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!

Exploring the Red Rocks

This is one of the final installments of the Colorado diaries.  It’s been so fun to re-live and tell my adventure stories to you.  I’m getting sad all over again that it’s ending for a second time.

I think the Red Rocks were my favorite and most majestic thing that I saw.  It’s definitely hard to compete with the incredible Rocky Mountains, especially when I was able to get all up in them. But come on.  These rocks look like they jumped out of the earth.  Simultaneously at the same angle.  For several miles.

If you remember from the race post, the route took the runners right past the Red Rocks at the end of the run.   I decided after that burger, a shower and a nap that I was ready to hike through the park.  Unfortunately there was also a huge electronic music festival happening that weekend so I didn’t get to see the actual amphitheater.  And our hike amongst the ancient rocks was a little spoiled by all the concert-goers running around in not enough clothes and too much substance.  But, what do you do (crop them out of photos).

We took a short hike through the park and I stopped to play around with dancer pose.  I’m amazed my quads and knees bent that way for me!

Besides the spectacular red rocks contrasting with the greenery and the blue and white in the sky, this park had the biggest dandelions I’ve ever seen!  I just had to get a picture.  I’ll never be so excited about weeds again (especially since they require daily maintenance in my home garden).

We left the park discussing the incredible experience it must have been for those rocks to shoot up out of the earth with such force.  And so long ago!  It’s crazy to think about.  We tried researching the history of the formations but I got lost between the large spans of billions of years “The red rocks likely jumped out of the earth during a shift in plates in the Pennsylvania period sometime between 35 and 70 billion years ago.”  That certainly is a lot of room for error.  I’m thinking they don’t really have a clue what went on back then.  And no, those numbers are not exact.

 On our way out of town Monday, I couldn’t resist one more stop at the park.  And despite our sore knees and quads and calves, we couldn’t resist a hike to the amphitheater.

Let me just say, if I lived in Colorado, I would live at this amphitheater!

There was some hiking to be done before we actually got to the entrance (which was breathtaking in itself).  But then, we sort of crested the top of the theater and once I looked over the edge it was like a personal trainer’s/fitness enthusiast’s dream world.

Just rows and rows of stairs.  And people doing all sorts of activities on them.  Together in groups, or suffering alone.  Dogs too.  And all set to the backdrop of the mountains and Denver in the distance.  For free.

It was amazing.  What is even more amazing is my pathetic attempt to run up those stairs on post-downhill-half-marathon legs. Let me tell you it requires quite a leap to get from one level to the next and I had not a drop of power in my legs.  The video of it is hilarious but I think mine and the camera guy’s laughs at the end take the cake.

So, for the rest of the evening I’m going to brainstorm ways for me to actually be able to live there.  I’d run my bootcamps in the morning and attend music shows, movies and other concerts in the evening.  Maybe I can be the keeper of the weeds.  Or find some land and build one of those tiny homes on it.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and then don’t miss this site if you’re traveling through Colorado!

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!

White Water Adventure

So this adventure was proposed to me by my Colorado tour guide about a week before we departed, and it went like this via text message –

In case you don’t click the link, I’ll tell you what I read.  “Adventurous spirit, ability to swim and prior experience required”.

I texted back:

  • You sure about advanced because I have none of the recommended prior experience?
  • Yea.

I really wasn’t too concerned with anything except the temperature of the water, which was a good thing since a few days later this text came from Colorado Tour Guide Headquarters.

  • Rafting booked.  Non-refundable.

Well ok then.

The night before our rafting adventure I was starting to get nervous, still mostly about the temperature of the water.    I asked him how upset he would be if I backed out.

  • It’d probably be close to a deal breaker.

Really?  Even if I covered my expense of it?

  • Yes, I really like your adventurous spirit.

Well ok then.

I decided at that point the best thing to do was to not think about it at all until I was in the raft.  Kind of like with a really hard workout.  Just get it started and go from there.

Suited up.

Suited up.

The next morning we arrived at Clear Creek Rafting in Idaho Springs.  Mario, an Argentinian forever chasing summer and rafting between Colorado and his home country, was our guide.  We were given our wetsuits (included in the rafting price!), a helmet and our life jacket and our party of five rafters loaded on to a school bus.  We spent about 15 minutes driving upstream to the start and Mario took advantage of this time to go over the safety tips for the trip.  We also had Connor, a really young safety kayaker who promised to help guide us to safety as long as we didn’t try to pull him into the water with us.

The tips were fairly self-explanatory and simple:

  • If you fall in, don’t stand up.
  • Try to stay in the boat.
  • Hold on to your paddle.
  • Rescue your friends.
  • If you do turn into a swimmer, don’t panic but head for shore.

Then we loaded the boat into the water and ourselves into the boat.  Tour guide and I were placed in the front seats and only later would realize this was a blessing and a curse.

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Our morning trip was a couple hours before we had a break for lunch.  I didn’t realize how much paddling was involved from the rafters.  I assumed the river would just take us wherever it wanted but Mario was shouting at us quite a bit “Right forward 2”, “2 more”, “Backwards 2”.  Again, fairly self-explanatory commands that helped us avoid rocks and stay above rapids.

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The rapids were a lot of fun and ranged from fast moving but level water to fast moving with big drops.  Our biggest drop was 8 feet down!  When Mario said that I looked across and mouthed “8 feet?!”  It was an exhilarating part of the route.  The raft thankfully did a great job of keeping us well afloat on the water.  There were many times we went nose first into a rapid or backwards rolling wave but we never flipped.  The shock of that first cold splash was horrible though.

Totally submerged.  And frozen.

Totally submerged. And frozen.

Luckily, we never stayed under for too long.  Just buoyed right back to the top.  Except on one rapid where Mario had us reverse the boat around and use the current to “surf” into the waves.  Except that the surfing totally submerged my tour guide.  I tried to dive over to pull him out of the water when really I should’ve been reverse paddling to turn us out of the waterfall.  Once the strategy of the command clicked in my head, I hopped on the action and helped bring him back into the air.

After a while the sun went behind the clouds and I was frozen.  My fingers wouldn’t move, my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering.  I was pretty miserable but trying to enjoy the scenery and soak up the little sun that was around.  Finally we got to shore for our lunch break and I hopped in a hot shower and threw on some pants.

We had gourmet sandwiches and fruit waiting for us while we waited for the few boats that would be joining our afternoon trip.  I sat in the car to incubate back to normal temperatures.

Luckily for the afternoon trip, Mario had a waterproof-sealed-at-the-seams jacket for me to wear.  I was one happy camper for the rest of the trip.

Insulated!

Insulated!

We still got splashed but I couldn’t feel it!  The afternoon trip was shorter but more action-packed than the morning, and the scenery was better.  We went deeper into a canyon and away from the towns.

Into the canyon.

Into the canyon.

I overheard the guide of the boat in front of us ask

Y’all feeling any better?  A little less hungover?

Oh man.  Not the place I would want to be in that state!  We had so much fun and I loved seeing the tour guide so happy.  Before our trip he compared it to roller coastering and while I don’t quite agree with that, I did love our adventure!

Not having any fun.

Not having any fun.

I cannot recommend Clear Creek Rafting enough.  Our wetsuits were included as well as the photos that you see in this post.  There were plenty more to choose from too.  And, when we looked at our CD for the first time and realized that the photos weren’t from our trip, we called Clear Creek and they were pretty promptly emailed right to us.

Was it scary?  Not really.  Adventurous?  Absolutely.  We never encountered a part of the creek that I would’ve felt I couldn’t swim away from.  I certainly didn’t want to be a swimmer but I would definitely do it again on a creek.  Probably not a river since Connor tipped us off to their tendency to flip the rafts on purpose for fun……..I’m just happy I didn’t deal break my relationship 😉

Rocky Mountain High

This trip to Colorado has been in the works since January.  I had just started dating a guy (the same one I tortured with 13.4 downhill miles) who was escaping almost every other weekend to go skiing in Colorado.  I’d never been snow skiing.  Never been to Colorado outside the Denver airport.  Never really been to the mountains.  Well he wouldn’t shut up about them.  And it started our longest running dispute yet – mountains or beach?  If you know me at all, you know what I’m voting for!  (If you don’t know me, it’s the beach).

Heading West!

Heading West!

He convinced me to start saving for a ski trip and when I realized that a trip for a starting-from-scratch skier would be upwards of $1,000 plus hours of ski school, I thought maybe we should plan a summer escape-the-Tulsa-heat trip.  So we did.  And then naturally the race-planner in me thought I should see what races were going on in the area.  Read more about that adventure here.

Since he’d been so many more times than me, we decided he would plan most of the trip – the travel, and the adventure days.  I planned the days surrounding the run.  Because of this we ended up leaving Tulsa after 10pm on Wednesday to drive through the night.  When we pulled out of the driveway we had nowhere to stay Thursday or Friday night (his days, but my nights were booked).

Early in the trip, all smiles!

Early in the trip, all smiles!

I did the best I could to stay awake and provide entertaining company but inevitably fell asleep from about midnight until 2am.  The man doesn’t function after 2 am so we looked for a place to stay in Limon, CO.  Not a single vacancy in about 8 hotels.  I loaded up on some coffee and nibbled on dry cereal to get us to Denver.

We cruised right past the city headed for the mountain town of Estes Park.  One of his favorite places is Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) so that was our first big destination after breakfast in EP.  We stepped out of the car and it was like we’d transported back in time to March in Oklahoma.  Beautiful temperatures!  And the views of the mountains were incredible.  Estes Park is a darling little mountain town with plenty of restaurants, lodging, a lake and very close to RMNP.

Incredible views.

Incredible views.

We paid $20 to get into the park.  You could very easily drive most of it but my tour guide had some hikes he wanted to go on and that sounded awesome to me.  Was sick of the car.  Our first stop was a trail called the Alluvian Fan – it was a short semi-circular hike towards a waterfall.  We had to climb up a bit and this is the first place I really felt the elevation affect me.  I was winded way faster than I should have been hiking to the water.

It was a lot of fun working our way up the rocky path next to the waterfall.  I realized at this point that my fairly minimalist Kinvaras were not the best hiking shoe and if Colorado is to be a regular place for us, I need to invest in some.  The rocks were like a giant playground for adults – I even slid down one like a slide when I couldn’t figure out how to climb back down.  This part of the park had been subject to severe flooding from a dam break almost 33 years ago to the day we were there.  Water flooded the area we were standing in, as well as part of Estes Park.  We briefly entertained survival strategies if we heard the deafening roar of water coming down the mountain and ultimately agreed on the fact that we’d both not survive.

We returned to the car to drive higher up into the mountains – stopping on trailheads that had markings we thought indicated waterfalls.  On this particular hike we chatted about traveling and where we would each like to go next.  There’s a long list.  I had a kiddo moment and hung upside down from a tree – or maybe it was the lack of sleep and oxygen levels…..

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Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around

A few more back and forths in the car winding up the mountain and we decided it was time for a nap.  We pulled over into some shade, reclined the seats and snoozed for almost an hour.  I know for sure the lack of sleep was a contributing factor but I don’t know how the elevation played into it.

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More playtime

More playtime

Tour guide had a particular trail in mind – Chapin’s peak.  Once we found it, I noticed a sign that listed important items to take with you: whistle, high-energy food, sunscreen, weather-proof clothing, water and other survival essentials.  We had water and food.  But I’m here typing to you so everything worked out.

This particular trail took us through green pine trees, up some rocky staircases and finally to the side of the peak where some elk were grazing.  This is where we decided to veer off-trail and make it to the summit.  I honestly didn’t think we’d get there.  It was a long way up.  We’d already been hiking for probably close to an hour but I was enjoying my company and the scenery so thought we might as well give it a shot.  The terrain was lumpy grass mixed with some kind of variously sized rocks.  Tricky to say the least.  But something clicked on for me mentally and I decided we were gonna get to the top.  It was really hard to breathe and I was dizzy a few times but am so glad (like always!) that we made it to the top!

Climbing company

Climbing company

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Once we made it to the top, I naturally was drawn towards the edge of the mountain.  We’d been tipped off by another hiker that it was a pretty steep drop off and he wasn’t kidding!  I found a safe spot to sit on the edge and we relaxed for a bit, catching our breaths and taking in the views.  Across the valley we saw a thunderstorm roll in across the mountains.  I watched rocks drop down below us and sat next to a big patch of snow that hadn’t yet melted.  I wasn’t cold though!

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At the top, on the edge!

Learned an important thing about my tour guide – he’s afraid of heights.  But I coaxed him down to the edge with me and he was able to stand it for a few minutes.

On our way back down, we wanted to encounter the herd of elk we’d passed on our way up.  The terrain was tricky to handle on the way down and we both stumbled.  More than once.  Eventually we found our old trail and the family of elk.

By this point in the hike we’re both pretty exhausted again and very hungry.  We were also a little bit lost.  I entertained myself by asking survival strategy questions.  “What if a bear appears on the trail?”  He was going to jump into the nearest gathering of evergreens while I was going to freeze and distract the bear with the beef jerky by tossing it down the valley.  Pretty sure I’m the survivor in that scenario.

Once we’d found our way back to the actual trail – we stumbled across a whole bunch of the elk.  I watched them for a while, pretty fascinated.  They just ate and didn’t seem to mind the few pairs of tourists watching and taking pictures.

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We finally made it back to the car and continued the drive up the mountain to the Alpine Lodge.  Here we stopped for food – chicken soup for me and then forged on down the other side.  We had to pause for another nap and apparently I stopped taking pictures.  The last time he was in this part of the park he saw a moose on the side of the road so we each looked hard on our respective sides and I swear I imagined one into being.  We were about to exit the mountain area and head towards the lake when we passed a group of people taking pictures on the side of the road.  It was a baby moose and mama eating in the trees!

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What an exciting and exhausting first day we had!  We stopped for pizza in Frasier and then found a hotel for the night, crashing pretty quickly.  I needed rest for our next big adventure…..white water rafting.

State 15: Colorado/The Race that Almost Wasn’t

Revel Rockies Half Marathon

Revel Rockies Half Marathon

Oh boy do I have a story for y’all.  The past 5 days have been spent on vacation in Colorado, including my 15th state run.  Sometimes for runs I’ll just drive up for the night but Colorado was a special one – since so much travel was involved and it’s a place I’ve never explored, I made it an extended trip.  Drove through the night Wednesday, hiked Rocky Mountain National Park Thursday, white water rafted Friday, explored Denver Saturday and raced Sunday.  This post will cover the race – a series of follow-up posts will cover the vacation part.

Saturday

After a morning of exploring the city of Denver, my client/main squeeze (Chap) and I headed to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden to pick up our packets.  It’s his first half marathon experience (although I credit the Austin Half Marathon in February for giving him some inspiration).  I picked up my packet with no problem but he hadn’t registered yet so we set out to find that table.  Revel was very accommodating to us because although they had just sold out the half moments before we got there, they managed to wiggle him into the pool somehow.  We played around for a bit, Chap got a hat to keep sweat out of his eyes and I found a super discounted pair of running shoes! Then we set out to find our mountain retreat.

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

We planned the trip so the first two days were full of Colorado activities and adventure, and the weekend days would be full of restful mountain time.  I can’t wait to share pictures and details of the place I found to stay in the mountains!

We were so tired on Saturday driving into our town that we crashed for a few hours and took a nap.  We decided we didn’t have the energy to drive the winding roads back down the mountain into town for my normal pizza ritual and instead I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner.  We took in views of the sunset from our hot tub and enjoyed a relaxing evening around the fire pit before heading to bed.

View from our weekend stay!

View from our weekend stay!

Best pre race routine yet!

Best pre race routine yet!

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Sunday

The race route was a point to point, starting west on 74.  Our place was right off the route as it wound east from Evergreen into a small mountain town called Morrison.

West to east down the mountain

West to east down the mountain

The plan was for buses to leave the finish area from 4:15-5:15 am to drive us west to the start line for a 6:30am start time.  We were staying between J and K on the map so decided we’d leave the mountain castle around 4:50am to catch some of the last buses (ok, probably the very last bus).  I had my pre-race coffee and we made PBJ sandwiches for some muscle fuel before we left.  We made it to the parking lot before the last bus was supposed to leave but encountered a line of hundreds of people still waiting to catch the bus.

We figured people probably had the same idea as us – stay in bed and catch the last possible bus to the top.  Seemed to be an ok plan since we still had well over an hour until race start.  It was a little bit chilly out but I had on a sweatshirt that I planned to drop at the bag drop at the start so I wasn’t too miserable.

Waiting to catch the bus

Waiting to catch the bus

By 5:45 we started to wonder what was going on since no one had moved and we hadn’t seen a single bus.  There was a line of hundreds of us wrapping up around a hill and none of us really knew what was going on.   Runners were milling about, working their way down to the gas station for bathrooms and back and forth to their cars.  By 6 I figured we’d have a delayed start time and was starting to get antsy.  We still hadn’t heard anything.  Finally, we saw a bus come around the corner and down the hill with no one on it.  It was definitely going the wrong way – we figured it was turning around at the bottom of the hill to drive up to the front of the line but instead it turned left and drove away into the distance…..

I joked with Chap that we should start a rumor and spread it up and down the lines.  Only one bus was operating for both the half and full.  There was a bear attack.  The roads are closed.  We had fun for a little while and it passed some more time.  People around us were speculating as well.  I knew it wasn’t a good thing that we’d been out there almost an hour and not seen a single bus.

Just about that time a car of runners drove by and said, “The half is cancelled”.

It seemed unbelievable and I didn’t really have time to think about it.  Honestly my first thought was, “Well let’s get the hell out of this parking lot before we get bottlenecked for hours.”  I just believed them for some reason so we hurried back to the car and got out of there.

First cancelled race ever!  So sad.

First cancelled race ever! So sad.

We got back to the car and I was starting to feel the weight of the disappointment.  We’d come all this way.  Chap was ready for his first.  I wanted to count Colorado.  He was driving us back west to the mountain castle and we stopped at several aid stations to ask if they knew anything about the cancellation.  None of the volunteers had heard anything.  As we were driving I was thinking – the road’s still blocked off, we can head west, they’re still going to host the marathon, this is great blog material……

about that same time Chap said, “What do you want to do?”  “We’re going to the start line damn it!”

So we did.  On the way up I told him about hearing of the people in New York who ran the race anyway when it was cancelled due to Sandy.  I was thinking we’d get up there, see if they’d let us start and if not, we would just use the blocked off lane as traffic control for a routine long run.  We would figure out how to get back to the car later.

Once we finally did make it to the start, the volunteers there welcomed us and said we could start anytime.  A small bus of true halfers had made it before us and they started around 6:30.  We crossed the start mats around 7am.

Goin' for it!

Goin’ for it!

It was an incredible sunshiney day.  The temperatures were great, the air was crisp and I only noticed the elevation on the first few inclines.  The course was mostly empty, with a few runners who crossed our paths throughout the run.

Miles 1-3 took us through the mountain town of Evergreen and were mostly downhill.  There were a few little inclines where I definitely felt the elevation but that was about it.  I was so happy to be running.  In the mountains.  With Chap.

By mile 4 we’d been spit out close to a creek that provided some cooler air and calming background noise for us.  Still very much downhill but the sun was shining on us and I was getting pretty warm.

At halfway we munched on a Stinger Waffle and I grabbed a jolly rancher from one of the water stations.  As usual I took small sips at each stop. My knees were starting to feel a little tender from the decline but nothing like my left calf.  I had been stung by a bee on the Wednesday before our trip and it bothered me a little since then.  Race day though I’m not sure how it affected my muscles but it hurt!  Pushed on though 🙂

Miles 7 through 9 wound us down through a town called Kittredge and on towards our mountain castle.  We could see our beautiful place from the road.  The landscape turned a little more rocky and the stream was still with us.  Chap seemed to be doing great and was so excited when he saw the sweat drop off the side of his hat bill.  “It’s not in my eyes!”.  At this point we started seeing runners coming up the mountain!  I’m not sure if they were running the entire course in reverse (crazy!) or running half way up and coming back down (slightly less crazy!).  I cheered them on and they returned the favor.  It was great to see people making the best of this situation (like runners usually do 🙂 ).

At some point after 10 (Chap’s farthest ever!) we got a little separated.  My calf was really, really bothering me and he later told me that he just leaned into the downhill and went for it (his average time for that mile showed it too – 8:24!).  I stayed a good tenth of a mile behind for almost an entire mile.  I kept thinking “surely he’ll slow down and wait for me.”  Then I thought “well, it’s his race, he can go on without me.  But he didn’t really train that hard for it, and didn’t really have a specific goal he was going for.  Why isn’t he waiting for me?!”  So I turned on the jets and chased him down.  I finally caught him and sassed him with a “Thanks for waiting for me.”  He replied (smartly) with “I knew you’d catch me.”

We had a mile left and I got over it and helped coach him to the finish.  I was hot at this point.  Not like Oklahoma but the sun was just shining right on us.  At the last two water stops, I’d poured the rest of my cup on my head to try to help me cool off.  My knees were sore, my calf was throbbing but I knew we were gonna make it.  We had no idea of the time as his phone died and we started way after the official clock did.

Once we hit 13 miles, I couldn’t see the finish.  I knew we’d have more than .1 to go but we turned on the final sprint and made it the extra .3 miles to the finish line.  There was one final downhill that I leaned into and my knees have never felt so bad.  I actually made faces and winced out loud.  But the crowd roared us in and we finished with big smiles – or I did at least.  I couldn’t see Chap since I smoked him at the last minute ;).

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We hung out at the finish for a while enjoying table massages, free TCBY scoops and of course post-run beer.  We still weren’t sure of what caused the bus problems that morning but it was like living in our own reality TV drama for a while.  When we stopped at the table to get our official time print outs we were surprised to learn Chap placed third in his age group!

3rd place!

3rd place!

First half marathon and he places in his age group – not too shabby!  (We won’t tell anyone that it’s because more than half of the runners didn’t get to the start line…..it’s because he has such a great coach!).

Now came the tricky part of finding a way back to our car.  We asked people along the way if anyone was heading west and didn’t have any luck there.  We looked for someone to make an announcement on the stage but also struck out there.  Finally we searched for some cardboard and marker to write “Runners stranded, ride to Evergreen $20” but no one had even that.

Finally Chap said, “you should try hitch hiking”.

And so….

Hitch hiking to Evergreen

Hitch hiking to Evergreen

It took maybe 5 minutes before a jeep pulled over with a runner in the front.  I said, “We’re trying to get back to the start line”  “Well we live in Evergreen so we’ll take you!”  Oh it worked out so perfectly!  Turns out they were from Oklahoma but had moved to Evergreen a few years ago.  Chap and I squeezed in the back with their daughter and enjoyed the open-top air in our faces.  They gave us an excellent lunch recommendation and we went our separate ways.

One World Cafe

One World Cafe

We downed some burgers and bloody Marys at One World Cafe in downtown Evergreen while perusing the Facebook drama of the morning.  Revel had released a statement on their page saying “The Half Marathon has been cancelled due to the bus company not providing the number of buses contracted. Information regarding this and many more details will be forthcoming.”

Oh people were so mad and the comments were quite entertaining.  I can understand the frustration – especially for the out of towners, for the people trying to qualify for Boston and the first-time runners.  I applaud the people who made the best of the situation, enjoying the scenery of the Rocky Mountains and either running the course or mapping out their own miles.  There were lots of wins on Sunday despite the “rocky” start to the race.

We’re still waiting to hear what exactly happened – Revel has decided to refund the entry fee for those who were not able to run, or to offer a free entry into one of their future races.  Not very many race companies would do that, or have done that.  It was thoroughly entertaining to see it all unfold over social media and I’m so lucky to have had a partner willing to make it work.

Check out their Facebook page – Revel Rockies – if you want in on some of the commenting entertainment.  Several articles have also been written on the chaos if you want to search on Google you’d find some things there too.

Every time I do a race I think it’s going to be the most memorable.  From the Icepocolypse of Arkansas to the fantastically put together race in San Francisco.  Thank you Colorado for another great story to add to the books!

13.4 done!

13.4 done!