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Westy Half Marathon Recap

Back in June, when my physical therapist told me not to run the Skirt Sports 13er, I was disappointed, to say the least. But when 3W Races let me transfer my entry to another race, I felt a little better — at least I hadn’t lost my registration fee. I chose to transfer to the Westy Half Marathon at the end of October, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to heal up and get back in shape.

I was half right. I’m 90% healed and healthy, but in shape I am not. In the weeks leading up to the race, my PT had approved long runs of 12, 13, and 14 miles, plus the barest semblance of speed work (I’m talking a few fartleks and hill repeats). I knew I was far from fast shape, but I was happy to be racing at all.

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Lining up. That sun was getting concerningly warm for the outfit I was wearing.

The race started at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Not knowing how long parking and packet pick-up would take, J and I left home around 6:15 and arrived around 7 — much earlier than we needed to. Parking was a breeze, and packet pick-up took about 30 seconds. Luckily, the Westin across from the start line had warm bathrooms and comfy chairs. We hung out in there for a while, and then I headed out for a one-mile warm-up jog… on which I realized that my weather app had lied to me and my full tights and long sleeves were going to be a bit much for the warm Colorado sunshine. But there was nothing I could do about it now, so I shrugged, peed one more time, and lined up at the start.

Since I knew I wasn’t in speedy shape, I had a pretty simple race plan: run at or slightly faster than normal long run pace for the first half, then pick it up a bit from miles 7-10, and then, if I felt good, lay the hammer down for the last 5k. To help myself keep it easy, I lined up farther back than I normally would … which ended up being too far back, and I had to weave a little before I settled in. No matter: I just relaxed and enjoyed the lovely views as the trail wound through a nice little open space.

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Trying to settle in to a comfortable pace. Photo courtesy of 3W.

The course went up a small hill around mile 2, looped around the open space, and dropped back down, then left the open space for maybe half a mile of road running before rejoining the bike path. Miles 4-6.5ish were uphill, and those same miles repeated as 6.5ish-8, so running down was WAY more fun. I felt good at the half, so as planned, I kicked it up just a little, passing a few people as I went. I didn’t see many women ahead of me after the turnaround, but I didn’t want to think about racing just yet. I focused on relaxing, grabbing a drink at the aid station, and enjoying the downhill flow.

At this point, I started reeling people in. I passed a few men and kept a brown ponytail in my sights for a few miles. Finally, when we hit the same slight uphill at mile 11 that we’d hit at mile 2, I passed her. Mile 11 ended up being my fastest of the race, thanks to that little surge.

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Another photo courtesy of 3W Races

As I entered the final mile, the half course rejoined the 5k course, and I got stuck a few times behind some walkers. At that point, I was starting to tire, but still feeling pretty good, for being out of shape. The finish line loomed ahead, so I gave one last push and crossed in 1:41:35 — 10 minutes slower than my PR, but good enough for fourth place and first in my age group. Gotta love small races!

Even though this wasn’t a fast-for-me race, I’m happy with how it went. This was the smartest I’d ever paced myself — I usually go out too fast and pay for it later — and I’m hoping I can apply that lesson to future, more race-y races.

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I was too warm for the weather, but I LOVE these Three-Pocket Tights from Skirt Sports. If you like them too, use code FALL20WIN for 20% off.

The Westy Half is a delightful little race: about 150 runners, a beautiful course, a pint glass for AG placing, free photos, and the nicest volunteers and race staff you’ll ever meet. I’d run it again, for sure, and I highly recommend it as a great fall half!

What’s your best recent race story?

Are you a smart pacer, or do you start too fast like I usually do?

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Slowly Bouncing Back

Every time I blog, I promise to post more regularly… and yet, this last gap between posts may be the biggest yet. I thought this school year would be better than last, now that I’ve been at my “new” school for over a year, but I’m still often drowning in a sea of grading, planning, and most of all, meetings. So. Many. Meetings.

That’s all, of course, just an excuse for not writing more. I need to prioritize it. But I started this post not to make excuses, but to update whatever readers I may still have, so here goes:

Running

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Slowly but surely, I’m feeling more like myself all the time. I’m back to 5-6 runs a week and got up to a 14-mile long run last weekend. I’m even running a half marathon tomorrow. When I got injured (read: finally admitted I was injured) and couldn’t run the Skirt Sports 13er, 3W Races let me transfer to another of their events: the Westy Half in Westminster. My recovery has been slow, and I’ve done no speed work for over a year, so my time will not be fast (for me), but that’s okay. It’ll feel good just to be out there.

I’ve been working with Jennifer Watson of Watson Wellness in Fort Collins, and I credit her with getting my running back to almost-normal. If you’re looking for a physical therapist in Northern Colorado, I can’t recommend her highly enough. I’m still seeing her once a month or so, and she’s helping to keep my body functioning.

I also need to acknoweldge that my strength training has been lacking. I think I need to rejoin a gym, as I’m just not doing the at-home stuff I should be, and even when I do, I don’t have heavy weights at home. Especially when it’s cold, I tend to run, come home, and get straight into the warm shower. I’m thinking that if I pay for a gym membership, I’ll be more likely to make myself go lift some weights. I’m looking at Anytime Fitness, since there’s one five minutes from my school and one being built about 1.5 miles from my house. Anybody know about Anytime? Are they worth the money?

Races

I’m starting to feel healthy enough to make longer-term racing plans. I’d really like to BQ again and head back to Boston in 2019, which means I need to run a spring marathon. I’m thinking Colfax in May; I did it once, years ago, liked it, and said I’d be back, but I haven’t run it since. My concern is the time that marathon training takes, which sounds crazy. I used to teach, train hard, and go to grad school. I don’t know if I’m really that much busier at this job or if I’m just out of the habit of scheduling long training sessions. I guess I’ll just have to make it a priority and get ‘er done!

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From my long run last weekend. Not a bad view. 

Other races I’m thinking about this winter/spring are the Yeti Chase in January, the Loveland Sweetheart Classic in February, and the Horsetooth Half in April. Those are all tentative, and we’ll just have to see how my fitness, budget, and calendar all work together to make them happen!

Life

Nothing all that exciting has been happening life-wise, just teaching and boring adult-type stuff. A couple of highlights, though:

  • Volunteering with Running Start.
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    The women of Running Start shivering before the race
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    …and my CSU socks. Gotta rep the alma mater!

    This charity pairs women who want to start running but have significant obstacles with women who have been running for a while, and they train for a 5k together. While my beginner got injured and couldn’t run the CSU Homecoming 5k (the graduation race), I still went, ran a bit with every pair, cheered at the end, and left proud and inspired. I definitely want to volunteer with Running Start again next year!

  • Fall hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
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    A few weeks ago, on Jordan’s birthday weekend, we spent a day hiking in Rocky and playing in Estes Park. The colors were popping, the elk were bugling, and the day was beautiful; we thoroughly enjoyed our much-needed day away.

And that’s my life lately in a nutshell, I think. I will, for real this time, have some posts up more regularly; I’ve got a pair of tights I need to review and will have a race report up for Westy.

It’s good to be back in the blog world. Let me know what you’ve been up to!

Coffee Date Catch-Up

It’s been a while, again. Blogging hasn’t been high on my priority list lately, largely because I’m still slowly recovering from injury, and it’s hard to write a running blog when I’m running so little. I haven’t been reading other running blogs lately, either, because seeing other people having fun and success running makes me jealous and a little sad. Selfish, maybe, but that’s the truth. But here I am again, promising again to start blogging more regularly… but honestly, with school starting this week, “regularly” might be a generous adverb to use. Bear with me.

A coffee-date post seems like a nice way to fill you in on what I’ve been up to lately, although I’m actually drinking green tea right now, not coffee. Grab your caffeinated beverage of choice, pull up a chair, and let’s catch up.

First, look at this adorable calf with a crew cut, because he’ll put you in a good mood.

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If we were having coffee, we’d start by talking about my injury, since that’s my excuse for not chatting with you lately.  Slowly but surely, I’m getting better. My physical therapist is wonderful, and she’s good at keeping me reined in so that I don’t go out and run 10 miles as soon as I feel kind-of okay, then reinjure myself. Not that I did that repeatedly for a year before I started seeing her or anything. Oh, wait. That’s exactly what I did. I have permission now to run up to 5 miles and up to two days in a row, along with squats, jump squats, lunges, etc. I’m feeling a little more like myself all the time.

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m trying to start a running group in Johnstown/Milliken (where I live now). Our first meet-up was yesterday. It was just me and an old man, but at least someone else showed up! Hopefully it’ll grow. If you’re local, please come!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m super excited to be volunteering with Running Start, a nonprofit that pairs women who run with women who want to run but have barriers.  My “partner” is Kate, and she’s delightful. Running Start is a wonderful organization that I’m  thrilled to be volunteering with; if you have a minute, read more about them here.

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I stole this picture from the Running Start web page, as I don’t have one of my own yet. 

If we were having coffee, I’d apparently be dominating the conversation. So I’d just keep talking and tell you that while I’m a little sad that summer’s over (I officially started work Thursday; kids come Tuesday), I had a wonderful summer, involving more mountains that any year since college. Moving was a good choice.

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I love me some mountains. 

That little story about summer would inspire me, if we were having coffee, to tell you that I’m excited-slash-nervous for this school year. Excited to get to know a new group of kids, to improve on some things I didn’t do well last year, to get myself more integrated into my new school, now that it’s not “new” anymore. Nervous because I’m teaching an intense AP course and teaching in a mobile while they build a new wing right outside my window. It’ll be an adventure, but I like adventures.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that we are getting new windows installed starting tomorrow. Yay home ownership. Once they’re in, though, we can start painting, which we’ve wanted to do since we bought this house a year ago. Now, to find the time to paint…

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This picture is supposed to look contemplative, because I’m thinking deep thoughts about work-life balance. Mostly, there was too much text and not enough pictures in this section. 

If we were having coffee, that “time” statement would make me want to share one of my big goals for this school year: having a better work-life balance than last year. Balance should be a little easier than last year, since it’s my second year here, but there’s always a LOT to do and not enough time in which to do it. But I know that to be a good teacher and a good person, I need to make time to read and write non-school things, to sleep 7-8 hours a night (I don’t do well on less, and I know this), to see family and friends, and to do things I love (hello, mountains).

If we were having coffee, you’d probably be REALLY tired of listening to me talk, and a little offended that I haven’t been around just because your blog maybe makes me jealous. So I’ll act like a grown-up and not get jealous, and you catch me up: what have I missed? 

 

Southwest Colorado Adventures, Days 5-7: Great Sand Dunes and Florissant Fossil Beds

This is the final entry in this series about our southwestern Colorado trip. To read the rest, look here, here, and here

Thursday morning, we checked out of the hotel, stopped in Mancos for breakfast (Fahrenheit Coffee Roasters is a great little local place — way cheaper and probably tastier than the National Park restaurant), and headed east again. The Lightner Fire had just started near Durango, so the drive was smoky and the views were pretty nonexistent most of the way. We stopped for leg-stretches in Alamosa and Pagosa, and I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the river in Pagosa one last time.

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Then, it was back to driving. We arrived at Great Sand Dunes National Park a little after two. We’d planned to hike to Zapata Falls, a short hike outside the park that everyone raves about, but when we saw the rocky, rutted road, we thought better of driving it, planning instead to come back the next day and just hike the road, too.

We headed on into the park and explored the Visitor Center. I went for a two-mile run (still all I was allowed to do, per my physical therapist) along a delightful sandy trail while Jordan talked to a volunteer about our plans for the next day (more on that in a minute). Then, together, we went over to the Montville Nature Trail.

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The NPS website describes the trail like this: “In summer, keep this hike as an option for afternoon as an escape from the heat of the dunes. Walk along a shady forested trail named for a late 1800s settlement, comprising 20 houses in its heydey. Rest near the trail’s highpoint, where you’ll find outstanding views of Mt. Herard, the dunes and the valley.” We, however, got about 10 feet from the car and were swarmed by mosquitos, and since we didn’t want to fight the little buggers for the whole hike, we bailed.

Instead, we went down to Medano Creek, which was still running a bit. Its peak had passed, but there was enough water for wandering and splashing and playing. It was quiet, fun, and once we were mid-creek, mosquito-free. We played for a couple of hours, then headed out to make camp. Half the campsites at the Dunes campground are reservable, and the other half are first-come, first-served. When we booked this trip, the reservable ones were taken, and we were nervous about risking the first-come sites, so we’d booked the next-closest campground available — about 45 minutes away. Since we knew we’d need an early start the next morning, we hit the hay early.

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That early night didn’t turn out too well — some strange noise kept us awake most of the night — but we were still up bright and early. We had to pack up camp, even though we planned to stay another night, because Friday is watering day at that campground and they water the tent sites. So we packed up, drove back into the park, filled our waters, and were hiking by 7:15. Our plan was to climb Star Dune, the tallest dune in North America. While I ran the day before, Jordan had asked a volunteer for directions. She told him to cross the creek and turn left, walk two miles, and then “you’ll see it.”

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Hi, I’m a nerd.

That volunteer was confused; she should have told us to go the other way. We climbed around (PSA: dunes hiking is hard. Because sand.) until we realized that a dune near us was High Dune — not as tall as Star, but the tallest you can see from the parking lot. We hiked over and stood atop High Dune, hoping to see Star Dune and reassess. Star Dune was still WAY out there, and my still-recovering hamstring was starting to complain a little, so we decided to be content with High Dune.

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High Dune Selfie

Settling for High Dune was easy: the view from the summit is stunning, with miles of rolling dunes butted up against the majestic Sangre de Cristos. We soaked in the view for a while, and then other people started arriving at the summit, and we had to share.  But that’s okay, because while hiking up dunes is fun, going down them is a blast. I’d gone to the Dunes as a kid, and running and jumping down the Dunes is just as fun as a 31-year-old as it was when I was 10. We ran, bounded, leapt, and slid, looking completely ridiculous but not caring one whit.

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Once down, we kicked off our shoes and walked in the creek a bit, then hiked out to the Sand Pit Picnic Area, where we ate a snack and admired the dunes some more. We hiked back via the Medano Primitive Road, which I would not recommend because it’s full of 4-wheel-drive vehicles out having some redneck fun. After that second little hike, we drove back to the Visitor Center, where we at our PBJs while admiring High Dune and thinking about how cool we are. Unfortunately, we also watched storm clouds rolling in.

We debated what to do. Our original plan was to return to Zapata Falls, but starting a 7-mile hike at 1 p.m. with approaching storm clouds would have just been foolhardy. We’d already hiked dunes, and the wind that came with those clouds was too cold to make more creek-playing fun. Since all our stuff was already packed, we decided to cancel our campground reservation, drive toward Buena Vista, and see if we could find a pretty place to camp. Of course, neither of us considered that it was Fourth of July weekend and campsites would be busy. We did find two gorgeous (but full) places to come back to someday, but we ended up at the Buena Vista KOA. Oh well — it was quiet, we could have a campfire, and no mysterious noise kept us awake until all hours.

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The nice part about staying in Buena Vista was that it made the trip to our final adventure spot, Florissant Fossil Beds, that much closer. We took our sweet time about having breakfast and packing up camp, and we still got to Florissant around 10:00 — just in time for a ranger talk about the history and geologic wonders of the area. Then, after watching the movie at the Visitor Center to learn the basic background of the National Monument, we were ready to explore.

We started with the Sawmill Trail, a 2ish-mile loop. It was an easy trail, broad and smooth with just a few ups and downs, and the quakies (that’s what we native Coloradoans call aspens), firs, and wildflowers made for a beautiful walk.

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Sawmill Trail

The loop ended back at the Visitor Center, so we hit the bathroom and water fountain before heading on to the one-mile Petrified Forest loop, where we saw enormous petrified stumps and read about the area — from millions of years ago when the trees were alive, to 100 years ago when tourists plundered the area, to 40 years ago when the government protected the land. Fascinating stuff, and a little sad — just think how much we could know if people hadn’t carried away little bits of history as souvenirs.

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Jordan and The Big Stump

Florissant Fossil Beds was a great stop; I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the Colorado Springs area. It has 15 miles of trails, so we definitely need to go back and explore more!

After leaving Florissant, we drove to Old Colorado City (the quieter partner of Manitou Springs), where we grabbed a snack and wandered into some little shops. We planned to spend that night with Jordan’s aunt and uncle in Colorado Springs. His uncle wasn’t feeling well, though, so we met his aunt for dinner, then drove back home and back to reality.

Staying in Colorado for our vacation this year was a wonderful choice. Whether you’re a local or from out of state, visiting the southwestern corner of this great state is  well worth your time.

What’s your favorite place in Colorado? If you haven’t been here, what’s your favorite place in your state? 

Southwest Colorado Adventures, Day 4: Wetherhill Mesa

This is the continuation of the story that started here and continued here

A few days before we left for our trip, I was clicking around the Mesa Verde website, looking for interesting things to do. I read about Wetherhill Mesa, the remote part of the park that is visited by something like 10 percent of all Mesa Verde visitors. I knew we’d want to go there. Then, I came across a 4.5-hour bike-and-hike tour of Wetherhill Mesa. Although we were a little nervous about the bike part (neither of us is in great uphill-pedalling shape), I went ahead and booked the tour. It ended up being fairly easy and was both of our favorite part of the trip.

We started at the information kiosk on Wetherhill Mesa, where we met our ranger, Ranger John, and another couple — the only other people on our tour. We chatted a bit while we waited to make sure that no one else was coming, and we learned that our ranger had worked at Mesa Verde off and on since the 1970s. He obviously knew his stuff, and with only four of us, we knew we’d get to ask all the questions we wanted.

We first biked down to the Kodak House Overlook, where we parked our bikes and walked a few yards down the road. Ranger John turned down a lightly-marked trail — I’d have missed it on my own — and led us along the mesa. Along the way, as he told us about the Ancestral Puebloans who had once walked where we were walking, we kept a close eye out for pottery shards, evidence that an unexcavated site was nearby. The other couple on the tour were Mesa Verde buffs — they go every year — so Jordan and I mostly listened and learned from their discussion with the ranger.

The coolest part about this tour was that we got to see two sites that you can’t see unless you’re on the bike-and-hike. The first was Double House. We couldn’t get near it, but we could see it clearly from the ridge, and even clearer with binoculars. The ranger explained that even archeologists go in only about once every 20 years. We stayed probably 20 minutes while he gave us the known information about Double House and pointed out some other, smaller dwellings in the canyon.

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Jordan overlooking Double House

Our next stop was a lookout over Nordenskold 12, an unexcavated dwelling that included some petroglyphs that we could see through our binoculars. Again, we stayed quite a while as the ranger explained what was known about the dwelling and about Nordenskold’s team of excavators back in the 1890s. We felt extremely lucky to see these two sites, especially with such a small group and such a knowledgeable ranger.

We next walked back to the Kodak House overlook, leaving our bikes a few more minutes while we walked out to the overlook and learned about the dwelling. Returning to our bikes, we pedalled  to the Long House trailhead, where we stopped to eat a snack and wait for the prior (much larger) Long House tour group to finish. After our break, we headed down the trail to what, in my opinion, was the most incredible of the dwellings we saw in the park.

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Our very small group (minus Jordan, who’s taking the picture) approaching Long House

As we arrived in the cool shade of the alcove, Ranger John asked us to sit silently, looking down the canyon, just watching and listening. We sat like that for just a few minutes, and I swear, in those few minutes, I felt connected to the place and the people who had lived there so long ago.

We couldn’t sit silently forever, and our tour continued. Since there were only four of us, we were allowed to explore more, linger longer, and ask more questions than the normal tour groups. Still careful not to touch anything, we peeked in windows, peered into kivas, and climbed a ladder to see loom loops in one of the rooms.

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Jordan exploring Long House

We ended our tour of Long House in the dance plaza, and it was there that I finally was able to picture, as I’d been trying to do all week, how the place and the people may have looked over a thousand years ago. The ranger pointed to the remnants of balconies and the natural ledges of rock, explaining that during a big dance or ceremony, people would have sat all along those ledges — hundreds of people, maybe even lining the mesa tops, watching, listening, participating. I could almost — almost — see it happening.

We stood again, mostly silent, occasionally asking questions, all obviously reluctant to leave. The ranger told us that he wanted to leave us with a message that every descendant of the Ancestral Puebloans that he’d ever talked to had given him: They’re still here.

Finally, we had to leave. We hiked out slowly, reluctantly, and sat again in the shade at the trailhead, chatting for another 30 minutes though our tour was long over. Eventually, John had to report back to the kiosk, so we all followed.

Jordan and I said goodbye to our new friends, then locked up our bikes and went down the self-guided loop to Step House. It was similar to the other dwellings, though unique because it contained dwellings from two time periods. After our tour that morning, though, I felt like I saw and understood more than I would have otherwise.

We left Wetherhill Mesa after Step House, and we drove slowly back, stopping at each overlook, admiring the long, clear views of Ship Rock in New Mexico one direction and Utah in another.

Wednesday was our ninth anniversary, so instead of camping, we checked in to the Far View Lodge, took real showers, and ate an expensive but delicious dinner before sleeping in a real bed, which felt nice after three days of camping.

That day was wonderful all around; if you visit Mesa Verde, bring or rent a bike and do the bike and hike tour. It’s the best $15 you’ll ever spend.

Best tour you’ve ever taken?

How do you celebrate your anniversary?

Hiking Poudre Canyon: Mount McConnell

Hike stats:
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1327 feet
Time: 3 hours
Fee: $6 to park at the trailhead
Good for: Easy hiking, hiking with dogs

One of the reasons we moved last summer was to be closer to the mountains. We wanted to be able to day hike without spending more time driving than actually hiking. We’d hoped to do some hiking this spring, but our jobs kept our weekends busy right through the end of May. Finally, in early June, we had time to start exploring.

I checked out a book called The Best Front Range Hikes from the library, and we flipped through to find one that wasn’t too far away or too long a hike. We decided on Mount McConnell, up the Poudre Canyon.

I hadn’t been up the canyon since college, and I’d forgotten how lovely the drive is. The Poudre River was full and fast-moving with fresh run-off, and the sparkling water, colorful wildflowers, and green trees made for a nice little drive.
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We hadn’t gotten a very early start (that’s why we moved, remember?); we parked, used the trailhead restrooms, and started hiking a little before 9:00. I was a little worried we’d be hot, but some friendly clouds kept us shaded most of the way up. The trail climbs fairly steadily for the first couple of miles, and it seemed like after every little bend, we just had to stop to take in the next bit of stunning scenery down below.

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There’s a pretty cool rock wall and rock field about halfway up. 
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One of many overlooks. The trailhead is at the campground down there. 

The trail to the summit of Mount McConnell branches off the main trail, but it’s a short jaunt to the top, and the view is incredible.

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Jordan enjoying the summit
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Hi, Mummy Range.

We lingered at the summit for several minutes, enjoying the panorama and the sunshine that had finally decided to reappear. Eventually, we started our walk back down. The trail gives the option of making this a loop hike, and we did, because why see the same scenery when we can see something new? The trail down wasn’t quite as well maintained as the trail up, but it was still easy to follow.  We did take one wrong turn — at a water crossing, the trail we needed was hiding in the shade — but we realized our mistake fairly quickly and were soon back on the right track.

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This stream was a trickster.

Back at the trailhead but not really wanting to leave, we spent several minutes trying to skip rocks and dipping our fingers in the icy river, talking about how glad we were that we’d moved closer to the places we love.

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This was a lovely little hike. Although my new book said this was about a four-hour hike, we did it in almost exactly three hours, including our wrong turn, lots of picture stops, and lingering at the summit. Even starting late, we had plenty of time to hike and dawdle and still had the afternoon free. It’s an easy and uncrowded hike, and the views from the top make you feel like you really accomplished something. If you’re in the Fort Collins area, definitely give this one a try!

Dad Hikes, Part 2

This is the follow-up to the story of my first “real” hike with my dad. Neither my mom nor I could find the pictures from this hike, though, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Dad (because I know you’re reading this), Mom said they might still be on the camera in your truck. It might be time for a new memory card. 

I was 17, and I knew everything. In just a few weeks, I’d turn 18, leave for college, and be a real, independent adult. (That’s what I thought, anyway). But this morning, I was just as excited as I’d been nearly a decade before on the morning of the first of many daddy-daughter hikes. Today, we were finally going to do the hike that Dad had talked about for years: the Crag Crest Trail.

Ever since Dad first told me about this hike– the rocky trail up, the tiny strip of land across the top of the Grand Mesa, and the rolling, forested trail back down — I’d wanted to do it. “It’s a little dangerous,” he’d always said. “We’ll do it when you’re older.” Then, the busyness of a family with two teenagers had kept us from hiking it, but today, we’d made the time. I could hardly wait.

The drive up to Grand Mesa seemed to take for-ev-er, but finally, we were hiking. I’d tried to keep my nervousness about college hidden under a veneer of confidence, but since it’s easier for me to open up when my body’s moving, I shared with Dad my anticipation and fears about the following years. As always, Dad listened, nodded, and offered just enough advice.

Soon, the trees thinned, then vanished altogether. We scrambled over a boulder field, and then, at the top, there it was: the foot-wide trail that dropped into space on each side. “Well, go ahead,” Dad said, and I walked out on the ledge. Butterflies filled my belly, and my head spun. I felt unsteady, but that view, miles and miles of blue mountains and green valleys on either side, stunned me. Exhilarated, I called for Dad to come out, too. After snapping my picture, he joined me on the narrow trail, and together, we gazed out, breathless, at the stunning view below.

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Since I can’t find our pictures, I borrowed this one from here

We stood on the narrow ledge for several minutes, barely touching, rarely speaking, admiring the view. Wondering if, on some level, this hike symbolized this point in time: my childhood on one side, adulthood on the other, today a tiny strip of stability in the middle.

Eventually, reluctantly, we had to head down. All too soon, we were back in the Jeep, heading down the Mesa, back toward home, toward adulthood, toward the quickly changing lives that for a few hours, we were able to set aside.

College came,  then adulthood, and though our relationship had to adapt, Dad remains that stabilizing force in my life, always ready to support me or talk me off a ledge– a real one like the Crag, or a metaphorical one like frustrations with work or finding a dead mouse in my bathtub. He’s my rock, my biggest fan, my first adventure buddy, and my hero, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

 

Dad Hikes, Part 1

My dad is one of the most important influences in my life. Dad and I are a lot alike, from our crooked teeth (thanks, braces) and bad eyesight to our hot tempers (which we’ve both worked hard to learn to control), strong work ethics, and goofy senses of humor. Dad has taught me a lot about life and how to be a good person (see this post), and he is responsible for my love of the outdoors. In honor of Father’s Day, today and next Sunday I’m writing about two of my favorite hikes with Dad. 

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This is my dad, my brother, and me on Grand Mesa, circa 1988. My love of the outdoors started early, thanks to Dad (and Mom, of course — she’s behind the camera in all the pictures in this post).

I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I woke up in darkness and silence, so I knew it must be early, but having no clock in my room, I was unaware of just how early it was. No matter, I thought. Mom had made it clear that I had to clean my room before Dad and I left for our hike, and since I was awake with no chance of going back to sleep, I decided I might as well get started. As long as I was quiet, I’d be done and ready to go as soon as Dad got up!

I got right to work. Barbies went neatly back into their little Tupperware container. Headbands and hair clips found their way back into the jars on my dresser. I made my bed, shoved dirty clothes into the hamper, and even dusted. Frustrated that I couldn’t run the noisy vacuum — the only chore keeping me from having an up-to-Mom’s-standards room—I decided to check the time and see just how long I’d have to wait to finish my chores, have breakfast, and get going on my daddy-daughter date.

I tiptoed across the hall into my brother’s room, squinting to make out the blurry red letters on his alarm clock. 12:15. I blinked. That had to be wrong. No way it was the middle of the night! So I crept out to the living room, where the glowing clock on the VCR said the same thing… as did the kitchen wall clock and the clock on the stove. Well, then. Defeated, I shuffled back into my room, crawled into my just-made bed, and scrunched my eyes shut, willing the morning to come.

I must have made it back to sleep eventually, because I woke to the sound of Mom making pancakes in the kitchen. Little strands of sunlight now infiltrated my room, and I sprang out of bed, thrilled that it was actually morning and my adventure was actually going to begin. After making my bed again, I skipped into the kitchen and asked Mom for the vacuum, explaining that I’d been up for … a while … and had already cleaned the rest. Impressed, Mom said she’d vacuum for me later so Dad and I could get started.

I shoveled my pancakes as quickly as I could without getting in trouble for bad manners, silently urging Dad to do the same. Finally, with breakfast eaten, sunscreen applied, and sandwiches packed, we were off on our adventure! I clambered up into the old blue Scout, beaming at Dad. We’d been planning this hike forever, and I almost couldn’t believe that it was actually happening.

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Same people, same trailhead, 20 years later.

An hour later, we arrived at the trailhead into Roubideau Canyon. I’d been to this spot hundreds of times in my young life, but had always been told I was “too little” to hike down in there. Well, as an eight-year-old, I wasn’t too little anymore! I started scampering down the trail, slowing just a little at Dad’s admonition against slipping on a rock.

The hike down flew by. We admired wildflowers. Dad examined some scat and told me how to tell how old it was and from which animal it had come (Gross, Dad). After what seemed like just a few minutes, we reached the bottom of the canyon. A little stream flowed there, and Dad beckoned me closer.

“Look at all those little brookies,” he said, pointing at the three-inch fish in the stream. “Watch, I’ll catch one.” His long legs straddled the stream, and his big hands plunged under the water. Sure enough, after a few missed tries, he held up a squirming, slimy fish for me to see. I was amazed. My daddy was the best outdoorsman in the world!

Cass & Terry fishing Roubidou Canyon
This was a different hike and a different spot in the canyon (and we have fishing poles), but I was about the same age here. 

Dad released the fish and rinsed his hands, and we perched on a boulder and ate PBJ sandwiches and granola bars. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought, just enjoyed the sunshine and the time together. Looking back now, though, I believe that that moment, more than any other, sparked my love of spending a day outdoors: just me, Dad, and the mountains. How could it get any better?

As we packed up our sandwich bags and granola bar wrappers, Dad regretfully pointed to distant storm clouds. “We’d better head out,” he said, patting the hat covering my red pigtails. “We want to be gone before those get here.” It seemed impossible to me that those far-away clouds would arrive today, let alone soon, but I didn’t argue.

The hike back up was considerably more challenging than down – I didn’t remember that slope being this steep! – and took us almost twice as long. Dad was patient with my eight-year-old legs, often pretending that he was the one needing a breather, and at each stop, he would point something out – the spot across the canyon where he’d deer hunted as a boy, the elk track in the nearly-dry mud, the healing gouges a bear had made in tree. I basked in the learning and in Dad’s undivided attention, and soon, we were back at the Scout — just in time, as those clouds I’d thought were so far away arrived and opened up as we drove back down the mountain. As always, Daddy had been right.

Cass & Terry Fishing '94
Same spot, different day. 

Come back Sunday for Part 2!

Tell me about your favorite outdoors-day memory. 

Passion, Empowerment, and Delusional Optimism: 2017 Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat

I struggle with crowds. Getting to know new people is hard. I’m shy and awkward, and it takes me a while to warm up to people before I can act like my true self. So even though I’d gone to last year’s Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat and had a blast, I was still a little nervous (but a lot excited) about this year’s retreat. Would anyone I’d gotten to know be there? Would I stand around awkwardly while everyone else chatted and caught up, or would I be able to edge out of my comfort zone to make some new connections and strengthen old ones?

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Here I am, doing what I do best: standing around awkwardly and hoping to find a friend… (photo cred Jenn Allen, “the creative Skirt.”

Of course, I didn’t need to worry. Skirt Sports has compiled a group of kind, uplifting, and delightful women, and last weekend’s retreat, like last year’s, left me rejuvenated and inspired.

Friday night: Mixing (drinks) and Mingling

The retreat started Friday night with a cocktail party at the Skirt Sports store in Boulder. We shopped and hobnobbed, reconnecting and meeting new and new-to-us ambassadors. Noodles and Company provided our dinner (nom nom nom), and we ate, drank, and socialized for a bit before Skirt Sports founder and all-around badass Nicole DeBoom and Skirt Community Outreach Manager (and also badass) Noelle Wilson spoke to us about the company, the program, and the Skirt community in general. As Noelle put it, “This program is not about product. It’s about community.” That’s how I’ve felt at every Skirt event since I learned about the company more than two years ago.

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Noelle and Nicole. I want to be like them when I grow up. Photo cred Jenn Allen again. 

We also had a little fashion show previewing the fall products. I even volunteered to model. In front of people. Aren’t you proud of me?! I can’t show you photo proof, though, because the fall styles are still on the DL for a while, but trust me, I did it. Also trust me: there’s some fan-tas-tic stuff coming out this fall. I need to start saving money now. (She says as her husband sets up an appointment to get new windows…)

The night wrapped up with drinks, cake, and chatting. I shouldn’t have worried about my awkward self; I had a wonderful time catching up with my Skirt family. And LOOK AT THIS PICTURE:
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Do you see who’s sitting across from me? That’s Mirna Valerio of Fat Girl Running. She’s pretty much a celebrity (seriously, she’s been on CNN and Buzzfeed and a bunch of other places, and she has a book coming out in October), and she’s a Skirt ambassador, and WE HUNG OUT. The next day, we took a selfie. LOOK AT IT.
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But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m just so excited. Since we’re here now, though, why not talk about Saturday, which was my favorite day of the retreat?

Saturday: Hiking, Learning, Inspiration

Saturday started with a hike at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder. I haven’t spent much time in Boulder (because I’m a CSU Ram and Boulder was home of the enemy, the CU Buffs), but now that I live less than an hour from it, I need to go more — and specifically, back to Eben G. Fine. We had four options for hikes, and I took the longest one. Our group was the Snot Rockets.

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Wearing Skirts doesn’t mean we have to be boring and ladylike all the time. Photo cred Jenn, again. 

Our hike was about 1.25 miles up a hill, and while it was hot and steep at times, the views at the top were more than worth it.
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If you looked the other way, you could see all of Boulder, including the CU campus, but I didn’t take pictures of that, because who cares.

Nicole gave us a snot rocket clinic at the top.
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Maybe now I can blow them without getting snot on myself. Maybe.

Although I could have stayed at the top all day, we took a group shot and then headed back down for more fun.

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Fellow ambassador Melissa has mad selfie skills. 

After our hike, we had breakfast and listened to four wonderful speakers:

  • Maria Uspenski of The Tea Spot (who also gave us tea samples and those neat bottles a bunch of people are holding in the picture above). She spoke about how tea basically saved her life. Seriously.
  •  Mary Sutter, a Skirt ambassador who taught us how to social media…we’ll see if I improve. I promise I’m trying.
  • Mirna, the bomb.com, who talked about and read a chapter from her book, A Beautiful Work in Progress. It was just one chapter, but man, it’s good. I preordered it on Amazon. You should, too.
  • Dr. James Rouse of Skoop. I’ve used Skoop for quite a while, ever since they sent me some to review (read that here), but until recently, I thought they were just a company that made good protein powder. After I listened to Nicole DeBoom’s podcast with Dr. James, and especially after hearing him in person this weekend, I learned that it’s so much more. Dr. James is one inspirational fella, and for me, his talk was the most impactful part of the weekend. He talked about “delusional optimism,” and about how it is essential for life. He talked about love, and how love should drive all we do. He suggested that before we do anything — eat, speak, exercise, whatever — we should ask ourselves, “What would love do?” Although it’s a bit reminiscent of those once-trendy “WWJD” bracelets, I love this advice. I even changed my phone’s lock screen to an image (that I stole from Google) that says “What would love do?” so that every time I open my phone, I ask myself that question. I hope it will help make me a kinder, more loving, and more conscious person .
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Enraptured Skirts listening to Dr. James. Photo cred Jenn, again. 

Dr. James’s talk was a emotional but perfect end to the day, and we all headed our separate ways to prep for The Big Day on Sunday.

Sunday: The Race

Last Monday, my new physical therapist told me to take 7-10 days off running. Since Sunday and Monday are not 7-10 days apart, my options were 1) stay at home and pout, 2) be an idiot and run anyway, or 3) spectate this year’s 13er. I am trying to be less of an idiot, so I made a sign and parked myself about 3/4 of the way through the giant hill on the 13er course.

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My Western slope pal Kate stopped to take a selfie with me and my sign. She still got second in her age group. 

Once everyone made it past me, I spectated at the finish line. Hanging out at the finish of a race that I had once hoped to win, but couldn’t even run, was harder emotionally than I expected, but the vast amounts of positive energy there didn’t let me spend too much time feeling sorry for myself. Just like last year, I was amazed by the positivity and support that all these women exude. At most races, the last finisher comes in to a mostly-taken-down expo and maybe a handful of straggling spectators. At this race, the last spectator was greeted with screams, cheers, cowbells, and high-fives, plus a hug from Nicole DeBoom.

And that, my friends, is why I’m proud and honored to represent this company. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow, injured or healthy, fat or skinny or somewhere in between, these people support you and encourage you and push you to go far beyond what you think is possible. In a world full of division, anger, negativity, and polarization, we could all use a little more of that “delusional optimism.”

Maybe we could all use a little more Skirt.

Oh, Hey. Again.

Hello there, much-neglected blog world. This about the 10th post like this I’ve written over the past few months, but if you missed those, here’s the basic formula: I apologize for being MIA, make a few excuses about how the first year at a new teaching job is just too busy for blogging, complain about the injury that has kept me from running long or fast since last July, post some pictures of mountains, and promise to be better about posting in the future. Then, a month or two later with no updates along the way, I do it all again.

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Requisite photo of me running

This time, though, I’m serious: I’m going to get back to this  blogging thing. My school year ended yesterday, and I’m determined to spend a decent chunk of my time writing. Of course, I also plan to spend a decent chunk of my time hiking, camping, playing, working on our house, and getting ready for next year, but I intend to post here at least once a week all summer, and stockpile some posts so that when next year gets busy, I can keep posting even if I don’t have time to write something new every week.

Following the formula, here’s an injury update, or rather lack thereof: nothing has changed. I can still run short and slow, but adding any speed, distance, or hills hurts too much. My PT said my pelvis is straight now so I should be feeling better, but I’m not. She suggested I go to Altitude Running in Fort Collins (wonderful running store. You should go there) and have them do a gait analysis to see if I was running in the wrong shoes. They said that I no longer need stability shoes, so I bought a neutral pair, but I haven’t felt better yet.

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New kicks
I’m going to a new physical therapist on Monday, one who specializes in runners, so I’m really, really hoping she can give me some insights. I have adventures that need to happen this summer, so this thing has to get out of my body!

In the meantime, I’ll be running short and slow, reading lots of books, and trying to catch up on my internet friends’ blogs. If you are one of those bloggers, point me to whatever I’ve missed that you think I must read!

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Mountain picture. You didn’t think I forgot, did you?

Are you/your kids out of school yet? If not, when? 

Tell me your fun summer plans!