“Lift and Elevate”: 2018 Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat

For the past three years, I’ve spent the first weekend of June at the Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat. The first year was fun and a refreshing break from house-hunting. The second year was powerful and inspiring. The retreats just keep getting better and better: This year left me feeling connected, inspired, and empowered.

The retreat started Friday night with shopping (of course), a cocktail reception, dinner, and some ambassador awards and a “sneak peek” fashion show. In my recaps of the past two years’ retreats, I discussed being nervous about bringing my introverted, awkward self to these big gatherings of strangers, but I’ve been to enough Skirt events now and have enough connections that I wasn’t nervous this year. Skirt Sports ambassadors are some of the friendliest, kindest people around, and I knew that even if I didn’t spot someone I knew right away, I wouldn’t have to be awkward all alone for long.

My friend Jenn served as bartender. There really was wine in those bottles. 

Upon arriving, I got my swag bag (full of stellar goodies from event sponsors!) and packet for the race on Sunday, found some friends, and soon began stuffing my face with Illegal Pete’s (if you’re not a Coloradoan, I’m sorry that you’re missing out on Illegal Pete’s. They have the tastiest burritos/burrito bowls).

Shoving beans in my mouth like the classy lady I am. Photo credit Emily Harvey

As dinner wound down, Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom (my girl crush, as you know if you’ve read my blog for a minute) spoke to us about Skirt, about the community, and about our roles not just as ambassadors, but as women in this world. One piece of her advice summed up the weekend and Skirt Sports in general: “If you see something great, say something, even if you feel stupid. Lift and elevate each other.” That resonated with me: How often do we avoid praising each other because we feel dumb, or inadequate? I don’t know about you, but I do this way too often. “Lift and elevate” really stuck with me (literally — I wrote it on a sticky note and stuck it to my work laptop), and I’m going to work deliberately on lifting and elevating, on praising the good in others even if I’m feeling shy.

Nicole DeBoom, lifting and elevating (as she does). 

Once Nicole had us all uplifted and inspired, she and Noelle (Skirt Sports ambassador program coordinator) handed out some awards, which was fun, and then, we got a little sneak peek fashion show into upcoming prints and styles. I can’t show you pictures yet, so you’ll have to be satisfied knowing that some cute things are coming up this fall and next spring.

As the fashion show wrapped up and the evening started to wind down, I slipped away and headed home — I had an hour drive, and we were starting back up at 8:00 the next morning. Saturday’s events started at Noah’s Event Venue in Westminster. We had breakfast, then three speakers: Kara Burns, Mirna Valerio, and Colleen Cannon. Kara spoke first; she is a recovered drug addict whose life has had many ups and downs, but she’s come out stronger on the other side and now works for a nonprofit that helps women who have been released from prison dress and prepare for job interviews. Kara, like Nicole the night before, reminded us to uplift not only each other, but ourselves, leaving us with a message that I think that, as women, we can’t hear too often: “You matter. Your value doesn’t hinge on anyone or anything else.”


Kara Burns reminding us of our value. Photo credit JoAnn Vaughn

Kara was interviewed on Nicole’s podcast, Run this World, so if you want to hear more about her and her story, listen here.

Mirna Valerio was the next speaker, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you’re probably familiar with Mirna.

Mirna Valerio. Photo credit JoAnne Vaughn

Mirna continued the theme of accepting, appreciating, and valuing ourselves. I could tell she’s a teacher — she kept having us “turn and talk,” which allowed me to get to know another Skirt ambassador whom I had previously known only on Facebook, so that was fun.

We took a little yoga break after Mirna’s talk, and then we had a breakout session, during which we grouped up and had a Shark Tank-style contest to invent and pitch ideas for new products. I’m not creative at all in that regard, so it was fun to hear what everyone else came up with, from convertible jackets/vests (my group) to gaiters to swim cover-ups.

Yoga break! I’m in there somewhere. Photo credit JoAnne Vaughn.

The morning wrapped up with one more speaker, Colleen Cannon, who is a former professional triathlete and now runs Women’s Quest, a company that takes women on surf retreats to Costa Rica. Colleen was a kick to listen to –she had so much energy and lots of little jokes. She talked about affirming ourselves and banishing negative thoughts, and gave us some mental tricks for when we’re struggling. Here’s my favorite: She said that when she was in the running portion of a triathlon and was getting tired, didn’t want to compete any more, etc., she’d imagine little fairies giving her bursts of energy to push her to the finish line. Sounds crazy, but I tried it the next day during the 13er, and it totally works! She also told us that encouraging others gives us a boost of energy and endorphins,and guess what? That worked, too! Try it next time you’re having a rough workout or race: high five someone or imagine little energy fairies. See if it works for you.

Colleen Cannon inspiring us to greatness. Photo credit JoAnne Vaughn

The morning wrapped with a grab-and-go lunch courtesy of Mad Greens, and we headed en masse to Davidson Mesa to walk part of the trails that would hold the 13er the next morning.

I’m in this one. Can you find me?

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Saturday’s events wrapped up with the walk, and we headed our separate ways to prepare for the next day’s races… which I’ll recap in another post, since this one is getting lengthy. As it had the last two years, this ambassador retreat left me feeling connected, empowered, and inspired to get out of my comfort zone to support, elevate, and inspire others the way these women support, elevate, and inspired me.

RMNP Hike: Bridal Veil Falls

On Memorial Day weekend, J and I, like everyone else in the country, wanted to celebrate the beginning of summer. We couldn’t go camping because of graduation, so we decided a day hike in one of our favorite places (Rocky Mountain National Park) would be just what we needed. We tried a new-to-us trail, and it quickly became one of our favorites.

To get to the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls, you don’t actually go into Rocky, which is nice because you don’t have to pay (we have an annual pass, but that’s good to know if you don’t). The trailhead is not far out of Estes Park; from Estes, take MacGregor Avenue/Devil’s Gulch Road (just over 3 miles from the intersection of Wonderland and MacGregor in Estes), then turn left onto McGraw Ranch Road. The road ends at McGraw Ranch; there’s limited parking, so get there early. (We got there around 7:45 and took the last remaining space).

The Cow Creek Trail to Bridal Veil Falls starts on the other side of the ranch itself, and there are restrooms just past the trailhead (important, if you have a miniature bladder like mine). The hike starts out flat and stays that way for a long time. There is an incline, but it’s gradual. The trail parallels a stream for a while before cutting up through some gorgeous meadows and forests. When we went, the wildflowers were starting to bloom, making the hike even prettier.

Teaser Falls

The trail crosses the stream a few times and brings you to a “teaser” waterfall. As you approach the falls (around mile 2.75), the trail gets a little rockier, requiring a smidge of scrambling — nothing challenging, just fun — and that wee bit o’scramble is well worth it when you reach the falls.
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We hung out at the falls for a bit, enjoying the view. We’d met a man at the trailhead who said you could cross the stream and climb above the falls, but that seemed more feasible later in the season; the flow covered all the rocks that looked cross-able, and we suspected that trying to cross would end with a soak in the cold water. So instead, we just played around at the base of the falls for while before heading back down.
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(Quick side note: Another couple was at the falls when we arrived, and they were feeding a ground squirrel. So, reminder: DO NOT feed wildlife. Human food is bad for them, and feeding them makes them forget how to wild animal. So don’t do it, even if they are cute little beggars).

On the way down, we met a handful of hikers, but nowhere near the amount you’d see on most RMNP trails, so that was nice. We also saw a wild turkey, but I didn’t get his picture. We finished our hike before 11:00, so we headed into town to eat our sandwiches, drink iced coffee from Kind Coffee (the best coffee shop in Estes Park, hands down), and people watch for a while.

This was a lovely little hike, and one that we’ll definitely do again. I highly recommend it for a quiet, easy hike in what’s usually a crowded, busy place.


Long Overdue Coffee Date

The way I’ve treated my blog over the last few months is disturbingly similar to how I’ve treated too many of my real-life relationships: Put on the back burner for all but a few quick check-ins. But now that school is out, I’m making a point to revive both the blog and the waysided friend-and-family relationships. In real life, I’m meeting friends for coffee or drinks, so I’ll have a virtual coffee date with you, too!

If we were having coffee, I’d ask if you could believe I’d just finished my 11th year of teaching. Sure doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. My second year at my new-to-me school was smoother than the first, and I’m already excited for next year. The new wing of the school will be finished, so I’ll get to move inside (I was in a portable this year) AND I’ll get my own room. I’m also excited for some curricular changes we’re making next year. But…

If we were having coffee, I’d also tell you that I’m glad it’s summer, as I need some R & R before I sail into prep for next year. This was a good year, but it certainly had its challenges (as evidenced by this cake given to me on the last day of school by a student in my hardest class):
Spring, especially, was busy, with AP Research presentations, testing, protesting, and a quick trip to Washington in the midst of all the usual spring bustle. Of course, if we were having real-life coffee, you’d say, “Wait, protesting? Trip to Washington?” So I’d stop to explain.

At the end of April, Colorado teachers gathered at the Capitol to raise awareness about some of the major issues in Colorado education — namely, teacher pay and inadequate funding for K-12 education. I won’t get on my soapbox here (but I’d be glad to talk education another time if you’re interested), but here’s a picture of my colleagues and me at the Capitol:
J and I left the capitol and went straight to the airport, then to Washington for a wedding. We left Friday night and came home Monday morning, so it was a fast but great little trip. The wedding was beautiful, the state was lovely, and we had a wonderful time hanging out with J’s family for a couple of days.

Visiting a tulip farm in Washington

So, anyway, spring was busy, but summer is starting strong on the fun front.
J and I took a lovely hike to Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park on Memorial Day weekend:


The Skirt Sports ambassador retreat was last weekend (and I won the 13er!):

Plus I’m climbing Quandary Peak (a 14er) this week, and this weekend, I head to Mexico for a four-day weekend of girl time with my best friends. Each of those will be its own post, so I won’t give you all the details now, but yeah — summer is going well so far, and it’s only been a week!

If we were having coffee, I’d realize now that I’d totally dominated the conversation, and then I’d apologize, because I’ve been out of the loop and have read only a few blogs in the last few months. So, catch me up: what would you tell me if we were having coffee? And link to any of your posts that I definitely should read!