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.

SilverQueenGondola

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

BeckyOliviaHikingAspenMt

OliviaHikingAspenMt

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

AspenMtNatureTrail

OliviaAspenMtNatureTrailTop

After our fun morning on the mountain, we Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Viewuptheslopes

SkiRun

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.

TopofAspenMt

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

Runcation: Day 6 and 7 Aspen, Colorado

Arriving in Aspen after six days of traveling through the blazing desert, and leaving our drought-stricken California behind, we were stunned by the dazzling green hues of the Colorado Rockies as they welcomed us back. Aspenites had suffered through an unusually long, soggy spring here, and now they were being rewarded for their patience. We were also the fortunate recipients of Mother Nature’s gifts, which made us giddy, as did the numerous friends we bumped into immediately after arriving. No matter how long we’ve been away, Aspen will always still feel like home to us.

DowntownAspen

After spending the following morning cruising around and visiting with friends, I was itching to get out and run. Okay, I was also turning into a grumpy mom (gasp!) because I hadn’t had much alone time, nor had I gotten any exercise yet.

It was 1:00 pm when I started, the heat of the day, but since it was only 84 degrees, compared to 109-118 where we’d been just days before, it felt lovely.

Every run I’d done in the past week had involved significant hills (you can read about my runs in Palm Springs, the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE if you missed it), I opted for a mostly flat 5 mile run along the Rio Grande Trail. This was one of my old favorites when we lived here and I wanted to journey along the Roaring Fork River once again. I left my peeps at Explore Booksellers, then I ran down to the post office, then hopped on to the Rio Grande Trail right behind it.

RioGrandeSign

RiverTrailView

Aspen is 7,890 ft. so my legs and lungs still felt the altitude as I cruised along the trail, but it was easy to forget about them as I looked out at this.  Continue reading

Runcation: Day 5 Arches National Park

After running in the Grand Canyon in the morning (you can read about it HERE if you missed it), my family and I loaded up our car and headed toward Arches National Park, seven hours away. Although it was an epic day of driving, I was still buzzing from running on Bright Angel Trail. Throw in the vastness of the West—especially the exquisite desert landscape of Monument Valley— this mamacita was feeling nothing but gratitude.

Photo of Monument Valley

Monument Valley

We arrived in Moab late in the evening, had a quick bite to eat and visited with friends who graciously hosted us in their bed & breakfast for the night. The 109 degree heat did little for our sleep, but we were still eager to spring out of bed the next morning to drive into Arches National Park, just five minutes away.

I had been to Arches before, but I was still wow’ed by the scale and beauty of this desert gem. Each of its spires, arches, pinnacles and fins looked as though a sculptor and painter had worked their magic, using chisels and the stunning palette only the desert can offer. In reality, these formations were created by millions of years of water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement.

Photo of Arches National Park

Photo of Arches National Park

We drove through much of the park, stopping often to take pictures. At one scenic pullout, I decided to stretch my legs and do a micro warm-up run while Jeffrey and Olivia took pictures. After sitting in the car for so many hours yesterday, my body was happy to move.

Becky Aaronson Running at Arches National Park

Doing a micro warm-up run while my husband and daughter  took pictures of the landscape.

My peeps then agreed to drop me off at the trailhead to Delicate Arch while they continued to scout around the park in the car. I told them I’d try to hurry since we hadn’t eaten breakfast and I knew they were starving.

The brochure describes the trail to Delicate Arch as “A difficult 3-mile trail with an elevation gain of 480 ft; no shade, open slickrock with some exposure to heights.” It also recommends you take at least one quart of water per person.

After seeing the parking lot swarming with tourists, I could see why they made this hike seem challenging. There were parents slathering up their young children (we’re talking 4 and 5 year olds), who had no idea what they were getting into; overweight German tourists wearing flip-flops and carrying no water; Japanese tourists covered from head to toe with protective sun gear—hats, long-sleeved jackets, leggings, face-masks, along with huge professional cameras; groups of Chinese tourists, elderly couples with walking sticks, young lovers on dates…

It was 90 degrees at 7:45, which made the run what you might imagine, a bit harder than normal, but still quite fun. I was completely amused by the sea of humanity making its way up the trail. I was in my own little Zen world, enjoying the challenge of scampering up the slickrock, zigzagging past everyone, chuckling at kids throwing tantrums like Veruca Salt, “There is no arch! You told me there was an arch just around the corner. There is no arch!” Parents trying to bribe their kids, “Ok, if you take 100 steps on your own, and count each one of them, I will carry you the rest of the way.”

Photo of Becky Aaronson running up to Delicate Arch

This photo cracks me up as it perfectly captures my experience. Love the flip-flops on the woman on the left!

I scampered up rocks and around scrub brush here and there, and enjoyed every moment.

ArchesTrailSign

When I got to the top, people were taking turns striking a pose under the arch. One woman couldn’t get enough of it and became an “Arch hog,” doing pose after pose while her boyfriend snapped pictures. You could feel the collective disdain after all these people had hoofed it up here in the heat. Me? I was just giddy and enjoying it all.

ArchesReachingDelicate

After one woman did her “downward dog” yoga pose under the arch, I asked her if she’d snap a picture of me striking a pose (what the hell, might as well join the absurdity).

Photo of Delicate Arch

My cheeseball Delicate Arch photo moment.

Becky Aaronson running at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Then I headed back down…

That is after I squeezed past the big group of Chinese tourists completely blocking the path around the corner.

Photos of Chinese tourists at Arches National Park

The beginning of the road block up ahead

Photo of Becky Aaronson running on the trail to Delicate Arch

This is my “running on the moon” picture. So.Much.Fun to run in the desert!

I may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I LOVED this little run and was happy I could squeeze it in before we headed to Aspen. It was like a sweet little exclamation point to my morning.

Stay tuned for my next Rocky Mountain High running adventure…this runcation only gets better!

Happy Trails!

xoBecky

Running While on Vacation: Day 3 and 4 Grand Canyon

After spending three days in Palm Springs (you can read about it HERE and HERE if you missed it), we loaded up our car and headed to the Grand Canyon, seven hours away. For about a half a nano-second I contemplated trying to squeeze in a quick run before getting into the car, but decided instead, to keep it simple and enjoy a day of rest. My body doesn’t usually hold up well running four days in a row anyway.

Heading from California to Arizona

Heading from California to Arizona

We arrived at the Grand Canyon late in the afternoon, and ventured to the rim right after checking into our hotel. This was my first trip to the Grand Canyon, and even though I’d seen a bazillion photographs of it over the years (my hubby is a professional photographer), I was completely unprepared for the sheer awesomeness of it. A lump immediately formed in my throat and my eyes brimmed with liquid happiness. “Wow,” is all I could mumble as I gazed out, stunned by the beauty before me.

Photo of the Grand Canyon

GrandCanyonVert

Needless to say, the park’s jaw-dropping beauty made my heart pound as I thought about the prospects of running here. It would have to wait until the next morning though, as picture taking and a late dinner with my family was on our agenda, not to mention a highly recommended prickly pear margarita!

The next morning as my husband, Jeffrey, and daughter, Olivia, headed to breakfast at El Tovar Lodge, I ventured to Bright Angel Trail. From the first step, I knew this run was going to be extraordinary (at least once I made it past all the mule poop).

Photo of running near El Tovar Lodge along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Running along the rim near El Tovar Lodge before heading to the Bright Angel Trailhead. Photo © Jeffrey Aaronson

Photo of mule poo along Bright Angel Trail

A trail of mule poo at the beginning of Bright Angel Trail

It was already blazing hot at 7:30 in the morning, but running downhill into the canyon was pure bliss. Step after step I kept thinking to myself, I can’t believe I get to be here and do this! I took it slow so I could enjoy every step and look up often to take it all in; the vastness, the stunning hues of the canyon walls, the “wonder” of this natural wonder. With every breath, I felt nothing but joy and gratitude about being able to experience this remarkable run.

Photo of Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon

The view near the top of Bright Angel Trail

Photo of Becky Aaronson running down Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon

Pure Bliss!

Photo of Bright Angel Trail

Looking into the Canyon

The view along Bright Angel Trail

The breathtaking view along the trail.

One of the funniest things that happened was Continue reading