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!
2014-09-20 10.55.16
We were going up for quite a while…
2014-09-20 10.53.38
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?

2014-09-20 11.28.59

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

2014-09-20 11.51.58 2014-09-20 11.55.54

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)?

Making the Most of It: Pre-Trip Festivities!

Another amazing Colorado weekend in the books.  With my trip to the United Kingdom a matter of FOUR days away, I am trying to make the most of my last week in Colorado before we leave.  Over the weekend, other than prepping for our impending travels, the hubs and I were busy hosting the in-laws for a delectable home cooked meal, getting in some miles in preparation for our fall races, and I met up with some local sorority sisters for a hike and an unexpected adventure.

Saturday started off with a nice five mile run with the hubs, followed by necessary errands to prepare for our trip.  With all of the changes we have made in our diet and regular exercise routine, my hubby has lost quite a bit of weight.  It was definitely time, possibly overdue, to get him some new duds to show off his svelte figure.  Obviously we want to look our best abroad, and London is a classy city, so it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of updating his wardrobe.  Besides, I love shopping for him… there’s something so enjoyable about dressing men!

That evening we hosted my in-laws for a home cooked meal as a thank you for taking care of our adorable pup, Rocco, while we’re away.  We’ve

I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!
I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!

had our puppy for just over a year and have never left him for more than 4 days.  This is going to be a big switch for us, and I can already tell I am going to have separation anxiety.  Luckily my in-laws also have a Chihuahua who is our pup’s best friend in the whole world.  Something tells me this will be a vacation for Rocco too.  On the menu for the evening was a delicious cheese plate with Manchego and Pecorino cheeses, rosemary olive oil crisps and crostini from Whole Foods, and black seedless grapes.  With this in mind, the hubs and I decided to go Italian.

We prepared homemade pork meatballs, which we seasoned ourselves, freshly made creamy polenta (my first time making it!), and topped with homemade San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula.  I am a bad blogger and didn’t take a picture of the awesomeness.  The recipe was based off of a dish I used to order at my favorite little Italian restaurant in Boulder, Radda Trattoria.  The hubs and I were so spoiled because this restaurant was just across the street from our townhome, so it became a restaurant staple.  The meal is called Polpette e Polenta, and is too delicious for words.  Without fail, this was always what I ordered.  It’s also this restaurant where I first had a Martini Basilico, which my hubby has beautifully been able to recreate at home (YAY!).  We finished the meal with my mother-in-law’s homemade peach bourbon upside down cake.  Overall, it was a phenomenal meal.

Another perfect day for a hike!
Another perfect day for a hike!

The next morning I met up with two local sorority sister for a Sunday morning hike.  We drove west towards Morrison, the same place I had hike the weekend before, but this time we went to a trail on the opposite side of Red Rocks amphitheater.  The trailhead, Mt. Falcon, takes two paths.  One, the Castle Trail, is mountain biker friendly, so a number of adventurists passed us on the trail, impressively navigating the terrain on bike.  At the first summit, you can see beautiful vistas of the valley below and the Denver skyline in the distance.  Although we decided not to go to the top of Mt. Falcon, for timing reasons, we took the Turkey Trot trail around the back side of the foothill, which allowed for amazing views and a gorgeous woodsy atmosphere.

My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
Love these views!
Love these views!
We found Red Rocks!
We found Red Rocks!

After hiking, we drove to downtown Golden for lunch.  We sat on the back patio of the Buffalo Rose bar and grill, and quickly realized we were in the middle of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race.  The main street of Golden was lined with spectators trying to catch a glimpse.  I’d never seen a cycling race in person, so when the hordes of cyclists passed a dizzying speeds, followed closely by pace cars, I was pretty excited.

Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!
Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!  Source

Shortly afterwards we tried to leave Golden, and realized the city was shut down for the race.  We managed to cross into the entrance to the Coors factory, and the guard at the gate allowed us to drive through their property

Fort Keg, it's a pretty formidable structure.
Fort Keg, it’s a pretty formidable structure.

to get back to the highway.  Having done the Coors factory tour four times now, I had absolutely no idea how HUGE the factory is.  We drove for quite some time through service roads connecting the facility together, interspersed with Coors’ own railway system.  It was impressive.  Then we saw the castle of kegs, and that was incredible.  I doubt they were full (that would not live up to the Coors cold-brewed standard), but it definitely made me wonder how much beer could fill all of them…  It was in every way a memorable day!

Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here... oh well!
Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here… oh well!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!

This week, interspersed with packing, I have jam-packed in fun events and last-minute get-togethers.  Yesterday I fit in a 5K run in preparation for the Esprit de She 10K this Thursday.  The sunset was stunning, and the weather perfection (finally).  Hello 65º!  I hope Thursday night has similar weather.  Tonight, after Zumba, I am stopping by the Esprit de She Packet Pickup Party at the Athleta shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek area.  Not only can I get my bib, but as a participant we also get 20% off in store, snacks, giveaways and more.  Yes please!  Tomorrow evening I will be going to the Squeaky Bean with my friend Danielle for pre-trip cocktails.  The Squeaky Bean boasts one of the best professional mixologists in Denver, so the drinks are fabulous.  Finally, Thursday I will be running the Esprit de She with my friend Christie, and cannot wait for the post-race festivities.

Have a great week everyone – make every day an adventure!

How did you make the most of your last summer weekend?  Do you know how much beer could fill all of those kegs?  What are you looking forward to this week?

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?

Forgotten Trail & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gorgeous evening sky along the trail behind my neighborhood on Monday.
Gorgeous evening sky along the trail behind my neighborhood on Monday.

This past weekend, as well as Monday evening, I ventured down an almost forgotten trail that originates steps from my front door.  It’s an awesome trail tucked between neighborhoods, schools, and golf courses, and I finally realized that this same trail connects me to my favorite running trail in Denver: the Highline Canal trail.  (You can learn more about the Highline Canal trail from Ramblen – they have an awesome review!) It took me over a year of living in my neighborhood to realize it, but at least I figured it out!  The trail is shared by equestrians, runners, and cyclists, and wraps around the back of my neighborhood until is runs alongside a service road for a private school nearby.  Finally it runs into a paved trail that follows much of the town I live in and eventually intersects the Highline Canal trail.

Last summer this was my go-to evening trail, but with fall and winter I stuck with paved roads so as to avoid muddy, uneven ground.  I decided recently to give it a go again, and I am glad I did.  I typically use this as a short evening trail run, so hadn’t taken it very far.  Given its convenience, it’s the perfect post-workday running route.  Sunday, however, I decided to keep

I love the wildlife refuge area around this beautiful pond - so peaceful!
I love the wildlife refuge area around this beautiful pond – so peaceful!

going.  The days this month have been hot, and for Colorado standards, humid (except most of this week in which temps dropped to the 60s and we had 36 straight hours of cloud cover and rain – weird!).  I knew I had to get my run in early, and didn’t want to drive (the 5 minutes…) to my usual entry point to the Highline Canal.  So I set off at about 8:15am, and after my usual 2 mile turnaround point, I ventured on.  Low and behold, just a few hundred feet beyond that point, the trail runs right through the Highline Canal trail.  Who knew?  Well, obviously not me, but given the many other people on the trail that morning, I am one of few who were completely oblivious… Oh well!

I had already decided to get a 10K in that morning, but was so excited to experience this whole other section of the Highline Canal trail that looked very different than the portion I was used to.  I passed by a wildlife refuge area with an amazingly clear blue pond.  Beyond that were fields and farms, nestled away but incredibly close to my neighborhood.  This section wraps around the other edge of the private school I pass on my little neighborhood trail, and rolling hills seem to just keep stretching out beyond that.  It’s a little slice of heaven.  By the time I hit over 3 miles and turned back towards home, I was in an amazing mood.  It was a great run – so good in fact I ran a little over four miles Monday evening to be able to get some time on this newfound piece of my favorite trail.

Perfectly convenient trail that will allow me to get miles in easily, without having to drive!
Perfectly convenient trail that will allow me to get miles in easily, without having to drive!

Enough with the healthy stuff, let’s get on to the delicious recipe that I just have to share with you!  I got this recipe find originally from my friend Colleen back in Washington D.C., but found a modified version recently thanks to Sweet Eats and Crafts (great foodie blog!).  This recipe is not a health-conscious recipe, but instead a delectably easy, perfectly chewy cookie recipe.  I am a huge fan of soft chewy chocolate chip cookies, particularly right out of the oven, and this recipe fulfills that desire.  It’s such a straight forward recipe that I made them in about 30 minutes, including prep and clean up.  Awesome!  The key is butter flavored shortening – it makes all the difference in the world.  Without further ado, Sweet Eats and Crafts’ Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

Not too many ingredients, and absolutely delish!
Not too many ingredients, and absolutely delish!

¾ stick of Butter Flavor Shortening baking stick (I used butter flavor Crisco)

1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar given it was what I had available)

2 tablespoons milk (I used skim milk)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I prefer Penzeys Double Strength Vanilla Extract for a flavor punch)

1 large egg

1 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour (at high altitude I recommend Hungarian High Altitude Flour)

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

I love how easy this recipe is!
I love how easy this recipe is!

Preheat the oven to 375º F. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on medium speed until well-blended. Once creamy, add the egg and blend again until incorporated.

In a small bowl, stir the flour, salt, and baking soda, and then add to the creamed mixture using a spatula to fold the ingredients into the batter. Add the chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed.

Using a cookie-scoop or spoon, drop 2 rounded tablespoons of the dough on pan lined with parchment paper, about 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  If you make a slightly larger cookie, they may need to bake for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies may appear to be slightly under-baked, but this is because they are much softer.  Allow them to cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Make sure to store the cookies in an airtight container to maintain freshness. Enjoy!

Definitely let them cool first so they don't fall apart when transferring them... it's hard to wait.
Definitely let them cool first so they don’t fall apart when transferring them… it’s hard to wait.
It is a challenge to just eat one... or two... and no more...
It is a challenge to just eat one… or two… and no more…
Who doesn't love a great chocolate chip cookie?
Who doesn’t love a great chocolate chip cookie?

What is your secret to the perfect chocolate chip cookie?  Do have any great trails surrounding you?  Where do you run on weeknights when there’s less time to commit?

Denver Father’s Day 10K Recap

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

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

People-watching while waiting for the race to start!
People-watching while waiting for the race to start!

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

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

My obligatory pre-race photo op.
My obligatory pre-race photo op.

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

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

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

Just keep running, just keep running!
Just keep running, just keep running!
Sweet taste of completion!
Sweet taste of completion!

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

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

 

Something legendary, perhaps?
Something legendary, perhaps? Source
Hey Barney, I can be legendary too!
Hey Barney, I can be legendary too!

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

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?

The Grand Tetons: Worth the Wait

I am almost ashamed to say that I knew little to nothing about the Grand Tetons and Teton National Park growing up. Of course I was aware of Yellowstone, which made Wyoming somewhat recognizable for me, but beyond that it was wide open spaces and, much like Colorado, pretty mountain ranges. A coworker of mine mentioned the absolute grandeur and awe-inspiring vistas the Tetons illicit, but it’s hard to comprehend without being there.

I arrived yesterday to prepare for the conference, knowing the Tuesday flight from Denver would get me in far too late. This gave me an afternoon/evening and morning to kill before our first session today at 2:00pm. Last night, a few coworkers and I surveyed the town of Jackson Hole… on foot… without much success of local assistance. Finally we had to rent a car, realizing quickly this was not Colorado with a shuttle to everywhere.

It's hard not to share every photo! They're all beautiful!
It’s hard not to share every photo! They’re all beautiful!

We acquired our epic, and useful, Sienna minivan by 6pm, 3 hours behind our intended timeframe, and headed straight for Teton National Park. It was fortuitous for many reasons, but primarily for the fact that the park was practically deserted. It felt like this vast piece of heaven was solely ours. I felt akin to Lord Byron as he traversed the Lake District and professed its beauty in perfect prose.

Great view of a herd of elk mea during through windy point.
My coworker photographing a herd of elk meandering through windy point.

I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful that it elicited this urge to cry because of its beauty. I realize there is so much world to see, but for me, this was a profound moment of discovery. Our group wandered through the park, encountered a herd of elk, a few grazing bison, and some adorable pika along the way. We started by the entrance to Death Canyon, drove up towards the trailhead for Taggart and Bradley Lakes, and wandered up past numerous lookouts to North Jenny Lake Junction. Suddenly a mass of vans, SUVs, trucks and folks with professional cameras swarmed the side of the road. We were told by an amiable park ranger that a a grizzly had been spotted with her cub only 10 minutes prior. We waited no more than another 10 minutes and realized she wasn’t emerging for an encore performance, and carried on to Jenny Lake. I’m glad we did!

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The sun setting over Jenny Lake.

We left the park by 8:30am, with the last rays of sun just disappearing over the Tetons. We had scoped out options to hike the next morning, and we were ready for the adventure ahead. We had an early breakfast in town, and headed straight for the Grand Teton National Park Visitor Center, and were aided on picking the right trail for us. We took the Taggart Lake loop up to the base of the Tetons, overlooking a stunning alpine lake. Much of the terrain was dry, with the snow having melted, but the last half mile leading to the lake was covered in 4 to 5 foot snow pack. It was traverse-able, but we knew we wouldn’t make it around the entire loop of the trail and headed back the way we came. Luckily we were out early, and we heading back to the car by the time most groups were heading up the ridge. Even better, we spotted a full-grown moose standing in a stream on our way out of the park!

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A rushing stream of snowmelt on our ascent up to Taggart Lake.

The rest of today was spent grabbing a quick tasty lunch at the Merry a Piglets (great name!) and attending a phenomenal pre-conference session to get us back into work mode. That is, thankfully, why we are able to be here, and I personally couldn’t be more grateful! What an incredible first day and a half here in Jackson Hole!

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The stunning view from Taggart Lake, still mostly frozen at the base of the Tetons.

Have you ever been to Grand Teton National Park? Do you have any vistas or views that you find utterly awe-inspiring? Aren’t conferences in amazing places the absolute best? Do you like to explore while on work trips, or only keep your eye on the professional development prize?