Tag Archives: colorado

Exploring Our Own State: Camping in Leadville

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a mountain lover at heart. Sure, I live on the plains now, but if I don’t get my mountain fix, I get antsy. Ever since we moved here, my mountain fixes haven’t come often enough. After all, we’re busy (like everyone else), and going to the mountains meant spending money (that we didn’t have) on hotel rooms. Last summer, though, I had a little breakdown, during which I told J that I desperately needed more mountains in my life.photo 2 (23)Who doesn’t need more of this?

The solution was a simple one: start camping. As a kid, I camped with my family, but I hadn’t camped since college. Jordan hadn’t camped much at all, so we knew this new experiment would be an adventure. Our Christmas lists consisted exclusively of camping gear, and all winter and spring, we kept a sharp lookout for good deals. Our biggest purchase was a tent and sleeping bags. A few months ago, Cabela’s ran an amazing deal: a tent and two sleeping bags for $200. We couldn’t pass that up… even though the tent was a 6-person and WAY bigger than we needed.

Our giant tent. My six-foot-tall husband can stand upright in it.
Our giant tent. My six-foot-tall husband can stand upright in it.

Finally, last weekend, we were ready to test out what we’d acquired. It was also our seventh wedding anniversary — perfect timing for a weekend escape. We chose Leadville as our destination, mainly because neither of us had ever been up there. This was a good choice.

We left late Friday morning, stopped and had a quick picnic lunch at the visitor center in Georgetown, and enjoyed a gorgeous drive up to Leadville, arriving mid-afternoon. We checked into Sugar Loafin’ campground (we figured a commercial campground would be a gentle intro to camping), set up our tent, and then spent a few hours wandering around Leadville. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, Leadville was hosting a BBQ and beer festival/competition, so we snagged what Jordan calls a “walkin’ around beer,” then explored the stores. We stopped at the Leadville Race Series store and asked them to recommend a good hiking/running trail (more on that in a second). Then, we headed back to the campground, built a fire and cooked some dinner on the camp stove, and spent the evening just relaxing.

Yeah. Campfire.
Yeah. Campfire.

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The next morning, we woke up early, ate some eggs and tortillas, and drove a couple of miles up the road to Turquoise Lake. Since I wanted to trail run  for a bit (because #operationbecomeatrailrunner) and J wanted a shorter hike, the Leadville Race Series store folks suggested that he drop me at one end of Turquoise Lake, where I’d run a six-mile trail, then meet him at the trailhead to Timberline Lake. So that’s what we did, and I’m so grateful to them for that suggestion. This was one of my top-three runs of all time. See if you can guess why. photo 2 (25) photo 3 (19) photo 4 (11) photo 3 (20)

Yeah. Beautiful. Plus it was completely runnable, even for my trail-newbie legs. It’s also part of the Leadville 100 course (probably the flattest, least technical part), so it was kinda cool to see part of the storied race course.

The trail ended at a campground at the other side of the lake. I misunderstood the guy at the store (and the map…) and thought that the Timberline Lake trailhead was at that campground, so I ran to the far end of it. No trailhead. I thought I was just dumb and missed it, so I turned around and ran back. Nope. Finally, on my way back to the far end, I saw a guy running who looked like he knew what was up. I asked where the trailhead was, and he told me I actually had to run up the road a little way. I felt silly, but at least now I knew where I was going.

I easily found the trailhead (after adding 1.5 miles of back-and-forth at the campground…) and started running up. Not far up the trail, I saw some cute guy.
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Wheet whew. (That’s a catcall whistle). I ran just enough farther to make my watch say 8.5 miles (because heaven forbid I stop at 8.4), then came back to hike with J.

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We intended to hike up to Timberline Lake (obviously), but about 1.5 miles in, the trail was covered by the river. We didn’t really want to wade and get our feet wet and cold, since we’d barely started hiking, so we headed back down to where the Timberline Lake Trail intersected the Colorado Trail, and instead hiked on the Colorado Trail for a while. There was no lake, but it was still gorgeous!photo 5 (9)

We hiked the Colorado Trail until we got hungry (we’re really serious hikers), and then we headed back down to Turquoise Lake, where we ate our PBJs and dipped our sweaty toes in the chilly mountain water. photo 1 (27)

We dallied at the lake for quite some time, then eventually cruised back down to town, because ice cream. By then, it was too late to start another hike, but too early to just go hang out at camp. We decided to drive over to Twin Lakes (about 20 minutes away). We’d talked about camping there, so since we were so close, we figured we’d go check it out. It was pretty, but we were glad we’d chosen Leadville.

We spent another delightful evening chilling by the fire, and the next morning, took our time about making breakfast and packing up camp. photo 1 (28) photo 3 (21)

We still left reasonably early, because we wanted to beat the nightmare that is Sunday afternoon on I-70. So we said goodbye to this view and headed back down to where it was 95 degrees. Lame. photo 4 (12)

To best sum up this weekend, I’d have to say (in my best Joey from Friends voice), “Camping? Good. Marriage? Good. Trail running? Good.” I can’t wait to go back!

This bear perfectly sums up my feelings.
This bear perfectly sums up my feelings.

Have you ever been to Leadville? 

Where do you camp: commercial campground, rustic campground, dispersed, or backcountry? (Or in a hotel. Ha.) 

Race Recap: Skirt Sports 13er

Ever since the lovely ladies at Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink reached out to me about running the Skirt Sports 13er (yes, I got the entry and gift certificate for free, but all the opinions here are my own), I intended to treat it as a training run. I knew that a month and a half after my last marathon, I’d be coming into the race with little to no speedwork. I also knew that I’d spend the week prior to the race running trails, which would leave my flatlander legs tired. So I really had no goals for this race, other than to have a good time. Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what happened!

The race started at 6:30 a.m. Yes, that’s early… but it’s Colorado in June on a course with no shade, so really, the early start time was fantastic. Jordan and I had stayed in Estes Park with his family the night before, so we were on the road by 4:30 and at the start at about a quarter to six. I picked up my bib and goodie bag with no trouble, did a warm-up mile, and hit the porta-potties (of which there were plenty, thank goodness… at a race this female-filled, we need a lot of them!).

The race started on the other side of an overpass from the expo/finish line. I guess that last year, racers had to run over the bridge, which caused bottlenecking, so the organizers moved the start line this year. As we headed up the bridge, Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom (who is pretty much my hero) gave us all high-fives. photo 3 (14)

We received a few instructions and some encouragement at the start line, and soon we were off! Because I’m a chump, I got caught up in the start-line energy and set off WAY too fast for a training run. And then, at my too-fast pace, I fell in with a couple of super cool women, and we started chatting, and so I continued at that too-fast pace for a few miles. Whoops. By the time we hit a steep-ish hill at around mile 4, I caught my error and made myself slow down. I was not in race shape; I should not be racing. 

Once I slowed down, the group of women I’d been running with pulled ahead, and I was running on my own for quite some time. The course was gorgeous; I was kicking myself for not bringing my phone; since this was a training run,  I could’ve stopped to take some pictures. Instead, here’s one that Nicole sent me a while back to use for race promotion:

Image courtesy of Skirt Sports
Image courtesy of Skirt Sports

We had views of those mountains, plus cattle pastures and open spaces, pretty much the whole race.

At mile 7ish, the race heads up a massive hill (nicknamed “The Bad Relationship” — ha!). Confession: I walked a bit. I was being a baby and really had no reason to walk, but… I did. Then, the course turns into an open space for a little out-and-back. Races with those little out-and-backs bug me for some reason, but it wasn’t long.

From the open space on, the race is either flat or downhill, which was nice. I did run out of water in my handheld (totally my fault for not refilling it at the last aid station), and because it was getting warm, I started to get a little lightheaded and chose to walk again. Had I been racing, I probably would’ve just pushed through, as the next aid station was near, but again: being a baby.

The last couple of miles were uneventful but HOT: I was really glad the race started so early. I crossed the finish in 1:46:something — my slowest half ever. 

photo 4 (8)

And this is why I usually don’t do races as training runs: I was mad at myself. That’s dumb, and I know it, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me for a bit. The mad didn’t last long; I reminded myself that it was a training run, and that I had intended for it to be all along. I drank some chocolate milk and all was right with the world again.

Here’s a list of key points about this race. I was going to break it into pros and cons, but some things are subjective, so it’s all one big list. You can decide if you want to run it without me classifying things for you.

  • Girl-power vibe. The racers are almost all women, and everything from the pep talk at the start to the finisher skirts to the kick-start program participants was  women-centered and focused on making us all feel like badasses. I loved it. Plus, it’s always fun to see women as the overall winners, since that doesn’t happen in most races.
  • Awesome little expo. There was gluten-free cake (I heard it was amazing, but I was all hot and no food sounded good), EVOL burritos, chips, salsa, fruit, Two Moms in the Raw granola, kombucha, chocolate milk, Skratch … all sorts of tasty business. Plus, since Home Depot was a race sponsor (and the start and finish lines are in their parking lot), they had a booth set up where kids could make crafts while their moms ran. They also had a DIY race bib display project. I did not make one, because I don’t do crafts, but it’s cool for those that are crafty.
  • Finisher skirt. And bucket. I have about 12 million race t-shirts, so I LOVED getting a cute little skirt.

    (photo from 13er website. Obviously.)
    I also was pretty excited about the free Home Depot bucket, because with all the yard work we’re doing, we needed another one.
  • Hot, and no shade. It’s June, so of course it’s going to be hot. If you run this, be prepared. I was wishing I’d worn a hat and carried my bigger handheld.
  • Great aid station support. Carrying the small handheld wasn’t a big deal, because there were plenty of aid stations, and all the volunteers were super friendly and encouraging.
  • Well-marked and well-staffed. If you get lost on this course, you’ve got issues. Bonus: Every mile-marker/directional sign had an “I run for…” poster, each with a different picture under the “I run for…” headline.  Everything from margaritas to shirtless firemen was featured. The signs were funny and provided nice little pick-me-ups along the course.
  • Not many spectators. Aside from the aid stations, I saw only 3-4 groups of spectators along the course. That’s fine with me, but if you’re big on crowd support, you might have to recruit some friends to cheer along the course.
  • Beautiful and challenging course. This course is at the base of the foothills, so if you’re a flatlander like me, train for the hills — there are several, and that “Bad Relationship” is serious business.

I thought this was a great little race, and I’m planning to be back next year — racing it this time! I’m grateful to Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink for the opportunity. If you have a chance to do a Skirt Sports event, do it (even if you’re a dude)!

Can you do races as training runs, or do you get frustrated like I do?

What’s your favorite half marathon? 

A Few Days in My Happy Place: The Mountains

This is a picture-heavy, word-light post. Because mountains.

I was very fortunate to spend most of last week in the mountains, continuing my work on Operation Become a Trail  Runner and just enjoying my favorite place in general. From Monday afternoon to Thursday morning, J and I attended an education conference in Breckenridge. The conference was great, but the best part was spending an hour or so every morning running on the trails right behind our hotel.

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There was still quite a bit of snow up high, so this creek was flowing fast.

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I really hoped to see a deer or elk here, but nope… just a pretty park. Not complaining.

One morning, I decided to run up the ski-lift maintenance road. I  turned around about half a mile past this:

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And was rewarded with this view, to which my iPhone camera just couldn’t do justice:

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The final morning was cloudy and misty, but the mountains were stunners nonetheless.

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And I took a “runfie” because sometimes I remember I’m a blogger.

photo 1 (19)

I always look confused in selfies. Probably because I feel like a fool taking them.

We left Breckenridge at noon on Thursday and headed straight to Estes Park, where we met Jordan’s family for the weekend. We drove over Trail Ridge Road, which neither of us had ever done. It was stunningly beautiful; if you ever have the chance, drive it! Again, our iPhones couldn’t capture the breathtaking beauty of the mountains, but here’s a series of pictures from Trail Ridge to give you an idea.

photo 1 (20) photo 2 (18) photo 3 (12) photo 4 (7) photo 5 (5)

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We stopped at the Alpine Visitors Center, where I read this on a sign about the area’s history: “The Ute People believed the trails were living beings who held the community together.” I kinda love that.

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Friday morning, I woke up and drove a few minutes from where we were staying to Lily Lake, which is technically in Rocky Mountain National Park, but on the non-paying side of the entrance stations. I took a side trail and ran for a while, catching these foggy mountains from just above the lake

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Somehow, I got on the wrong trail and ended up on private property. Please don’t tell.

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(This time I look confused because I was…)

I fairly quickly made it back to where I meant to be (thanks to studying the map for a looong time the night before), and headed back in time to clean up and spend the day playing tourist in town with my in-laws.

Saturday, the whole family was heading into RMNP, so I decided just to hike instead of run. The whole clan walked around Bear Lake; then J and I took a side trail for a few extra miles before meeting back up with the group for lunch. I love getting off the super-popular trails and off to where it’s just me, Jordan, and the wildlife.

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We watched this guy for several minutes. He ignored us. That’s a good thing.

And here’s another fast-flowing stream. It was gorgeous. (And yes, I’m rocking my Skirt Sports).

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By the time we finished our sandwiches, afternoon thunderstorms were starting to brew, so we headed back into town.

Sunday morning, we were up at 4 and gone by 4:30, headed out of the mountains and down to Louisville for the Skirt Sports 13er, which I’ll recap soon!

The week was awesome and left me wanting more mountains. Luckily, I don’t have to wait too long, as we’re going camping in a couple of weeks for our anniversary!

What’s your favorite hiking/trail running spot?

Ever been to Breckenridge or Estes?

Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 7 and Western Colorado Adventures

I got an e-mail today explaining that the Colorado Fall Classic Marathon had to change its name because the Colorado Marathon folks got all worked up about it. (The e-mail was worded more professionally than that, don’t worry.) I think that’s a little petty on the Colorado Marathon’s part, but whatever. Either way, I’m still training for the same race, and Week 7 of training was a much-needed recovery week. Here’s how things went:

Monday:
AM: 6.1 easy miles

PM: An hour-ish of full-body strength training

Tuesday: 
AM: 7 easy miles

PM: Core, stretching, and foam rolling. My right hip is finally loosening up, so I guess all this foam rolling is paying off.

Wednesday:
AM: Tempo intervals for the week’s only real workout (besides a long run). I did 5 x 2000 meters with 400m recoveries. It was unusually humid for Colorado (96%…ew), so I was a sweaty mess when I finished. 10.5 miles total, including warm-up and cool-down.
photoPM: Core, etc.

Thursday:
AM: 6 recovery miles

Later AM: An hour of strength training. We were heading out of town to visit my family, so I did my strength work right after my class ended at 10 instead of waiting until later in the day. I had no idea the gym would be so busy at 10 a.m.!

Friday:
I started the day with an easy 4.3-mile run, enjoying the sunrise over the mountains.
photo 1After breakfast, we took off for Telluride. It’s not quite two hours from my parents’ house, and Jordan had never been there, so we thought it’d be a fun adventure. We took the Last Dollar Road on the way there. It was really ugly.
photo 2We had to look at horrible scenery like that for the entire drive. It was really hard on us.

When we got to Telluride, we planned to hike to Bridal Veil Falls. Turns out, it’s not a great hike — the “trail” is a road, so hikers have to dodge (and get dusted by) four-wheel-drive vehicles. But the views on the hike more than made up for that:
photo 4And the fall itself was well worth it.
photo 5After the waterfall hike, we had a picnic in the town park, rode the gondola, and went into several shops whose merchandise cost more than my monthly paycheck.

Saturday:
I had mentioned to my folks that I was hoping to get in a 20-mile downhill run while I was there, and Dad had determined which route would be best for me. He offered to drive me up to the start, and Mom and J tagged along because they love me. (As Dad put it, though, spending an early morning in the mountains is really no sacrifice).

This was my favorite run in a long, long time. For reasons that the pictures make obvious, this is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We spent a lot of time here growing up, so this run was full of memories and overall nature-loving. We saw several deer on the way up, as well as an elk who was too swift for me to get her picture.
photo 2 (1)This is where my run started:
photo 4 (1)This was on the way down:
photo 3 photo 5 (1)And this was where I finished:
photo 1 (1)Not too shabby, right? And my family was leap-frogging me along the road, so I had my own mobile aid station. That was awesome, because I only had to carry my handheld bottle instead of a big Camelbak.

This run was not only beautiful, but  also terrific downhill training. Check out this elevation chart:
elevationI was still sore today (I’m sure the seven-hour car ride yesterday wasn’t helpful), so I take that as a good sign that I’m getting prepared for the race.

Sunday:
Rest. I stretched a bit when we finally got home (I-70 traffic is the worst), but that was it.

Totals: 54 miles running, 3ish hours strength, a couple of hours hiking, and a whole lot of family time and outdoors enjoyment.

How was your weekend?

Ever been to Telluride?

 

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 1 (Actually)

The week before we left on vacation, I titled my weekly workout recap post “Week 1 (Sorta),” because I didn’t want to “officially” start training until after vacation, so this one is “Week 1 (Actually).” It was a tough week — the first time I’ve topped 60 miles since October — but a great one. I had some solid training runs and some beautiful training runs with pretty flowers, so it was a win, all around.
photo 5

Monday:

AM: 11. miles easy

PM: 45ish minutes full-body strength, along with Greg McMillan’s Runner’s Core workout. I was at the gym for more than an hour, but I spent at least 15 minutes jabbering and not working out, since I’d been on gym hiatus for couple of months and had people to catch up with.

Tuesday:

AM: 13.1-mile hill run…although it’s four miles from my house to the hills, so it was more like a 5-mile hill run sandwiched between 8 miles of flat. I’m going to have to start driving or biking out there for hill runs. It was a beautiful morning, either way, and the top of my favorite/least favorite hill has a pretty view:
photo (3)I need to find out who owns this property so I can get permission to run out there.

PM: 30ish minutes of core and stretching. Having The Bachelorette back makes it easier to make myself do these things. I tell myself I can only watch trashy TV if I’m also stretching and/or doing core.

Wednesday (National Running Day)

AM: 5.2 recovery miles. J rode his bike as I ran, which I loved. We need to find a better route, though; this isn’t exactly a bike-friendly town, so I think we’ll have to stick to the park when he comes along.
photo 1PM: Basically the exact same as Tuesday.

Thursday: 

AM: 9 miles with 4 at tempo. Tempo runs are always hard for me, and I was tired, sore (still, from Monday… clearly it had been a while since I’d lifted), and hot. I told myself to run what felt like tempo pace and not focus on the actual pace. I was pleased, when I did check, to see that I was hitting the right pace. So that was good.

PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength and McMillan core again.

Friday

Friday was my favorite running day ever. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. J had meetings in Denver (he’s kind of a big deal), and we figured there was no sense in letting the other half of his paid-for king-size hotel bed go to waste. So I left home bright and early and drove down to Green Mountain in Lakewood. I wonder why they named it that.
photo 3I got in some solid trail running, which I desperately need before the Chase the Moon relay in July, and some good downhill training to prep for my marathon in September. I wanted to just go forever, but I made myself stop at 6.2 so I wouldn’t be too sore for Saturday’s long run. And I took a selfie, because that’s what bloggers do, right?
photo 4

Then, I found J and borrowed his hotel key, cleaned up, and went to Athleta and bought some new shorts with a gift card I’d had since Christmas. It was pretty much the best day ever.

Saturday

I was excited to do my long run in Denver and get a change of scenery. Since J needed to check out of the hotel before his meeting started (i.e. before I was done running), I drove to my brother’s house and ran from there. He lives by a lake, so I did a couple of lake laps, then hopped on the Platte River Trail, which goes through downtown Denver. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too lazy to dig my phone of its pocket on my Camelback. I am a good blogger, remember?  You can go look at Amy’s blog; she lives near my brother and runs around that lake all the time. And she is a better blogger than I am, so she has pictures. Too bad she was running Ragnar Snowmass this weekend, or we could’ve run together.

Anyway, I ran 17 miles (it was supposed to be 16, but math is hard), then went to brunch with my brother, which was nice. I’m not sure why, but that 17-miler really took it out of me. I was beat. I guess it was a combo of the high-mileage week, the trails and mediocre sleep Friday, and the slowness of the brunch restaurant, which made me miss that 45-minute refueling window by a long shot (but they comped one of our meals, so it wasn’t all bad).

Sunday

30 minutes easy yoga. It felt amazing on my tight hips.

Totals: 61.6 miles running, 3ish hours strength/stretch/yoga

So overall, not a bad week at all. It feels good to be training hard again!

How was your week? Are you training for anything right now?

Do you ever get to tag along with your spouse on work-related trips? What do you do while he/she is working?