Motivation Mantra: Do it for Disney!

Motivation is the name of the game. When you find what gets you through, it can absolutely change your perspective, desire, and, in some cases, the outcome of whatever you’re striving to achieve. With my second marathon a mere 9 days away (but who’s counting?), I am trying to muster all the motivation I can find. Going into my first marathon I was motivated by the incredible feat, determination, time and training that went into it, and especially the sense of absolute accomplishment upon crossing that finish line.  Now that I have done it once, I know I can accomplish it, but I definitely need a little more drive to get me through.

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At least I do have some pretty spectacular views on the trail near my house. It could be worse.

Training this time around definitely felt different.  Early in my training I was wearing shoes that were causing pain in my shins (thankfully not shin splints). My legs were achy and tired after my runs, so I immediately switched back to my beloved New Balance 3190s, which are actually discontinued.  Thank you Amazon for having one of the last size 8 pairs of 3190s – your company saved the day!  After fixing that issue, I also had a few colds that bogged me down this year, and made fitting in the miles significantly harder. My body was definitely telling me to slow down while my training plan was telling me to speed up.

Once I got over the hump of October, training began to gradually fall into place. Maybe it’s because the marathon sparkle had worn off having already done one, or maybe my body was annoyed at the idea of doing it again, but it really took until my 20 mile run for everything to feel right.  Internally I was beginning to worry when my legs and my breathing weren’t in sync, and hoped that it would come together on race day somehow.  What made matters somewhat more challenging was all of the snow we had been getting throughout December, covering my trail with snow, slush, ice, and mud. Training on those surfaces is no picnic, and at this stage in the game I really don’t want to risk injury.  Which is why I completed my 18 mile run on a treadmill (I absolutely do not recommend this for anyone, talked about boring…) and thought about quitting at mile 11 of my 14 mile taper run last weekend… I didn’t quit, but it was a major mental struggle.

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It actually took until my longest training run for everything to feel just right.
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It looks a lot prettier than it actually was – mud, ice, and slush everywhere. I thought tapering was supposed to be the easy part!

Although I have been excited about the prospect of sea level running with 19 miles of Pacific Ocean views and a maximum elevation gain of 100 feet, it was hard to find the motivation I needed to get through this training cycle.  Now with one weekend left of tapering and the race in sight, it’s getting a lot easier to feel the pre-marathon excitement. Not to mention, DISNEYLAND!

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We are going back to Disney, but this time West Coast style!

So what does one do after a marathon in southern California?  Obviously you go to Disneyland. This Disney fan has always been a tried and true Disney World supporter, believing its enormity and plethora of parks made it better than it’s California rival. In the back of my mind, however, I have always wanted to go to Disneyland – to see the original, visit Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and get a sense for where it all began.  It will be my hubby’s birthday, so I wasn’t sure if he’d actually want to go. Thankfully I got home from work one day last week and he turned to me and said, “You know, it might be fun to go to Disneyland.” Done and done. Tickets are booked and reservations made – to Disneyland we go!

Here’s a little recap of the last two weeks of training:

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/9/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/10/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.18 miles
1/11/17 (Wednesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.3 miles
1/12/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.32 miles
1/13/17 (Friday) N/A 3.36 miles
1/14/17 (Saturday) N/A 20.05 miles
1/15/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/16/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.27 miles
1/17/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 2.5 miles
1/18/17 (Wednesday) TIU Bombshell Booty, TIU Core on the Floor, TIU Sleek Arms 3.1 miles
1/19/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.13 miles
1/20/17 (Friday) N/A 3.1 miles
1/21/17 (Saturday) N/A 14.05 miles
1/22/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
TOTAL 62.46 miles

Any recommendations for this Disneyland novice (we will just be doing Disneyland Park)? If you had one day in Disneyland, what would you do?  What motivates you to get through marathon training? Has anyone else ever run 18 miles on a treadmill – isn’t it terrible?

A Fresh Spin on Things

One of my favorite bloggers and amazing sorority sisters, Danielle (aka T-Rex Runner) reported on her Instagram Stories last night that she was attending her first spin class in some time. She got to try out the new CycleBar studio in Greenville, SC, which is part of a chain of studios around the U.S.  Over the summer I finally took the plunge and went to my very first spin class, also at CycleBar in the Denver metro area, and boy was I in for a wild ride (literally)!

I wouldn’t particularly call myself an adventurous person. I am very much a creature of habit, and I plan out everything from my vacation leave for the next year (I kid you not, I have it all planned through July) to what I am going to wear tomorrow for work. It usually takes quite a bit of convincing, or at least a solid explanation for me to try something new. When I started running, it was because I had researched the benefits, training plans, and feasibility, along with recommendations from friends and family with detailed accounts of how they got started. Similarly when I started going to yoga sculpt classes, after getting the recommendation from one of my dearest friends and workout buddies, I had her explain the flow, the types of exercises and her own experiences with excellent precision.  I wouldn’t say I am a control freak… maybe more like a control enthusiast.

So when my friend, Samantha, came to visit over the summer, she being a certified cycling instructor, I made her go with me to my very first cycle class. I can’t lie, it terrified me. Maybe I had visions of that episode of the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in my head, or the fact that I didn’t even learn to ride a bike until I was 13 thanks to my neighbor, Lauren, but whatever it was, I assumed this would end me.

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Seriously terrifying. This is how I die.

Everyone should go to their first cycle class with a certified instructor. It’s the best ever. Samantha showed me how to set up my bike, explained tap backs, the positions on the handle bars, the push-ups and side-to-side movements, and everything in between.  She even explained not only how to clip in, but how to unclip from the bike (which after an intense class with very wobbly legs is easier said than done).

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I don’t think I could have made it through that first class without her!

Cycling is such an incredible form of cross-training that has been essential in my marathon training plan.  Furthermore, cross training is a huge component for any runner, enhancing power, efficiency and very often speed.  It also helps prevent injuries by balancing the muscles you utilize.  Check out this awesome article by Runner’s World about the eight major benefits of cross training.  I know that for me personally the combination of yoga, sculpt classes, Zumba and cycling, it’s significantly improved my endurance and speed in running.

These classes typically flow between speed work and endurance (“hill” climbs). The higher your resistance, the harder it is to pedal, and it can mimic an actual hill climb.  The playlist is crucial to a good class. The songs themselves need to have a great and easy to find rythm that dictate the RPM (revolutions per minute). The faster the beat, the higher the RPM, and often lower the resistance. The slower the beat, the lower the RPM, and the higher the resistance. You get the idea.  A great class flows through these two ideas, and even better, can utilize one song to work for both concepts.

Since my first class back in July, I have begun cycling more, both at CycleBar, as well as StarCycle, another national chain of cycling studios.  The two are quite different in their approach. CycleBar is more about stats, technology, and a modern club-like atmosphere. CycleBar tends to be more about the community, skill-building, and personal experience. Both are amazing for different reasons, and both have given me an amazing workout. Depending on your preference, there is a cycling studio out there for you too! I definitely know this to be true, because I somehow managed to convince the hubs to join me (he too was a novice cycling class participant), and now he keeps ending up with the highest stats in the class!

What cycling studios do you like? Do you prefer your classes to be more about stats and competition, or to maximize your own ride?

And Now We Wait

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Ready to run – can we go now? Please? Why must I wait??

Patience is a virtue I could probably do without. Waiting is definitely one of the hardest parts. I am probably particularly bad at waiting, given that I am a ridiculous planner. I have the next four months planned out, and probably some key weekends in the months following that. It’s what I do and who I am, and I love my calender for that reason. But having to wait for something you’ve been anticipating greatly for the past 18 weeks is especially hard. And I am growing more impatient by the second!

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My last few runs have felt really great leading up to the Colfax, so I am hopeful race day will be more of the same! I’m so thankful for the Highline Canal – my favorite training trail!

The Colfax Marathon, Denver’s currently only marathon, takes place this Sunday. Come 6:00am MST I will be (hopefully) ready and raring to go! Since January when I committed myself to training for this race, it’s seemed like such a distant dream, and almost unattainable. With my longest training runs behind me, and the longest run of my life ahead of me, I just want to be in it and doing it.

The past two weeks have been a huge whirlwind of events and excitement.  Two

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We always discover new places when my parents visit – Sanitas Brewing Company was so good!

weeks ago my parents were in town while my dad attended a conference in Broomfield, Colorado. Work has been picking up with the semester ending and new student orientation sessions. I spent this past weekend celebrating one of my bestie’s birthdays by participating in the Homerun for the Homeless 5K, and I also celebrated one of my running buddy’s upcoming nuptials. Thankfully these have all combined to be nice distractions, but now that it’s the week of the race, it’s all I can think about.

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The Homerun for the Homeless 5k ran right through Coors Field, the home of the Rockies! This weekend I’ll be running through Mile High Stadium – home of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos!
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Feeling good and cannot wait to crush Colfax!

I suppose it’s not a matter of whether or not I can do it at this point. I feel good, my body is strong, I am fueling it well, I could always use more sleep, I’ve incorporated cross training, and I have the miles in me. Now it’s just putting all the pieces together on race day. You never know what each race day will be like, but all you can do is prepare yourself as much as possible and stay positive. That of course doesn’t mean I won’t hit a wall or think about stopping. But it does mean I have to push myself beyond those negative forces and know that I can do it.

I am so blessed that I have had so many amazing people cheering me on throughout this process, from my closest friends and family, to complete strangers. Some of my favorite moments included a mid-week lunch run high-five from a random passerby on the trail, to finally meeting one of my Instragram runspirations for a weekend run, and all the moments in between.

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And to think this is what I said to myself 18 weeks ago…

As I pick up my packet (and hubby’s too) later today, I think it will finally hit me that this is real. I’ve been a bundle of nerves all week, but knowing it’s happening will likely make me feel better. I cannot guarantee this Sunday will be the best race of my life, or even in the top ten. What I can guarantee is that I will try my hardest. I will strive to endure and cross that finish line. And no matter what, I hope to become a marathoner.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/25/16 Rest Rest
Tuesday, 4/26/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.1 mile run
Wednesday, 4/27/16 Yoga Sculpt 3.14 mile run
Thursday, 4/28/16 TIU Band Workout, TIU String Bikini, Zumba N/A
Friday, 4/29/16 N/A 3.2 mile run
Saturday, 4/30/16 N/A 3.2 mile run
Sunday, 5/1/16 Yoga Sculpt 6.2 mile run
Monday, 5/2/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 5/3/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.1 mile run
Wednesday, 5/4/16 N/A 4.17 mile run
Thursday, 5/5/16 Zumba 3.64 mile run
Friday, 5/6/16 Rest Rest
Saturday, 5/7/16 N/A 6.7 mile run
Sunday, 5/8/16 N/A 9.94 mile run

Anyone else running a marathon this weekend? Any recommendations for a first time marathoner? What do you do to prepare for race day? What is your favorite post-marathon meal (can you tell I am always hungry?)?

Six Point Two to Get Me Through

It’s hard to imagine that the Colfax Marathon is in 16 days – just two and a half weeks from now. It feels like the last 15 weeks have simultaneously flown by and trudged slowly on. My 18 week plan is nearing its end, and I never thought I would really make it to this point.

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After finishing 20 miles, I felt like I could conquer the world!
Last weekend, one weekend off of my original plan, I completed my longest run to date – exactly 20 miles. What an incredible sensation to see double digits starting with a 2 on my Garmin. To say it’s been a long road would be incredibly accurate, and also quite literal. When I first began running in 2013, I could barely run a full mile without stopping, and it was well over a 10 minute per mile pace.  Now, I can easily run a 10k in less than an hour. To actually see and feel that kind of progress is just mind-boggling and humbling. Every step I take brings me one step closer to my goal.  And after May 15th, who knows what new goals I will set for myself.

Over the past two weeks I might have been a little overzealous. The weekend I was originally supposed to run my 20 miler Denver got a lovely spring weekend snowstorm. While the city itself didn’t get much accumulation, where I live we had 8 inches of snow and slushy-icy roads. At this stage of the game, I absolutely don’t want to risk it, so I had to forgo running that weekend. Instead I planned to fit it in the following weekend. Here’s the challenge: I had already planned to run the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler and was participating on behalf of CU Denver, my employer. It wouldn’t be good to back out, but how could I fit in 20 miles?

The rational answer would be to run the race, and fit in another 10 miles that day. Of course, it makes sense. Your body still gets 20 miles in a day, so it applies towards the mileage you need to complete. Well, why would I do something that makes sense? When I asked the hubs what he wanted to do, he said simply, “Why don’t we run 20 miles on Saturday and then the 10 mile race on Sunday?” 30 miles, one weekend. Challenge accepted.

There is something about hitting your longest run before the race that seems so surreal.

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 I’m really bananas for bananas… It’s a problem. A delicious problem.
It’s absolutely a mental game by that point. If I can run 18 miles and feel amazing, I can absolutely run 20 miles. It’s not much further, and what’s left is proper fueling, rest, stretching, and mental preparation. Going into the run, I knew I wanted it to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to feel good. I have been using Gu Vanilla Bean and Clif shot bloks during my runs, and that seems to get me through. I still daydream about bananas by mile 12 (if you don’t know, I have a banana obsession…), but it could be much worse. Thankfully I also have a great training trail, the Highline Canal Trail, which spans 71 miles across the front range and has an entrance conveniently 0.8 miles from my  front door. It’s also a great trail as it has very few street crossings, and some conveniently located bathrooms en route (wow have those come in handy). I won’t ever say that 20 miles is easy, but I completed those twenty miles with a respectable 10:34 pace, and generally felt good.

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Cherry Creek Sneak time!
Now waking up the next morning and realizing I had to do half of that was another story.

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Last year’s race was significantly soggier.
The Cherry Creek Sneak is an awesome local race that features a 1.5 mile fun run, as well as 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile distances. When I signed up I assumed this would be the beginning of my tapering, so 10 miles made the most sense. The 10 mile race began first at 7:30am in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I ran this race last year, and thankfully, there was no rain and the weather was true perfection. I arrived about 10 minutes before we were set to begin, which was perfect for this type of local race. Just enough time to get psyched, but not enough time for my legs to get cold and tight.

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A runner on a mission.
I really love this course. The race begins just off of 1st Avenue in the heart of Cherry Creek, heads to the east towards Colorado Boulevard, and then veers back towards 1st Avenue to then connect with Downing Street.  The 10 miler takes runners through Cheeseman Park and has a decent stretch along 7th Avenue, before heading back down Downing and ending along 1st Avenue. The race went smoothly enough, and I finished in 1:41:33 with a 10:09 pace, which included a stop on course to take off my long sleeve cover up. In less that 24 hours, I ran 30 miles. The real victory? I can still walk (and run!) and I am not sore. I will take that, and dare I say, run with it.

 

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Don’t you just love that feeling?
All that’s left at this point is another 10k between me and my (current) ultimate goal of finishing my first marathon. I really never imagined I would ever do one, nor could I have imagined the incredible work that goes into training for one. But here I am, a mere 16 days away. Just me and another six point two to victory.

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
Monday, 4/11/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Tuesday, 4/12/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Wednesday, 4/13/16 Yoga Sculpt 4.2 mile run
Thursday, 4/14/16 Zumbathon! 3.64 mile run
Friday, 4/15/16 N/A 3.61 mile run
Saturday, 4/16/16 Rest Rest
Sunday, 4/17/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Monday, 4/18/16 TIU Beach Bombshell, TIU Sunkissed Abs 3.2 mile run
Tuesday, 4/19/16 Yoga Sculpt N/A
Wednesday, 4/20/16 N/A 4.1 mile run
Thursday, 4/21/16 Tone HIIT Up, TIU Bikini Body Routine, TIU Bikini Arms 4.1 mile run
Friday, 4/22/16 N/A 3.69 mile run
Saturday, 4/23/16 N/A 20 mile run
Sunday, 4/24/16 N/A 10.07 mile run

How many miles has been your major goal? Ever attempted back to back long runs? What are your favorite recovery tricks? How is your marathon training going?

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I cannot get over the crazy hair!

For the Love of Chaturanga – Core Power Yoga Review

I was never one of those folks who really understood why people liked yoga so much.  Because I am type A, and according to my MBTI assessment I have a preference for Sensing and Judging, I like things to be effective and efficient, including my workouts.  Time is something that means a lot to me, and I don’t want to feel like I have wasted time.  I do spend time stretching, but I couldn’t fathom doing so for an hour.  However, I live in one of the more yogi states in the country (I actually looked this up – there are 0.8943 yoga studios per every 10,000 people in Colorado), so I knew I would eventually give yoga a good ol’ college try (ironically I didn’t do it in college…).  I also did realize it is more than just stretching, it’s strengthening, and this has been something I have wanted to work on in 2015.

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Time to get my Core Power Yoga on!

So last Sunday, I went to my first actual Core Power Yoga class.  I did Yoga on the Rocks last August, which is an unreal experience, hosted by Core Power Yoga (CPY), but this class was different.  My wonderful friend, Danielle, is getting married in October and I am honored to be a part of her big day.  She had been raving about this amazing yoga sculpt class, which combines yoga, calisthenics, core and cardio in one intense 60 minute session.  I joined her at Core Power Yoga in the Lower Highlands area of Denver.  This studio is the flagship in the Denver area, with company offices aboeve the studio, and a really professional atmosphere.  This class did not disappoint.  The instructor, Cori, was good at keeping us moving and maintaining the intensity throughout the class.

Many of the moves focus on sun salutations, isometric holds, and the utilization of weights, blocks and your own body with the intent to tone and sculpt muscle.  Boy was it effective!  I exhibited all the signs of a good workout the next day, and couldn’t wait to try more.  One of the great incentives of CPY is that all new students get a week free.  Now I don’t know about you, but I love free.  It could be just about anything, I love it when it’s free!  After signing up for my free membership that day, I decided to make the most of it.  After work on Monday I tried the Highlands studio for a Core Power 1 class, so I could work on form and the general movement of yoga.  This studio was much smaller, but felt really homey with a great neighborhood presence.  I am not a complete novice, having practiced at home intermittently with videos OnDemand, and having participated in Yoga on the Rocks, but the actual classes were still very new.  This session was really helpful (oh hey there Chaturanga, I got you now).

The next day I went back to the Highlands studio for Core Power 2 (CP2).  This class was definitely more advanced, not to mention heated.  The pace was much quicker, so I did my best to keep up and absorb the adjustments from the instructor.  Crow and I still aren’t good friends, but I will keep working on it!  I realized I had not sweat that much in my life before, and being from the south this is very hard for me to admit.  Typically I “glisten and glow,” but not this time – I just plain perspired profusely.  It still didn’t quite give me the same sensation as the yoga sculpt class, though, which I later came to realize could just be the instructor and the flow of the class sometimes.

Oh yeah, this was me alright.  Crowed myself flat onto my face.
Oh yeah, this was me alright. “Crowed” myself flat onto my face. #YogaFail Source
A girl can dream - I wish I looked this good!
A girl can dream – I wish I looked this good! Source

Thursday I returned to the LoHi studio for another CP2 class, which was significantly more of a workout.  I was able to more easily flow with the routine, and definitely could tell my breath was more closely aligned.  It was just the right intensity, and yet again, a decent amount of sweat to feel like I worked for it.  Emilie, the instructor, moved us quickly, but ensured we had time in the movement to make adjustments and deepen the stretch or hold.  I joined Danielle again for this class, and although she strongly prefers yoga sculpt, she, too, thought it was a meaningful workout and good class.

I loved the Cherry Hills Studio - it was a great size and an awesome class!
I loved the Cherry Hills Studio – it was a great size and an awesome class!

Finally, Saturday morning presented the last opportunity for my free classes.  I was going on a hike later that morning, so I went early to the Cherry Hills studio for another yoga sculpt class at 7:30am.  This one was even more intense than the Sunday prior (I can still feel it today – good pain!).  It was fantastic, and the instructor, Stephanie, was phenomenal.  She made a lot of corrections throughout the class, thankfully, and really kept us going.  We almost didn’t have time for savasana because she worked us so hard.  I made sure to use 5 pound weights whenever possible to increase the intensity level.

Do you think Rocco would learn to do this with me?

After all of this, as I am sure CPY hopes, I am hooked!  It’s such a great combination of classes, with varying levels and constantly changing routines.  Another huge bonus is that you can go to any studio with your membership.  When I go back to Maryland in May, I could go to the Bethesda studio.  With so many studios around the Denver area, I have a world of options for post-work and weekend classes, all within a reasonable distance.  I will be checking out the Broadway studio this evening for another sculpt class.  I can definitely see incorporating this into my routine between running, Zumba, and at home workouts!

How late am I to the yogi trend?  What type of yoga class do you prefer – hot, vinyasa flow, toning/power, etc?  Have you tried CPY – do you like it?

For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

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)?