After a late night on the 4th of July, my husband and I were in need of coffee (understatement of the century), so we headed to Main Street Bakery, one of our favorite haunts, owned by our friends, Bill and Jane Dinsmoor. Once fueled up with a hearty breakfast and major caffeine, I headed out on my first high altitude ride. Woohoo!
I choose one of my all-time favorite rides–up to the Maroon Bells, which is always a good challenge—about 20 miles round-trip with a steady uphill that eventually reaches 9,570 ft. The road is mostly closed to private cars so it’s a cyclist’s dream.
This view never gets old. It was the backdrop to our wedding many years ago, so it also holds an especially dear place in my heart.
Once again, it did not disappoint.
The ride down from the Maroon Bells is always exhilarating, and at times, nerve-racking. Flying down at over 40 mph, all you can do is hope a marmot or another little critter doesn’t decide to cross the road in front of you. So far so good!
After riding up to the Bells, I ventured up Castle Creek Road to the historic ghost town, Ashcroft, another 20+-mile trip, which peaks out at 9,500 ft. It was such a treat riding along the creek and mostly having the road all to myself.
For those of you who don’t know, Aspen has a rich silver mining history. Before skiing, celebrities and all that hooha, this town was booming with silver. Between 1879 and 1885, Ashcroft had about 2,000 residents and 20 saloons. What remains now is nine original buildings, maintained by the Aspen Historical Society, all nestled in the eye-popping Castle Creek Valley.
I knew my peeps were waiting for me to return so we could do a family outing, so I didn’t stay to snap pictures of the ghost town. It was another mostly downhill zoom, with a few rollers, all the way back to the hotel. 47 miles total for the day with nearly 3500 ft. of elevation. A solid first day of riding.
After a quick change, we zipped over to the music tent to enjoy a wonderful dollop of culture, a free classical music concert showcasing young, up and coming conductors. The Aspen Music Festival and School is world-renowned, bringing conductors and musicians from all around the globe. While we were visiting, all kinds of big names were in town to perform, including Midori and Soprano Renee Flemming (to name but a few).
I was famished from my earlier ride, so after the concert we grabbed some take-out and headed to one of Aspen’s many walking malls and plopped ourselves down to chill out and enjoy evening in town. There’s no better place to hang out and people-watch during summer.
The next day we were up early again, and hiked up Smuggler Mt. before breakfast with our friend Sarah and her Corgi, Henry. Smuggler is an old silver mining road that’s short and steep (1.5 miles up with 1,050 ft. of elevation), and it’s a staple for locals. It’s a great go-to run or hike when you want a good workout, but don’t have much time. Our daughter was a trooper on this steep ascent, and was especially happy to have Henry and Sarah to distract her from her tired legs and burning lungs.
The view at the top always makes the effort worth it…Aspen Mountain and the town below.
When we got to the top, Sarah encouraged us to continue on and do the Hunter Creek Loop. Love her enthusiasm! It was a wonderful hike–another 4.5 miles. The sign below warned of mountain lions, but hikers we passed along the way let us know about a bear they’d seen nearby–a very common thing in Aspen.
After our hike, we headed to Peaches Cafe for a well-earned lunch and a much-needed iced latte. FYI the quinoa bowl at Peaches is to die for. Then we swung by the Aspen Art Museum, which has a killer view of Aspen Mountain from its rooftop cafe.
Then it was time to swim! I hadn’t done a swim workout in a week so I knew I needed to get my butt back in the water. There are multiple pools in Aspen, but I opted for the hotel pool, which was convenient (and free).
OMG, I thought running at altitude was challenging. I was completely unprepared for how hard swimming felt. After four lengths of the pool, I thought my lungs were going to blow. If there’s a will, there’s a way, though. I kept at it for another 20 minutes before I finally called it for the day. Short and sweet. Fortunately, only Olivia was there with me to hear me gasping for air. Ha ha. And then there was the jacuzzi afterward. Aaaah.
The one thing I was extremely happy about on this vacation is that my coach, Matt, gave me a general overview of what he’d like me to accomplish while in Aspen, but kept it open so I could take my family’s plans/ideas into account. They were more than supportive of all my training on this trip, but I always made sure to keep it in balance. After all, the point of a vacation is to spend time together, right?
Check back tomorrow to see what the rest of the week looked like. It involved my longest ride, several runs, and another gorgeous hike with the family.
Until then…Happy Trails
PS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:
Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week Eleven of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week Twelve of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week Thirteen of Ironman Training: Spring!
Week Fourteen of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy
Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions
Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and DinnerWeek 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)