn’t cross Colfax (I mean, it is called the Colfax for a reason), we parked on the south side of Colfax, about a 15 minute walk to City Park.  Denver has apparently had a monsoon season as of recently, so Saturday and Sunday were the first nice days in over two weeks.  It was definitely a blessing, because running 13.1 in the rain isn’t ideal… I have already done that once before.

Pre-race smiles all around!
Pre-race smiles all around!

We made our way over to the far edge of the park near the Natural History museum for the starting line. On our way, we passed a large group of marathoners making their way out of City Park and turning west onto Colfax – that was really exciting to see, but also mildly tiring knowing how much further they were going than I.  We were randomly placed into corral N, although we were never asked to provide qualifying times so I am not sure how these corrals were sorted.  The first group started at 6:45am on the dot, but by the time it got to our corral, we’d been waiting over 20 minutes, with no space to stretch, and standing on cold pavement.  Starting a run cold isn’t really fun, but you persist!

Once we finally got going, we looped around City Park, and headed north toward the entrance to the Denver Zoo.  I can’t lie, this is one of the reasons I was most

And so we run!
And so we run!

excited for this race – you get to run through the zoo!  The volunteers held amazing zoo-related signs throughout the zoo, as we snaked around the winding pathways.  It was a little tough this early on in the race, as people were still fairly clumped together, but we got to see camels, flamingos, an elephant, and a sleepy cheetah, along with a number of other animals lazily waking up before the day’s excitement.  Once we headed out the facility entrance, we ran east toward the Natural Science Museum, and looped in front of the front doors.  Finally the race made its’ way onto Montview Blvd., which is where we would spend the majority of the time running.  While the marathoners were heading west towards Sports Authority Field at Bronco’s Stadium, we were heading towards the Aurora Fire Station.  After about 3 miles on Montview, a fairly flat, not overly exciting road, we turned right before hitting Havana and loopped into the fire station.  Fire fighters and EMTs were waiting there to cheer us on – coming through the other side of the station was an awesome backdrop of the Colorado flag and photographers waiting to shoot.  You know I posed for this one.

2015-06-03 12.35.06
What a good spot to pose – almost like they planned it that way…
This was a good way to do an out and back, and at least I can say I ran on Colfax!
This was a good way to do an out and back, and at least I can say I ran on Colfax!
This is my intense face.
This is my intense face.

Shortly afterwards was a Clif gel shot station, water, and a line of policemen and women cheering and clapping.  Finally, we emerged onto Colfax – the entire race series’ namesake!  Colfax was wide open, and people stopped along the road to cheer and encourage runners.  It was nearly 9 miles in at this point, and the time of the race when you need a little more pep in your step, so the enthusiasm was truly welcome.  After a good stint heading west on Colfax, we turned right and made our way onto 17th Avenue.  Shade was seriously needed because the day was warming up and I hate disrobing in the middle of a race.  On 17th, you pass by gorgeous, stately homes, families in their yards with sweet signs, half dressed firemen from the Denver Fire Fighters Calendar, and a whole lot of shade.  It was the best last 3 miles a girl could have hoped for.  This stretch takes you all the way back to City Park.  Coming up on the park was so exciting. You turn right and follow the loop around the western edge of the lake, hurtling towards the finish line, with the marathoners finishing next to you.  I *barely* had a half marathon PR, literally by 6 seconds, and felt amazing running through that finish line.  Would I do this one again?  Heck yes I would!

Don't you love that feeling of victory?
Don’t you love that feeling of victory?
Another half in the books!
Another half in the books!

The hubs met me at the finish line, and we waited in the amazing post-race vendor area to find a friend who had participated in the relay of the marathon.  It was a gorgeous day, and a great way to start the summer.  I am so lucky to live in such an amazing city!

Wahoo!
Wahoo! Gotta love some bling! And it spins!

Cherry Creek Sneak: The Race That Brought Me Back

I cannot lie to you, the internet, or myself.  The past few months I, for some unknown reason, loathed running.  It seems odd as running was the activity that really brought me into the world of fitness to begin with, but I just didn’t have the desire or drive to hit the pavement or trail.  My running shoes were feeling severely neglected as I sought other means of fitness.  Granted, it is always good to switch up your routine and workouts, to help balance the toning of all of your muscle groups and to make sure you stay committed, but this was getting a bit dire.  Especially because I had signed up for a race through work, and needed to commit to doing it with coworkers, and my boss, as other race participants.  You can’t tell the Vice Chancellor you didn’t feel like representing the university because you haven’t wanted to run.  Well, technically I guess I could, but I surely didn’t want to.

Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!
Probably my last good run before the race was early April, and it was only 5 miles!

Earlier in the year I had heard about the Cherry Creek Sneak through a chain of work emails sent out to fellow running colleagues.  This is a local race that boasts 4 different distances for the runner in all of us: 10 miles, 5 miles, 5 kilometers, and 1.5 miles.  The event takes place each April in one of my favorite areas of Denver, Cherry Creek.  It’s an old, established area of Denver with gorgeous stately homes and quaint, older cottages.  It’s eclectic and charming, and a gorgeous area to run through.  Being that I had signed up for the Colfax Half Marathon, which would take place less than a month later (AH! This Sunday!), I thought it best that I register for the 10 miler.  Once the hubby said he’d join me, I was committed.

So March rolled around, I kept on running, but was just not happy with it.  March turned into April, and my mood hadn’t changed.  Part of it, too, was that I was so in love with Core Power Yoga and the Tone it Up workouts, that running didn’t seem quite as appealing.  So finally the weekend of the Cherry Creek Sneak arrived, and rain was in the forecast.  If you haven’t kept up with Denver weather (let’s be honest, it’s a fascinating and ever-changing subject here), it rained for over a week straight, with about 3 inches of snow by the end), and I was truly dreading the race.  Sunday morning I woke up feeling groggy, tired, and just not in the mood to run.  But I am not one to back down from a commitment.  So with a sense of foreboding, I dressed for the race and hoped for the best.

You just gotta fake it til you make it!  Pre-race and pre-rain...
You just gotta fake it til you make it! Pre-race and pre-rain…

The hubby and I found a spot to park and walked a few blocks towards the starting line.  The 10 milers started first at 7:30am, so we arrived with about 20 minutes before the start.  I searched around for my colleagues, but didn’t see anyone.  Eventually we just readied ourselves for the race, lining up in our time corral, and prayed for a decent 10 miles.  This was not my most optimistic start, to be sure.  After one of the best race-day national anthems ever, we were off!  Luckily the rain had held off to start, and we made our way from the east side of the Cherry Creek Mall toward Colorado Boulevard, and then looped back toward University Boulevard.  We ran to the northwest corner of the mall and turned left onto 1st Avenue.  We’d already gone 3 miles at this point, and I was feeling pretty good.  Time was passing quickly, it was the perfect temperature for running, and I was actually enjoying myself!

Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!
Before the rain descended upon us, the race was going really well!

As we ran past Denver Country Club, we turned right onto Downing and made our way up the first real hill of the course.  Overall it’s a fairly flat course, which typically makes for great running

times (and happy runners).  We got up the hill and turned right onto 6th Avenue before making our way toward Cheeseman Park.  Any Denverite knows that the city is spattered with local parks, trails and greenbelts. Given my race history, I am most familiar with Washington Park, City Park, Central Park, Confluence Park and Sloane’s Lake.  I had never before been to Cheeseman Park.  The park includes an outer trail which loops in an oval around the perimeter of the park.  It is a gorgeous space with a beautiful pergola and amphitheater along the eastern edge of the park and large trees all around.

Course Map PNG
Source

Once we made our way out of the park, we hit the 10k mark, and the drizzle began.  Rather than turning back the way we came, we headed further east on 6th avenue.  Mile 7 was possibly the

Feeling damp, but still happy!
Feeling damp, but still happy!

longest mile of the entire race, because this is when it really began raining steadily.  The temperatures dipped and it felt like we were never going to turn around.  Police officers lined the streets, and truly I felt for them, having to stand out there until all the 10 milers ended.  At least I was moving!

Making it to mile 8 was a huge feat, and at that point I realized my legs still felt great and I could make it.  The cold rain was not ideal, but two miles is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.  We made our way back to 1st Avenue, which led us straight past the mall and toward the finish line.  My only complaint is that the 5k participants were finishing at the same time, and were primarily walking in large groups, which made running around them very difficult.  The finishing area, as a result, was rather bottle-necked and confusing.  Robbie and I sprinted the last tenth of a mile toward the finish and were instantly slowed by walkers.  I was hoping for a much more triumphant finish, but I did it.

YAY THE END! It's always the best part of every race.
YAY THE END! It’s always the best part of every race.

Immediately afterwards we grabbed water, a half a Panera bagel, and delicious banana, and made our way straight to the car.  It wasn’t worth trying to find folks.  The 5 milers were set to begin at 9:35am, and their whole five miles ended up being rainy and cold.  I’d prefer 10 miles with 3.5 miles in the rain, than 5 miles entirely in the rain.  Thankfully the hubs is BRILLIANT and brought towels to wrap around ourselves in the car, and turned the seat warmers on high.  Rain and cold aside, this race was fabulous, and I am happy to report it was just what I needed to regain my love for running.  I am SO excited for this weekend’s Colfax Half Marathon, and I look forward to the BolderBoulder the week afterwards.

This month I got my running drive back!
This month I got my running drive back!

It just goes to show you, sometimes you need to step away for a little while to rediscover why you love it in the first place. The hubs is so wise, and at the beginning of April he told me to just take a break from running and focus on my other pursuits.  I did just that, and after the Cherry Creek Sneak, I have been running almost every weekday during my lunch hour and feel so refreshed.  So here’s to the next run – no one run will ever be like another, so take the time to appreciate the journey!

Ever just have a running slump? What did you do to get out of your running rut?  Anything you recommend to keep your runs happy?

The Challenge Balance

What is it about a good challenge that makes you work hard, have fun, and become insanely competitive with yourself?  All I know is that I love challenges.  It seems silly, but they actually can be really motivating.  I think some of it has to do with my personality type: I love deadlines, timelines and benchmarks.  When I can see myself making progress along the way, it makes the whole process even better.

So this month marked two fun opportunities for me, and potentially a whole lot of other people.  Just a week after joining Core Power Yoga (oh yeah, I am obsessed), the Denver metro area

So much satisfaction each time I get a new punch on my punch card!
So much satisfaction each time I get a new punch on my punch card!

studios (and potentially others, I am not sure) began a 30/40 Challenge.  The goal is to complete 30 classes in 40 days, beginning on Monday, April 13th.  It’s 17 days in with 23 days to go, and I already have twelve classes completed, with another one scheduled for tomorrow night (I work late tonight, alas)!  I really am hooked. I think I figured out how I can finagle 30 classes in exactly 40 days, too, if all goes according to plan.  I will be flying out to the DC area on May 21st, with the challenge ending the 22nd, and I am actually planning to attend a class in Georgetown on the 23rd to celebrate!

So far I have primarily focused on Core Power 2 hot yoga, which has been good for form and stretching, while simultaneously strengthening, as well as Yoga Sculpt, which has been addicting and amazing for my muscle tone and standard daily circuit training.  I would like to try a hot power fusion or 75 minute hot yoga class for the relaxation and form benefits, but haven’t yet committed to one.  Soon, I am sure, and definitely during the challenge.

Can't wait to visit CPY in Georgetown!
Can’t wait to visit CPY in Georgetown!

The initial struggle, and probably the reason for not branching out more, is finding the perfect class schedule – I prefer evening classes as I have to be at work at 8am with a 40 minute commute, so morning classes are tough.  I found a 5:30pm sculpt class every day at the Broadway studio, which I love.  Saturday and Sunday mornings I can go to a 7:30am sculpt class in Cherry Hills Village and be done with my main workout early enough to start my day.  Thursdays I meet my girlfriend, Danielle, at the Highlands studio for an incredible CP2 class with Lance, who is phenomenal.  It just works, and having the benefit of so many locations to choose from, there’s always something available.  If you’re doing the 30/40 challenge, I think some of the benefit is actually finding what works, what style you prefer, testing out different instructors, and re-energizing and reconnecting with yourself.

The other challenge I have committed to, which also began April 13th, is the Tone it Up Eight Week Bikini Series.  I am new to the Tone it Up (TIU)

These ladies are too fabulous for words!
These ladies are too fabulous for words! Source

team, but I am instantly hooked.  It’s basically this nation-wide phenomenon following the empowering and invigorating practices of fitness gurus Karena and Katrina.  I know, it’s almost too perfect that their names are practically the same.  These two women have created a healthy, energizing, fitness-friendly culture with their Beach Babe DVDs, incredibly thorough nutrition plans, infectious positive attitudes, and the idea that now is the time to be as healthy as you can be.  Health isn’t just looking great, it’s eating well without deprivation, working out in order to tone and build muscle, and enjoying the body you have.  These women are beautiful, inside and out, and they have truly inspired me in more ways than one.

The Hiitty Bitty Bikini workout is no joke!

This is the fifth Bikini Series challenge, if I am not mistaken, and it can be whatever you make it. With the Bikini Series bundle, you receive the Beach Babe 3 DVD (ah-mazing), digital downloads, downloadable nutrition plan (with downloadable updates), some fun little goodies (TIU socks, chapsticks, key chain and Perfect Fit protein powder), and weekly schedules, challenges, and workouts.  My friend Amy Lacy, previously mentioned from her incredible Lacy Fit classes last summer (she’s about to have a little baby boy, so we may have to put the classes on hold this summer), introduced these women to me.  Little did I realize that my girlfriends from back in DC were also participating in the challenge.  It’s given me the boost I need to feel inspired and motivated, and it’s surrounded me with an incredible group of women striving for the healthiest version of themselves.

These workouts kick booty in the best way possible!
These workouts kick booty in the best way possible!
I am definitely feeling toned and fierce!
I am definitely feeling toned and fierce!

Although I haven’t followed the weekly schedules religiously, I have incorporated the routines from Beach Babe 2 and 3 into my weekly workouts, utilized some of the recipes, poured over the details of the nutrition plan (it’s like the food and nutrition Bible for women!!), and feel all the more healthy for it!  I know it’s a gradual transformation, which really makes sense why it is 8 weeks in duration, but the hubs can already tell I look more toned and feel better.  He even commented on my abs yesterday – I have abs!  And rather than focus on weight loss, I am focusing on muscle tone, tightening my core, and developing a healthier, more sustainable foundation for the future.  I still have occasional splurge, I mean, I love my husband’s cocktails on a Friday night, but it’s really about the bigger picture.  So with these eight weeks (only 6 to go!) I am focusing on me and lifestyle, long-term improvements.

Through TIU, I also came to meet a number of other amazing ladies in the Denver metro area also participating in the program.  This past weekend we went on a hike on Green Mountain in Lakewood, on a perfect morning, and shared our experiences, highs and lows, and insight about the Bikini Series.  It’s such a great opportunity to find folks who can share in and appreciate your journey.  Regardless of the reasons why we are participating, we’re in it together!

The Denver area TIU ladies and their puppies!
The Denver area TIU ladies and their puppies!

So I suppose I am where these two challenges meet, and I love the results and how the workouts and lifestyles balance and complement one another.  I am determined this bikini season to feel my absolute best.  The hubs and I do have a birthday trip to Napa planned, so I want to look and feel great, and carry this new me proudly into the future!

Who else is totally hooked by Tone It Up?  Aren’t Karena and Katrina the cutest things ever?  Don’t you just love when your hubby notices when you’re looking better?

The Land of Sunshine and Gold: Weekend in Vail

Is summer really over?  It doesn’t feel like it here in Denver.  Supposedly yesterday was the first day of autumn, and although I hung my autumn wreaths on my front doors, and switched out my summer scented candles for those of cinnamon and spice, it still doesn’t quite feel like fall.  To get more in the spirit of the season, however, the hubby and I spent the weekend in Vail with our dear friends Peter and Ade, at Peter’s parents’ home.  Nestled in the valley, East Vail is truly picturesque mountain living.  Surrounded by towering mountain sides covered in now-golden aspens and evergreens, it is a perfect escape from the hustle of Denver.

We left around 4pm on Friday afternoon and battled a little traffic to get to the home of Betsy and Arlen, Peter’s folks, around 6pm.  We beat our friends, but had a great time catching up with their family (they are very much our home away from home), drinking wine, and smelling the delicious home cooking wafting from the kitchen.  Peter and Ade arrived about an hour later, and we all sat down for a great dinner, chatted about everything going on, and planned the next day’s activities.  Ade and I planned on doing a substantial hike, while the gents were going to play golf at Red Sky Ranch and Golf Club (one of the most stunning courses imaginable).  Betsy had done a hike a few days prior on the Bighorn trail, about 10 miles total from where we were staying, and this would be prime time for the changing aspens.  With that decided, we finished the night with delicious chocolate mousse, and hit the hay.

The next morning we got started around 8am with a hearty breakfast and we ready to go for the hike around 9:30am.  It was in every way the perfect day for this hike: the sun was shining, barely a cloud in the sky, high of 72 degrees… all around ideal.  The trek up to the “top” of the trail (you could make this hike longer by connecting to the Gore Creek trail for about a 6-8 hours round-trip hike), was steep in a few sections, but I could feel it more given I am hiking at an even higher elevation than normal.  The five miles up from the house felt like they took forever, and for Ade and I, both recovering from a cold, seemed fairly slow in spots, but that allowed us opportunities for amazing pictures and taking in the view.

Perfect day for a hike.
Perfect day for a hike.
The aspens were amazing. I'd never seen them like this!
The aspens were amazing. I’d never seen them like this!
This trail followed a stream throughout, and boy was that some clear water!
This trail followed a stream throughout, and boy was that some clear water!
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We were going up for quite a while…
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Hello beautiful golden aspens!
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Straight up snow melt: cold, clear and refreshing.

By the time we reached the cabin, which everyone on the trail was using as a landmark, we reached 10,788 feet in elevation and hiked a little over 4 miles from the trail head.  The infamous cabin was very old and on the verge of collapse, but as the Forest Service website said, it could be used for hikers as shelter during inclement weather.  Thankfully, no such weather occurred during our hike.  Ade and I walked around it and crossed the stream to sit at the base of the peaks to the right of the cabin.  We brought grapes and nuts to snack on while we chatted and basked in the gloriousness of this perfect day.

Some of the rock fields on this hike were intense.
Some of the rock fields on this hike were intense.
"The hills are alive" anyone?
“The hills are alive” anyone?

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So beautiful it looks fake.
So beautiful it looks fake.

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This is where we sat and had our snacks.  Doesn't suck.
This is where we sat and had our snacks. Doesn’t suck.
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She could totally be an outdoors sports model.
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I could swear I’ve seen this in a magazine…
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Aspens as far as the eye can see!
I was tempted to never leave.
I was tempted to never leave.

We ventured back down, taking significantly less time to get back, and started chatting with a local who lives at the base of the trail and has hiked all of the 14-ers in Colorado at least once, if not twice.  I was wowed, not having hiked a single one… yet!  My goal for next summer, needless to say.  After returning home, and following a most delightful shower, we made a quick salad lunch and went for an early evening yoga class at the East Vail Racquet Club.  We got home, and shortly afterwards our men arrived, and we ended the evening with steaks, grilled veggies, and oven roasted potatoes.

The next day was cloudy and rainy, so rather than a short morning hike, we decided to hit the road around noon and stop by the outlets in Silverthorne on our way back to Denver and Boulder.  I will never say no to outlet shopping, and we

What's a post without a picture of my pup?
What’s a post without a picture of my pup?

even got great items for the hubs (he was so excited about the deals we got, I may have converted him to the dark side…).  Before reaching home, we picked up our pup from my hubby’s parents and then got back, made a great dinner, watched the Bronco’s game (alas…) and called it a day!

Thankfully this week I am finally back into the routine of work and workouts.  This week kicked off the LacyFit Fall Fitness Challenge (of which I am SO excited, more on this later), and I finally feel like I have regained my sense of normalcy post-vacation.  Maybe every vacation should end with another vacation!  This weekend should be a fun one for spending it all at home, given we have dinner plans on Friday and Saturday!  Friday the hubs and I are getting dinner with his folks at a steakhouse I haven’t yet tried in Denver, Grace and Guard.  Saturday we will meet up with our foodie friends Scott and Danielle (our typical Foodie Friday couple, but on Saturday, oh my!) for dinner at Lower48 Kitchen.  We’ll definitely fit in some long runs, given that our first half marathon of the season is only 25 days away (eek!).  But for now, let’s just get past Wednesday!

What are your favorite signs of autumn?  Where do you go for an easy weekend getaway?  What are your weekend plans (it’s never to early to think about the weekend)?

Yoga on the Rocks and a Beautiful Saturday Hike

I have never experienced anything quite like Yoga on the Rocks.  That one hour of my life was so serene, so peaceful, and

Watching the sunrise over Red Rocks - so surreal!
Watching the sunrise over Red Rocks – so surreal!

yet incredibly fulfilling all at once.  I had initially heard about Yoga on the Rocks from the instructor of LacyFit, Amy Lacy.  The program is put on by Core Power Yoga and co-sponsored by Whole Foods (excellent combination).  Amy had participated with a group of friends at the end of July.  The pictures she posted were incredible!  Thousands of people from all over Colorado, and beyond, participating in a massive outdoor group yoga session, while the sun bathes you in light on the steps of Red Rocks… yes please!  Personally I am not a huge yogi, but I have done a few videos at home and sessions with friends.  This type of experience, however, was completely up my alley.

After learning there were three classes left for the summer, I checked

So grateful for my yogi friends!
So grateful for my yogi friends!  Tessa is on my left and Ade on my right.

my calendar and called my two main yogi friends, Ade and Tessa.  Ade and I bonded over joblessness and hiking after moving to Boulder, Colorado post-completion of our respective graduate programs.  Tessa is my longtime friend from high school who initially moved to Colorado shortly after I did, then spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey, and just moved back to Denver this July!  It was meant to be, we were all free on August 16th!

Knowing I would have to awaken prior to the sun, I figured this would be a good opportunity to seize the day, and asked if the ladies would also like to join me for a hike around Red Rocks after yoga.  Thankfully they were on board, so we had a whole morning of stunning scenery and physical fitness ahead of us.

Red Rocks is about 25 minutes southwest of Denver proper, nestled in the foothills of Morrison.  These naturally occurring jagged red rocks quite literally set the stage for an outdoor amphitheater.  There’s really nothing quite like it!  I remember visiting Red Rocks on my very first trip to Colorado in 2007.  Little did I know then that I would live a short drive away someday.

I picked up Tessa early that morning and Ade drove down from Boulder and met

Prepping for our morning yoga session!
Prepping for our morning yoga session!

us at the amphitheater.  The sun was just peeking above the stage and thousands of yogis were laying out mats, stretching, and taking pictures of our surreal surroundings.  The early goers got free Core Power Yoga mats and awesome bright orange sunglasses.  Obviously we all put those on immediately.  People-watching was awesome, mostly for the incredible yoga pants all over the place.  The program started just after 7:00am, and it was truly a perfect morning: barely a cloud in the bright blue sky, light breeze, and sunny.  It was the best Saturday morning I have had in a long time.

There's definitely nothing quite like it!
There’s definitely nothing quite like it!
The one artsy shot we had to get - stretching it out after a great class!
The one artsy shot we had to get – stretching it out after a great class!

Although not the most challenging yoga class, it was designed for yogis of all strengths and skill levels (good for a novice like me!).  The poses focused all areas of the body, and the instructor was very cognizant of the wide array of experience throughout the amphitheater.  She had us repeating throughout the class, “Where are you?  Red Rocks!  What are you?  Alive!”  At first it seemed like a silly chant, but looking around, it meant so much more.  Very few people in the world get the chance to do this, and what a perfect day and way to celebrate just being alive.

At the end of the class, Whole Foods stations were located at the top of the

This was the perfect post-yoga hiking trail - not too tough with awesome views!
This was the perfect post-yoga hiking trail – not too tough with awesome views!

amphitheater with fabulous giveaways and snacks.  We grabbed some vitamins, protein milk, granola and yogurt, Justin’s nut butters, and some snack bars from Cascadian Farms and Lara Bar.  We knew we needed some sustenance before heading off on our hike.  After a bit of wait getting out of the parking lot, we made the 3 minute drive over to the parking lot for the entrance to Matthews Winters Park.

Hiking up the Red Rocks trail.
Hiking up the Red Rocks trail.
Picture perfect day!
Picture perfect day!
All I could say was, "Wow!" View from the top of Morrison Slide trail.
All I could say was, “Wow!” View from the top of Morrison Slide trail.
A successful day all around.
A successful day all around.
I still can't get over these views!
I still can’t get over these views!

We started on the trail which takes you up and over some rolling hills, very un-Colorado like, towards the Red Rocks trail.  This eventually connects with the Morrison Slide trail, which boasts incredible views of Red Rocks and the valley beyond.  The sky was so clear we could see nearly all the way to Pikes Peak.  We connected back to the Red Rocks trail and took that back to the parking lot.  We were done with our morning activities by 11:15am, and at that point, it was time for tacos!  Much like Pirate Bobcat, I live for tacos, so Tessa and I ventured in the Highlands for fajita tacos at Patzcuaro’s.  So good.  Needless to say, it was an all-around perfect day!

Yup, pretty much amazing.
Yup, pretty much amazing.

Although I don’t have anything quite as exciting planned this weekend, I will be packing for my trip to London and Edinburgh.  I leave in TEN days and absolutely cannot wait.  As much as I love Colorado, I adore the UK!

Have you tried a sunrise yoga – what did you think?  Do you love to rise early on weekends and seize the day?  Any fun post-summer travel plans?

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes

Try saying that ten times fast!   This recipe, I must admit, is pretty fantastic.  Although I am not allergic to gluten, I have wanted to dabble in gluten free baking for some time.  I have had plenty of great gluten free baked goods (along with numerous not so good gluten free baked goods), so I wanted to put my pastry skills to the test.  Personally I feel these cupcakes were a huge success, especially given that my seven-person work team consumed 10 of them in a matter of 5 hours.  Not too shabby!

This recipe is pretty fabulous... just sayin...
This recipe is pretty fabulous… just sayin…

While I am truly appreciating the effects of this cleanse, I will be very happy to bake again.  Baking is my happy place, my stress reliever and my favorite hobby.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as creating something from scratch – combining just the right elements to produce a treat so mouthwatering and delectable – and watching others enjoy the end result.  That is why I love baking.

It was time, then, to push myself a bit further and work with ingredients I have not utilized before.  Conquering, or at least adjusting to, high altitude baking was one major feat.  Now gluten free!  I am a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes.  A HUGE fan.  The hubs isn’t so keen, which I cannot possibly understand (I think it might have to do with the cream cheese frosting, which is absolutely insane as cream cheese frosting is epically amazing).  With this in mind, I made these cupcakes for my coworkers.  With the move a few days away, I wanted to show them my gratitude in making the transition that much smoother.  I think they got the message, and if not, they got a belly full of yummy goodness instead.  Same thing, right?

So without further ado, my very own gluten free red velvet cupcakes (with help from a number of great sources)!

High Altitude Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes (If you would like the same recipe – remember to use the Gluten Free Cake Flour – for sea level baking, both recipes are provided here!)

Ingredients

For the Gluten Free Cake Flour:

3 cups brown rice flour (this needs to be fine ground)

1 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)

½ cup tapioca flour

1 ¼ teaspoons xanthan gum (can also use guar gum)

For the Cupcakes:

The color is surprisingly rich - and the batter very tasty!
The color is surprisingly rich – and the batter very tasty!

1 ¼ cup Gluten Free Cake Flour

2/3 cup baker’s sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large egg

¾ cup vegetable oil

½ buttermilk (I used heavy cream)

1 teaspoon red food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors are also gluten free!)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Penzeys Double Strength Vanilla Extract)

1 teaspoon White Vinegar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)

Seriously though, who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?
Seriously though, who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting?

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

I know it looks like a lot of work, but it is completely worth the effort!  Start by creating your cake flour.  Sift the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and xanthan gum in a small bowl, and combine thoroughly.  You will want to store this in an airtight container or Ziploc bag for future use, and you will utilize 1 ¼ cup for the cupcake recipe.

Now let’s start on the cupcakes.  Whip together the sugar, eggs, and oil with an electric mixer or beater until combined, but do not over whip (especially for high altitude).  Alternate adding the dry ingredients, except the baking powder, with the wet ingredients, except the vinegar.  Once the batter is smooth, add the red gel food coloring.  Combine together the vinegar and baking powder and mix for 10 seconds, then pour this mixture into the batter and mix for another 10 seconds.

Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.
Make sure to make them even so they cook evenly.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill a pre-lined cupcake pan about ¾ of the way full.  Bake at 375º F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Make sure to allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing them.

For the frosting, combine the room temperature cream cheese and butter together in a bowl using an electric beater until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the confectioners’ sugar gradually, ½ cup at a time, until no lumps are visible, and then incorporate the vanilla until just combined.  Spoon into a piping bag or ice using an icing spatula.  I added a bit of food coloring to the frosting just for fun! Enjoy!

Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Although they sunk slightly, they were so moist and delicious inside!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
Pretty yellow cream cheese frosting flowers!
SO good... I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse...
SO good… I am looking forward to a sweet treat post-cleanse…

Have you dabbled in gluten free baking?  What did you think?  How did it go?  What are your favorite kind of cupcakes?