Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High

Combining Ironman training with our family vacation was a delicate balancing act, but Aspen was the perfect place to pull it off. Knowing the town like the back of our hands, and still having many friends there, we were able to squeeze in A LOT, so everybody felt happy. It also helped knowing that I wouldn’t get too many sideways glances if I showed up somewhere still wearing my workout gear. Casual is how we roll, and so does much of Aspen.

The second week of our adventure began on a wonderfully mellow note–no epic workout, just a fab long lunch with our friends, James and Hensley, on the deck of Plato’s restaurant at the Aspen Institute. Then, while Jeffrey went to another lecture at Anderson Ranch Art Center, I took Olivia to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s School of Dance where she enjoyed taking ballet and jazz classes. Their studio space is gorgeous, and it was a treat for her to experience another dance school, even if she was a little uncertain at first.

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While Olivia danced, I squeezed in a short 3 1/2 mile run from the ASFB studios back toward the hotel on the bike path, then down Owl Creek Road. Some days you just have to celebrate what you can piece together. And that’s exactly what I did.

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When Olivia finished ballet, we let her choose where she wanted to go to dinner to celebrate her courage in trying something new, especially since she didn’t know anybody and had never tried jazz. She opted for Mexican food at Su Casa, which was just fine with me (okay, a margarita might have had my name written all over it…I repeat, MIGHT). Even though it’s not easy, we continually encourage our daughter to try new things, especially things that make her uncomfortable, as all these little things add small drops of grit into her confidence bucket. Also, they’re usually the most memorable things we experience in life, right?

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On a side note, this picture of us at dinner cracked me up because it unintentionally captured the ridiculous size of my Garmin. I’m so accustomed to wearing it, I don’t even think about it anymore, but holy cow, that’s as big as a brick! Quite the fashion statement, huh?

After dinner, once again, we strolled around town…

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And yep, there might have been more ice cream from Paradise Bakery involved for these two as we listened to a quartet playing classical music on the corner.

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I made a quick stop to Ute Mountaineer to pick up some more nutrition for my ride the next day. Love this locally-owned store.

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In the morning I had the joy of another big cycling day, starting off by once again riding up to the Maroon Bells.

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This time it was even more fun though, because my friend Sarah joined me. We’ve been friends for more than two decades and have enjoyed this ride many times over the years. It never gets old.
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After our ride up to the Bells, Sarah headed off to work while I headed Down Valley once again via the Rio Grande Trail. Yep, that meant going back up the hill to McClain Flats…woohoo. This time after cruising down to Woody Creek, I rode up to Lenado, another gorgeous rural area in the valley. I thought about stopping and snapping a picture of Hunter Thompson’s house for my friend Robert, but remembered that he always tells me to keep on grinding, so I knew he’d understand. Right, Robert? 🙂

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By the time I pedaled back to Aspen, I’d logged about 50 miles with nearly 3500 ft. of elevation. Another solid day in the books, and one step closer to Ironman Arizona.

After my ride and a quick bite, I swung by Aspen Sports Medicine to see my old PT/chiro, Eric Haynie. I hadn’t seen him since we moved away a decade ago, but since he helped get me to the starting line of my first three NYC Marathons many years ago, I knew he might have an answer to what was going on with my grumpy knees. Sure enough, he pinpointed it to some bio-mechanical issues–inflexible hips and ankles, along with tight calves (the story of my life). The combination had been torquing my knees with every revolution of my pedals for quite some time. In addition to stretching exercises, he suggested switching out my pedals and cleats from Look to Speedplay, which are little more forgiving as they have a little more float.

After seeing Eric, we were off once again–this time zipping to Snowmass Village to pick up Olivia’s friend, Maia, so she could hang out at pool with us. While the girls had fun creating elaborate games and races on the rafts, I soaked my tired legs in the jacuzzi. Aaah.

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A couple hours later we enjoyed catching up with our friend Curt, and sharing some laughs over a few nibbles and vino before we headed to the ballet. I was already whooped from my ride and another full day, but I’d heard nothing but good things about this performance being put on by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, so I rallied for their 8:00 pm show. We were not disappointed. Talk about talented dancers and innovative choreography!

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Photo credit ASFB website

Sleep was elusive for much of this trip–something that’s especially tough when you’re training hard–so after yet another night of few zzzzs, Jeffrey and I headed into town for some much-needed coffee. This time we opted for good java from Peaches, then a decadent breakfast of oatmeal pancakes and spinach eggs from Poppycock’s. Spinach is good for you, so I could justify every damn last bite, right? (never mind all the rest of it). 🙂

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From then on, it was another packed day with a whole lot of this and that, going here and there, and doing dumb, yet necessary things like hand-washing a pile of workout clothes. This is just a tiny portion. The balcony looked like Green Acres.

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Then of course I needed to squeeze in a run and a swim workout. After playing frisbee in the park with Olivia, I headed to the pool. Even though there were multiple options for lap swim in Aspen, somehow this was the one thing that seemed hard to fit into the equation while we were here. I never drummed up the hard core attitude I needed to drag myself to the early swim or evening master’s class. Instead I had my own little sufferfest in the hotel pool.

Fins, hand paddles, music…nothing made swimming feel easier here. I cut myself some slack though, and celebrated the fact that at least I got it done on some small scale. With 25% less oxygen at this altitude, eventually I figured out that I needed to alter my breathing in order to settle into it. Breathing every fourth stroke made be feel like my lungs were going to blow, but when I alternated every other stroke when necessary, it became more comfortable . Even so, I’d still collapse on the chaise after my workouts.

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My run took place in the evening while Olivia was at another dance class. Here she is with her awesome jazz instructor, Eric Chase.

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Jeffrey dropped me off at the North Star Nature Preserve were I knocked out 5 beautiful miles, running up the Pass to Difficult Campground, then back into town. It’s remarkable how many easily accessible trails are found in Aspen. It makes running and cycling so much fun!

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At the end of my run, my sweet husband texted and asked me to meet him at the art museum for a mini date. There are few museums in the world I’d go to in my sweaty running clothes, but Aspen is so casual, I didn’t hesitate. Not to mention, we had the entire place to ourselves. Jeffrey had ordered wine and nibbles right before the rooftop cafe closed and they told us we could stay as long as we liked. Okay, maybe not the best recovery fuel, but definitely the best way to end another fun and full day. Love this guy!

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There’s only a couple more days left of our Aspen adventure…check back again if you want to follow it to the end. Next time I’ll be going up, up, up…

Until then…Happy Trails
xo Becky

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 Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues

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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 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

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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 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.

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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