Friday, July 18, 2014

Running on Goals

It’s been a while since I’ve had any real, focused running goals. This past year I’ve been running for fitness mostly – getting acclimated to running at altitude – with Bolder Boulder as the race I was running towards. Since I started running in 2006, I always used races to set my goals. But after moving here I kind of lost my focus.

But that’s changing.

First up – next Tuesday, Woody and I will be running the Running Bear 5K in Glen Arbor, Michigan. It’s a small, local race on a weekday morning in a beautiful Northern Michigan town. We ran this race two years ago, and were slightly disappointed by the lack of lake views along the course, but were overwhelmed by the abundance of post-race refreshments. It’s a great community event with little pressure. While the race definitely pulls in fast runners, it’s really just a big party. My goal for this is to run a strong, fast and smart race. I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder on my training runs in Wash Park and I’m feeling good about how hard I can go. But, it will be interesting to race at sea level again!

Next on the line is BirdCamp in August. I’m beyond excited to travel to Bend, Oregon for the first time, to meet many of my amazing Oiselle teammates and to catch up with others I haven’t seen since moving to Denver. I’m feeling stronger and more confident in my running now that I’ve gotten acclimated to this altitude. That said, I will be running with women who are so much faster and stronger than I am, so my goal is to run hard, run smart and hold my own. And to have fun. To do that, I’m pushing myself harder, running more often, and training on a variety of surfaces – gravel path, asphalt/concrete (sidewalks and streets) and real mountain trails. I’ve also been pushing myself harder in the gym with weight training. I’m feeling stronger than I have for a long time. Now I just have to stay injury free for at least another month!

Lastly, I want to become a trail runner. With our two trail runs at Chautauqua (oh yeah, we went again this past weekend!), and a few others, I’m on the right path but still have a long way to go. I’m not sure when I will feel like a real trail runner – or what that really means – but perhaps it’ll be once I feel comfortable enough with my footing that I can actually look up and enjoy the view for more than a split second, and when I buy my first pair of trail running shoes. To reach this goal, we’ll keep exploring trails! This is on the list because the few times we’ve gone, I’ve loved the variety of the terrain, the fresh air, the endless places to explore and how strong I feel when we finish a really challenging run. I want to do more of it.

I’m going after my running goals, what are you working towards?

Chautauqua Trails

Monday, June 30, 2014

Trail Running Chautauqua

Trail running is big here. I mean, big. There are all sorts of trails throughout Colorado – some more suited for hiking or mountain biking, some paved, and many miles perfect for running. My running life started in the urban jungle of NYC, where the extent of my trail running was the bridle path in Central Park.

Trail running for me is not something I’ve done much of. Woody and I did venture outside of the city to Rockefeller State Park last spring when we actually had access to a car for a weekend and then we randomly ran through rainforest-like terrain in Florida instead of on the beach this past March – wearing the same Oiselle jacket for both runs. Now, my trail running consists of the gravel path in Washington Park. I need to break out of this urban park trail running rut!

As we’ve now lived in Denver for a year, I made it a mission to get us on a trail. A real trail. Thankfully, I have awesome Oiselle teammates who seem to live on the trails around Boulder. So, I enlisted their help.

Twitter convo

I know Chautauqua fairly well, and as it’s also pretty easy to get too, we decided to try the Mesa Trail. I did a little research before we went but still wasn’t entirely sure what we were in for. All I knew was that a lot of people run this trail and that we should be ready for a steep climb right out of the gate (that’s just how things work at Chautauqua).

Chautauqua Park - Mesa Trail-001

Well, I was definitely right about the start. Beyond what you can see in the picture above, we were faced with a pretty steep, rocky climb. I promised Woody I wouldn’t take pictures along the way, so this is all of the trail I have to show you. We did just about 5.25 miles total. I believe the Mesa Trail runs just under 7 miles from end to end, so we didn’t even get half way, but we still got a great workout.

What I loved most about the run:

  • There was a lot of shade, which is ideal in sunny Colorado
  • There were a lot of people on the trail, but everyone was respectful. Walkers moved to the side (all you need is a nice “on your left”) and runners greeted each other
  • The terrain was diverse so we never got bored and always had to pay attention
  • The few times I looked up from the ground (I’m a klutz and convinced I’m going to crash and burn) all around were stunning views of the Flatirons, front range and miles and miles of open space

Chautauqua Park-flatirons

Hopefully before the snow comes again I can get out for a few after-work trail runs near Boulder, and a few more weekend on the weekend with Woody. It was challenging, fun and I felt like I had really accomplished something by the end. For once I wasn’t the one hiking, watching a runner fly by and thinking to myself “wow, that’s hardcore.” I may not have been flying by anyone (yet) but I definitely felt good about what I did.

Chautauqua Park - Post Run-001

I’m heading back to Michigan to celebrate the 4th at our family cottage – where we’re also celebrating its 60th anniversary! I haven’t been there for the holiday since the 50th. Needless to say I’m quite excited, even though I’ll be sharing a bathroom with 33 other people. That aside, It’s going to be great to catch up with family I haven’t seen for a long time, relax, hang out on the boat, and stuff my face with s’mores and cherries! A retirement party is also on the schedule. An action packed weekend is ahead!

What are your favorite 4th of July traditions? *  How do you like your marshmallow – burned to a crunch or slightly browned? * Any holiday travel tips?

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Weekend Getaway in the Mountains

A few weeks ago Woody and I got away for a long weekend to celebrate our 7th anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for seven years already, although looking back we’ve been through a lot together and I know there is a lot more ahead of us. Buying a house this spring has focused most of our disposable income in one direction, so we decided to cash in some points and celebrate in style.

One of the many reasons why I love Woody is because he is good with money and we have the same basic philosophy about it – we don’t spend beyond our means, we save for retirement (and a house, check!), and we pay off our credit cards each month. We also love to travel and like to get something for all the money we’re spending. Back when he worked for American Express he signed us up for one of their charge cards – the Starwood Preferred Guest – and we build up points that can be cashed in for hotel rooms at properties around the world. Starwood’s portfolio of hotels includes The W, Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, and other great hotels. When we stayed at The W Hotel in Seattle back in 2011 for 6 nights, 5 of those were because of our SPG points. Not bad. This time we cashed some in for the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, CO, just across the river from Beaver Creek and down the road from Vail. With an unexpected upgrade we ended up with this beautiful suite:

Westin Riverfront Suite

Westin Riverfront Suite Bedroom

It was fantastic and luxurious, to say the least. The entire resort, with amenities including a full-size, well-equipped gym, lap pool and three hot tubs, two restaurants, one bar, and an incredibly helpful staff, was just perfect for our weekend away. We also enjoyed a few delicious meals in Avon, including an anniversary dinner at Vin48.

Westin Riverfront Spa

Celebrating

While in the mountains, we focused on relaxing and exploring. Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to cooperate with our plans on our one full day, but we did get out for a hike. There are likely thousands of trails throughout Vail Valley, but we chose one close to our resort so we could sleep a little later and wouldn’t have to drive far to reach the trailhead. The river we hiked along for most of the way was almost bursting over its banks because of the snowmelt from record snowfall through the winter. It kept us cool and we kept watch on the sky because the clouds were pretty dark except for a few peeks of sun. We also ran into a few piles of snow along the way. Colorado in June!Hiking Beaver Creek

On the hike

Snow on our hike

It was raining and cold, but we made our way over to Vail to check out the GoPro Games (from what I can tell, these were like the X Games for the mountains in the spring). When the rain started to pour, we took shelter in a crowded coffee shop and ended up playing a few game of checkers using sugar packets (the only acceptable use of sugar packets, if you ask me!)

GoPro Games

Sweet & Low Checkers

Unfortunately we had to head back early Monday morning as Woody was scheduled to fly out early afternoon for a business trip. The sun was finally out and we had to say goodbye to our little slice of heaven in what’s been a hectic few months. If only we had known then that Woody’s flight would be cancelled, as would his trip, and he’d be able to join me for Jamie Cullum’s concert at the Arvada Center after all!

Westin Beaver Creek Resort

Jamie Cullum concert

This was definitely a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary and I hope we use our points for this resort again soon.

By the way, my parents are retiring on Tuesday! While it has nothing to do with this post, my heart is bursting for them because I am just so happy that they finally get to enjoy life without the worry of work. They have devoted decades of their lives to other people and it’s about time they get to really enjoy each day. I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks.

Dad, Mom, Me Rose Bowl Pep Rally

What are your plans for the first week of summer?