Monday, August 11, 2014

Venus de Miles Rolled Through Lake Forest

The last few days I’ve been off in Lake Forest, Illinois. I’ve mentioned before that the firm I work for has a sister nonprofit organization – Greenhouse Scholars. Well Saturday officially kicked off two action packed weeks of events with Venus de Miles and The Community Table.

I went out to provide support to the team as there was a lot going on, including a couple great media interviews. I arrived at the Glen Rowan House on Lake Forest College, the location for Venus de Miles, and my home for a few days, along with the ride co-directors and the on-course logistics manager. It was a bit haunted but also a fantastic venue for the ride and the staff at Lake Forest College were amazing!

 Venus_Glen Rowan House

We didn’t get a ton of time to really enjoy Lake Forest, as we were working hard, but it is quite a cute little town with beautiful houses, right on the lake. This little ally market was super cute and had fantastic fruits and veggies. Such a great use of space!

Venus_Lake Forest

Venus is an all-women’s road bike ride that’s truly a celebration of community and sisterhood. As a ride, not a race, it’s meant to be a low-pressure ride all about having a great time, supporting one another and making new connections. The Illinois ride featured three course lengths – 13, 28 and 64 miles – while the one in Boulder County on August 23 has courses that are a bit longer – 33, 51 and 100 miles. With multiple courses, it’s great for all ability levels. Andrea, one of the co-directors, has spent a lot of time, effort and thought working out beautiful courses that are easy to up the enjoyment quota.

Venus_WGN

Friday before the ride, Andra Pool (middle), COO of Greenhouse Scholars, and one of the Scholars from Illinois, Michelle (left), were interviewed on WGN-TV’s midday newscast by Dina Bair, who participated in 2013 and also this year! The ride is produced by Greenhouse Scholars to raise money for the program. Currently there are 88 extraordinary college students in the program from Colorado and Illinois, but nearly 150 students have been served since the organization began in 2005. Students come into the program as they are entering college. They come from low income communities and very challenging circumstances, but they have an unbelievable drive that has inspired them to become leaders in their schools and communities as high school students.

A few facts about the Scholars:

  • All graduated high school in the top 10% of their class
  • 72% of Scholars are the first in their family to attend college
  • 40% of their families live below the poverty line
  • 71% lead an organization on campus
  • 55% have founded an organization, event or club in their community
  • More than 2,000 middle and high school students have been mentored by Scholars to date

Every time I interact with Scholars, I’m in awe. At their young age, they have already done more with their lives and more to make a positive impact in their communities, than I have. They are incredibly impressive, studious, focused, and determined, but also, they are a lot of fun to hang out with!

Venus_Scholars

Saturday was a long day but there was a great turnout of women, and men to provide support! The weather could not have been any better.

Venus_Start

Along the course, there were four rest stops with delicious food donated by Whole Foods and Nuun! Since it’s not a race, many women love to hang out and enjoy the rest stops for a bit! After the first two waves of riders were out on the course, Andra and Jamal, another Scholar from Illinois, were interviewed by ABC7 Chicago.

Venus_ABC7

It was nice to have a little lull of activity, so we could get organized again, when everyone was out on the course but before long they were arriving back for the post-ride festival! We had great food, drinks (Goose Island Brewery & North Shore Distillery), ice cream (Jeni’s), spa services (manis and pedis from Tricoci University), yoga, foam rolling, and vendors like Nuun. It was a great celebration!

Venus_Festival

Venus_Nuun

While many women ride on their own or with a few friends, we did have several women who signed up as teams. While fundraising is not a requirement of the ride, we definitely appreciate all women who do reach out to their friends, families and communities as all of the money raised goes directly to support our programs. Greenhouse Scholars is more than just a tuition scholarship. The program provides the Scholars with mentors who are always their for them to answer questions and provide advice, as well as peer support groups of other Scholars who are going through a similar situation. Both of these programs are essential to help these students navigate college, as most of them don’t have that same type of support back home. Greenhouse Scholars also provides support finding internships, professional networks, flex funding to help fund educational or community impact experiences, an annual Summer Symposium which just began yesterday in Boulder!

The money raised by our riders, like these women from team Girls Just Want to Ride Bikes, is essential for our program to continue to grow and help more students!

Venus_Team

And I can’t write this without mentioning our blogger ambassadors. These awesome women helped us spread the word and get people excited about the ride! I had a fantastic time working with them over the past few months and it was great to meet them in person.

Venus_Ambassadors

Melanie (See Mommy Race), Katie (Live Half Full), Lauren (Lauren Runs), Kristina (TUFF), and Lena (Way 2 Good Life).

Before all the craziness hit high gear, Andrea, the other amazing co-director of the ride, and I hit the road and went for a little run through Lake Forest, which is right along Lake Michigan. I couldn’t spend four days less than a mile away from the lake and never see it. So not only did we run along the lake, but I made one last stop yesterday morning on my way out of town. I don’t get views like this in Colorado.

Venus_Lake Michigan Run

Lake Michigan

If you’re in Colorado, I hope you’ll come out on August 23 and join us for Venus de Miles! If you’re not sure about riding, we have lots of great opportunities to volunteer – and you still get all the great food & drink!

It’s been a long few days and I’m heading to Bend, OR for BirdCamp Wednesday morning, but I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to support the amazing team at Greenhouse Scholars and also support the incredible students.

Find more info on Venus de Miles Colorado here: www.colorado.venusdemiles.com

Friday, August 1, 2014

7 Health & Fitness Favorites for August

I can’t believe where this summer has gone! It’s flown by and as I’m looking towards the last month of the summer, there are a few things that I’ve been enjoying, and look to savor as long as I can!

1. Farmers Markets – of course! Fresh cherries, sugar snap peas, greens, flowers. Farmers Markets are in full swing during the summer months and the perfect place to spend a few hours on the weekend, talk with the growers and producers, support the local economy and find really delicious, healthy foods. We’ve been enjoying the Cherry Creek Farmers Market (Wednesday’s & Saturday’s) and South Pearl Street Market (Sunday’s) in Denver, and stopped by the markets in Glen Arbor (Tuesday’s) and Alden (Thursday’s) while in Michigan.

Farmers Market

2. Sometimes it’s difficult to eat healthfully when on vacation. Even when I have a kitchen to prepare meals, it’s not quite the same as when we’re at home. For our trip Up North, I packed a few KIND bars – perfect for travel days – and single serve packets of Vega’s Protein Smoothie. With just 80 calories and 15 grams of plant-based protein, it was an incredibly easy way to make sure I was getting enough protein each day while I gorged myself on cherries and blueberries. And it actually tastes pretty good just mixed with cold water. I’ve become a fan of this product and will be using it in my daily life, as I have a tough time getting enough protein on a regular basis.

Vega Protein Smoothie

3. August = more hot weather running. To stay cool, look cute and keep running when the temperatures are high, I live in my Oiselle Distance and Roga shorts. The Distance are a favorite because of all the pockets – 3 to be exact – while the Roga’s (below) come in a close second because of the light fabric and insanely flattering cut. I have 6 pairs combined so I’m rarely without a clean pair. If you’re wondering, they also work well for kayaking and post-run lake soaks.

Rogas

4. For me, summer is synonymous with water. While we haven’t yet found many opportunities to get out on the water in Colorado (although they do exist), we certainly took advantage of the opportunity while visiting the cottage. Kayaks provide an easy way to enjoy being on the water and get a bit of an upper body workout in. They’re also great for both lakes and rivers. I highly recommend finding a rental shop while you’re on vacation near any body of water, packing a picnic lunch, slathering on the sunblock and enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

Kayaking

5. As you know, it’s incredibly important to stay properly hydrated and have snacks with you in case the hunger pangs strike throughout the day – whether you’re at work, running errands, running miles or hiking mountains. Like many others, I’m a big fan of Picky Bars. While I admit that I’m not a member of the club, I often pick up bars at our local REI store for hikes, pre-run fuel and to throw in my purse when I know I’m going to be out for a while. If you haven’t tried them yet, I highly recommend them. There’s real substance behind the drool-worthy Instagram feed. I’ll be packing a few of these when I head out to Bend for BirdCamp in a few weeks!

 Picky Bar

6. Woody’s cousin, Liane, and her daughter stayed with us for a night while we were at the cottage. It was great to spend some time with them – we don’t get enough of it – and Liane introduced us to a super-easy, delicious and healthy avocado & corn salad. Just 5 ingredients: avocado, corn, grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and some lemon juice. Avocados are a staple in our kitchen so I’m looking forward to making this often!

Corn and Avocado Salad

7. Lastly, I recently found this amazing hair product when visiting the Celestial Seasoning Factory Store in Boulder. One of many reasons why I love living in Colorado is because the low-humidity environment means that I don’t have to deal with unruly hair all summer! Unfortunately though we’ve gone through a rather rainy period and the humidity has spiked. With Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Anti-Frizz Serum, I work a few pumps into my hair just after I get out of the shower, pull my hair back with a clip to let it it dry a bit, and I’m set! There’s still a little frizz when the humidity is 70%+, but it definitely helps. I love this stuff.

Alba Anti-Frizz

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your health & fitness favorites for August?

(For reference, I was not contacted by any of these brands to write a review, these truly are things I’m loving now.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why Northern Michigan is My Happy Place

I grew up in Michigan, spent 9 years in the hustle and bustle of New York City and now reside in the western metropolis of Denver and spend my days toiling at a computer in the center of 25 square miles surrounded by reality, otherwise known as Boulder.

My Grandparents and parents, instilled in me a sense of wanderlust. I remember sitting in my grandparents basement watching slide shows of their recent travels, attending travelogues and carefully inspecting their giant wall map covered in colored push-pins indicating the 90+ countries and countless cities they had explored. My absolute dream job would have me traveling the globe as a travel writer or photojournalist, meeting interesting people in far off locales, running through historic cities, hiking idyllic country sides, and digging for treasures in street markets.

While reality is far different from my dream, thankfully I had enough smarts to marry a man who also loves to travel and wants to explore the world. We balance our desire to travel with our need for financial stability, by taking only one week-long vacation a year supplemented with a few long-weekend trips. While I have loved exploring cities like Montreal, Seattle, Charleston and Basel, Switzerland, and our must-visit list is long, there’s one region that will never get crossed off no matter how many times we visit.

My happy place, the place we visit every other year, is our family cottage and Northern Michigan. I was 3 months old the first time I visited. It’s not the most modern of cottages, having been built in 1954 (yes, this year we celebrated the 60th anniversary of Mill Point), but nevertheless, I know exactly how lucky I am to have this place.

We spend lazy days here – filled with kayak trips around the lake, walks in the woods, hours reading on the porch or by the water, and many games of scrabble. We also use it as our home base to explore other areas of the region. There are so many great places to visit and explore. Often, people who aren’t familiar with the area don’t realize how fantastic it is. So… I wanted to share with you a few pictures from our vacation and tips for creating a fantastic visit.

Mill Point

Traverse City is the largest city in Northern Michigan. There are plenty of flights in and out of the Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) every day on multiple airlines so it’s not that difficult to get here.

While I love Traverse City and can spend several hours perusing the shops along Front Street, enjoying ice cream from Moomers and running along the TART Trail or The Boardman Lake Trail, the region is dotted with charming little towns, all with their own reasons to visit – many situated along inland lakes or Lake Michigan. Here are a few of my favorites (from SW to NE along the coast):

  • Glen Arbor
  • Leland
  • Suttons Bay
  • Harbor Springs
  • Petoskey
  • Charlevoix

There are endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Hiking, trail running, road biking, kayaking, boating (sail, pontoon, power, take your pick!), SUPing, whatever you like to do, you can do it Up North. Two years ago we did the Dune Hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes, which was hot and a bit tough, but rewarding. This year after the Running Bear 5k in Glen Arbor, we rented kayaks from Crystal River Outfitters right in town and went kayaking on the shallow, perfectly clear river for a relaxing, yet quality upper body workout.

Crystal River Kayaking

While Woody went golfing twice (there are likely more than 200 golf courses in Northern Michigan), I went running – the Boardman Lake Trail in Traverse City and around Alden on the shore of Torch Lake with a few miles on the Coy Mountain Trail.

Boardman Lake Trail

And beyond Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Northern Michigan is dotted with one beautiful lake after another. A few favorites, beyond our own little lake:

  • Crystal Lake
  • Elk Lake
  • Glen Lake
  • Lake Leelanau
  • Torch Lake

Torch Lake

The fun isn’t relegated to the water and the woods though. The Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas are known for world-class wines. The diverse microclimates in the region allow for a variety of wine grapes. With more than 30 wineries on the Peninsulas alone (there are many others throughout the area) producing award winning varietals including Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, the wine tasting party options are pretty much endless. There are several wine events each year but the tasting rooms, many with breathtaking views, are open no matter when you’re in town. You’ll find that most of the wineries have varietals incorporating the regions fruit beyond just grapes – mostly cherries. I personally find these to be a bit too sweet, but we recently found one from Cherry Republic – the Great Hall Riesling – that is 90% Riesling, 10% cherry wine, perfect for a hot summer day. Unfortunately, due to state regulations we can’t ship Michigan wines to Colorado. Which just means we have to enjoy them while we can! A few of our favorite wineries, plus one of many great breweries in Michigan:

Hayo-Went-Ha 

So, now you know a bit more about Northern Michigan and why I’ll forever be drawn to this little neck of the woods. If you’re ever interested in visiting, I’m happy to answer questions and help you create an unforgettable trip!

Tell me a bit about your happy place.