Thirty Thursdays: Red Rocks Concert (and Eric Church)!

When Chap and I went to Colorado for the first time (my first time ever) in 2015, I was completely mesmerized by the landscape.  We hiked Rocky Mountain National Park, White water rafted, ran a half marathon and climbed all over the Red Rocks.  As we were driving back to Tulsa, in between my sobs, I decided I wanted to see a concert at the Red Rocks.  And what a great thing to have on a bucket list.

Eric Church comes into this because he’s long been on my list of concerts to see.  I was supposed to see him in graduate school, had my tickets and everything but it was right as I was gearing up to move and I just couldn’t swing it.

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Light packers?!

When I saw that he was playing at the Red Rocks, it was such an easy decision to jump into.  And lucky for me, Chap is fairly easy to convince to go to Colorado – even for country concerts.  This time around we’d planned to camp (also on my bucket list), hike and end the trip with the concert.  I’ll have to write about the camping and hiking later, maybe next week.  But after a few days of some crazy weather and being one with nature, we crashed at our favorite Air Bnb, the same mountain castle we stayed in last time.  Unfortunately it’s a little out of our price range now so it’s our last time there.

We were so tired.  We’d been driving for a while, after spending the past two days hiking our way to Crater Lake and spending the night in a tent somewhere along that trail.  My sleep was pretty fitful that night because of discomfort, cold and a tiny fear of bears.  So, as soon as we got to our castle, we showered and passed out hard.  I woke up a little bit before Chap, to read about the parking and drinking protocols for the Red Rocks Amphitheater.  And I about leapt off the bed with excitement when I saw that my fave little songwriter Maren Morris was opening for Mr. Church.  I’m not ashamed to say I was legitimately more excited to see her than Eric (sorry, man).

The wait to get into the venue wasn’t too bad.  It rained on us a little but we had drinks and the company of the Church Choir (what Eric calls his fans) and it’s good company y’all.  Funny, good country company.  Seating was pretty open so we picked a seat in the middle and waited for Maren.  The views while we waited were amazing.  Storms performed an intense show as a back ground to the stage and the night air was perfect.

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I loved both shows, the venue and my company!  It ranks high up there with my favorite concerts.  Eric is amazing, and I’ve seen him again in Tulsa since – if you like his music, I highly recommend seeing him live.  Maren is a little powerhouse vocalist and I love that she writes her own music.  I will always try to see her live if she’s close (or hell, I’ll go back to the Red Rocks to see her!)  Her lyrics just speak to my little soul.

This is a little side note for those of you still with us.  Maren and her band were on our flight back to Tulsa the next morning.  I realized it too late and didn’t get to sit in the empty seat next to her, but Chap did!  And he didn’t even get an autographed napkin for me or anything.  I didn’t talk to her while we waited for our bags because I never know what to do with famous people.  This is not the first time I’ve been with some low-key (not high-key like Tom Hanks you know?) celebrity and not known what to do.  What would you have said?

Have you been to the Red Rocks?  Who did you see?

Thirty Thursdays: Snow Ski

Here we go for your first tale of the 30 Before 30 Checklist:

Until this past March, I’d never been snow skiing.  Never with my family.  Never with the high school youth groups.  I blame some of it on our geographical location smack in the midwest (although airplanes these days will take you just about anywhere).  More of it on how my dad’s very last trip snow skiing ended (on a medic sled with a torn ACL).  And most of it on our (rightful) preference for beach vacations or family reunions in the Georgia mountains.

I don’t blame my parents nor do I hold any grudges for the lack of this experience in my youth (certainly not like the swingset and Barbie Jeep grudges) because I’m not a huge fan of the snow myself.  I tolerated it growing up because I had to, and I sure loved a decent sledding hill but as soon as I could fly the coop in college, I headed south. And now have settled just a bit farther south.

Now that I’m in Oklahoma, I’ve never met so many people who travel to Colorado to ski in the winter or to escape the heat in the summer.  It’s a serious hobby here.  Even that wasn’t enough to get me interested.  But then, I started dating this guy around Christmas time.  He is one of those snow skiing hobbyists.  He went at least three times that first season we were together.  His love for the mountains isn’t just limited to the winter either.  Our very first big trip together was a drive from Tulsa to Colorado for one of those summer escapes everyone here seems to do.

That’s when the snow ski pressure started.  While we were hiking there was lots of imagining this place covered in snow, and tales of horrible traffic going out of Denver into the mountains on the weekends.  After a long weekend of hiking, rafting and running a race, I was smitten with the Rockies.

That initial infatuation with Colorado coupled with Chap’s incessant snow ski talk, led to a 2015 snow gear-themed Christmas.  I got ski pants and a ski coat which was just what I wanted that year to get ready for a spring trip.  New Year’s eve we spontaneously booked flights to Denver in March, and that was that.

First rule of ski travel, as I was told by Chap, was to take the earliest flight out.  We had to check bags (I hate it) to fit all of the bulky snow gear in.  And of course barely made it to our gate.  Then there was the trek with all our stuff to the rental car place and then the drive into the mountains.  It had been snowing (still was really) so the drive took us a couple of hours.  5 of us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee.

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We finally made it to Breckenridge.  The boys were so anxious to get on the slopes for the afternoon but Maaike and I hadn’t ever skied before.  First we stopped at the house to drop things off and for the skiers to get layered up.  Next, we had to go get our rental skis and boots (this hobby is not for the faint of heart, or the shallow pockets.  I saved for most of 2015 to afford these four days).  Finally, we dropped the guys off at the lift and then opted for pizza and some grocery shopping for the weekend while we let the guys play.  Our plan was to check into ski school the next day.

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Sending the fellas off!

Y’all just getting dressed for this activity is a workout in itself.  Base layer of skin tight warm clothes comes first.  Then a comfortable cotton shirt on top.  Then the puffy layer of ski coat and pants.  Gloves then mittens.  Face warmer and neck guard.  Helmet with goggles attached.  Skis and  boots.  These boots are an exercise machine in themselves.  Heavy and awkward to walk in.  Even requiring help snapping them shut.

Ski school was such a good decision and investment for me.  I think I certainly could have gotten the hang of it on my own, but I’m glad I opted for the full day of drills and practice.  First lesson was just maneuvering over to our instructor on a flat spot in our skis.  That’s still the hardest part to me (followed right up by walking around in the boots).  Then we got to practice keeping our skis apart on a downhill by railroad tracking down a snake hose.  After that skill was mastered, we moved on to the bunny slope.  This is not even a hill y’all.  But it was exhilarating for the first time and great practice just staying up on the skis.  We practiced that hill over and over, working more towards french fries (fast stance), and away from pizza (brake stance).

After a lunch break and catching up with the boys who’d already been on several longer runs, we went back to our instructor.  This time we graduated to a real ski lift and got to practice going down some real hills.  I feel like we both mastered enough of the technique pretty fast.  Maaike and I spent an hour or two together on those slopes and then decided it was time for a green run.  The guys helped us down by leading the way, turning at appropriate times and shouting encouragement.  Before long I was ready to head off with Chap for some longer runs.

I was confident but in no way a master.  I’d start down a hill and then feel completely out of control which led to one of three scenarios:

  1. Me staying on my feet but screaming the whole way down for people to get out of my way “I’m out of control!  Can’t stop!” (hey, at least I give fair warning.  and really, I’m surprised there aren’t more collisions out there)
  2. Me falling into the snow on purpose in what I dubbed a “controlled wipeout” in order to stop the next option from happening.  Sort of picture a gentle fall to either side, or just completely sitting down.
  3. A complete wipeout.  These are terrifying and should be avoided.  I had two big ones where skis came off (that is a workout too, getting those suckers back on and trying not to slide across the slopes) and it ended my run for the day.

The end of the day was always fun because the five of us would come together over drinks in the base camp bar and watch NCAA March Madness.  Showers, naps and snacks by the fire at our condo came next and then we’d head out somewhere into the darling town of Breckenridge for dinner.

The tale of the Single Blac

On the last day, Chap talked me into looking down a black slope.  It was on the way to one of the blue runs I liked so he said, “let’s just go look at it, and we can skip if you want to”.  We got there and peering over the edge was like looking off a cliff.  One of our other guys was there too, and he was just a little more experienced than me.  We decided to go for it, but even after that decision I just stood there staring at the run for at least five minutes.  Finally, I devised a strategy to take it as wide across the pass as I could, and then employ step number 2, before whipping my skis around to face the other direction.  Repeat.  I did this about five times before I felt far enough down the hill to not have too much momentum gather behind me if I lost control.  And then we were on a blue again, and soon enough I was done with my first ski trip!

It was so fun!  I completely buy into the hype, save year round for my ski lift fund and plan to go at least once a year for as long as I can!

Holiday Roadtrip

This post goes way back to Thursday.  Thursdays are scheduled to be my tempo run days and I like to do them in the morning after my first two teaching classes are finished.  But on this particular day, I realized I left my wallet in Chap’s car from date night the night before and had to make an impromptu 2 hour trip to Muskogee to get it.  Luckily, my schedule allows for that!  As soon as I got home, I buckled Miley up to go on my warmup mile with me, cranked out two more and then took her on the cooldown too.

I struggle with tempo runs.  I didn’t hit my target paces but it felt good to be running outside, and at a decently fast pace for me.  Just not the pace I need for 2017’s goals.  Guess I’ll just have to watch it get faster over the weeks 😉

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Friday I stretched out some sore leg muscles at gentle yoga with Teresa at StudiOne.  The more I get into this racing stuff, the more I’ll keep yoga in my routine forever.

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Most of Friday was spent in the car with my little co-pilot, heading from OK to IN for Christmas weekend.  I left right on time which was a Christmas miracle and arrived about 9.5 hours later.  I recently got into podcasts and listened to a variety of them on the drive.   Here are some of the ones I’m subscribed to:

  1. Organize 365 – 40 weeks of 15 minute tips on how to organize particular areas of your home.  This week it was the laundry room.  I try to listen to these on Sundays and work on that particular spot all week.
  2. Modern Love – fun stories of dating, marriage, love and loss in current times.
  3. Dear Sugar – with Cheryl Strayed.  I’ve read her books Wild and tiny, beautiful things.  I enjoy the perspective she and her c0-host provide on a variety of topics.  This episode focused on holiday dramas.
  4. Stuff You Should Know – this is like trivia tidbits in a podcast.  I always feel a little bit smarter after listening to this one, and find myself dropping facts into conversations following the episodes.
  5. This American Life – everyone recommended this one to me when I was asking what podcasts I should listen to.
  6. Being Boss- 2 creative entrepreneurs talk about their road to success.  I relate a little to some of what they discuss even though I’m not explicitly a creative.
  7. Aziz Ansari – not a podcast, but I listened to some of his tour on Spotify and laughed my way across Missouri.

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She’s a great car rider.  Which doesn’t translate to great company.  It rained the whole way from Tulsa to Indy, but thankfully the roads were no slick since it was in the high 30s.  I’m so glad to be sitting writing this by a roaring fire in my parents’ living room.  Dad and I did our Christmas Eve run this morning with Miley – a nice recovery four miles and the sibs and I will do some circuits later.  Shaping up to be a great holiday!

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Do you listen to podcasts?  What are your favorites?

State 17: The Sedona Marathon Event (1/3)

This past weekend I jetted to the southwest to complete my 17th state!  Arizona was not a new state for me to visit as my dad’s parents have lived there for most of my life.  We’ve all been to Phoenix and Sedona several times.  Grandpa had been inviting me to run the Sedona half as my Arizona state for a few years but the timing was never right.  Until this year!

Uniquely, this run was scheduled for a Saturday morning (perhaps  due to Super Bowl Sunday?) so I made plans to fly in on Friday morning.  My parents jumped in on the fun and met me there.  I wasn’t expecting them to be there while I was doing most of my planning so I can tell you that there are shuttles at reasonable prices from the Phoenix airport to Sedona (which is what I’d planned to do), and back.

I left Tulsa Friday morning but not before swinging through Foolish Things to grab some chocolate for my hosts, a coffee for me and to start on my glycogen storing, I grabbed a delicious CinnaBomb.

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Making other travelers jealous

I don’t follow a specific pre-race eating routine, but I do try to eat a tad more “fast” carb treats than I normally would allow.  It works for me, and my taste buds.  This CinnaBomb was like a fluffy cake donut magically dipped in cinnamon and sugar.  It didn’t feel heavy at all and after staring at it in the pastry case for weeks at the cafe, it was wonderful to finally meet it.

The flight was delightfully direct and I was scooped up by my parents quickly after landing.  They spent the night before with college friends in Phoenix, reliving the glory days I’m sure.  The drive from Phoenix to Sedona is about two hours so we decided to stop for a bite to eat on the way.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity for some photos by the really large Sajuaro cacti all around us.  They’re ugly but majestic things.

I tried my best to stay awake in the car but backseat traveling, especially on winding roads after eating, has never been a strength of mine.  The landscape was amazing to look at while I was awake though!

The general plan for the rest of the day was to visit with Grandpa, hit the packet pickup and grab dinner at a pasta place.  We arrived in Sedona, visited for a bit and then made the trek to the packet pickup at Yavapai College.

Packet pickup was very small and straightforward.  Everyone was exceptionally friendly and Grandpa knew a few people at the info desk.  We stopped to strategize parking and shuttles, studying maps and clocks for a while before moving on to the Clif bar sample table.

It was Grandpa’s idea to drive the course.  I’m not sure if I appreciated seeing the hills ahead of time or not.  The course is out and back so half uphill and half downhill.  We hit some downhills initially and I just thought, “coming back up that at the end is gonna suck.”  Oh well, that was to be dealt with the next morning.

Here is a little snapshot of the elevation profile:

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Half up, half down

The course was breathtaking that’s for sure.  I was putting no pressure on this run and was just going to enjoy running in the middle of this incredible wild landscape.  So, the hills didn’t scare me too much.  A little challenge for a casual run.

Soon after, it was time for dinner!  My thoughtful Grandpa had already made reservations at a local italian restaurant, thinking I would want some pasta before the run.  It was a great decision.  I had wine, a fantastic caesar salad with mushrooms and kale, and a light veggie pasta dish.

The restaurant was Cucina Rustica.  My pasta noodles were made in house that day and what a difference!  Dinner was full of catching up on chicken business (my parents), studio updates (me) and travel plans (Grandpa and Martha).  It was great company and delicious food.

We headed home so I could catch some sleep before the run.  Luckily it was a later start – 9:10 so we wouldn’t have to get up unreasonably early.  All of our planning today landed us on a 6:30am departure from Grandpa’s house for coffee and to head to a shuttle stop.  After the Revel Rockies shuttle fiasco I was a little nervous but knew I would find the start either way.

The Mountain Castle

I stayed in my first AirBnB rental on a trip to Austin earlier this year.  Some friends have used it for trips before, and others to rent out their own places for big tourist weekends in their hometowns.  I’ve become a big fan of using this site to find places to stay on vacation.  It reminds me of searching for bed and breakfasts when I was abroad.

I was in charge of finding a place for us for our weekend nights.  This was a little challenging because of race and packet pickup logistics but I knew a few things about what I wanted

  1. A retreat-like feel.  We’d mostly be relaxing in prep for the race, or in recovery from the race.
  2. Close to the start line.  I didn’t want to spend too many hours before go time with a man who is not used to that time of day.
  3. Budget-friendly.  Money is always on the mind but I was willing to go a little more expensive for some comfort and amenities.  I LOVE that AirBnB has a feature where you can set your maximum amount and it will only show you homes available in that price range.

I hit the jackpot.  (Go ahead and click that link for some more amazing pictures!)

We called it our Mountain Castle.  It was situated right on the race route (which helped us know on the chaotic race day that the course was actually set up, traffic was flowing to the west and we could get ourselves to the start line.  Clutch.) on the side of one of the mountains.

Mountain Castle on the Hill

Mountain Castle on the Hill

I could tell on the drive up the side of the hill that it was going to be just like the listing and just the mountain retreat I wanted. We shared the property with the owners and their two adorable dogs.  Our space was the guest house and it was just the perfect size.  We were allowed access to the outside amenities like the fire pit, hot tub, porch furniture and horseshoe pit.  Every second was breathtaking and beautiful.

The cozy guest house

The cozy guest house

You can see just how cozy the guest house was but I didn’t mind at all because not much time was actually spent inside.  We were either running, grilling, sitting on the patio furniture playing games or around the fire pit with our complimentary wine.  To the east we had a view down the mountain and into the valley town below which lit up beautifully at night.  To the west we had amazing mountains, the moon and sunsets to look at.  Their 2 year old white lab Aston kept us company outside much of the time, as well as chirping hummingbirds that came to the feeders surrounding our balconies.

Once we arrived, another mega-nap time happened before we tore into leftovers for our pre-run dinner.  We’d both been taking turns driving those windy mountain roads and neither of us could stomach the idea of getting back in the car to drive the ten or fifteen minutes into the nearest town.  Not even for pizza.  So I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Then, the best pre-race routine in the history of my runs happened.  A relaxing hot tub session, watching the sun go down (totally unaware of the chaos about to unfold the next morning).

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I wish we’d had more time at this place!  I seriously considered proposing to the owners that I would live in the guest house and earn my keep through personal training, dog sitting, yard work and even house work.  Just for one more day on those grounds. The landscape around us was incredible, but the owners had done such a good job landscaping the property that it just completed the atmosphere.

Enjoy some photos below and then if you’re ever in the Morrison or Idledale area be sure to check out this place.  I know I certainly want to go back!