Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)

As you know, life doesn’t stop when you’re in the throes of Ironman training. It’s summer, baby, so this family took off on an epic 16 day road trip to the Rockies! I had every intention of blogging each day while we were there, but I quickly discovered there weren’t enough hours in the day to write, train, be fully present with my family, and enjoy our time in Aspen. Soooooo….here’s a recap.

First of all, packing for a tri-cation is anything but simple. I thought I took a lot of gear on last summer’s run-cation, but whoa Nelly, our little Prius was packed to the gills. Then there was the bike, which we strapped on to the back of our car. Thankfully, I have a supportive family who understands all the crap important items I need to bring for training.

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We left Santa Barbara on July 1st and drove to Las Vegas, about 5 1/2 hours away. Vegas is not my cup of tea at all, but it’s a convenient stopping place, and our daughter loves it (for some unknown reason). We plopped ourselves in the middle of this concrete, high-rolling freak show (did I mention not my cup of tea), which was 111 degrees when we arrived, and settled in for the evening.

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Thankfully the hotel and pool are enough to entertain our sweet girl, so that’s what we did. Not a workout by any stretch of the imagination, but crazy people-watching and cooling off before having dinner and crashing for the night.

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Bringing the bike was kind of a pain in the ass, but Olivia was always happy to help, no matter how many sideways glances we received as we pushed Lucy through hotels.

As you can imagine, this mama was super excited to leave Vegas the next day. Our plan was to stop at a couple national parks on the way to Aspen (much more my cup of tea), but we were so busy before we left, scrambling to get everything packed, organized and buttoned up, that we didn’t do much research. We’d originally planned to swing by Zion National Park, but a friend reminded us that it would be miserably hot in July, so we altered that idea and opted for Bryce Canyon. With its higher altitude, it would likely be cooler. In addition to Bryce, I also pushed to throw in Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, since it was nearby, and I’d seen a ton of eye-popping images of it over the years.

Sooooo…we set off for Kanab, Utah, which Google said was only three miles away from Grand Staircase.

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People, I’m hear to tell you…NEVER believe what Google says without doing your own “real” back-up research. It turns out Grand Staircase Escalante Monument isn’t 3 miles away, but 1 1/2 hours away from Kanab, and after driving for many hours, and arriving at Kanab in the late afternoon, we weren’t excited about adding a 3-hour round trip to the day. We quickly nix’ed the Grand Staircase idea and simply strolled around Kanab, which took about 5 minutes.

When you’re annoyed by your own stupidity, what else can you do but go for a run, right? I headed toward the mountains and quickly came upon Squaw Trail with Utah’s famous red rocks. It didn’t take long before I felt like this little side trip was more than worthwhile.

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It was a perfect run to set my happy vibes in motion. Olivia joined me for my final mile in town too, which was fun…

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Kanab…what can I say? Sleepy and charming…

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with a wonderful camera shop, which my husband and daughter explored while I was running…

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and one REALLY great restaurant, the Rocking V Cafe.

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The Chicken Escalante was to die for, as was the wine and homemade bread.

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The next morning, we made a family decision to bypass Bryce Canyon all together and head straight to Aspen. We were most excited about getting to the mountains and we knew we could always hit Bryce on the way back if we were still inspired.

We arrived in the late afternoon on the 3rd, strolled around town and drank in the beauty of our old stomping grounds. No matter how many years we’ve been away (10 years already), Aspen will always still feel like home to us. As we say, there’s magic in these mountains. The rich green color was such a contrast to our drought-stricken California, not to mention the crisp, clean air, and deafening blue sky. Aaaaaah.

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After a yummy dinner, Olivia and I ventured over to the base of Aspen Mountain so I could sign up for the Boogie’s Buddy 5-mile race, which was taking place the next morning. This race is a fundraiser for the Buddy Program and the course is always a good challenge. I knew coming from sea level to 8,000 ft. would make it even more “exciting.”

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In the morning, after a mile and a half warm-up with strides, I met my dear friend, Sarah, at the start of the race. Sarah is an awesome athlete who is always up for adventures.

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I have to admit, I was already winded from my warm-up, so I was happy the first two miles took us down the Rio Grande Trail, a gorgeous, gently sloping bike path that follows the Roaring Fork River. But then we turned onto Cemetery Lane and headed up the hill. Boom. That was all it took to turn my sea level legs to lead. Fortunately, I spotted an old friend, Curt, who was cheering and ringing his cowbell near the top of the hill, which helped me lift my feet a little higher. Then we went down and back up another hill, then meandered through the West End where Sarah’s son, Spencer, and husband, Richard, were volunteering and cheering us on. So sweet.

As you can imagine, I was happy to log this race in the books. Even though it kicked me in the butt, it was a fantastic way to start the 4th of July. Booyah! I think my finish time was 46:something. Ha ha. High altitude training was officially underway. Got oxygen?

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After the race, it was time to enjoy Aspen’s quintessential small town 4th of July Parade, which was a mix of kids on bikes, people walking goats and alpacas, floats, horses, military veterans, a plethora of firetrucks, political statements, irreverence, and lots of candy throwing and water fights (no drought here!).

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After the parade we zipped down to visit our friends, Tom and Lindy, who live in a beautiful house along the river in Woody Creek.

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Later in the evening, we enjoyed a fantastic al fresco dinner with our friends, Sarah, Richard and Spencer, and Sarah’s parents, Kathy and Dave (sadly no picture–we were too busy catching up). Then the grand finale, fireworks over Aspen Mountain. There was no better way to cap off our 4th of July.

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High altitude training kicked into full gear the next morning, when I rode 47 miles with nearly 3500 ft. of elevation. Since this blog post is already looooong, I’m going to break it down into several posts. Check back tomorrow and see what fun was in store! I venture off to one of my all-time favorite places.

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

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Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges

I’m now well into my sixth month of training for Ironman Arizona, and the one thing that remains constant is that every week there’s a new challenge to embrace. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes mental, sometimes logistical. Figuring out ways to take on these challenges head on and overcome them is one of the many reasons this Ironman journey is so gratifying.

This week my biggest challenge was staying consistent with my training while doing a road trip to Palm Springs where we visited Jeffrey’s parents for Father’s Day weekend. On the surface that might not sound terribly difficult, but between heat, sleep deprivation, and battling to maintain healthy nutrition, it all added up to being a whopper.

We packed up Saturday morning and hit the road, only to be stuck in horrible traffic from the get-go. After about an hour we realized that at the rate we were going it would take us 6-7 hours to get there instead of 3 1/2 to 4, so we turned around and came home.

Sunday morning we got up super early and tried again, hitting the road before most people were awake. I had a short 40 minute run on my training schedule, so I got that done at 5:30 before loading up the car.

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After the initial pain of getting up, I love early morning runs. They stretch me in all the best ways.

It was wonderful to spend time with Jeffrey’s parents, but like many parts of the country, Palm Springs was in the middle of an insane heatwave the entire time we were there…

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Although frying our noggins in the heat was often unpleasant , it gave me the perfect opportunity to do some warm weather training (cup is always half full, right?). Absurd, I know, but I do believe it was good for me. If it happens to be hot in Arizona on race day, I’ll know I have at least trained a little in those conditions. And of course, it’s also important to embrace the challenge of being uncomfortable during this whole process. After all, going 140.6 miles in one day is bound to be uncomfortable at times.

Here are a few snaps from my sizzling morning run. It was already 95 degrees at 6:30 am.

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Sucking it up, Buttercup, and getting it done with a little 6.2-mile jaunt.

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This was my reward…a “special delivery” iced latte from my peeps and a dip in the pool.

After my morning run, a few hours later it was time to hit the pool for my swim workout. Palm Springs has a beautiful Olympic-size pool, and I had the luxury of having an entire lane to myself. So nice, even if it had reached 118 degrees by then.

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I swam 3275m with a 1000m time trial and 10 x 50 m with hand paddles…actually 11 because I lost count. My pace was a tiny bit slower than usual, but I’m chalking it up to the affects of my morning run and perhaps being a little dehydrated. There are no bad training days though. I got it done, enjoyed much of the process, and feel fortunate that this awesome pool was available; otherwise I’d be swimming endless laps in my in-laws’ backyard kidney shaped pool. And yes, I’m sporting 5,000 lbs. of sunscreen. I also wore a protective sun shirt a bit later too.

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The last night we were there, when we returned from a delish dinner at LuLu’s, the skies grew smoky, an eerie reminder of wildfire potential. We had just left a wildfire near Santa Barbara and now there were some burning near LA. It’s going to be a long summer.

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After packing up and heading home the next day, I was never so grateful to run in our cooler coastal weather when we arrived home. As the fog started rolling in, I logged 5 miles blissful miles along the beach. Aaaaaah.

I was also extremely happy to eat “normal,” healthy food again. My husband spoils me terribly, making me a Breakfast of Champions every morning: oatmeal with fresh fruit, almonds and peanut butter. How did I get so lucky?

Breakfast

Yesterday’s new challenge was doing a blood lactate threshold test on the bike. You may remember I did one on the treadmill at The Lab in early March (click HERE if you missed it). This new test is meant to help assess where I’m at with my fitness and indicate what heart rate zones I should aim to train in on the bike and run. The test comprised a 10-minute warm-up, then while keeping my cadence consistent at 85 rpms, increasing resistance every three minutes, pedaling until I could no longer keep the pace. At the same time my heart rate was logged, my finger was pricked to draw a blood sample, and I was asked to express my perceived rate of exertion on a scale of 6-20. It was all very cool, and tough at the end when my mind wanted to keep going, but my legs and lungs were screaming to stop. Thanks to Bentley Nunes from The Lab and Bruce Davis and Matt Tague from Hazard’s for making this a great experience, even when it became a sufferfest.

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Bentley taking a blood sample while I spin.

After my test, I went for a half hour jaunt along the waterfront…a little shake-out run…so nice…I love this town.

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Running in my rabbit duds. Love my “bunny hop” tank. www.runinrabbit.com #borntorunfree

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Here’s what this week’s training schedule looks like:
Monday: Run 1 hour, Swim 3275 m
Tuesday: Core, Run 45 minutes
Wednesday: Bike 75 minutes
Thursday: Lactate threshold test, Run 30 minutes
Friday: Swim 3100y, Bike 1 hour
Saturday: Bike 90 minutes, Run 75 minutes
Sunday: Bike 4 hours with climbs, Run 25 minutes

It’s hard to believe it’s Friday already! I’m looking forward to some longer workouts this weekend, ones that will continue to challenge me and push me to grow. And in case you think all I do is train, here are a couple snaps from the week that prove otherwise. It’s all about balance. My daughter and her friend begged me to go boogie boarding with them on Wednesday. How could I resist these two?

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And yesterday my husband I celebrated our wedding anniversary with some bubbles and a picnic at the Rose Garden. It’s the little things. Seriously.

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Parting thought…as I sign off, I wanted to share something I saw the other day on the Women for Tri Facebook page. This just made me laugh. I think we can all apply this as we get pumped up for the day . 🙂

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Thanks to all of you, my adorable badass friends and family, for coming along on this Ironman journey with me. Your support is like the caffeine in my morning cup of joe. It doesn’t get any better.

xo Becky

As always, if you missed any of my previous posts, you can click on any of 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

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

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