Carter Lake Crossing ("Race" Report)

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Point-to-point swims are such a treat. No turns, easier sighting: just keep the shore on one side and the sun on the other. This was my longest open water swim to date. I’ve done a few 2.3-mile swims, but let me tell you, 3 miles is a lot. And, like all things, there is a distinct culture around long-swim events. Young and old, Northern Colorado has a lot of swimmers who can haul-ass!

The swim was briefly postponed because the bus to shuttle participants from their cars to the other end of the lake, broke down. Instead of launching at 7am, it was more like 7:25am. It was a deep-water start, which I prefer. The last thing that Douglas said before the gun went off was, “I’m sure I’ll lose you so I’ll see you at the finish.” It can get a little scary (for me) to be in the middle of a large body of water “alone,” so I decided to do everything I could to stay on his feet. Generally, he’s a stronger, faster swimmer than me, but I was wearing a wetsuit and he was not. I kept up.

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The water was remarkably clear, and Douglas kept a good, steady pace. I actually couldn’t believe how calm Carter was — either people slept in, or the boats kept their distance. Only a few moments of bobbing. By the time we passed the 2nd buoy, I had figured each was placed around 500 yards apart.

Because the bus broke down, we were the last group to reach the start, and thus missed all of the instructions. So, they probably covered this, but when we reached the end of the lake, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to circle the last buoy or go straight in. Douglas opted to go straight in, and I circled the final buoy. I think he was right and I was wrong. In any event, we still finished within about 30 seconds of each other, and he had no idea that I was on his feet for the entire swim.

We kept a pace of just under 2:00/100, which isn’t fast, but we weren’t out to prove anything. Great day, great conditions, great swim. The post-swim snacks were less than impressive — a bowl of Oreos and some Nuun hydration. We were also surprised that the t-shirts weren’t included in the price of the event. Still, an all-around fun morning.

2019 Rapha Women’s Prestige: Boulder, Colorado

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2019 Rapha Women’s Prestige: Boulder, Colorado

The rules are simple: start as a team, pass through all checkpoints together, finish as a team.

On a steamy July day in Boulder, Colorado, I set out with Leslie Ethridge, Sara Liebert, and Lizzie Newsom on a quest: have fun, ride hard, look good

Ad·ven·ture

: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks 

Over the course of 81 miles — half gravel, half pavement — crossing such iconic climbs as SuperJames, Brainard Lake, Peak to Peak Highway, and Chapman Off-Road, 8 teams of 4 women accumulated 8,000 feet of elevation gain, all at Colorado altitude. 

During the more than 6-hours of riding, we cycled through all kinds of emotions, but most often were laughing and cheering each other on. At one point, despite 3 of us living in the area, our team realized we were down a road that none of us had been on before. Unknown risks really are best tackled together. 

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Team·work 

: work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole

Heat, wind, rain, slick descents. And tunes. Leslie mounted a portable speaker to the front of her bars, so our day could be soundtracked by Lizzo and Katy Perry. In other words, perfection on wheels. 

When we set out, most of us had never met. When we finished, we were truly a team. We focused on strengths instead of weaknesses, and pulled each other through numerous tough climbs. And it turns out, with a positive attitude, enough Nuun hydration, and good music, you set PRs without noticing. You find yourself at 80 miles before you’d planned. You win.    

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Re·sil·ience

: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress

The first half of the course involved most of the heavy climbing — up to Brainard Lake at 10,300 feet. There was a refueling station that involved popsicles, cold towels, mini Cokes, and pickles. It’s remarkable how crushed one can feel, and then how quickly things can turn around. Five minutes off the bike with words of encouragement and a little sugar / salt fix, and onward with smiles — glad to be coasting down to a mere mile-high. 

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At the beginning of the day, teams departed just a few minutes apart, so we crossed paths several times throughout the course. After an intimidating 3-mile descent in the rain toward the end of the day, 3 teams regrouped at the bottom. Someone said, “For a minute there it was like the whole world was just women cyclists.” And it was true: the day was made even more powerful because it was all women. Organized and cheered on by the legendary Meredith Miller, photographed by Natalie Starr, the whole experience was a mantra of, “we can do anything.” And we did.

The day ended on blankets at a park back in Boulder. Cold beverages, gigantic burritos, sweet watermelon. And as often happens when recounting epic experiences on the bike, the pain quickly fades and strength stands out. I’d gladly get back on the bike with these women — eye of the tiger, fighters, all of us.    

Adventure over workout, every time

Trail Ridge Road — Before it’s opened for cars

Trail Ridge Road — Before it’s opened for cars

After an incredibly rainy and snowy spring — including several late-May storms — we’ve finally made it to summer, and even had a few of those TOO hot days. (I consider anything above 80-degrees too hot). The entire state is anywhere from 200-700% saturated, and some of the passes have just barely opened to car traffic. One of my favorite things to do is bike up high and see the huge walls of snow. I went a few miles past Rainbow Curve on Trail Ridge Road at the end of May, and it was other-worldly.

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We also recently made the trek down to Watershed Ranch, and I biked Independence Pass on the first full day that it was open to Aspen. It’s one of the most beautiful and most fun passes to ride. Mostly a gradual climb for 17 miles, with a slightly steeper final push. The views are just nonstop amazing. This year, because of the tremendous amount of snow, there were several sections of avalanche damage. It makes the power of the snow really clear. Entire sections of forest turned to matchsticks.

Watershed Ranch

Watershed Ranch

One thing I’ve continued to notice about myself — especially when friends and people I follow on Strava and elsewhere post about zones and numbers — is that I don’t care about working out at all. I’ve always thought trainers and treadmills were ridiculous. I’ll bike in 17-degrees and run below zero. I’ll get up at 4am to beat the heat. Because I care a lot about adventure. I want to climb the highest peak. I want to go a little farther and maybe even sometimes a little faster. But damn. I do not care about monitoring my heart rate.

Independence Pass — First day open for the season

Independence Pass — First day open for the season

Yesterday I took the new Moots (such an insanely amazing bike) up Old Fall River Road, and down Trail Ridge. I didn’t see a single other person on the road, and thought most of the time about what I would do if I came upon a bear. I sang to myself a lot.

I’ve got some events coming up that I’ve been “training” for, but I think I’m finally ready to admit that I’m more a wake-up-early, grab-a-Clif-bar-and-go kind of person. I’d much rather be the first one at a trailhead, and discover some stunning view, than tow the start line at any race. I like to push myself, but generally, I’d rather do something impressive alone than with a number pinned on my chest. A mountain sunrise always beats a t-shirt and a participant medal.

Old Fall River Road — before cars are allowed on for the season

Old Fall River Road — before cars are allowed on for the season

Get up high, is what I’m saying. Find the snow and the views and the adventure. Maybe think more about sticking your feet in the cold creek at the end of a tough hike, than about those zones on your device.





200K on a Friday

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Since I’ve lived in Colorado, I’ve done a handful of 100-mile rides. Each time I take on triple-digits, I feel like I do it a little better. I start at the right time, I wear the right layers, I eat the right food. So, of course, it was time to up the game. In August I’ll be riding the 140-mile version fo the Steamboat Gravel race, and I’ve been telling myself that I should do a few 200K+ training rides. But really, it’s just a great excuse to take advantage of phenomenal spring weather.

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I took the day off work yesterday and enjoyed mostly empty Colorado roads. I started around 7:15am at 40-degrees with light tights, arm-warmers, a vest, and a light jacket. After a couple of loops around the local lakes, I decided that I could do the remaining 80 miles with a less clothing. I stopped at home for a quick wardrobe change, and was back out with less than 5 minutes of down time. I love the 30-degree span of Colorado weather, but occasionally it’s tough to dress for.

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I headed to Boulder County. The rest of the day was between 58 and 68-degrees. A couple of decent climbs up Lefthand Canyon, and a glorious tailwind home for the last 18 of 124.6 miles. I think what I love the most about weekday riding in Colorado (and early-morning riding any day) is that you can feel totally alone in your feat. I’ve got nothing against the constant waving of weekend warriors, but I love the dreamlike state that you can enter when you’re at it alone.

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After a shower and a recovery smoothie, I was already plotting my next 200K ride. More gravel. More climbing. More solitary country roads.





Ready for the warm-up

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This is my third winter in Colorado, and it’s been the most brutal, though I still can’t complain. We’ve had plenty of days in the 50s and 60s. But we’ve also had pretty consistent (weekly) snowfall. And a LOT of single-digit mornings. I’ve bike-commuted my 35-mile trip to Boulder MANY times, with tons of layers, hand-warmers, foot-warmers, and eventually completely frozen water bottles. The last time I did the commute was a week ago during the first of several 15-degree “freezing-fog” days. It was maybe the coldest I’ve ever been. Honestly, it broke me a little. I’ve had no urge to do the morning commute since. In fact, I may not ride in the morning until it’s solidly in the 30s or 40s. Something about that frozen moisture got to my bones.

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Cycling in the cold is different from any other activity in the cold, in my experience. Just a few days ago I ran 9 miles in 0-degree (but sunny) weather. It felt great! And I can ski for several hours in wind and snow and not really be bothered. (Though, I’m spoiled as a gear-tester for Backpacker Magazine to get some of the best ski jackets that money can buy…for free). Cycling, though, especially with a headwind, is something entirely different. Overall, what I’ve learned this season is, sun changes everything — sun plays by a different set of rules. Anything is possible with full-sun and low wind. And grey skies with headwind will always crush your soul.

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But we’ve made it to March. The days are more than 11-hours of light. And the recent dumping of snow means phenomenal spring flowers are in the making. I’ve still got 2 trips to Eldora on my pass, and am looking forward to some of those classic spring bluebird days. Soak it up, Colorado. Only a few more weeks and we’ll barely remember the cold, dark, mind-numbing commutes of the winter. Despite the intensity of the weather, I still can’t imagine not biking year-round. There’s always something to be gained from being outdoors. I’ve (almost) never regretted getting out in it. Anyone can ride a trainer in front of a fan and a TV inside. Climbing slick streets to see the Flatirons and pine trees dusted with snow — that’s something special, every time.



Do it: Get Thirsty

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I always love the new year because it’s new. We get to look back at what we’ve accomplished and set new goals. We get to start redefining / evolving who we are. We get to hatch plans and make dares. I love to think about what I’m going to take on. I love to get a little scared about challenges, and then go all-in. Last year I swam/biked/ran/hiked (but mostly biked) over 8,000 miles with more than 600,000 feet of gain. Which is a lot. But this year, more.

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While I love the triathlon, and will definitely compete in 2 or 3 local races, I’m most looking forward to challenging myself with some new events. I’m taking on 141 miles of gravel in Steamboat Springs in August, followed by Rebecca’s Private Idaho just 2 weeks later. This week I did my first century ride of the year, for my birthday. It was a remarkably calm, mild day in Colorado, and the ride was fantastic. I’m aiming for a century ride each month this year.

I’m also looking forward to seeing part of Colorado that I’ve never been to with Roll Massif in September. This whole series looks amazing. I kind of wish I could do them all. (Watch the videos and just try not to throw them all of your money).

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In my opinion, one of the best ways to make goals is to think about what you liked about the year that’s ending, and what you want to work on to make the next one even better. In one of my final rides of 2018, we were in New Mexico, and I climbed Sandia Crest just outside of Albuquerque. It was an absolutely perfect day: bluebird, full sun, right around 50-degrees. The road was awesome, with constant switchbacks for 18 miles, and 4,500 feet of gain. The views from the top were unending. When I got back to our Airbnb, something went wrong with my Garmin, and I lost all the data from the ride. It certainly didn’t take away from the experience, but I was more than a little bummed to not get the payoff of reveling in the numbers via Strava. And that embarrassed me.

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So this year, I’m not off my devices, but I’m a little less attached to clocking every step. This year it’s not about data and statistics: it’s about doing epic shit just for the views from the top. I don’t think looking at data is a bad thing, but adventure is the name of my game, and I don’t ever want to forget that.

I just saw Free Solo (PLEASE GO SEE IT IMMEDIATELY). One of my favorite quotes from Alex Honnold is, “Nobody achieves anything great in the world by being happy and cozy.” I’m all for getting happy, or as Honnold says, “delighted,” but I also want to get uncomfortable this year. A lot. I want to push it. I want to see sunrise and sunset as often as possible. I want to feel at the end like I can’t go any farther. I want to be just absolutely thirsty.

Onward.

Zipp 202 NSW Wheels (on gravel bike)

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When I wrote for the local newspaper in Indianapolis, I covered cultural events, music reviews, and all things cycling. I was writing about cyclocross before it was the equivalent in popularity to the weekly suburban 5K. I dabbled in new bike infrastructure projects, and how the community reacted to them. But the coolest thing I did, was visiting the Zipp factory to sit in on NUVO/Bissell team meetings. Upon entry I had to surrender my phone and agree to not write or speak of any technology witnessed. When the team got new equipment, it was like every kid on Christmas morning. Zipp was the best: the top of the line.

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This October I took a job as Content Manager at People For Bikes. I don’t like the term “dream-job,” but this one is, for me. With the job, I’ve been told, comes permission (and help) getting the best bike equipment available. I’ve known a lot of people throughout my life who have spent a lot of money on things they don’t end up using. As a kid I always thought it would be so cool to have a pool in our backyard. We moved around a lot, and a few times my parents considered buying houses with pools. My mother would always say, “You think you’ll swim every day, but you won’t.” And I always thought, “No, I actually would.” I think I’ve maintained that state of mind. If I invest in something, I will use the hell out of it. So I ordered Zipp wheels. Next year, I’ll be riding a lot. Needless to say, I’ll be using the Zipp 202 NSWs on my gravel bike.

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After 4 or 5 rides, including some sand, a lot of gravel, dirt, snow, and steep roads, I’m super pleased with the wheels. Five miles in and I wasn’t convinced that they were sensationally different from any other carbon wheels I’ve ever been on, but when I was climbing dirt, it was insane. They stick to the ground and offer such light stability. I’m running tubeless, and even on pavement they feel great. I’ve also ridden them in some pretty serious wind, and unlike most carbon wheels, they aren’t terrifying. It’s like they defuse the wind. I can’t wait to see what these bad boys can really do. One thing is for sure, I will get my money’s worth.

Go Outside: Do Epic Shit

sunrise bike commute

sunrise bike commute

I’ve never fully understood Daylight Savings. In theory, I guess I understand wanting to best use energy/light for working purposes, but why don’t we adjust the work day instead of the clock? Like most people, I enjoy having lighter mornings, but find it wildly depressing to have it completely dark at 5pm. And we still have over a month before days start getting longer again. Regardless, I’ve been trying to commute to work (35 miles) by bike as much as possible. For a while I was doing one day a week commuting both to and from work, which made for a 72-mile, 12-hour day, but man…seeing the sunrise and sunset was pretty great.

after work sunset rides

after work sunset rides

Now that we’ve changed the clocks, and we’re setting into winter, I likely won’t commute home until the spring. I don’t like being out at dusk when the air drops drastically with the loss of the sun. But I hope to still bike to work when we get above-20-degree mornings. And I’ll sneak in some quick after-work rides as often as possible. At People For Bikes, we’ve got a standing Thursday (and sometimes Friday) group lunch ride.

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My other method of battling seasonal depression is swimming at a year-round outdoor pool. After swimming all summer/fall outdoors, the prospect of moving indoors seems awful. Luckily, Boulder has a great little old-school gym, with die-hard swimmers who love cold air matched with the heated water. I’ve done a few really cold/snowy swims, and it’s like being a kid. Plus you get to dash to the hot tub immediately after your set.

I’m still contemplating different ski-ticket packages, and setting plans in motion for some trips to the mountains to snowshoe/fat-bike/winter adventure. One thing I’ve come to love about Colorado is, you’ve got to embrace what the day gives you, because tomorrow will almost definitely be totally different.

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-pass 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!