Sunshine Canyon--Gold Hill--Jamestown--Boulder

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Earlier this year I talked about Gold Hill, and how I needed to try biking all 4 roads that ended in this tiny mountain town. I recently crossed another one off the list.

Fall is really settling in to Boulder County, and this week we’ve seen temperatures dipping into the 40s over night and in the morning. I love this weather. Starting in the 40s and ending in the 70s is perfect, in my opinion.

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I set out for Gold Hill with a goal to continue on through town all the way to Highway 72 (this isn’t an actual highway, just a larger/paved road at the end of a lot of tiny gravel/dirt roads). I wore a medium-weight long-sleeved jersey and medium-weight gloves, but short bibs. It was 45 when I started at 7:30am, but I knew that if I did the entire ride, I’d get hot if I layered too much. I was really never cold: the sun beamed for the entire ride.

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After reaching Gold Hill (which alone is a decently tough HC climb from Boulder), the road narrows slightly and continues to climb. I wasn’t sure exactly how far it was to reach 72, but I figured around 5 miles…It was more like 7.5. Sometimes I like not knowing, and sometimes not knowing is torture.

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After 5,500+ feet of climbing (to around 10,000 feet) I took 72 past Ward and descended back to Boulder via Jamestown. They recently finished paving most of Overland Road, and it is like silk (especially after 17 miles of gravel!) My final climb was Olde Stage, which looks like a speed bump on the Strava report after doing Gold Hill!

Cheers to more epic fall rides!

Do It: Pine Creek Camping

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Growing up in the Midwest, I thought I had a pretty good appreciation for fall, and particularly fall foliage. And then I moved to Colorado. There’s nothing like a grove of aspens alight with yellow, not to mention an entire mountainside of color. The drive from Denver to Buena Vista via 285 is better than a fireworks show. At Kenosha Pass cars lined the road as people stopped to snap photos.

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We departed Watershed Ranch just before 5pm. Our first leg involved a Jeep trip about 3 miles up an old mining road. From there we hiked 2 miles up, to where Pine Creek meets the Colorado Trail. We arrived right around sunset, built a fire, set up camp, prepared dinner, and gazed at the stars. This was baby Henry’s first camping experience, at 8-months old (Henry’s parents own Watershed Ranch).

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Our campsite was at 10,000 feet, and temperatures probably dipped to the upper 30’s by early morning. I made myself stay in my tent until a little after 6am, and then got up to watch sunrise. This alone was worth the trip. I hiked in a mile or so, to enjoy the light. Two moose walked through the meadow just in front of me.

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After oatmeal and baby prep, we departed camp around 9am. We hiked the Pine Creek Trail to a small falls, snacked and relaxed before retracing our steps back to camp. We did 8.2 miles all-in, and topped out around 11,300 feet.

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After breaking camp and packing up, we hiked the remaining 2 miles to the Jeep and were back at the ranch around 3pm. Perfect weather, peak fall color, and good company = pretty great backpacking weekend. Until next time, Collegiate Peaks!

Race/Fondo Report: Buffalo Bicycle Classic--Epic to Estes

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About a month ago I was feeling like I should have signed up for one more triathlon this season. Last year I had the Harvest Moon Long-Course, but this year I didn't really want to do another Boulder Reservoir race. I searched for cycling events instead, and found the Buffalo Classic. In its 16th year, 100% of the money from this ride funds Colorado student scholarships at the University of Colorado. There are a LOT of choices for this event, which allows almost anyone to participate. I decided to go for the toughest option: 100 miles with 8,000 feet of climb. Called the "Epic to Estes," it is aptly named. 

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Only the first 18-miles of the ride (up Boulder Canyon to Nederland) are considered a race, though I tried to ride pretty hard for the whole thing. I came away with 12th-place female and 4th in my age group. This was my first time riding up the canyon and it was a huge perk to have the road closed to traffic for that initial climb. 

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Overall, this race is really well organized. The start was right around 7am as planned (60-degrees to start the day off), and the aid stations throughout were amazing. I stopped at the snack area in Estes and was surprised to find fresh fruit, PB&J, and tons of Honey Stinger and Skratch products. I made a couple other quick stops in Lyons and at Diagonal Highway, just to fill up water. By the time I got to the last ten miles (around 1pm) it was probably around 85-degrees. 

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I was also really impressed with the signage: there are directional signs for the riders, but also TONS of signs up for vehicle traffic, to make them aware of the cyclists. They obviously can't close 100-miles of roadway, but the signage definitely made me feel safer. 

Awesome day, great weather, and amazing views of early fall foliage. I will definitely do this event again. 

 

Backroads & Bikeways: Loveland to Denver

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My brother and his wife recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Denver, CO. They invited us down for a cookout and swim (their new apartment has a nice little pool). I figured this would be a good opportunity to see what it was like to bike from Loveland to Denver. The short version is: 50 miles of fun, 7 miles of not the best roads for biking. But! I'm determined to learn the city trail system better. 

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I started at 6:30am in order to beat the Sunday cycling crowd and the car traffic, and because I love starting at sunrise in the cool starting-to-feel-like-autumn air. The first 20 miles were familiar and easy. Then I went through Niwot, Lafayette, Louisville, and Broomfield, all on low-traffic, country roads. There were several hot-air balloons trailing me for about an hour. 

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Next I got on the I-36 Bikeway, which goes from Boulder to Denver, and is generally amazing. Every mile or so there's a self-service bike station, with tools and air. I continue to be impressed with Colorado's bikeways, and how well used they are. Lots of people out, all ages and abilities. 

The trail ends (as far as I could tell) around Westminster, and you can jump on another trail: Little Dry Creek, which is a little strange. Like being on an irrigation trail in LA. Definitely not as nice as the 36 Bikeway, but still away from cars. The last few miles were a little shady: from Dry Creek to downtown via Pecos Street. Nothing went wrong, and I'm obviously spoiled by never having to bike in traffic, but I'd still like to find a better way to downtown. 

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Overall, a fun ride, and one I'll look to improve on. Anyone who hasn't tried the 36-Bikeway: get on it!

Do it: Old Fall River Road

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Old Fall River Road has been on my list of rides since I got a gravel bike, and it did not disappoint. Built in 1920, Old Fall River was the first road through Rocky Mountain National Park. Very little has been updated to this road, which makes it extra special. Mostly dirt/gravel, there are no guard rails, and very little signage. The road is one-way...straight up, with 16 switchbacks, and not much room, even to pass a bike. At times the grade is up to 16%, though most of the time it's more like 7%. The last push is the toughest, as it climbs to nearly 12,000 feet. 

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I parked at the Fall River Visitors Center on 34 just before the park entrance. I clipped in at just before 8am on a Friday. There was no line at the gate, and I was probably only passed by 6 cars for the 11-mile dirt climb. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, and the pines smelled amazing. The road passes back and forth over Fall River, and you can always hear the water and a few small falls as background music. I only saw small critters: beaver and chipmunks, and could hear the pikas chirping. 

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Once I got to the Alpine Center, the wind turned up. The climb to Rock Cut (at 12,090 feet) on Trail Ridge was a little scary: gusts were pretty significant. But after I passed Rainbow Curve, the descent was fast and fun. When I set out for the ride it was 51-degrees. I'd estimate it was probably around 40-degrees at the top, and by the time I was back down to 8,000 feet, it was nice and warm. 

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The next time I do this climb I want to leave even earlier: truly have the dirt to myself at sunrise. 

David Byrne: American Utopia Tour at Red Rocks

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My first real concert was the Grateful Dead with Sting. I went with my parent and their friends when I was 12. After that, I was hooked. In high school I spent all of my newspaper-delivery and ice-cream-scooping money on concert tickets. When I was in graduate school, I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper reviewing shows and new albums. (Having a press is totally the way to see a show). Every year of my adult life, I've seen several shows at various venues throughout the country. 

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That's all to say, David Byrne at Red Rocks was the best show I've ever seen. David Byrne will give you everything you need. Before Byrne and his band came out, the crew mopped the stage so that everyone could go barefoot. Byrne is 66-years-old, and he's got moves. The entire set was theatrical: like a musical of David Byrne's life, played by himself. Everyone is free to move: no instrument is tethered. They are never just standing facing the audience. They are always facing each other, or dancing, or acting out a scene. David Byrne approaches art as though it's alive: not as a thing to just watch. And you can't watch this man, and his group, without dancing, whatever that means for you. If you want a long version of my affinity for David Byrne, I put it in an essay a few years ago

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As Byrne and the band played, "This Must Be the Place," a gigantic red moon rose behind them. Probably 40% of the setlist consisted of Talking Heads songs. The rest were covers and new music. One of my favorites from the new album is "I Dance Like This," and the live rendition was a highlight of the night. 

Byrne ended the show with "Burning Down the House," and honestly, it doesn't get better than that. 

Local Gems

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As everyone in Colorado knows: Rocky Mountain National Park is an absolute treasure. But, it has a couple of downfalls if you've lived in the area for a while. First, the tourists make it pretty tough to really enjoy in the summer. You've either got to get out before first light, or wait until a weekday. Second, they don't allow dogs, which is fully understandable, but a drag when you want to get out for a good long hike but can't bring the pup. 

This summer especially, we've been seeking out hidden gems. I mentioned this earlier in the season, and we've continued to find great places. Lately, we've been amazed by the trails between Lyons and Estes Park. Nearly empty parking lots, totally dog-friendly, and epic views of those same mountains in RMNP. 

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Button Rock is a great stop for a hike or a trail run (I've done both). The Sleeping Lion Trail is 5-miles with about 1,000 feet of gain. It also gives access to the Longmont Reservoir, which can extend the route a little or a lot. 

Semi-attached to Button Rock/Longmont Reservoir is Coulson Gulch. Both of these trailheads are accessed by dirt roads off 36. Coulson Gulch is just a few miles past Button. For the Gulch trail, you go down first, and then up on the return. The trail takes you through wildflower meadows and past an old cabin. The trail "ends" at the St. Vrain creek/river, which is a great place to cool off. 

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Eventually I want to hike both of these trails: either in an epic out-and-back day or plan it so that there's a car at both ends. Moral of the story: seek out the not-so-popular spots! Get to know the secret gems.

New Long View Connector Bike Path: Loveland to Fort Collins

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For the two years that I've lived in Loveland, Colorado, I've enjoyed biking around Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins. I usually take the "back" way to the dams and loop back via Wilson or Taft. The return trip has always been a bit treacherous: cars go fast and the bike lane is narrow and often filled with clutter. I'm fully aware that I have avoided riding to Fort Collins in the past because of this 5-mile stretch. 

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But on Saturday, the new Long View Trail was officially opened, and it changes everything. I biked back today from a ride around Horsetooth and it was so much fun. A completely protected, away-from-the-road path with lovely bridges and packed dirt on both sides for runners. 

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At 10am on a Wednesday, I passed at least a dozen people in 5 miles; many of them were older folks, and more women than men. This is a good thing. When people feel safe, communities grow. I also saw someone on a skateboard and a mom with a double-wide jogging-stroller. I have no doubt that pretty soon this path will be well-used, year round. Thank you Larimer County!

Broadmoor Pike's Peak Hill Climb Gran Fondo

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12.42 miles, 156 turns, start elevation 9,390 feet, finish elevation 14,115 feet = 4,725 feet of climb at an average grade of 7%. 

We got an Airbnb and stayed about 30 minutes from the start, which was good considering my wave went off at 6:15am. Sunrise in the mountains was amazing. The weather was perfect: almost no wind, mid-40s at the start and mid-30s at the top. I wore light gloves and a super light wind jacket. I packed a heavy jacket and heavier gloves for the descent (a shuttle took drop bags to the top) and was pretty much perfect for the whole experience. 

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There were only about 20 women in the fondo, which I still don't really understand (why isn't this climb more popular?!) There were over 100 guys. I had no real expectations for my time, though I've been training on hills quite a bit (mostly because I just love to climb). For the first 5 miles I was back and forth between 2nd and 3rd place. Then for the rest I was back and forth between 3rd and 5th. I think I came away with 4th place, but mostly I just had a great time. The switchbacks are awesome. The last two miles are by far the toughest: not only are you nearing 14,000 feet, but it's got to be above 9% at that point. 

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I'm definitely ready to do this again. My time on the climb was 2:03:47. So, obviously I need to get sub-2. For a first-timer, I couldn't have asked for a better day. 

Go There: O'ahu

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In graduate school, my MFA thesis dealt with three characters on three islands. I researched several areas of the Pacific, and spent a lot of time thinking about island life. Like, all my time. But this is the first time I've actually been to an island in the Pacific. Honestly, it was even better than I imagined. 

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Friends of ours who live in Honolulu announced that they were having a 10th anniversary party a year before the event, to make sure everyone had enough time to make plans. And as soon as they made the announcement, we knew we were in. We spent one night in Honolulu before heading to the North Shore. Our first morning in Hawaii, we woke around 4am because of the time change, and were anxious to get going. I found a high school track and ran a fast mile just because we were at sea level. We did a swim at Ala Moana park and met up with friends for breakfast at Koko Head Cafe. Then we were off to the Ke Ike Beach Bungalows for 5 days of swimming, biking, SUPing, hiking, and relaxing. 

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In general, O'ahu is not bike friendly. Or, not after living in northern Colorado for 2 years. I rented a road bike, but really just stuck to back roads. I had hoped to explore more on bike, but was happy to at least find a loop with a lot of climb away from the traffic. I learned the hard way that Hawaii roads are almost always rain-slick; I took a speed-bump wrong and avoided a trip to the hospital only because I was wearing a helmet. Bruised but still determined, I barely let it slow me down, climbing over 12,600 feet on the bike in 94 miles on the week. 

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One of the highlights of the entire trip was the North Shore Swim Series 2.3 mile swim from Ehukai Beach Park to Waimea Bay. It's awesome to have friends who do cool things. 

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We ended the trip with an intense hike up Kealia Trail (including "Oh Shit Hill"): 1,600 feet of gain in 2 miles! We may have been at sea level, but we did a lot of climbing throughout the week! I definitely want to visit other islands, but O'ahu was absolute paradise. 

 

Race Report: North Shore Swim Series--2.3 Miles, Ehukai Beach Park to Waimea Bay

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This is the clearest water I've ever been in, and the longest continuous time and distance I've ever spent in the ocean. It was amazing. Most of the open water swimming I've done, and ALL of the open water races I've done have been in fresh water. Lakes and rivers are great, especially in Colorado, but generally the visibility under fresh water is murky from mud and sand. The North Shore of Hawaii is nothing like that. Instead of popping my head up to look for buoys or other swim caps, I was just looking under water at feet (when I wasn't looking down at fish and reef and scuba divers!) As a first-time ocean racer, this was an incredible event. 

We met at Waimea Bay around 7:45am to get body markings and to drop our bags. Then we were bussed to Ehukai Beach Park for the start. The wind was pretty intense, and Ehukai Beach had huge waves. Buoys were set every 300 meters or so, with SUPs and various helpers. After working to get to the start buoys (diving under the waves) we were set and only had to tread water for 4 minutes or so. The horn went off right at 9am (which seemed like a late start time to me), and we were off. There were probably around 300 people all in. 

 After the swim :)

After the swim :)

I stuck closely with the group I was with (4 of us in all). It was actually pretty easy to stick together, even though I thought it would be impossible. We swam at around a 1:45/100 yard pace. The current and wind were definitely in our favor, though I had a hard time getting pushed forward and then sort of sucked back. I felt like I was working harder than the others in my group, but I got into a good rhythm. The highlights were swimming over schools of fish and several scuba divers. 

We arrived at Waimea Bay in around 70 minutes. The exit from the water was easy and fun. We rinsed off and had fresh fruit before heading back to our bungalows. Overall, this was a really well-run event and I'd love to do it again. For someone not used to saltwater swimming, the most surprising part of the entire experience was how numb my tongue got from the water! 

Race Report: Parker 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim

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First of all, I didn't race this: I just did it. This was my first open water swim at this distance, and while I knew I could do it, I wasn't interested in speed. But also, the weather was a bit nuts. I woke at 4:45am to drive from Loveland to Parker. I arrived at 6:15am and made my way to the beach. The last 10 miles or so of the drive were incredibly foggy. It was my first time to Parker, so I didn't really know where I was going: luckily the directions were very easy to follow (it's right off I25). 

When I arrived at check-in, people were just standing around, clearly worried about the visibility. Race director Lance Panigutti got on the loud-speaker and assured everyone that we WOULD be swimming, even if that meant going in lots of small circles instead of the planned 1.2-mile loop. At that point we couldn't even see the first buoy in the water, and he admitted that they had gotten turned around in the boat just trying to place the second buoy. 

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After a delay of 30 minutes, Lance announced that we were going to start at 7:35am: the fog had lifted a bit, but was settling back in. They had managed to set the planned course: an out and back counter-clockwise 1.2-mile loop. The water temperature was 72-degrees, and the air temperature was 56-degrees, so it felt better being in the water than standing on shore. I felt warmed up at the start, and wasn't at all nervous--I was just there to try the distance. I didn't taper in any way for this event, so I had been doing plenty of swimming, biking, and running all week. By the time I got to the middle of the course, I had to pop my head up and stop swimming a few times. Others around me also stopped swimming, realizing we could no longer see any buoys. Some people started yelling for the folks on the SUPs to get directions. The fog was very heavy again. As long as you weren't trying for a specific time, it was pretty funny. 

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By the time I started the second loop of the 1.2-mile course, things were much clearer. It's amazing how much faster you can go when you can see where you're going! The last 1K yards were great: I could see, the water was amazing, and the sun was coming out. I'm getting ready for a trip to Hawaii next week, and am signed up to do an ocean swim at a similar length, so I'm glad I know what it feels like. 

Parker (Rueter-Hess Reservoir) is beautiful, and this water is the cleanest I've been in. I'd definitely do this event again, hopefully with visibility for the entire swim!

Something I Learned: Speed

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I've heard people say, "There are two kinds of cyclists: the ones who have crashed, and the ones who will crash." People say the same about a lot of groups of people: motorcyclists, rock climbers, skiers. I guess it's a harsh way of saying everyone has accidents; and, life is dangerous. I've been cycling pretty seriously for about 4 years, and have not crashed. [KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD.] (UPDATE: I crashed riding in Hawaii...sigh...) But, I do have a lot of cyclist friends who have crashed: people who know what they're doing and have been doing it well for a long time. So, I tend to err on the side of caution. I was also a cyclist in New York City, which gave me my share of (daily) close calls on the bike. So maybe I've had some luck on my side. 

Yesterday afternoon I was only a few miles into an intense climbing ride, when I an ambulance flew by me, sirens blazing. And another mile up, the scene. A short line of cars in both directions, and a small group gathered around a downed cyclist. There was blood. He was in bad shape. I inched to the front of the line and asked a medic what he thought. "I think he's going to make it." I'm still unclear on whether the man was struck by a car, or just lost control. He was definitely descending, and likely going pretty fast. 

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A good friend of mine, who raced bikes for a long time, and has ridden more miles than I can really imagine, crashed while descending a couple years ago. She broke her wrist and had to sit out for months while it healed. Cycling is, for sure, dangerous. Even in places like Boulder, where everyone is fairly aware and smart about riding. 

Seeing this man so broken was a reminder to the cyclists in the crowd, and the drivers. Slowing down, even a little bit, makes a huge difference. Paying constant attention is such a crucial part of being on the road. In my opinion, the descent is always the most dangerous part. After climbing 3,200 feet of gravel in the blazing heat, I was spent: I just wanted to get back down the mountain and jump in the pool. I saw my device surpass 44 mph at one point, and I slowed way down: even if I felt under control, the damage I'd do to myself at 44+ mph would be at least slightly reduced if I slowed a bit. I like to think I'm a safe, smart cyclist, but I need to be most aware when I'm tired and finished with most of the physical work. The downhill is not the time to turn the mind off: just the opposite. 

Something I Learned: Balance

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Two years ago I gave up alcohol and rest days, and I've never felt better. Spoiler alert: the key was living at elevation in a place so beautiful it demands activity. Also, I discovered that speeding up recovery times and doing not only a variety of activities but a variety of combinations of activities equals less real rest.  

I spent a lot of years (like, 12 years) running between 40 and 70 miles a week. (Sometimes more). Each day was essentially the same. Out the door within 10 minutes of waking for as many miles as I felt like going. I usually took a rest day every 10-14 days, usually after a longer or tougher run. Sometimes I pushed it to 3 weeks. Don't get me wrong, I loved it. Sometimes I planned what I'd do the night before, and sometimes I'd just see where my feet took me: hills, long slow distance, to the track, the park, etc. But I also started getting chronic stress fractures in my metatarsals. I am HORRIBLE at being injured. Anyone who knows me well, without hesitation, will confirm. I have a really, really hard time being still. I got so many stress fractures that I invested in my own "boot," and would throw it on for a few weeks whenever I felt the burning pain in my foot bones. 

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But eventually I was sick of sacrificing even 5 or 6 weeks a year to heal my feet. I decided to spend more time on my bike, in the pool, and generally doing things other than running to get my fix. When I moved from New York City to Colorado in June of 2016, I first moved to Leadville: a town that sits at 10,200 feet. For people coming from life at sea-level, even 5,000 feet of altitude takes some adjustment; but 2-miles high can be straight-up scary. It took most of 2 months before I could run 3 miles without stopping to catch my breath. For a while, just walking and talking was a real workout. Swimming was ridiculous: a rest after every 50 meters. Each morning for the first month, I woke feeling hung over, even if I hadn't been drinking. And when I was drinking, it usually wasn't more than a beer or two before I'd feel sick. 

Going from NYC to Leadville was kind of like being injured, and I wanted to get better. I decided I'd give up alcohol entirely until I was used to the altitude. But after one month of a clear head and no alcohol, I dared myself to go a year. Honestly, after a year of no drinking, it wasn't even something I thought about. I'm pretty good at discipline: almost to a fault. If I give something up, it's just gone: not an option. I also noticed that I woke each day ready for adventure. I was discovering so many things to do that I had a constantly growing list. Two years later, my list is still very long. Just this weekend I started looking into kayaking lessons, and I totally want to surf the Buena Vista river park.

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I also made my vow because something really bad happened to a friend of mine involving alcohol. So there was a secondary drive of solidarity in the decision. Around that time I remember hearing someone on the radio say something like, "If you can't get through a day, week, month, year without alcohol because you think it makes things more fun, then you might just be a really boring, uncreative person." I remember being offended at the time, and then a little scared that they were right. Now, I totally agree. 

Obviously I'm not against rest: I usually rotate which disciplines I'm going hard in from week to week. For my first year of triathlon, I worked with a coach to learn how to pair activities together. A hard run in the morning and an easy swim in the afternoon. A long bike ride the next day and a short swim in the evening. Occasionally a trail run in the early morning and a short/hard hill ride in the afternoon. And then skiing, rock climbing, rowing, and SUP-ing every once in a while for a different kind of core strength. With so many days of double-duty, the body learns to recover quickly. I found that several two-a-days followed by a day or two with only one activity, feels like vacation. And if I've gone really hard for a while, or am just feeling drained, a hike with the pup or an easy swim feels better than doing nothing. So, rest is good, but variety and active recovery has been the name of the game for me. Basically, I just never want to miss a day outside. 

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I'm also not totally anti-alcohol. I fully support kicking your feet up with a cold beer or cocktail if that's your thing. Des Linden and Linsey Corbin are absolute heroes of mine, and both are known for their ability to recover with a libation. But for me, relaxing has come to include things that make me feel recovered instead of in need of recovery. Relaxing these days means hammock time, garden time, and falling asleep on the couch to a movie. 

Race Report: Boulder West End 3k

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I've been running since I was 10-years-old, when I'd "help" my dad get ready for marathons. That doesn't mean I am or have ever been particularly amazing (even during my cross-country days, I was usually 4th runner in), it just means I've run at a lot of events. Boulder Westend 3k made me realize that the best events are super simple, super cheap, grassroots, just a bunch of runners who love to run. We don't need swag. We don't need packet-pickup. We don't need all the crap that gets in the way of running. This race is so fun because it's spectator-friendly. Which means it's automatically not as fast as a track, or maybe even your typical looped road race. But, all those hairpin turns (3 times around a 1k "loop," down and back the same street) mean spectators get to see the runners several times. Nothing matches the hype of streets lined with cheering fans. Everyone imagines leading the pack--being the hero.  

I knew I wanted to watch the elites run, so I entered the open 3k, which went first: even if I could technically qualify as elite (women had to run it in under 13 minutes), it was WAY more fun to watch the pros than to be dusted by them. After rain cleared through the area, the sun came out and Pearl Street was bumping. I saw Noah Droddy before the open race, in addition to a few other familiar faces. No matter what day of the week, what time of day, what the weather is, people will show up to run: especially people in Boulder. This race was commemorating Pasta Jay's 30th year in Boulder, and the place was packed. It was all organized by former Olympic marathoner Lee Troop, and TEAM Boulder

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The open race was super fun. At first I thought making all those turns would be annoying, but passing the crowd 5 times in a few minutes was awesome. My legs were still recovering from a 100-mile ride with 7,200 feet of gain I had done the day before, so I wasn't trying to crush it. Nonetheless, the runners were keeping a good pace, and I managed a 6:45 average. I'm glad to know that with some work, I could probably get "fast" again. 

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Then the main event. Noah Droddy hung back for the first loop, and let the other top guys set the pace. By the last loop, he was inching to the front, and by the final straightaway he was totally crushing it. He looked over his shoulder a few times to make sure he was set: no one was near him. I haven't seen official times, but he crossed the line right around 8:35. It's fun to see the local hero win a race, especially one who is such a good character. Noah and I had the same cross-country coach: went to the same tiny college in Indiana; so, it's like he's family. Overall, this was a great community event. There was a 1k race for kids under 12, several local vendors on hand, and plenty of outdoor seating to grab a bite and watch the best of Boulder. 

Do it: Century Ride (7,200 ft of climb)

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Sometimes you've just got to do something epic. It's been several weeks since I've done a ride over 60 miles, so I decided to do a full century. I got up at 5am and was on the road by 5:30. My favorite breakfast in the world is a Clif bar on the spin. The road to Brainard Lake has been under construction for several months, and just reopened last week. Anyone who bikes in the Boulder area knows that the ride to Ward is a long, tough climb, and then adding Brainard Lake is 6 more miles and about 1,200 more feet of gain. This last push is all above 10,000 feet, and has a dizzying effect. After a sunrise spin around Carter Lake, I got down to business. I took Highway 7 (Peak to Peak) from Lyons through the canyon. (I especially love the detour that goes through Raymond: this is my favorite route in the fall when the Aspens are changing). Then came the climb to Ward, and that extra push to Brainard. 

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I find that breaking a long ride into little pieces helps me enormously with the mental game. For me, this ride was: Home to Lyons, Lyons to Raymond, Raymond to Ward, Ward to Brainard, Brainard to Boulder. It's been super warm in Colorado, but I thought it would be nice and cool up above 8,000 feet. It was cooler, but not cool. This was still a sweaty, sweaty ride. 

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I assumed I was over-packing when I stocked my pockets with 2 Clif bars, 3 gels, and a pack of Shot Bloks, in addition to 2 water bottles with Skratch. I ended up eating both bars, 1 gel, and the pack of Bloks over 7 hours in the saddle. I ran out of water entirely around the time I was starting the Brainard stretch (mile 56). I've hiked this area before, and remembered that there are some camp faucets. Luckily, I found one at the campground about 2 miles in. I was pretty dehydrated at that point. I kind of love the feeling of going so hard that nothing in the world is better than water.  

All in, this was an incredible ride start to finish. The views at Brainard are truly a reward worthy of 7,200 feet of climb, serious sweat, and dehydration. And the descent on Lefthand is like pudding. As soon as I got to Boulder, I took a dip at the pool, showered, and drank a LOT of seltzer. Stay epic, Colorado!

Race Report: Boulder Peak 2018

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For the past two years, as soon as this race is over, I tell myself: don't sign up for this race next year--it's too hot. But then the scorching heat is replaced by the cool Boulder weather we love, and I only think, That's such an epic race, I have to do it again! So I'm writing this here, to remind myself: it's an epic race, and it's almost always the hottest week of the year. Here are my details:

The morning before the race I did a shake-out open-water swim with no wetsuit. It was the first time in a long time that I had gone that far without a wetsuit. And honestly, it felt great. More range of motion, nice and cool, and I oddly felt faster. I swam around 1,200 yards, and decided I'd try a race without a wetsuit. (This is where most people opt for a speed suit, but I don't have one). What I didn't take into account was, I was alone in a calm lake on my rehearsal swim....that's very different from race morning chaos. (I have been swimming with the open-water crew at Horsetooth for the past several weeks, but always in a wetsuit). I learned my lesson. And that lesson is, the wetsuit is my friend: take the wetsuit. It just cuts down on so much fatigue. As I was swimming in only my tri suit, I kept feeling like I was having a panic attack. It wasn't a complete disaster, but my pace was 1:46/100 yards where I was hoping for 1:38 or faster. I tried to put it behind me as I entered T1 and remembered I didn't have to strip a wetsuit. T1 = 2:33 

This year they did the waves by gender, which was different from last year. First, the elites, then all of the men (youngest to oldest), and then the women. At first, being in wave 10 had me worried I wouldn't begin until 8am: they said they were going to leave 5 minutes between waves, but only ended up leaving 2 minutes. I started right around 7:25am. 

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I'm still earning my street-cred as a cyclist in Colorado, and I've been doing a LOT of climbing. I don't have a tri bike because I honestly can't rationalize it. I think of myself as a swimmer, a biker, and a runner, but only mediocre at the actual triathlon. Nonetheless, I honestly think the road bike is a better choice for this race. I passed A TON of tri bikes on the way up Olde Stage, and really for the entire first 8-miles of the race. (I still can't believe that some people unclip and walk up this not-at-all-enormous hill). There's actually no better feeling than whizzing by someone on a crazy-expensive tri bike and aero helmet as a roadie. After the Olde Stage climb, there's a 35 mph speed zone. But...it's really just for safety. The rest of the course is rolling and fast. I made myself eat two gels on the bike, and my entire bottle of water. The heat was getting intense even on the bike. My pace was 18.1 mph for a 1 hour 24 minute split. 

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T2 = 1:37  The run at Boulder Reservoir is almost entirely exposed. I'm a huge fan of the crushed gravel, but this is a brutal course. Almost everyone I saw was stopping at each mile for water. I stopped at most aid stations myself. It was too hot to risk serious dehydration. I actually felt really good for the entire run. I think I could have pushed harder and probably come away with at least a 7:45 pace, but I played it safe and was satisfied with a 7:55 pace for a 48-minute split. 12th out of 27 in my category (but with the second fastest run), 45th woman out of 200. 

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Overall, this is a great race. The heat is always a factor. I would love to race this course in late-September or October. My time last year was right around the 3-hour mark, and this year it was 2:49, so I'm stoked that I trimmed it down, despite the swim. I don't know if I'll race this again (I probably will). The Withoutlimits crew is so great. Everything about the race organization is always awesome. And there's nothing better than a slip-n-slide finish!

Nutrition: Peanut Powder

For a long time I thought smoothies were what people ate/drank when they were trying to be "healthy" but really just wanted a milkshake. Now I know that wanting a milkshake is actually fine, and smoothies are always delicious. 

I bought a Ninja 1,000-watt blender a few months ago at Costco. I made a few smoothies with frozen fruit and fruit juice. I bought some Vega protein powder. They were fine: refreshing and healthy. It all lasted about 2 weeks. Until...I discovered powdered peanut butter. When I first saw this stuff (years ago), I rolled my eyes. I didn't get it. I thought it was for people to take backpacking. But then it finally dawned on me: IT'S FOR SMOOTHIES. Now I'm researching if it's okay to live on peanut powder and banana smoothies for all meals of the day. I highly recommend the PB + banana combo with almond milk as the liquid, but I've also mixed in cherries, and all kinds of berries. Nothing I've tried it with has been bad. 

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The nutrition breakdown on the peanut powder is: 2 tablespoons (which is a LOT of powder) contains 50 calories,  1.5 grams of fat (zero saturated fat), 95 mg of sodium, 5 grams of protein, and only 2 grams of sugar. It's like the perfect "food." (I'm in no way against regular peanut butter, the powder is just super amazing for mixing). 

Especially on hot days (it's already been in the 90s in Colorado more than I remember from the past two summers), smoothies are the way to go. I sometimes have a hard time eating after a hot workout, but I will drink all the liquids. 

Race Report: Lory Xterra Trail Tri

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Get out of your comfort zone: you'll almost definitely find something you didn't know you'd love. I did the Without Limits triathlon series last year, and I loved the atmosphere of those races: laid back, locally owned/run, open to anyone, but still with legit competition and serious athletes. This year I decided to try one of their races that DIDN'T take place at the Boulder Reservoir. I found Lory Xterra. 

The swim for the race was pretty simple: an out and back around a series of buoys (right around 1,000 yards). The reservoir was nice and calm, and the race location is situated so that the swim course is pretty secluded (and beautiful). The water temperature was 68-degrees. Race organization was really well planned out from start to finish. The first 3 waves of the swim left with only 2 minutes between them. Then they took a 15-minute break, and the remaining 5 waves left with 7-minutes between. I was in wave 4, so right after the break. They've developed this system so that the rest of the course is never too congested. In my opinion, it's pretty genius. 

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My only complaint about preparing for this race was that I found out a week before that no CX bikes are allowed on an Xterra course. That's not explicit on the website. It also wasn't listed at all in the race announcement email. I purchased a Specialized Diverge last October, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to race with my new bike. I'm hugely grateful that I posted "Lory Xterra practice ride" as the title for a workout on Strava. A friend saw it and told me to check the status of CX bikes. I contacted Race Director, Lance Panigutti, and sure enough: mountain bikes only. So...I had to rent a bike. Not a huge deal, really, but with a little more notice I would have planned differently. I'm mostly grateful that I got this information at all, and didn't show up on race-day with my CX bike! The course is for sure doable on a CX/gravel bike, but easier on a MTB...much easier.

I picked up a Santa Cruz Pivot Switchblade from University bikes. This bike was insane. Way more bike than I'm used to, but super fun. If I had a spare $7,000, I would totally buy it. This bike made everything on the course fun and easy. I still need some practice with my confidence, though. On the first loop, I got passed several times, but everyone was super nice. By the second loop, things were spaced out pretty well. Overall, the bike was my weakness, but by the end of the 12+ miles, I felt like I was finally holding my own. 

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Early this year, I decided to do as much of my running as possible NOT on pavement, so I've really gotten familiar with this course and the other local trail systems. I still can't believe that so many people who do triathlons, but especially trail triathlons, dread the run. There were SO many people walking and giving up. This run course is AWESOME. Pretty much straight up for 2.3 miles, and then down. The overall elevation gain is right around 600-feet, and all within the first half of the (5-mile) run. The views of Horsetooth and the entire area are amazing. And the trail is so nice: single-track, switchbacks, packed dirt, and some fun rock areas. In other words, everything you should love on a trail run. It's pretty exposed, so I was thankful that we had a lot of cloud cover. (The weather was really perfect: 60s and mostly cloudy). I seriously love this run. And the fact that I got to pass everyone who had killed me on the bike! 

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Overall, I recommend this race, especially if you're new to triathlon or new to Xterra, or just love off-road. This is a well-organized race in a beautiful setting. 

 

Nutrition: From the Garden

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When I was in first-grade, my mother let me help her build a garden in our side yard. It was a raised box, probably 10' x 10'. We had 4 different kinds of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and basil. Probably other things things too, but all I really remember is that we had SO MANY tomatoes and peppers that my mother took bags to all the neighbors, and gave some to the mailman. I didn't even like tomatoes back then, but was so proud of our garden, that I tried them on everything. 

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When I was in graduate school, I lived in what seemed at the time like a tiny apartment; that was before I had lived in New York City. My friend and I bought a plot at the community garden and spent a couple evenings a week tending to it. That was the first time I had planted potatoes: they were amazing. So creamy and earthy. We also grew Brussels sprouts and all kinds of herbs. We attempted baby eggplants, but they never came up. But, the old woman with the plot next to ours had beautiful eggplants all summer. 

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I grew window-box herbs at our 4th-floor walk-up in Harlem. The box overlooked our fire-escape and 146th Street. It wasn't much, but I still loved adding fresh basil to homemade pizza. 

Now that we have a ton of room in Colorado, we're growing all kinds of things. We just keep adding. In the raised box we have strawberries, peppers, 2 kinds of basil, tomatoes, arugula, onions, and garlic. We also have a little plot of squash and zucchini, two more pots of tomatoes, an area of potatoes, and I just put in pumpkins. Everything is coming along pretty well so far. We've sampled the basil and arugula: so good. I forgot how peppery fresh arugula is. I've really got my fingers crossed for everything else. It's trial and error this year, but I'm looking forward to some hearty garden meals. Throughout my life, everything I've ever grown has tasted infinitely better than store-bought; but also, it looks and smells better. Grow what you can where you are: if you ever have too much, give it away!