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!

Something I Learned: C02

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I ride between 120 and 170 miles a week: usually a mix of country roads and mountain roads--sometimes dirt and gravel roads--and many of my miles are done in the early morning and out of cell-phone range. Yet, I'm still less than comfortable when it comes to changing a tube. I can do it. I've done it several times. I'm actually pretty good at it. But anytime I hear or feel an indication of a flat, I get a little panicky. A few weeks back, I had a front flat coming down after a decent climb. I got it changed without much trouble and was on my way. The very next day I had a rear flat. It seemed to be a slow leak, so I just inflated it with C02 and hoped it would last the rest of the ride. Two miles later, totally flat. I changed the tube, and tried to use the rest of the C02. As I was releasing it, the tube literally froze and crumbled. I've heard that this can happen: I've talked to people who have gotten frostbite from C02, and who are generally weary of it. So, at this point I was stuck. I had a tube with a puncture, a completely ruined tube, and zero C02. 

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Luckily, it was a brilliant day around noon, and several cyclists were out. As I was attempting to phone a friend, a man rolled up and introduced himself: Chuck. He sat down and patched my not-entirely-ruined tube. Kind people exist everywhere, but I've been especially impressed with how willing cyclists in northern Colorado are to lend a hand. It took Chuck a while to properly patch my tube, but we talked about retirement (his), local music, and the toughest climbs in the area. After patching me up, he hand-pumped air into my fixed tube, and sent me on my way. The next day, I invested in a hand-pump of my own, and now carry 2 tubes. I'll still pack a C02 cartridge, and have nothing against it, but if I had been any farther out: up a mountain or in the country, and someone as kind (and prepared) as Chuck hadn't come along, I would have been out of luck. It's a tricky thing when the only way to learn is to practice, but the best case scenario is not to have to practice. I feel a little more equip now, and a lot more grateful for kind people.  

Anthony Bourdain

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If you've never worked in a restaurant, I would argue that you're lacking a key piece of human empathy. There's something about preparing food for other people--strangers--that brings us all together. Nourishment, sure, but also just having a hand in filling others up, how ever they need it. There is community and fellowship and peace in a good meal. And restaurant work is one of the toughest businesses out there: no matter if you're scraping by or wildly successful, it is constant labor.

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After I finished graduate school, I worked for two summers in south-central Montana. At the time, I know that I experienced extreme loneliness, self-doubt, and exhaustion; but looking back, I think of those summers as life-changing and the kind of life I'd always kind of like to get back to. I started off at Second Street Bistro as waitstaff, but eventually moved to the back of the house preparing salads. My day started at 4pm and ended at midnight. I rented a 2-room apartment in an old mansion on E Street in Livingston. I had an air-mattress, one plate, one bowl, one cup, one spoon, one fork, one knife, and a laptop that could play DVDs. Sometimes rented movies at the grocery store Red Box. But most days, I made myself get up at dawn, swim laps at the local pool, and then drive to a trailhead and hike until I had to be at the restaurant. Most days, I didn't say any words to any other people until I got to work. Montana is gigantic, is one thing that I learned. I saw moose and bears and big-horned sheep. I often felt tiny. 

Over time, chef Brian Menges gave me more and more responsibilities. He ran an organic farm at the edge of town, and started letting me take his old truck to pick the vegetables. I even got to choose which vegetables to feature from week to week. I learned more about people and the earth and life in general working at the restaurant than I ever did in any other job. 

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Near the end of my time in Montana, Anthony Bourdain did an episode of No Reservations at the bistro, featuring long-time regular, Jim Harrison. What I noticed about both of these men was, they weren't afraid to be who they were. They wrote poetry, painted, went fishing, loved food (and wine). In the most rugged part of the country, these guys were just doing what they loved. That was important for the community--the entire world--to see. Bourdain often featured people doing what they loved, no matter the conditions, no matter the success. He told the stories of all of us, and he made us all noble because of it. Even though I didn't really know Bourdain, or Harrison, my tiny connection to them has meant more than I can possibly explain. 

Something I (re)Learned: Perspective

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Every time I drive 3+ hours southwest to my friends' ranch between Buena Vista and Leadville, Colorado, I'm reminded of what really matters (and doesn't). There's a lot more calm there: a lot more quiet. They have 170-acres and a 5-month-old baby boy. So, the only things that really matter are water (they run hydroelectric power), hay (which is really an extension of water), and family. They work hard, have fun, and roll with dozens of unexpected situations that come their way, daily. Cell phones are largely useless on the ranch. Breathing is a little more labored at between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. You go to bed when it gets dark, and you wake up when it gets light. You pray for rain. 

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Access to so much (too much?) makes it easy to put value in unimportant things. I found myself forgetting about things like Strava and Twitter and email. After 5 days in the mountains, I kind of didn't want to return to these things. All of the sudden, I didn't really care how many vertical feet I had climbed or how fast: just that I had gotten to the top, and could see for miles. 

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There are reminders all over the ranch of how little the world of farming and survival have changed. Over the year that my friends have lived there, they've collected all kinds of artifacts. Farm equipment, bear traps, tools. Things become unearthed. I spent one night in their camper at the top of a ridge. The sky was clear and the stars were immense. I've spent time in rural New Mexico, and in a remote location in Montana--those are the only other times I've seen stars so bright. That night sky alone is enough to prove that nothing much matters--that our entire existence is a bit of a coincidence. 

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My goal moving forward is to bring a little ranch mentality back home. Maybe push some of the data aside and do the thing for the sake of getting to the top and looking out at all there is to see. Try to put more value in the basics: water, stars, breath. And also, make the trip to the mountains more often: embrace the feeling of being very small. 

Do It: Round Mountain Recreation Trail

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Outside Magazine just (re)featured an article about the sometimes-secret gems that are state parks. National Parks get all the glory, and rightfully so--they're generally the most awe-inspiring places in the nation--but there's a lot of other good land, too. 

To get to the summit of Sheep Mountain on the Round Mountain Recreational Trail, you take the "Summit Adventure" route. The trailhead and parking lot are 4 miles west of the Dam Store in Loveland, Colorado--on US 34 along the Big Thompson River. 

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The first mile of the trek offers views of the Big Thompson and US 34, which are pretty cool considering the completion of the new road. Then you switchback farther into the wilderness, and things quiet down. I like hikes like this because the payoff of the uphill is just being able to see farther and farther. You'll come to a split rock, and a spring, and mile markers, but the reward is just being present: seeing Rocky Mountain in the distance. 

Buy your pass to the national parks for sure; but also, soak up what's just down the road and maybe not as popular. 

Do It: Estes Park (via 34)

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It's true what they say: you don't miss something until it's gone. I moved to Loveland, CO in 2016, and enjoyed several trips to Estes/Rocky Mountain National Park via winding US 34. Eventually I learned of the massive flood that had come through a few years earlier. The 2013 flood of the Big Thompson River caused $280 million in damages, and washed away parts of the highway. In order to get the necessary work done, CDOT closed sections of 34 throughout the past years; most recently, it's been closed between Estes and Loveland for 6 months. 

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It's an incredible early-morning bike ride: through the canyon with rock cliffs on both sides, and over small bridges, all while listening to the river. Turning right on 43 in Drake and going through Glen Haven to enter Estes from the north/east sort of hides the view of Rocky Mountain National Park until the very last climb. And that very last climb includes 4 switchbacks that are all at least 10% grade. 

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The road opened for good on Thursday at 4pm, and I left at 7am on Friday for my first trip up the freshly paved road. I think I was actually the first person to ride it, at least according to Strava. I decided to make it a day and circle around from 34 to 36, through Lyons and back to Loveland. A little over 75 miles--finishing right when it was really heating up. 

It's about to get busy in Rocky Mountain, which is fantastic. I'm grateful to live in a place where rides like this are possible. Get out early: avoid the heat and the traffic, and soak up what ever incredible sight is near you!

Nutrition: Bars for Picky Eaters

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For a long time, my go-to pickup line/explanation for my diet was, "but I eat eggs, so at least we can go out to breakfast!" I've been vegetarian since I was 10-years-old, and dairy-free for most of my adult life. I've done stints of entirely-vegan, and I largely consider myself vegan, except that I occasionally eat eggs, and honey. I love honey. People have different reasons for being picky eaters, and I'm aware that being able to choose what I eat (and don't eat) is generally a luxury. When I was a kid, I was overly attached to animals. Some might argue that I still am. When I found out that someone had to kill a turkey so that we could have Thanksgiving dinner, I vowed (to myself and my family) that I would never eat an animal again. I ate nothing that Thanksgiving: my first version of protest. 

Later in life, I discovered that I was lactose intolerant, and gave up dairy. But I've also been an endurance athlete my entire life, and from ages 18-26 I had a hard time maintaining a healthy weight. So I allowed myself eggs. As I've gotten older and have learned more about nutrition and cooking, I've gotten better at balanced meals and proteins. But also, things have changed. Back when I made my vow to that turkey and myself, even being vegetarian was weird. Now, living close to Boulder and in 2018, alternative diets are the norm.  

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If being "vegan" isn't picky enough, I'll add that I'm also allergic to caffeine and don't drink alcohol. If you're suddenly thinking that I would NOT be a fun date, it's not true! At least I hope not. But also, my idea of a fun date involves outdoor adventure, water filtered from a mountain lake, and a protein bar. Which brings me to...protein bars: I've eaten a lot. Like, A LOT. A protein bar stands in for lunch at least a few times a week. My current absolute favorite is Clif Bar's carrot cake. That's been my go-to lunch on the slopes, in a bike jersey, or on a day-hike for a while. But! I also just discovered No Cow; (their motto is "No Cow. No Bull. No Whey!") These bars are dairy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, soy-free, vegan, with no sugar added. I know that SOUNDS like eating dirt, but they're not that bad! My overall review of a bar that has only 1 gram of sugar, 22 grams of protein, and none of the "bad" stuff, is, they're good. I ate one of these for lunch before a decent swim workout, and felt full with no distress. 

One thing I've never done--even though I've trained and raced my entire adult life--is get up early to eat breakfast 2-3 hours before activity, as is recommended. In fact, I usually train on an empty stomach, which I know is horrible. But, if I'm going to do something longer than 2ish hours, I'll eat a bar. Today I did a 75-mile bike ride (5 hours) with a few big climbs. I ate a Clif bar maybe 30-minutes before I left at 7am. I used electrolyte mix (Skratch) in my bottles, stopped mid-way for a lemonade, ate a gel and some electrolyte chews as needed. As soon as I got home I had another Clif bar (new flavor!) and a vegan yogurt. And tons more water. Probably not an ideal way to get protein and nutrition--I do enjoy real food--but for me, when I need something quick and easy, it works. 

Gear: Altra Superior 3.5

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When I lived in Brooklyn, NY, I worked at a (then) locally-owned running and triathlon store. It was like Cheers but with gear instead of booze. The manager had been there for 9 years, and was king of the neighborhood. Kids stopped in on their way home from school. Loyal customers brought cookies on holidays. Regulars showed up for group runs in the pouring rain. Even though I had been teaching higher education for more than a decade, I learned more in the running store than I had since I bagged groceries at the local co-op during graduate school. Everyone should be required to work retail or an otherwise low-wage job as an adult: humanity might be saved. 

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I specifically remember when we were introduced to the Hoka One One (pronounced oh-nay oh-nay). I took a picture of a quarter next to the height of the cushioning, and rolled my eyes for months. We were at the tail end of the minimalist craze, and I felt embarrassed to even have it in the store. I treated the Hokas as sort of a joke: whenever I brought it out for a customer to try on, I said something like, "And then there's THIS!" Other employees made a note of telling us all if they sold a pair. We'd wager bets on how soon a customer would return them.

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Fast-forward...I've been wearing nothing but Hokas (Cliftons) for at least 2 years. After finally breaking down and buying my first pair, I couldn't get over how light they were, and how 100% injury-free they made me. Now they're everywhere. I even saw a photo of my cross-country coach wearing a pair! (Go Tigers). 

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But, when I started getting serious about trail running a few months ago, I started tripping on rocks. I know this is largely (if not entirely) human error, but I wanted a new shoe: something with a low drop and more traction. I found the Altra Superior 3.5. Like the Hoka, this is a unique shoe, and certainly not for everyone. It is "minimal" in that it is zero-drop, but it's nothing like a racing flat. The cushion is perfect and the grip is incredible. I haven't tried the rock plate that can be added because I love it as-is. My foot doesn't move around at all, despite the "foot-shaped" toe box.  

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Altra is built on the ample-forefoot room (their motto is "embrace the space,") which I love. I recently put this shoe to the ultimate test. Horsetooth Mountain in seriously muddy, foggy, slick, rainy conditions. I ran a little over 6 miles with 1,600 feet of climb and descent. This shoe was amazing. Even thick mud didn't stick to the lugs on the sole: it transitioned well from mud to rock to grass. (For a long time--like, 7 years--the Mizuno Wave Rider was my shoe; but my main complaint with that shoe was that "stuff" constantly got stuck in the wave plate: snow, mud, rocks...) With the Altra, I went through puddles and streams and even scrambled up some rock, and never slipped or collected the trail in my shoes. While the upper isn't waterproof, necessarily, I never felt uncomfortable despite being covered in mud and rain. At the end of my run, I sprayed them off with the water fountain at the trailhead and the grime washed right off. While mud and rain haven't ever been my ideal conditions for running, they might soon be with the Altras.  

 

 

Do It: 12,183 Feet

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High Point on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park sits at 12,183 feet, which makes it not only the highest pass in Colorado, but also the highest continuous motorway in the United States. More than 8 miles of the road are above 11,000 feet. Each spring, for a few weeks, Trail Ridge is open to cyclists and pedestrians, but not to cars. This time is spent readying the visitor centers, getting water pumping at the restrooms, and generally maintaining the park. It's also, obviously, the best time to be up there. 

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I recently biked from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park (which sits at 8,400 feet) up to High Point, and around the top area--which is like being on another planet. The trees disappear, the snow on both sides of the road grows higher than can be seen over, and the air is thin. A little over forty miles and 5,000 feet of gain all in. There was some wind at the top, but I've driven the road when the wind was far worse. Overall, it was the quiet that impressed me. 

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The majority of other cyclists I saw at the top were women, which is not usually the case on the roads that I frequent. I met a group of 3 women who (like me) were biking it for the first time, and another woman who was going all the way from Granby to Estes on a bike that looked to weigh almost as much as she did. She had clearly been camping for a while. A thing I've learned is that women in Colorado are not afraid to do challenging feats alone. 

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I bought an annual pass for Rocky Mountain and all the rest of the national parks when I entered. Now more than ever, it seems vital that we maintain and support these treasures. I only live about 30-miles from Rocky Mountain, but every time I enter the park, it feels like such an escape. And any time spent above 11,000 is just automatically dream-like. It's important to be in these places: to feel small and get a little scare from the sheer size of everything else. 

 

Nutrition: Home Brew

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Most people have something that they're willing to spend money on, even when they don't have money to spend: small vices--things that make us feel extravagant. Cigars, alcohol, chocolate, shoes. For me, it's kombucha. (I mean, I spend money I don't have on plenty of other things, too...usually cycling socks, cycling caps, and sunglasses). But kombucha is stupid expensive, and I buy it. On-tap, some of the cool new places in hip mountain towns charge more than $5 a glass! I rationalize it by reminding myself that I *don't* smoke cigars, drink alcohol, or care much at all about a shoe collection. Still, once I became the person buying the family-sized bottles of kombucha at Sprouts, I decided I should try my own hand at making it. 

Back in the day, my mother made her own yogurt, so I figured I had it in me to do this. Some friends gave me a "scoby" (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) or "mother" and that's maybe the best gift I've ever received. The scoby is...super gross: slimy and unappealing to look at or imagine ingesting in any way. And it grows. But also, it's super amazing! When put in a broth of tea and sugar, it creates a delicious effervescent beverage that's claimed to help everything in the body, but at the very least just tastes good.  

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I've experimented quite a bit over the last 2 months. The first batch I tossed entirely. It was like pure vinegar. I hadn't put enough sugar in. The second batch was better but I didn't let it sit long enough before refrigerating, so it was mostly flat. But now it's getting good. I've been brewing 5 tea-bags of earl grey black tea with at least a half cup of white sugar. I let that sit for a day or two and then add it to the scoby. I test it with a straw after 10 days, but it can sit for up to 2 weeks. Then I add a little honey to individual bottles (recycled from purchased kombucha before I was in the brewing biz). I pour the 2-week-old concoction into the small bottles and let it chill. The earl grey and the honey work really well together. Next I'm going to start adding some fruits to the 2-week sit. 

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I'm making a gallon (or 6-8 small bottles) of kombucha for less than I was spending on one at the store. Which is nuts. I've also started making my own hummus in big batches. So...I guess it's clear that I live in Colorado is what I'm saying. And that now I can buy more cycling caps. Let me know if you have any tips for kombucha! I'm excited to try new ideas/flavors. 

Do It: Open Water

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Until I moved to Colorado, the only open water "swimming" I did in my lifetime consisted of dips in lakes and rivers, and occasional trips to the ocean. Always a source of refreshment, rarely a source of endurance. When I worked summers on a ranch in Montana, the snow would melt and feed a fast-moving creek that eventually ran into the Yellowstone River. On scorching July afternoons, everyone would line up on a bridge over the creek and try to work up the courage to jump in. Instant pins-and-needles cold. You'd get just enough time submerged to desperately want to feel the heat of the sun again. 

In Colorado, though, open-water is sport. Last June, my first triathlon was a sprint: on the first Saturday in June. I rented a wetsuit a few times in May to test things out. Each of my trials lasted no more than 10 minutes. The first time I went in, the water was 48-degrees. I instantly thought of the creek in Montana. On race day, the water was reported to be 60-degrees, but I think that was an exaggeration: it still very literally took my breath away. 

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After that first race, I purchased my own wetsuit, and swam many, many more times: I joined an open-water club. By the time I got to my final triathlon in September, I felt like an old pro. My favorite open water swims were early mornings at Carter Lake even before the fishing boats were out. The water was calm and cool and quiet. This year the local lakes are already reporting in at 67-degrees. These days, in general, I'm less afraid of the cold and more intimidated by the heat. I dipped my toes in with my pup the other day, and it was far warmer than pins-and-needles. The pup is just barely a year old: we adopted him last August, and he was too small to really get in the water then. Last week, though, he was VERY excited to splash and play. I'm looking forward to taking him to some early-morning swims. I'm looking forward to spending even more time in Colorado's beautiful water. 

Do It: Gold Hill, Colorado

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Ten miles outside of downtown Boulder, Colorado is a step back in time. Mapleton Avenue changes to Sunshine Canyon Drive; after about 6 miles of winding pavement, it switches to dirt, and then gravel. By the time you reach Gold Hill, you've climbed over 3,000 feet. A sign greets travelers with all the relevant statistics: Established in 1859, elevation 8,463 feet, population 118. There's a store and an inn and a school. There are old dogs wandering the road. There's probably some lingering snow piled up. Cyclists know to stuff a jacket in their pocket as it's usually 10-20 degrees cooler up top. 

There are several options up to the old mining town: a road from all four directions. I've climbed up two of the roads, descended one, and still have one on my list. Lickskillet is the steepest county road in the United States, and after going down twice on a road bike, it's still solidly outside of my comfort zone. Even riding the breaks the entire way, you slide and skid down the gravel. It's one-mile of between 15-20% grade. But, it empties onto the smooth-as-pudding Lefthand Canyon Drive, where coasting back to town at 30 mph feels absolutely luxurious. 

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I recently "raced" the pavement of Sunshine Canyon, which means I went all-out and had an average pace of just 8 mph. Then I meandered the rest of the way on the dirt to the top. I can't really explain why I love these mining towns so much. The thin air, the reminders of striking it rich, the old general store that's been selling coffee and treats for over 150 years: it all feels like a treasure--like I've done something impressive just in getting here. 

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I can't wait to keep climbing these roads. Eventually I'll make it up Lickskillet. Eventually I'll take the longest route and hit two mining towns in one trip. There's still gold up here: even just in the experience of the trip.  

Something I Learned: Slowing the Pace

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Trail running has always sort of intimidated me. But, anything I'm not really good at intimidates me. I tend to be a one-pace person. That pace has changed over the years, but generally I go x-minute miles with only about 20 seconds difference. Ever.

I grew up running with no devices and never really worried about numbers. When I went to college, my father got me a Timex watch that had one feature: a timer. I went out for between 40 and 50 minutes each morning during the week, and 80 to 100 minutes on the weekend. I ran every day and didn't even know how fast I was going. I drove routes in my old Chevy Lumina, in order to have some idea what the milage was. When I started running cross-country, everything was new to me. Tempo, fartlek, repeats. The only "speed" work I did with my father was sprinting to the end of each run: maybe 100-200 yards. 

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Because speed work wasn't how I was born into running, I feel like I always sort of dreaded it. Each first day of practice after a break from school, my college coach would have us run a timed mile. I never stopped running during breaks, so it wasn't a big deal for me. But my teammates (whether they did their own conditioning or not) would run so hard they'd vomit. I never got that: I never went that hard. 

I've given trail running a few chances here and there, but recently I think I'm finally GETTING it: like being a kid again. Pace doesn't really matter. Or, not like it does on flat land. There's zero consistency. Get up the hill (or, mountain), recover, and fly down the other side. It's. So. Much. Fun. I've been getting up earlier and earlier to be the only one at Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado. The first-light sun on the rocks is always stunning. There are several different trail options, and all give way to views of Rocky Mountain National Park--namely, Long's Peak. 

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I like the concentration of being on the trails: it's actually freeing. There's so much to think about (rocks, foot placement, climbs, mud, grass...rattle snakes) that you can't get wrapped up in anything else. Nothing can clutter the mind except the trails. And I'm totally fine with my miles spanning at least 3-minutes on the trails: it all balances out. 

Something I Learned: Swim Stroke

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Swimming is like writing: most people have been doing it in some capacity since they were children, so they assume they know everything there is to it. Not so. Both take a lot of practice. With both, you tend to be surprised that you've been doing something wrong your entire life. 

My brother and I took swim lessons from the time we were very young. We pretty much lived at the pool--indoor and out, winter and summer--with our house just blocks away from an athletic club. All the workers knew us by name. Then, when we were a little older, we took private lessons and even diving lessons (I never did really nail the back flip). Over the summer of 4th grade I joined a team: I entered every event listed and came away with blue ribbons most of the time. As I got older, swimming became something I only really did when I was injured from running, which meant I started to look at it as punishment. Where running and biking were adventures, swimming was always just a workout. 

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When I moved to Colorado, I became more serious about triathlons. Which meant I had to really consider how much I knew about my stroke. I started improving pretty quickly, mostly because my husband swam in college and often gave me things to think about, and occasionally wrote my workouts. 

But it wasn't until I joined a Masters team that things started clicking. I took a private lesson and felt like I was in grade school all over again. I watched video of my position in the water, and a few times we even put mirrors at the bottom of the pool to see the full stroke. The other game-changer was investing in FINIS Agility Paddles. I found out that my literal weakness was not following through with my stroke. In a lot of ways, I was going through the motions but not really putting my muscles to the test. With my stroke, it's as though I've been riding in the small chainring for years, and just discovered the power of the bigger ring. Today we did a lot of pulling: the FINIS paddles are so nice because they're just slightly larger than your hand but they force so much more work to happen. Swimming is finally (almost) as fun as biking and running. 

 

Gear: Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon wheels

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I've got friends who seem to buy bikes more often than I buy running shoes (and I buy a decent amount of running shoes). I get the whole N+1 theory, and there are certainly bikes I'd like to buy, but instead of purchasing a whole new package, I decided I'd upgrade my current frame a little at a time.

Twelve years ago, I purchased my first decent road bike: a Fuji Roubaix 1.1. I studied up, talked to local shops, and then was fitted for it at a locally-owned store that I trust. Then...I moved to NYC. After less than a month in Brooklyn, my bike was stolen. When I went to the police, they essentially laughed and told me that professional thieves can pop a U-lock in between 2 and 8 seconds (they showed me how). Professional thieves? I was heart-broken: my first NYC scar. I bought an all-black $500 Fuji Feather single-speed with zero bells and whistles to commute on, and a $90 Kryptonite lock. I used my bike for transportation only. 

After a few more years in the city, I decided to look into road bikes again. I tested several out, but really just wanted my Roubaix. I found a Fuji dealer in Manhattan and they got me my bike. I vowed never to let it out of my sight: never to lock it at all. If I had to go indoors anywhere, I carried it on my shoulder. I started doing some bigger rides up 9W and with the local Rapha club

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When I moved to Colorado, though, that's when I really started biking. That's when I fell in love with big, long climbs. I live between Fort Collins and Boulder, which means access to some of the best roads/hills in the Front Range. I met some great people via Strava, and got some advice on parts. Over the past several months I've added the following: SRAM Force Outer Ring, SRAM Powerglide Inner Ring (34Tx110mm), Shimano Ultegra RD-R8000 Rear Derailleur, Shimano Ultegra CS-8000 11 speed cassette, Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon wheels, Specialized Power Expert saddle. This setup is like a new bike, but with the frame I've come to, and continue to love. I can't recommend the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon wheels enough. Fully carbon wheels are insane. Basically, no matter what bike you buy, unless you're spending more than I did on my last car, you're probably going to get crappy wheels: it's how bike manufacturers save/make money. Straight up: the wheel upgrade is the best thing you can do for any bike. 

Something I Learned: A Brief History of Rain

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Growing up in Ohio, my family took a trip to Lake Erie each June, as soon as school was out. I loved swimming off the dock, sailing the little Sunfish sailboats, biking up and down the path around the cottages, and sitting outside the deli with an ice cream cone. But also, I loved the storms. Lake rain seemed different from rain in suburbia. It was mesmerizing. I've still never seen such purple lightning as those strikes on the lake. 

Years ago, I spent a couple of summers working a ranch in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. There, it usually snowed into early June, and then settled into hot afternoons and cool evenings. Bill, the old cowboy who owned the ranch used to say, any day that it hasn't rained after the 4th of July equals drought. One time, when I was in town on a supply run, after weeks of no rain, the skies opened up. Everyone stopped what they were doing and started clapping and cheering. 

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In my 4 years in New York City, I probably went through two dozen umbrellas. NYC rain always seemed to come with wind. And it always caught me when I hadn't checked the weather. I'd be sitting on the subway and people would run on, soaked. Thus resulting in a closet full of bodega umbrellas.  

I've been in Colorado for 2 years, and we get a shower every once in a while, but rarely all-out rain. I don't own an umbrella at all here. Many times I've been out biking and gotten caught in a shower, but have almost always ended up dry by the time I got home. On Tuesday it was supposed to rain, so I stuffed my jacket in my jersey and set out. It ended up beautiful and hot. But for the last (almost) 48 hours, it has absolutely poured. It's good: we need it. I just planted strawberries and vegetables last weekend, so I couldn't have scheduled it better. But generally, people in Colorado don't know what to do in this weather. I will say, the flowers are absolutely drunk on it, so that alone is worth the disturbance. The weekend looks clear and hot; certainly it won't be long before we'll be wishing for another good soaking. 

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Do It: (Goals Set, Races Entered)

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It's full-on spring in Colorado. Which is to say, we're still getting the occasional snow shower, followed by days in the 60s and 70s. Flowers are blooming. Bugs are waking up. The pup is learning to run at a fast enough pace that he can stick with me for 4 or 5 miles. Lakes still seem like they'd be dangerously cold, but a fellow Masters Swimmer told me he'd be in by the end of the month!

I'm finalizing my race calendar and getting excited for training and competing. I'm only entering one repeat race from last season, and ready to try some new challenges. I've started adding some group rides and underground fondos to my training, which makes me seriously humble (I don't have a ton of speed in my legs yet). 

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My first event will be the Lory Xterra Trail Triathlon. (Check out the video of the route) I've put in some serious miles on my gravel bike, but still need to ride and run these trails. 

Next up is what I'm kind of putting my whole self into: a repeat appearance at the Boulder Peak Triathlon. I did this last year and it was crushing but awesome. I've been climbing my ass off already, and will continue to train on a ton of hills. The highlight of this race is a huge climb up Olde Stage Road. Hopefully it won't be quite as hot as last year...

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Parker Reservoir 2.4 mile open swim, a trip to Hawaii in early August, and biking Pikes Peak. I'm still looking to add something at the end of the summer/early fall. I'd love to race at sea level. Let me know if you have any suggestions: in Colorado or beyond! Happy training!

Ling: Light

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March 10th at high noon, Walker Ranch--Boulder, Colorado: Micah Ling and Douglas Light. 

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A week before the wedding (aka a gathering of 4 friends, their kids and dogs, on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains), I was getting my hair trimmed and a woman in the chair across from me was getting her hair "done" for her wedding that night. It was elaborate--she had very long hair--involving dozens of pins and curls and tucks and products. The stylist said, "Now give it a good shake, who knows how much dancing you'll do and we do NOT want this to come out." My only thought was, I'm so glad I'm not doing anything that involves pins or getting upset if my hair comes loose. I'm so glad I'm having a wedding without having a wedding. 

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March 10th was bright and beautiful and windy, as is the custom for spring in Colorado. I ran 6 miles at sunrise, and then had breakfast with Douglas and Ten Paws as usual. We drove to the ranch and stopped on the way for flowers.

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As I opened the door at the ranch, to greet our friends, the wind slammed the screen and pinched my hand. My knuckle bled and bled. To some, this would be a bad sign--or even, would ruin the day. But I got a Star Wars band-aid and was sure to get photos to prove the wound. Imperfections--things you can't plan for--are what make things interesting, memorable, and lasting. 

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We had lunch at a favorite spot in Boulder and made our way back home. The next morning, Douglas and I flew to California to spend a few days exploring Catalina Island and generally relaxing. We hiked, and biked, and breathed in the sea-level air. All in all, I couldn't have had a better week; and luckily, this is just the beginning. 

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It's Winter!

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So far, winter in Colorado has been something like 5 days of spring, 2 days of winter, but for the past couple of weeks we've actually had several days of winter in a row (still usually followed by 2 or 3 days of spring temps). I can't complain! I haven't gone more than a few days without getting on a bike, which is kind of amazing. But it's also given me an opportunity to take advantage of how awesome Colorado is with snow. I picked up some pretty decent, lightly used skis from Craigslist. Because...in Colorado, everyone is constantly upgrading and thus selling their still-totally-usable skis. They're great!

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My teaching schedule this spring has given me the gift of Tuesdays and Thursdays with no classes, which doesn't exactly translate to entirely free days...but I'm trying to make it that way. I'm doing everything I can to jam all of my work into Mondays and Wednesdays, so that I can just play on days when I don't teach. 

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I'm also newly determined to take full advantage of Colorado. It amazes me how many different activities I can do in one week (especially with a mild winter). Last week alone I was able to do a road ride, a gravel ride, a hike, and went skiing. (Not to mention the local 4-mile Sweetheart Classic road run with white-out conditions and necessary Yaktrax). I want to keep my eye on variety.

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We're looking ahead to spring and summer plans and goals. Lots of boxes to check, but one that I'm especially excited about is hiking some 14ers. Mt. Elbert--Colorado's highest peak--will be our first big hike. Already conditioning for that. I also want to bike Pike's Peak, which is tricky because of weather. I'm starting to climb a bit more on the bike, so that my legs can handle it. There's literally no telling what March and April will bring to Colorado in terms of weather, but I'm stoked to keep playing!

Due thanks

Even though I said I'm not doing any recaps this year, I am feeling especially fortunate, and want to shout-out the ones who helped me so much in 2017. It was our first full year in Colorado, and we wouldn't be here without Katy Welter and Rick Bieterman.  

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It was my first year as a "triathlete," and I couldn't have done it without such a great race series and amazing local support. I got a ton of super helpful advice from my friend and superstar athlete, Lydia Dobbs! I also got a lot of (unknowing) support from the professional female athletes that I admire so much: Linsey Corbin, Rachel JoyceRachel McBride, Flora Duffy, and Shalane Flanagan. And some much needed and appreciated knowledge from Triathlon Taren. Above all, I have to thank Douglas Light for his ongoing incredible support. He gets up at ridiculous hours to drive me to races. He makes me delicious meals after long rides and runs. He forces me to go to the hospital when I'm so dehydrated I can't even keep water down (oops). He teaches me how to lift weights to get stronger. He cheers for me, and never, ever stops saying "I know you can do it."  

Here's my year in sports: thanks to Strava for making these cool videos! 

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Also, big thanks to All Aboard Rescue, for bringing Ten Paws up from Texas so he could make our lives even more hilarious and nonstop. Onward! 

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