The LOWdown on the End of My Rocky Mountain High

We’ve been back from our vacation for a few days now and ever since our return I’ve felt like I’ve been trudging through molasses while carrying a fifty pound bag of cement on my shoulders. It could be the gloomy marine layer that’s been blanketing Santa Barbara from dawn until early evening every day. Or it could be that I’m exhausted from our epic adventure after having been in perpetual motion for days on end. But more likely it’s because we’re no longer in motion, seeing old friends, exploring beautiful places, and doing fun and exciting things (unless you count laundry, dishes and grocery shopping as exciting). Ack.

This girl’s Rocky Mountain High has taken a serious nose dive into the land of funk. And it isn’t pretty.

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The day after we got home I blew off a 15K race I had planned to run, and the next day I slept through two alarms and missed my Moms in Motion triathlon practice. The following day I simply couldn’t drag my sorry ass out the door, even though I’d put on my workout clothes first thing in the morning. Yep, that was me still wearing my running clothes at the dinner table, without an ounce of sweat on them. And then there’s the coffee and vino thing…you know what I’m talking about. I warned you it wasn’t pretty. At least I haven’t gone down the chocolate road yet.

And of course I’ve scolded myself more than a few times: OMG girlfriend, suck it up and SHAKE.IT.OFF! You are being ridiculous! You live in Santa Barbara, for gawdsakes, not some war zone or horrible inner-city. Get back out there and do your thang!

Those “pep talks” only made me feel worse though, so I finally decided to stop beating myself up, and instead, try cutting myself a little slack. Rather than repeatedly telling myself “I should” be doing this or that, I started being more patient and understanding with myself, like I would a friend. What a concept! Have you ever noticed how you’re usually way more patient with your best friend than yourself?

And it worked. On Tuesday, after three days of schlepping through the blahs, I finally got myself out the door to run 4 miles down near the beach. Hip, hip hooray, I finally did it, even on another gloomy, overcast morning! Very little of it involved runner’s high, but it was something.

Then yesterday, I went to my favorite yoga class taught by Erin DiAnglelis. She’s an amazing young instructor who has the voice of an angel and the wisdom of an elder sage. I always feel like she creates each of her classes just for me as they’re always exactly what I need, when I need them. I left feeling light and open, and my body thanked me for stretching and breathing deeply after being origami’ed in a car for two thousand miles on our trip. Aaaah.

Today was my real turnaround day, though. I still woke up feeling like I could have slept until noon, but after a humungo cup of coffee, I slipped into my running clothes and filled up my water bottle, knowing I was going to hit the trails after I dropped my daughter off at camp. My plan was to simply cruise along the hills at Elings Park and go only as far as I felt, enjoying it with no expectations whatsoever.

But then I remembered it was Thursday and my speedy friends, Jen, Jane, and Vanessa (aka the B Team) would be doing hill repeats with Coach Nash down by the beach. It was then the old, “Don’t think, just go. Don’t think, just go. Don’t think, just go” kicked in. Instead of turning left to go to Elings, I went straight to meet the the B Team at Leadbetter Beach.

And it was the best thing I could have done.

The workout was hard with ten hill repeats, and it definitely kicked my butt, but it also brought me back to where I needed to be. The other girls had been on vacation too–in Montana, Belize and back East–so we were all regrouping and settling back into our regular routines. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little heart-pumping sufferfest with friends to bring you back around.

Here’s to finding a little “runshine” with these awesome peeps! Thank you B Team!

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Have any of you experienced an end-of-vacation low like this? What was your remedy for rebounding?

PS: If you missed any of my other Runcation posts, you can read them here:

Day One: Palm Springs North Lykken Trail
Day Two: Palm Springs South Lykken Trail
Day Three and Four: Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trail
Day Five: Arches National Park-Delicate Arch Trail
Day Six and Seven: Aspen’s Rio Grande Trail
Day Eight: Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain
Day Nine: Aspen Mountain
Day Ten: Aspen Backcountry Marathon
Day Eleven and Twelve: Aspen Cycling, Pure Barre, Kayaking Oh My!
Day Thirteen: Happy Hour in Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve
Day Fourteen: Chasing One Last Run on Owl Creek Road in Aspen

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Runcation Day 14: Chasing One Last Run on Owl Creek Road in Aspen

As I dozed off to sleep last night, I thought my dream for our last day in Aspen would be to go on a long’ish 10-12 mile run, or to try to run to the top of Buttermilk Mountain via the summer road. When I awoke however, it seemed far more important to spend time with my family, soaking up the beauty of Aspen, making memories together.

I had already enjoyed more than my fair share of amazing runs on this vacation, thanks to the support of my fabulous peeps, so on our last morning I suggested we drive up Independence Pass to the Grottos and go on one of our favorite hikes. We had heard the water was raging from all the rain and snow melt, and was exceptionally beautiful, so we wanted to see it for ourselves.

The hike up was mellow and fun. My daughter even got inspired to do a little trial running! Go Girl!

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We were not disappointed when we reached the top. The water was stunning, and the roar was mesmerizing.

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Unfortunately, a photograph could never capture the magic of this moment. I wanted to post a short video I shot, but the WordPress gremlins have been putting up too much of a fight and I don’t have any more time to try to figure it out. Sigh. Just try to imagine the deafening roar.

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Goofing around, doing my Sysiphus pose with one of the giant boulders. Olivia loves taking pictures!

After the Grottos, Continue reading

Runcation: Day 13 Happy Hour at Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve

I have to admit, today’s run was a total stretch. With sleep being an elusive friend on this trip, especially last night, my family and I woke up feeling like we’d collectively plowed into a brick wall. The idea of an early morning run quickly got replaced by a MONGO latte and breakfast at Peaches.

I think our moods may have also been a little “off” because we were sensing the end of our Aspen visit fast approaching. How could this trip be zooming by so quickly?

Knowing we only had two days left, we wanted to jam in as much fun as possible, so Olivia and I jumped into action and headed up the Silver Queen Gondola to go hiking at the top of Aspen Mountain while Jeffrey went to the Art Museum.

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There’s nothing like a little nature to help us find our happy place!

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We hiked up along the Nature Trail, which was breathtaking, and easy enough to be totally relaxed and energizing after our sleepless night.

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After our fun morning on the mountain, we Continue reading

Runcation: Day 11 and 12 Aspen Cycling, Pure Barre, Kayaking, Oh My!

The beauty of a runcation is that while your legs may feel tired from running four days in a row, you know you only have a limited amount of time in the place you’re visiting, so you’re determined to “get it while you can.” At least that’s how I felt during our visit back to Aspen. I also wanted to spend time with friends, so what better way to do both than to enjoy a workout out together?

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Sarah with Oakley and Henry

After running 8 miles during the Aspen Backcountry Marathon with my friend Patty Bryant, and hiking up Aspen Mountain and doing yoga the day before (you can read about it HERE and HERE if you missed it), I borrowed a bike and rode up to the Maroon Bells with my dear friend, and fitness partner in crime, Sarah.

Sarah has been a friend for more than two decades and when I lived in Aspen, we often enjoyed cycling together in the spring and summer. Today was a fabulous day to share that joy again.

Riding up to the Maroon Bells made for a perfect rest/cross-training day. Although the ride up is a good challenge—about 20 miles round-trip with a steady uphill that eventually reaches 9,570 ft.—we cruised and had fun chatting and soaking up the beauty around us. It never gets old.

Photo of Becky and Sarah

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Riding up to the Bells also reminded me just how much I love cycling. I ride at home in Santa Barbara, but it’s never relaxing as drivers seem to have little regard for cyclists. Perhaps it’s the California car culture thing? Here, two wheels rule, and it always makes for blissful rides, especially on this road, which is closed to private cars much of the day. I definitely appreciated every minute of this ride. And zooming back down from Maroon Lake at 30-35 mph? Woohoo!

After our ride, I regrouped with my family and had a fabulous vegetarian Vietnamese noodle salad for lunch before we headed to the John Denver Sanctuary along the Roaring Fork River, where we strolled through the beautiful grounds and soaked up the the serenity and the JD vibe. My mom was a HUGE John Denver fan when she was alive, so this place brought back fond memories of her and the time we spent here, pushing my daughter in a stroller when she was just a tiny peanut.

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Rocky Mountain High would be an understatement for our visit back to the ol’ silver mining town.

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Later that afternoon my sweet girl and I hiked a short way up Buttermilk Mountain so she could play in the packed snow, which was left over from the X-Games half pipe. I was happy we could also squeeze in a little chillin’ by the pool too, especially since I managed to sneak in a little reading between swimming laps and having raft races. I’m loving Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run book. Have you read it?

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Monday morning was another fun day with my friend Sarah. She convinced me to join her for an early morning Pure Barre class—something I’d never tried. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but soon discovered Continue reading

Runcation: Day 10 Aspen Backcountry Marathon

Today was an exceptional day to be a runner (when isn’t it?)! I’m still buzzing from the excitement of being in the mix of the Aspen Backcountry Marathon. Although I didn’t officially run the race, I did run about 8 miles along the course, taking pictures, cheering on the racers and acting as an impromptu support crew at times.

The Aspen Backcountry Marathon is coined as “one of the most challenging and scenic marathons you’ll ever run,” with lots of ups and downs, spectacular views, and high altitude to kick your butt.

The Aspen Backcountry Marathon Elevation Chart

The first part of the course goes straight up Smuggler Mountain, the old silver mining road I ran a couple days ago and shared with you (click HERE if you missed it).

I was excited that this race happened to coincide with my visit to Aspen, and even more excited that my Santa Barbara friend, Patty Bryant, was running it. Yet another “small world” moment to enjoy.

After running/hiking up Aspen Mountain yesterday (you can read it about HERE if you missed it) and also running two days in a row prior to that, my legs were a little tired when I rolled out of bed. It made me fully appreciate what all these runners were about to tackle today.

The morning was spectacular here once again, and since logistics were tricky with my family and one car, I decided to run from our hotel at Buttermilk Mountain to meet Patty at mile 18, at the bottom of Cemetery Lane, just as she would be coming down from Sunnyside Trail, a fairly tricky trail with a lot of exposure.

On the way, I passed several of the frontrunners and took pictures and cheered them on. I’m sure they were wondering who this one-woman cheering brigade was (read: lunatic). I can’t help myself though; there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing runners in their element, pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones, digging deep and still managing a smile as they pass by.

Photo of runners at the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

It was already hot by the time I started down Cemetery Lane. The runners had been going for 3 1/2 hours and were making their way from the aid station at the bottom on the Rio Grande Trail, up the concrete bike path toward the golf course.

Photo of a runner during the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

On the way down, I passed several runners and cheered for them wildly. When two women approached me, one said, “Come on, run up the hill with us.” When I replied that I was heading down to meet my friend, this charismatic Spaniard, whose name I later found out was Laura Buitron, was one determined chiquita. “Come on, we need you to get us up this hill,” she said. “We’re going to use the energy in your legs to carry us up.” What could I do but laugh and say, “Of course. Let’s go!”

Photo of Laura Buitron running the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

Laura Buitron convincing me to run up Cemetery Lane with them.

What a privilege it was to be able to do this, and to be part of this larger running community. I didn’t know Laura when she asked me to run with her, but I felt a kinship to her and appreciated her effort and enthusiasm. Once I got her and the other young women to the top of the hill, I turned back around to try to find Patty. I knew her approximate mile time and only had to wait about ten minutes before I spotted her running down Sunnyside Trail.

Seeing the surprise and delight on Patty’s face made my entire morning. She didn’t know I was going to be at this spot, but I chose it because I knew Cemetery Lane would not be the most inspiring part of the course.

Photo of Patty Bryant running the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

You would never have known that Patty had just run 18 miles on some really tough trails on a hot morning. She was all smiles and her chirpy personality and chirpy yellow shirt lit up the aid station as she refueled before we ran up the hill together. She even asked if somebody could take our picture. Really? In the middle of a race?

Photo of Patty Bryant and Becky Aaronson at an Aid Station during the Aspen Backcountry Marathon

Say Cheeeeeezzz

In no time we reached the top of the hill as she chatted and laughed the whole way. I thought I was supposed to be the one entertaining and distracting her during this part of the course, but she was the one doing all the work. Her joy of running is irrepressible.

As she turned right to head around the golf course, then up Buttermilk Mountain, I went straight and told her I’d meet her near the Chapel around mile 24 so I could run the final couple miles with her. I ran through the Marolt Open Space, past the Chapel then on toward Tiehack. All along the way, I photographed and cheered for runners making their way toward the end of this grueling race. The sun was beating down and the altitude was pressing hard on their lungs and legs. Continue reading

Runcation: Day 9 Aspen Mountain

After getting my sea level toes wet in Aspen, running along the Rio Grande Trail and up Smuggler Mountain (you can read about it HERE and HERE if you missed it), I was excited to take on Aspen Mountain. The mountain is the heart of town, and it offers many challenges for accomplished skiers in the winter, and good ones for hikers in the summer, too.

My husband and daughter dropped me off at the base of the mountain at 9:00 am. It was a bit later than I had planned to get started, but that seems to be how we roll on vacation. As I said, flexibility is key–especially when balancing your fitness goals with your family’s idea of fun.

My goal was to get the top of the mountain in time for a free yoga class at 10:30, with my peeps taking the Silver Queen Gondola up to meet me with my yoga mat after they’d had breakfast. YES, I love and appreciate them!

As I set off, I had the intention of running up all 3,267 vertical feet of the mountain—from 7,945 ft. to 11,212 ft. I knew it would be a sloooowwww run, but I thought I could at least shuffle along. After about a quarter mile though, my legs and lungs reminded me that this was one steep mountain and a whole lot of altitude. That’s when my “run” quickly turned into a hike with lots of, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I cans.” Every once in awhile I’d dig a tiny bit more and take off “running” again, but it was a grind. It made me think about all those ultramarathoners we admire who run this kind of stuff all the time. Booyah!

Photo of Becky Aaronson hiking up Aspen Mt.

Regardless, it was fabulous to be on the mountain again. Even though I never skied Aspen Mt. when I lived here (my skiing skills are marginal, at best-gasp!), I did enjoy hiking Aspen Mt. in the summer and snowshoeing up it in the winter—even doing several community uphill races.

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Today’s lung-busting effort took me an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the top—just in time for Jeffrey and Olivia to meet me with my yoga mat, and to stop and enjoy the stunning view for a few minutes before heading to the class.

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Photo of a yoga class sign on Aspen Mountain

Photo of the top of Aspen Mountain during yoga class

The view during our yoga class

The yoga class was held at an overlook on the mountain, and was led by a sweet and talented instructor named Jess Ewart. I rolled out my mat on the ground next to a tall, athletic looking guy and his wife, who I later learned Continue reading

Runcation: Day 8 Aspen, Colorado Smuggler Mt.

Ever since arriving in Aspen, I’ve felt like a giddy kid who can’t wait to play! After my jaunt down the Rio Grande Trail yesterday (you can read HERE if you missed it), I set out to tackle Smuggler Mt. Road. This is a staple run for locals and visitors as it’s short, steep and sweet. It’s only 3 miles round trip, but with its 1,050 ft elevation gain, you always feel like you get a good workout. The best part is the fantastic view you earn once you reach the top.

Photo of running up Smuggler Mt. in Aspen

So happy to be back Aspen! Starting my run at the base of Smuggler, an old silver mining road. The starting elevation is 8,007 ft.

Running up Smuggler Mt. Road in Aspen

Up we go!

Running up Smuggler Mt. Road in Aspen

And go…It was so nice the road had recently been graded so it was soft and smooth at the beginning of my run.

This trail is used by every kind of person imaginable and it’s often a funny social scene. It’s an especially great place for young, athletic, dog-loving people to meet–kind of like Aspen’s healthy version of “Happy Hour.” This morning I noticed a lot of single, buff guys heading up, but way more female friends hiking up, kvetching about their lives. I was hoping some of them would meet! Me? I was totally in my happy place, buzzing because I was back in the ‘hood doing what I love doing. Continue reading