All posts by ruralrunningredhead

One Word for 2019: Stretch

For the last few years, I’ve joined the trend of choosing one word to drive my goals and focus for the coming year, rather than setting specific resolutions. I love this concept: choosing a versatile word fits so many contexts, and using it as a sort of mantra helps me stay focused and come closer to my goals. In 2017, my word was “stability”: J and I had quit the teaching jobs we’d held for 9 years and accepted new ones, sold our house, and moved, so I was craving stability. I was also dealing with an ongoing running injury due to a lack of strength and stability training, so “stability” covered both getting settled and getting healthy. Last year, my word was “connect” — less abstract than “stabilize,” as I was focused on relationships, but it covered a broad range of relationships — professional, community, family, friendships. And that brings me to my word for 2019:

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(image created with PicMonkey)

STRETCH.

Like “stability,” “stretch” covers many areas of my life, but the general idea is that I want to work on getting out of my comfort zone. Building on “connect” from last year, I want to continue creating and deepening relationships… and as an introvert, that requires me to stretch. It’s easier for me to say “no,” to run alone, to spend weekends at home with my grading or my book, so I’m going to have to keep stretching myself to say “yes,” to join group runs, to meet up with friends and family even when my book and yoga pants are calling.
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It’s always worth it when I make the effort. Sometimes I even get to wear a birthday crown and sash.

“Stretch” also applies to my work life. I’ve been teaching 12 years now, and the kids in my classes today learn differently, act differently, and connect differently than the kids of a decade-plus ago. I need to stretch my “teacher toolbox” and my ideas of what works, learning new techniques and trying new things… even when that’s scary.

I also want to work on physically stretching (and foam rolling, etc.). As my dad would say, “You ain’t a kid anymore,” and my never-flexible muscles, ligaments, and fascia are getting tighter all the time. I want to be able to move well until I’m an old, old lady, so if I start working on being a bit more limber now, my future body will thank me.
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Proof that I actually do yoga every now and then.

In related fitness news, I’m also considering really stretching my limits and signing up for my first ultramarathon (insert nervous face here). There’s a 55K near Estes Park (one of J and my favorite places) on Labor Day weekend… (end of thought for now. We’ll see where this goes).
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I’m pretty sure the race runs near where this pic was taken. Not bad scenery, eh?

And finally, J and I are working on “stretching” our dollars. We were late to the Dave Ramsey party and only discovered his methods last summer, and we’re working to pay down some debt and build more savings (like everyone else in America).

As you can see, “stretch” applies to many areas of my life. I’ve got that scared-but-excited feeling that always comes with things that make me leave my comfort zone… and this time, the feeling is for the whole year. Wish me luck, and feel free to give me any tips or “hacks” for any of the areas that I’ll be “stretching” this year!

 

 

 

 

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A Look Back at 2018

I didn’t blog much in 2018, in part because I felt like I didn’t have time, in part because I felt like I didn’t have much to say, and in part because I was working on my 2018 word — connect— and trying to connect with people in real life. I won’t try to catch you up on all the ups, downs, and in-betweens of 2018, but here’s a highlight reel.

January must have been pretty boring; I don’t have any pictures or remember anything remarkable. Things started picking up in February. We got a new nephew (number 4!)
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and I ran and J walked a frigid 4-mile race (the Sweetheart Classic, one of my favorites).
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I also spent two days at an English-teacher conference, working on my “word” and connecting with some colleagues.

March was a whirlwind of work and visiting family at spring break, and April brought several adventures. I ran the Horsetooth Half Marathon
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We marched on the Capitol with educators from all over the state
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and we took a quick weekend trip to Bellingham, Washington, to watch Jordan’s cousin get married (and visited a tulip farm while we were there).
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May flew past, and June brought the beginning of an adventure-filled summer. I won the Skirt Sports 13er after a weekend of bonding with my Skirt sisters,
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climbed my first fourteener (Quandary) with my friend Kelly (see? Connecting)
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and spent a four-day weekend in Cabo with my BFFs.
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June is also our anniversary month, so we camped, hiked, and biked, including a moonlight bike ride on our actual anniversary.
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July and August run together in my mind, so suffice it to say that I spent a lot of time in the mountains and made some great new trail running friends.

 

Summer ended and my twelfth year of teaching (third at this school) began. I was excited to be back in the building (I was in a modular last year), and I felt like I was finally settled into my “new” school. The start of the school year meant less mountain time, but I  still managed a few high-altitude training runs before the Sourdough Trail Marathon in September.
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I won the race, which would be a lot more impressive if I didn’t tell you that it was a free (donation-based) race with 35ish participants. But it was beautiful, and I had a great time running it.

September wrapped up with the 5k graduation race for Running Start, the nonprofit that helps women who are “stuck” overcome barriers to fitness. I was a personal motivator, and my beginner, Zaira, rocked the socks off the program. She’s going to be faster than I am, methinks
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The last quarter of the year brought a lot of work (of course) and a lot fewer adventures. J and I have made a point to do some sort of date night every week, though, whether that’s a nice dinner out or driving around to look at Christmas lights
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(or going to the lights display at The Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins).

My final race of the year was a local Jingle Bell Run 5k, a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. One of J’s colleagues has arthritis and formed a team. We were Griswold-themed; J is Cousin Eddie and I’m supposed to be the cat after its run-in with the Christmas lights.
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The year ended with visiting both families over Christmas and a quiet night at home for New Year’s. I’m not sure yet what 2019 has in store, but I’m ready to face the challenges, embrace the adventures, and make 2019 a fantastic year!

 

(P.S. You’ll notice that I’m wearing Skirt Sports in a lot of these pictures. I’m planning to continue my ambassadorship in 2019; if you’d like a 15% discount, click here or  use code 841SONN at skirtsports.com).

So Ends Summer: An Adventure Photo Dump

I’m typing this a 10:30 on a Monday morning while I drink coffee. Next week at this time, I’ll be frantically putting finishing touches on my classroom, readying it (and myself) for my twelfth year of teaching. I report back to work on Wednesday of this week, and kids come on Wednesday of next week, and so here we are: the end of summer. It’s been a darn good summer, though, and I’m lucky to have the flexibility to enjoy summer so thoroughly. I’ve blogged very little this summer, choosing instead to enjoy every moment as much as possible. I feel that a photo dump of my summer adventures is the best way to catch you up, so here we go!

The first week of summer was packed with fun. Summer started for me on Memorial Day weekend. Graduation was Saturday, so Jordan and I hiked up to Bridal Veil Falls outside Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday:
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The next weekend was the Skirt Sports ambassador retreat, culminating in the Skirt Sports 13er, which I won!
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The following Thursday, my friend Kelly and I climbed my first 14er, Quandary Peak, Words cannot do its beauty justice, so check out these pictures, courtesy of Kelly:

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There were so many mountain goats, and they were not shy at all.

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Kelly and me at the summit

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I went from 14,000 feet to 0 feet in just over 24 hours, heading to Cabo San Lucas that Friday for a long weekend with my college girlfriends. A lot has changed since we met at age 18, but when we get together, it feels like no time has passed at all. I’m not posting any pictures of us except the snorkeling one, because in all our pictures, we’re wearing swimsuits, and as adults with careers, we don’t want that stuff on the internet. So take a look at the ocean instead:

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My girl Sam and me snorkelling in Cabo. Confession: I was so seasick getting here that I nearly puked in my snorkel mask.
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Ocean: I am beautiful! But I will make you vomit allllll daaaay.
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It wasn’t all seasickness. This is where we spent most of our time, swimming and talking. Not a bad place to spend the weekend, right?

My adventures slowed down a bit after that first week, but I still got to spend a lot of time in the mountains. J and I camped, hiked, and rode our bikes in RMNP and Estes Park:

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Our spot in Moraine Park campground
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Jordan making the turn from Cub Lake to Fern Lake
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Fern Lake
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Outrunning (outbiking?) the rain in Estes Park

I won my age group in in local 5k on the Fourth of July:

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I ran a lot of trails and made new friends along the way:

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Before a 6-miler at Bobcat Ridge Open Space with Skirt Sports sisters Lynette and Becky
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Running in the Rawah Wilderness with the Gnar Runners from Fort Collins (Photo credit Ed Delosh)
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Near the top of Clark Peak in the Rawah (Photo credit Ed Delosh)
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Yep, we’re going UP that! (Photo credit Ed Delosh)
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Solo run at Devil’s Backbone
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Gorgeous wildflowers near Eccles Pass
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On the other side of Eccles Pass. Colorado is so beautiful.
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Making friends from Ultra Dirt Divas and frolicking in wildflowers near Eccles Pass
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Solo run in RMNP

We visited my parents and grandparents on the Western Slope, and I didn’t take pictures because I’m the worst.

We camped in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness with my family to celebrate my dad’s birthday (and I didn’t take a single picture of any family members, just this one of myself,  because I’m narcissistic like that):
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And I celebrated my birthday and the end of summer with an epic day in the mountains with some more new friends. (Just this one picture today, because this run deserves its own post):

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Odessa Lake in RMNP

Yep, summer has been good to me this year. My trail marathon is September 15, so I still have a few trail days in the coming weeks, but these will need to be more focused, on-a-time-crunch training runs — probably no more full days in the mountains, jumping in alpine lakes and taking long photo breaks. But that’s okay: I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of students and trying to make year 12 the best one yet!

 

What has been your best summer adventure so far this year?

When does summer end for you? Are you on a school schedule or a real calendar?

 

 

Race Recap: Skirt Sports 13er 2018

The summer so far has been busy, but in a good way — I’ve done some work, sure, but I’ve also had a lot of adventures. Which is why we’re now a month out from the Skirt Sports 13er and I’m just now recapping. Oops.

The 13er is one of my favorite races of the year. I first did it in 2015, before I was a Skirt Sports ambassador. That was just a few weeks after the Lincoln Marathon, so I treated it as a get-back-to-training run. In 2016 we were job-shopping, house-shopping, and generally stressed out, so I didn’t race the 13er, but still came in third. That ignited my competitive spark, but I was injured and spectated instead of running in 2017, This year, I’m still trying to get back into pre-injury shape, but I wanted to race, to test my limits and see where my fitness is now. And, to be honest, I really kind of wanted to win. Winning, of course, all depends on who else shows up, so I kept that goal in the back of my mind and told myself to just run the best I could and see what happened.

The race starts at 6:30 a.m., which seems early but is actually a blessing, as that Colorado sun gets warm fast in June. I got up around 4:30, ate a banana with peanut butter, drank some coffee, annoyed my husband, and arrived at the start a little before 6 — just enough time to hit the porta-john, say hi to some friends, run a warm-up mile, try to hit the porta-john again but realize the lines were too long, and pose for a start-line picture with Kate.

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I think I stole this picture from Emily

The gun fired right on time, and off we went! I tend to start races way too fast, so my mantra for the first mile was “ease into it.” The first mile is slightly uphill, so that makes starting at a reasonable pace easier, but even so, I still started faster than I should have, ticking off the first mile in 6:49. My goal time for the race was 1:35 — about 7:15 pace — so that mile was much quicker than it should have been. I was already in the lead, and I wanted to keep it and not get passed at mile 12, so I eased up on the pace, hitting the next few miles right on target: 7:13, 7:19, 7:19, 7:14, 7:04.

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Starting the race and seeing the camera

The course was different than in years past: This year, it made two loops of Davidson Mesa, instead of one big loop including the roads around the mesa. Miles 5-6, then, meant meeting 5k and 10k-ers as they started the climb up onto the mesa and I hustled down it. This was my favorite part of the whole race. The energy was incredible: Women were pushing themselves; Running Start beginners were achieving something they never thought they could, and everyone cheered for each other, high-fived, or just smiled.

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This was the view for pretty much the entire race. Not bad. 

The halfway point was just outside the finish line (by the porta-johns, which I kinda needed to use but I didn’t want to lose my lead); I turned around and headed back up the hill and onto the mesa. Once back up the hill and away from the crowd, though, my energy started waning: my legs were tired, it was getting hot, and there was still a lot of race left. I wanted to walk, or at least slow down. But I knew the second-place woman was not far behind me, so I thought back to the tricks Colleen Cannon had given us the day before. I imagined little energy fairies, waving their wands and giving me bursts of energy. I imagined a finish line fishing pole reeling me in. And I smiled. And you know what? It worked!

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In the middle of lap #2. This is the only official race photo of me. 

I rounded the lake and headed back up to the mesa, knowing I had about 2 minutes on the second-place woman (because I asked at the aid station). I just had to hang on for a few more miles. As I headed back toward the finish line, I remembered why I love/hate out-and-back and double-loop courses: It’s awesome to get high-fives and see everyone, but when you’re using up the last of your energy, dodging the back-of-the-packers and walkers gets frustrating. But no matter: I kept imagining those little energy fairies,  and I just kept pushing. That uphill first mile turns into a downhill final mile, so I felt like I was flying as I dropped down the hill, rounded the corner, and saw the finish line.

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Winner! Photo credit Jen Allen.

It’s a small race. It wasn’t a competitive field, and 1:34:14 isn’t my PR. But none of that mattered. What mattered was that I did what I set out to do. I pushed through the hard places, fought the mental battles, and won the race!

Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom met me at the finish line with a big hug, and I got my medal and some water, kissed Jordan, and ate some cake while we cheered in the other racers.
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What I love most about this race is that, while I was on Cloud 9 after winning and received more than my fair share of congratulations, so did everyone else. Nicole stayed at the finish and greeted every runner the same way she’d met me: with a hug, congratulations, and a huge, genuine smile. Spectators cheered and even made cheer tunnels for the final finishers:

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Photo credit Jen Allen

At this race, whether you’re the first finisher, the last finisher, or somewhere in between, you are greeted as though you’re a world champion. The sense of community here is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Winner or not, I can’t wait to run this race again next year.

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What’s your favorite race? Should I do it?

Which course type do you prefer: out-and-back, loop, or point-to-point?

“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.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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).
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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):
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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:
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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.

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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:

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

 

Race Recap: Horsetooth Half Marathon 2018

Coming into the Horsetooth Half, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although part of why I signed up for this race was so I could attend the training runs, where I would experience the course and meet some people (because Connect), I didn’t attend a single group training run and trained on the course only once. Oops. I knew this would be no PR — both the challenging nature of the course and my mediocre fitness would keep that from happening — so I viewed it as a where’s-my-fitness run and planned to give it the best I had on that day.

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Getting ready to line up at the start

The weather on racc day was downright perfect: sunny and just a little chilly. We arrived at the race around 7:45 for the 8:30 start, and while Jordan parked, I jogged a little, grabbed my bib, and jogged a little more before getting in the porta-john line. Although I made it in and out pretty quickly, the start was delayed a few minutes because of long bathroom lines, but finally, the anthem played, the runners cheered, the countdown began, and we were off!

Before I get too far here, I think you need to see the elevation profile, or my recap won’t make much sense. Here it is, courtesy of the race’s web pageIMG_1083.PNGI have a bad habit of starting every race too fast, and I knew that if I went too hard on those first climbs (and subsequent downhills), I stood a good chance of blowing up and putting myself into a major sufferfest before I was even halfway through. Having trained on the course only once, I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself, so I lined up with the 1:45 pace group. I hoped to be faster than 1:45, but I also hoped they’d keep me reigned in for the first couple of miles, and then I could pick it up later.

This strategy had both pros and cons. The pace group did, indeed, keep me from blowing up early (my first two mile splits were 8:50 and 8:57), but I also ended up doing more weaving and passing throughout the race than I would have preferred. I don’t regret starting conservatively, though, since that’s a skill I desperately need to work on.

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View from the top of Monster Mountain. This photo, and all the photos with the logo in the corner, from Erin Bibeau Photography

I pulled away from the 1:45 group after topping “Monster Mountain” and ran on my own (but in a crowd) for the rest of the race. The course was beautiful: from paralleling  Horsetooth Lake to the farms and horse pastures beyond the lake, the views made the miles tick by. Before I knew it, I was up and over the final climb of the course, Bingham HIll, and turning toward downtown.

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I think this is after Bingham Hill. This is what happens when you wait three weeks to write a recap: you forget things. 

The final few miles run along the Poudre Trail, and mentally, that’s where the race got hard for me. The trail is flat, and while it weaves through some nice little natural areas, they’re not particularly exciting, and late in the race, my mind starts making excuses for why my legs should slow down. I told my mind to shut up, though: starting conservatively had left my legs with more pep than they usually have late in the race, so I dug in and sped up.

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This bridge is weirdly bouncy. Also, there’s that super attractive face I make in every race photo…

I had to hit a porta-john just after mile 10, which was frustrating, but my bladder was making it quite clear that another 3 miles weren’t happening. I made the stop, then picked my pace up again and headed for the finish.

One great part of this course was the spectators, and they were in fine form as we made the final turns into downtown Fort Collins toward New Belgium brewery. Cheers and cowbells helped me push through the finish, and I crossed the line in 1:40:04 (darn that bathroom break!).

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Smiling(ish) as I hit the finish line. Photo cred goes to Jordan for this one. 

That’s nine minutes slower than my PR, but I’m still satisfied: it was a tough course, I’m far from being in PR shape, and I paced myself well on a course that’s hard to pace, and that’s a win in my book.

Race Review: Pros

  • This year was its 45th in existence, and the experience shows. It’s well organized and well planned.
  • It’s beautiful! There are no ugly spots.
  • Great spectators
  • Challenging and fun
  • Great after-party (it’s at New Belgium, and while I didn’t want a beer at 10:30 a.m., New Belgium has yummy beers if you’re so inclined.)
  • Huge prize purse, if you’re super fast.
  • Free photos!

Race Review: Cons

  • Crowded. Over 2000 people ran this year, which made for more bobbing and weaving than I like. Of course, that’s MY fault for starting too far back.
  • Weather in April can be sketchy. We lucked out this year, but the two days before had been windy (as in, 60 mph gusts) and rainy/snowy. If you sign up, know that April in Colorado is unpredictable.

Overall, I highly recommend this race and would certainly do it again… maybe even next year. Who wants to join me?

What’s your favorite local race?

Post-race beer at 10:30 a.m.: Yay or nay?

 

Why I Run

I originally published this post back in 2015, before the injury I struggled with for over a year. In rereading my 2015 post, I realized that while it still rings true, my perspective has changed a bit, and I felt that it needed updated. 

Why do you run so much? Ask my students, my family, my friends. I shrug and give the simple answer: I run so much because I love it.

But my true reasons for running are deeper, and many. When people ask that question, they don’t really want my entire answer. But if they did, here’s what I’d say:

I run so much because I love it. I love the challenge of a hard training run or race: the fire in my legs, the ache in my lungs, the bile in my throat, all telling me that I’m giving it my all, that no matter the outcome, when the run is over and I collapse, I can be satisfied, knowing that I stretched my limits as far as I could.

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I love the euphoria following a win, and in a strange way, I love the despair following a loss — because it’s the losses that teach me, that make me analyze my weaknesses, that inspire me to work harder and come back fitter, stronger, faster than before.

I love the hard efforts, especially after an injured hamstring kept me running easy for months. But in some ways, that injury made me appreciate the easy runs even more. After being sidelined for weeks, running at all, no matter how slowly or sporadically, felt like meeting an old friend — the kind of friend who loves you and accepts you no matter how long you’ve been apart or how much has changed. While healthy, I’d taken for granted the easy runs, but returning from injury reminded me that nothing brings me peace like the serenity of a quiet early-morning run, bathed by the light of the rising sun, serenaded by the first birds of morning. Evening runs are special, too: the day’s stress melts away with the sweat, and as the miles tick away,  my mental storm clouds clear. Running helps me put my world in perspective. In both a figurative and the most literal sense, running keeps me grounded.

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I love the places running has taken me, from literal places — exploring a new city while travelling or moving,  discovering trail running and the beauty it brings — to mental journeys — pushing through a hard race to hit a once-impossible PR, slogging through crummy weather.

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Running has always been my alone time, my chance to regroup and calm the chatter in my head. But running also gives me a social outlet, a chance to meet similar-minded friends, a way to connect without my usual awkward shyness. Running helped me meet people after we moved. It connects me with trail runners more experienced than I. And running brought me a sisterhood in the form of the Skirt Sports community. The solo runs are wonderful, but I’ve learned that running with others creates a bond unlike any other.

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It doesn’t matter if I’m running trails — the mountains, the streams, the wildlife, the uneven terrain keeping me from obsessing about pace and holding me in the moment — or if I’m running roads — the pavement pressing against my feet, my lungs burning, the miles passing faster and faster– or even if I’m running on the treadmill, zoning out to mindless television and playing mental games. Wherever I am, running is my happy place, my stress-relief, my alone time, my friend-maker, my self-awareness enhancer. And I love it.

That is why I run so much.

 

Horsetooth Half Marathon Training, Weeks 7-8

Looks as though my blog is becoming just a training log, eh? Oh well. It’s better than not blogging at all, right?

As my mileage is building back up, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’m really trying to listen to my body, as apparently this hamstring thing is just one of those nagging injuries that never really goes away, so I want to keep it in check while getting myself back in shape. That means being less of a slave to my training plan than I ever have been before — it used to be that no matter how I felt or what was happening in my life, if the plan said to run 8 miles, I ran 8 miles, dang it. I’m working hard to break that mindset, stay healthy, and organize my training around my life, rather than vice-versa.

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Keeping some perspective on why I run. Headband from Skirt Sports. You can use code 841SONN for 15%. (Not an affiliate link, just making your life easier. You’re welcome.)  

Here’s how it’s gone the last two weeks:

Week 7: February 19-25

Monday: This was a wicked-cold week., and it felt worse since Colorado’s had such a mild winter. We had a high of something like 13 degrees on Monday, and I needed to lift in addition to running. We also had snow on the ground, and I knew that if I ran in the cold and got all wet and gross, I would just get in my nice, warm car and drive home for a nice, warm shower. So I hit the treadmill for 8 miles of “hill” intervals, then lifted.

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This is my “taking a selfie at the gym is awkward” face. 

Tuesday: My PT doesn’t want me running more than 5 miles on the treadmill, and I found out why: the ol’ hammy was pretty sore on Tuesday. I listened to it  (praise me, please), and did a made-up-by-me spin bike session for 40 minutes, then did some core work.

Wednesday: I couldn’t take any more indoor stuff, so even though it was still cold and icy, I bundled up and headed out for 8.3. I was an ice cube when I got home, but ice cubing is better than indooring.
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Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: Again, it was super cold, and again, I needed to lift some weights, so again, I hit the treadmill. Capped it at 5 like not-an-idiot.

Saturday: We had a Skirt Sports Ambassador meet-up, which are always super fun. We ran along the Boulder Creek Path (I think? Goose Creek Path? Something Creek Path). There was nobody my pace, so I jogged along with a few different groups and sometimes alone for 6 miles. Then, we had an oatmeal bar and tried not to buy all the things. Even though we’re supposed to take lots of pictures and spread the love at these things, I’m the actual worst and only took two pictures, neither of which turned out. Just imagine a lot of women having a good time, okay?

Sunday: Finally, the weather turned, and Sunday was in the 40s: perfect for 10 miles with 3 at goal pace. Last time I did this workout, my splits were way off. This time was much better: the goal pace miles were 6:55, 6:53, 6:55. I don’t think that “just under 7” is my goal pace for Horsetooth, because of the hills, but it is for the Skirt Sports 13er in June, so that’s what I’m basing training paces on.
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Week 7 Total Mileage: 37.3

Week 8: February 26-March 4

Monday: 3.6-mile recovery run, nice and slow, followed by a bunch of stretching and foam rolling.

Tuesday: 7 miles easy, then strength training. If last week was brutally cold and snow, this week more than made up for it. I was in capris and a T-shirt and got too hot.

Wednesday: Tempo intervals: 3-mile warm-up, 3×1-mile at tempo with 90 seconds rest, 3(ish)-mile cool down. I did the tempo part on hills because I guess tempo intervals don’t suck enough already? Either way, it was a beautiful day and a good, solid run.

Thursday: Yoga to stretch out yesterday’s hard workout

Friday: It was 65 degrees. I  told myself to stay at work and get some things done, but… it was 65 degrees. So I ran 8 glorious miles, then strength trained. I regret nothing.

Saturday: Another downright amazing day of weather. I hoped to run some trails in the foothills, but after last week’s snow and this week’s sun, all the trail reports said they were a muddy mess. Instead, I ran 14 miles on the Poudre Trail (a paved bike path that connects Greeley to Fort Collins). My legs were a bit tired from Friday’s workout, so I took it easy,  especially at the beginning, and just enjoyed soaking up the sun.
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Sunday: My training plan said 4 miles, but my body (especially Mr. Hammy) was tired and a little sore after yesterday’s long run, so I rested. See that? I may actually be getting wiser in my old age.

Week 8 Total Mileage: 41.6.

These last two weeks felt good. I feel like I’m slowly returning to myself, and that’s a really, really good feeling.

 

I ask the same questions every time. Tell me something new.