Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Medi-Dyne RangeRoller Review: Welcome to My Torture Chamber

It's no coincidence that there are so many running sayings that involve, well, pain. Running is tough and along with the benefits like health and fitness and fun comes fatigue and sometimes, pain. 

No pain no gain
Pain is only temporary
Pain is weakness leaving the body
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional
Fuck this pain where's my beer? 

Ok, I made up the last one, and you can add your favorite pain related running slogan in the comments section (seriously if you add one in the comments I will love you forever. All I want in life is to have regular commentary on my blog. And faster race times. And chocolate gelato from Italy. And a lot more, actually but comment anyway, yeah? Am I begging here?). What was I saying? Oh right, really, there's a way to decrease aches and pains in your muscles and speed recovery and it really it's amazing if you can just 

suffer through the torture

We runners are something aren't we? We relieve pain with torture. May I have a side of psychiatric care with that post long run serving of torture, please? You know what I'm talking about. All runners are familiar with the Implements of Torture. 

These my friends, are very very very awful and terrible things that make you feel very good after you suffer a bit

Ok, the one on the left is a yoga block that I sometimes use after the torture sessions but the others are: Orange Knobby Foam Roller of Death, White PVC Pipe Roller from Hell, Regular Foam Roller for Wimps and The Stick.

Are you saying I'm the only one who names my Implements of Torture? Maybe I do need psychiatric care. And by the way The Stick came with its name. 

For those of you who aren't runners but are somehow still reading (thank you Mom) and want to know, why do we use foam rollers and sticks? They help immensely to remove lactic acid and to loosen the fascia that surrounds muscles. Lactic Acid removal and mobility of the fascia is really important because of the blah di blah - just read here and know that if it wasn't really imperative to running health we wouldn't do it. It hurts that much. 

So if you're a runner or if you clicked on the above you will know/see that using a foam roller also takes acrobatics because you have to actually roll yourself from above, along the foam roller, supporting yourself with your weak ass runner arms while you're tired and really just wanting to drink a recovery beer. 

This is why I prefer a stick. With a stick you roll it over your muscles instead of having to um, ride it like the way you do a foam roller, and you choose the level of pressure versus the way your entire body weight crushes the living daylights out of your muscles on a foam roller. Awhile ago I switched to a stick and was using it quite happily (ok, totally ouchingly because it also hurts) when my friends at Medi-Dyne sent me RangeRoller

Behold RangeRoller! 

First of all, let's just say right now, RangeRoller has a way better name than The Stick. RangeRoller - you can say it outloud, say it now, shout it - it's cool! RANGEROLLER! RangeRoller is genius. It comes in 3 sizes so you can choose the best one for your needs. The smallest size is sleek and compact and yet has the same functionality of larger sticks. Mine is black, white and navy and they come in 12 colors. You can get a red one and name it Raging Red RangeRoller or something like that. Maybe you can think of a better name. 

RangeRoller versus The Stick. RangeRoller is way more compact and offers access to more points on your body.

After using RangeRoller after several runs with complete success and happy muscles, I handed my RangeRoller to my friend Matthew who has run a few races and I asked him what he thought. He didn't say anything at first, probably because I was talking non stop about how awesome RangeRoller is, but he immediately began to use RangeRoller on his quads and calves and after awhile I had to interrupt myself to interrupt him using it so I could get it back. "I need that RangeRoller for my review," I said and he replied, "Where do I get one of those?" I think it's safe to say his review is positive. I also asked my husband Jeff to review RangeRoller. He's a massage therapist and a yoga teacher. He took it, looked at it, shook it (if you're ever in need, it doubles as maracas), used it on his quad and shoulders and said, "Yeah, this is really good. I'm better, but I charge $115 for an hour massage." So I think it's safe to say that you will save a lot of money using Range Roller.  

Each of the 3 RangeRollers comes with a different level of flexibility depending on your needs. Besides the cool name and kick ass rainbow of color choices, RangeRoller is better than other sticks because it has deep and narrow rollers that alternate with flat wider rollers so you can be sure to hit every spot. Ouch! And yes, thank you may I have some more?!

RangeRoller is cool, it's compact, it has soul and it's affordable. It does the job like a champ.  What more do you want in a post run torture fest? It may just become your best friend. Buy one or all three in your favorite colors and you'll be really happy.  After you use it. Cause during it's kind of a hurts so good situation. But we're on the same page about that right? 

Thanks for letting me torture you with another blog entry.

Medi-Dyne makes a lot of amazing products and they're on twitter here.

I'm on twitter too, right here.

And if you want to supplement your Range Roller usage with an amazing massage, Jeff is at


Monday, April 11, 2016

Beat the Bride 10k

It was only a few hours before the Rehearsal Dinner and Pam was nervous. She had been getting ready for this day for months and now it was time to shine. No need to get nervous, she thought. It’s going to be just like I planned. The weather was right, the guests were gathering and it was going to all go off on time.

We were all toeing the line at the Beat the Bride 10k and Pam was doubling as Race Director and Bride to Be. And right now, she was ready to race. Sure, her wedding itself lay ahead a mere 24 hours from now, but first it was time to run.

Race Director and Bride-to-Be, Pammy P. 

Who plans a race as the kickoff to a Wedding Weekend that would include a gorgeous rehearsal dinner followed by an after party bonfire by the lake, (with a popcorn bar!), dozens of guests staying over in her family’s historic Inn that was the site of all of the events, culminating in an outdoor wedding with a reception that will forever remain one of the best parties ever in all the guests hearts?  

Our friends Pam and Gabe decided to plan the race to begin the weekend, to celebrate their shared love of running. They’re the quintessential work-hard-play-hard couple and they enjoy life at 110% in everything they do. It only made sense that we’d be racing a 10k and then racing to get ready for a cocktail party.

The Groom and me, at the race start.

First though Jeff and I were racing to the Inn. We thought we’d left DC in time but we knew it was going to be close. The drive took a few hours and there were just a few minutes to throw on running clothes and get to the race start. Jeff wasn’t running. He doesn’t run. “Hey, you know what would be funny?” he commented. “Huh?” I asked, half listening. I was trying to quickly change.  “If I put on running clothes and tell Gabe I have been training and that I’m going to kick his ass.” “Haha, Gabe IS competitive. He definitely wants to win this race. And he’s the groom – he kinda should, right?” I laughed. “Can I borrow some running shorts?” Jeff asked. “Huh?” Before I could even finish changing Jeff had put on a pair of my running shorts, paring it with some amazing purple wrist bands and, well, who knows why he had them with him, but he did and they worked. “I’ll just run the race too. I mean, otherwise I’m just going to have to sit around and wait for you guys.” This would go on to be a theme for him at future races, but right now I was slightly incredulous. “You’re going to run 6 miles? With us in the race right now?” “Yeah. Why not?” “Um, well, there are a lot of reasons why not, but let’s just go – we’re late.”  

We gathered at the start, Jeff told Gabe that his sure-thing win was in jeopardy, and off went the gun – we only had a 10k between us and the Rehearsal Dinner.

The race was flat and fast, slightly exposed in the spring sun and I ran with Jeff for awhile and then Gabe’s sister, talking about the weekend ahead and how much we love Gabe and Pam and wondering if Jeff was going to be able to dance at the wedding. The finish was down a gorgeous lane leading back to the Inn and we had just enough time to catch our breath before we saw Jeff running toward us, hair flying in the breeze.

Serious styling and running capabilities that he pulled out of...where? 

Jeff approaches the finish at Beat the Bride 10k

Pam and Gabe did win. It was their wedding after all. 

Bride and Groom 10k winners!

But we all received medals. And Jeff proceeded to wear his all weekend. 

Post Race, showing off our medals 

And later we danced and danced and celebrated the race and the wedding and life.  

Rehearsal Dinner. Still wearing the medal.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Credit Union Cherry Blossom 2016 Volunteer Report: Let Them Eat Cheese!

One of the best things about the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run organization is that they award every single volunteer with a guaranteed bib into the race the next year. No lottery stress!

Ok, let me stop you here. If you've even read this far, I apologize. I admit this isn't the most exciting beginning to a blog entry ever, is it? I mean, no lottery stress? Is that really a stress? (I mean, yes, it is a stress waiting to see if you've gotten into the race, but is it that big of a deal? Ok, maybe it is kind of a big deal because Cherry Blossom is such a great race, but you know what I'm saying, this isn't the stress level of a surgeon in the ER, or even an Air Traffic Controller we're talking about here.)

I've started to write this blog entry many times, and each time I'm left with the notion that I should just tell you to go read my friend Tai Fung's Cherry Blossom Volunteer report over here. He's funny and clever and tells the same story that I am about to tell, but with actual humor and important information.  Plus he has GIFs! I have no idea how to add a GIF and even if I did, how do you find the funny ones and then um, make funny commentary below them? So, just read Tai's blog and you'll have a guaranteed good time AND you'll find out all you need to know about volunteering at Cherry Blossom. 

(Are you still here? Thank you! I'll try to keep you awake, I promise!)

So, when I met some of the volunteers at the 2015 Cherry Blossom race, I vowed to sign up to volunteer in 2016.

Okay, maybe I can be funny. This is a funny GIF right? Am I funny? AM I FUNNY? *cries*  

Cherry Blossom let's you pick your volunteer assignment in great detail, from which day you would like to volunteer (FRI-SUN) and what job you would like to do (Security, Info Booth, Bag Check,  etc). Plus you get a fancy t-shirt AND they invite you to a special party! 

I decided to use a specific volunteer strategy: I would volunteer on Friday, giving myself all day Saturday to rest before racing on Sunday. And I would pick the Information Booth because...well...because it sounded like I could sit down and just talk to people. Sitting down would give me another few hours to rest up my legs before the race. Truthfully, not only did I really *not* need to rest my legs, as I hadn't even been training in the last several months, and I had barely been running at all since my injury, but also I didn't end up sitting down in the information booth anyway. Information is much better given out while standing up, turns out. 

I showed up at the Information Booth to begin my, um, Informationing Duties at 2PM on Friday. The expo hall was bustling with volunteers and CUCB (that's short for Credit Union Cherry Blossom) workers setting everything up. The official opening of the expo would not be until 3PM. I started talking to a woman who was also working the info booth and she casually asked me if I had "read all of the information they sent out so we would be ready in the booth..." WAT? Um. No? There was information? "I am here to like, give information but ahhh, I didn't know we had to um, read  information before we gave it out." I mumbled. She didn't seem to be bothered by this...lack of information from me and cheerily stated that I should not worry, that she volunteers at CUCB every year and she had refreshed herself by reading the information they sent to us, and she felt confident that she knew all the information we would need to give out. PHEW. There were several chairs behind the information booth desk and she took one. I stood by the side of the booth, slightly nervous about my, lack of information. 

I was busy going over and over in my mind what questions people could possibly ask and figuring I could wing it, after all, I was a veteran of this race, having completed it as my first Ten Miler (which wasn't actually 10 miles) in 2015, when my friend Tai Fung showed up. We had laughed a few days before when we figured out that we'd both picked the Information Booth for volunteering (great minds think alike) and I quickly asked him, "Did you read all the Information that they sent to us that we were supposed to read so we are like, prepared to answer questions?" And he looked at me and said, "No?????" And I suggested that he join me on the side of the table where we would be less likely to have to give out Actual Information. 

But when the expo opened we actually did give out a lot of information. Turns out I did know most of the answers to questions people asked, from having raced CUCB before, and I really enjoyed talking to all the racers who were coming through the expo. Mostly the questions were about where to pick up bibs (up there), where to donate shoes (over there), what metro stop was closest to the race (ask him), where should spectators go for the best viewpoints (this was my favorite question and I really liked talking to the runners about who was coming to see them and where their family and friends should go), what was the course like (also another favorite - gah, ask a runner to talk courses about a race they've completed and we can tell you mile by mile and then we'll tell you how we felt and all about that tiny little hill and then when we nearly stumbled and then where we picked it up and well, you get it, I had plenty of Informationing to do!).

Volunteering at a race (or before a race in this case) is such a rewarding experience, not just with guaranteed bibs or t-shirts or parties but being able to experience racing from the other side is so important. Talking to racers, helping out, and yes, giving actual information to them, all of that makes the race happen. And when I race I feel like I have a better handle on what the volunteers have given: their time, energy and a lot of love. I cannot recommend it enough for every runner - get out there and volunteer - do it for a race you may or may not be running - any race, just be a part of it from the other side. You deserve to understand. Plus, free stuff, come on? You guys, seriously, do it!

So, just as we were getting rolling in the booth, Meb began his first presentation. The energy was huge! People LOVE Meb! Everyone loves Meb! I am a HUGE Meb fan. I love Meb! I was screaming in my cube at work with my headphones on when he was winning Boston. And now, at the Expo, I was SO excited he was there, in the flesh, just in front of me!

This is Meb running away when he found out I was in the Expo as well. Someone heard him shouting, "Get that crazy girl away from me!"

Hey - by the way, I think you see I figured out how to add GIFs to my blog after all? Tai Fung, if you're reading this, I'm going to get better at this and then you and your perfectly hilarious blog had better watch out! There's a New World Order coming to Blog Land!

Ahem, so where was I?

"Go get your photo taken with Meb," our Volunteer Boss Denise urged us. I was super casual. "Uh, you know, I'm moving to San Diego soon and I'm sure I'll see him all the time there, so I don't really need to have my photo taken with him."  The truth is that even though I'm only 5'4 on a good day, I knew I would look gargantuan next to Meb. There was no WAY I was going to be photographed next to him! I paid homage from a safe distance. I'm quite sure Meb was fine with this.

Soon a woman approached the booth. I looked at her quizzically. "I think I know you from somewhere? You look so familiar. Do we know each other?" I asked. "I'm KimRunsMiles&Smiles from Twitter she said." "YES! So nice to meet you in person! I'm CCRuns!" "I know," she said. And we laughed. Twitter handles are one thing on twitter, but when you say them out loud when meeting a person In Real Life, you have to just laugh. Kim, like Tai Fung, is a CUCB Social Ambassador, which basically means they are VIP and Super Hot Stuff.

Cherry Blossom Social Ambassadors doing their Ambassadoring at the Expo

Next my other friend Kim stopped by. She's in my running group My Running Girlfriends and she and I raced the Tri-4-Love Triathlon together.  I was so excited to see her again! The Information Booth was the place to be! She and I talked race strategy (she was going to kick some major ass and I was going to try to not die) and a few minutes later I saw another familiar face. Except like with KimRunsMiles&Smiles, I couldn't quite figure out where I knew him from. I tilted my head to the side what? What does tilting your head to the side actually do? But I tilted my head and looked at him again and realized he was *also* a runner from the world of Twitter. Mr. MidPackBiped had arrived at the Info Booth to say hello!  

The guy in the yellow ran to the Expo. The girl in the middle ran to the corner to catch an Uber to the Expo. 

And by the way, he ran to the Expo and he was planning on running back to his office afterward! What seemed like only moments later, we were being released from our Informationing Duties. It was nearly 6PM and a fresh group of volunteers had arrived (great news for the later arriving runners, this group seemed quite prepared to give out accurate information) so our little gang hit the mean streets of DC for a quick break before we had to be back at the expo for the volunteer party. We somehow talked MidPack into joining us for a beer (I'm in Olympic Level Beer Drinking shape right now and I intended to show these guys that training pays off!) and I know you know this, but beer and running go so well together that before we knew it we had all been talking races and beer and running and recovery and the time flew by and we were suddenly late for the party!

And what a party it was! As if a guaranteed race bib for 2017, a fancy shirt and the general fun of being at the Expo wasn't enough, CUCB hosts a Volunteer Party the Friday night before the race. AND THERE WAS A MAC-N-CHEESE BAR! I mean, what? It was fabulous. There was a crudité platter as well and it was also fabulous but let's just revisit: what is more brilliant than inviting runners to a mac-n-cheese party? These people know how to do it up right. There was also a live band, wine and prizes and a ton of general merriment.

Now, with our bellies filled with a little beer, a lot of mac-n-cheese, and our hearts filled with the satisfaction of volunteering, all we had left to do was get some rest and prepare to race on Sunday. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Running the Stairs in San Francisco: The Greenwich & Filbert Steps

My boss and I have the same conversation nearly every time we travel together:

Boss: Let’s go to the gym and then have coffee.

Me: While you go to the gym, I’m going to go running.

Boss: Oh! You’re going running? How far? I’ll go with you!

Me: Well…I’m not sure how far and besides, you’re faster than I am so running together is really not a great idea.

Boss: SURE IT IS! Plus, you’re faster than I am!

Me: No.

Boss: Yes.

Me: Ok.

And so we go running together. And he’s always faster than I am. But he banana peels back and forth and we always have a great time. 

We’ve run to and around Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Chicago Marathon was 2 weeks before we ran to Soldier Field

We’ve run along the Persian Gulf in Abu Dhabi at sunrise.  

Early morning run in Abu Dhabi to avoid the heat.  

By far the most exotic and strange running map I've made yet. 

And through the surreal Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.

As if the real tropical plants aren't pretty enough, they add Dr. Seuss-esque fake trees & plants to the gardens in Singapore.  

So, when we were in San Francisco recently and he said let’s go to the gym and then get coffee and I said I was going running and he asked me how far and I said I didn’t know and he said he would go with me and I said that wasn’t a good idea because he's faster than I am and he said I was wrong that it was a great idea, we decided to go running together.

"How about something flat?" I suggested. "A couple of miles down to the bay and along The Embarcadero and then we’ll turn back?" 

So we ran down to the water.  

We took a left along The Embarcadero, enjoying the views of the bridges, Alcatraz and Angel Island and the piers and general hustle that seems to be always happening along the bay. Above us to the left, in the distance, stood Coit Tower.

When it was time to turn around, my boss suggested we take a left and head back through the city.

"Ummm, that is going to be really hilly, I said. If we go back the way we came it’s flat. We should probably go back the way we came."

"Yeah, but if we head through the city, it’ll be a new and different way, and that’s always better," he replied. 

I really wanted to run back on the flat Embarcadero. I wanted to make sure we had enough time to get ready for the insane number of meetings we had scheduled that day. I wasn’t really interested in an adventure. I hadn’t even had coffee.

"True," I said. "Let’s go for it."

So we headed to the left again and in a moment I saw it. The sign.

It said: Steps to Coit Tower.

My boss didn’t notice it.

"It’s the steps to Coit Tower! This is amazing! I’ve always wanted to run these steps! They’re famous! They are the Greenwich Steps! They’re gorgeous! Well, they might be the Filbert Steps. But either way! There are WILD PARROTS that live up there!" I shouted, pointing up the steps, that seemed to go on, and on, and on and on. 

"You want to go up those steps?" He asked, looking at me like I was insane. 

"YES don’t you???? Let’s run the Greenwich Steps! Or the Filbert Steps? Whichever these are! They are both famous and awesome and this is going to be amazing!! Don’t you want to?" I was so excited. 

"Um. No? Not really." he stated. 

"OK, but can we please do it anyway?" I'd completely forgotten about my desire to get back to the hotel for a hot cup of coffee and a shower and even about our many looming meetings.

And so, I started up the steps, my approach similar to running stadium stairs. Except stadium stairs are short, and the angle is relatively forgiving. These steps were something else. It was like scaling the Cliffs of Insanity. Which I guess, kind of made sense given the way my boss had looked at me when I professed so excitedly my immense desire to climb these steps. Meantime, he stood below, looking up at me, likely wondering how he ended up with a lunatic assistant.

I was anaerobic and nearly hyperventilating in no time. I quickly changed my plan and decided I would run each section with a short breather on the landings. This also gave me time to look around in amazement at the gardens, the tiny hidden houses, the brick sidewalks heading off in either direction along the sides of the steps. And I would turn and look out and down to the bay, which was glistening with early morning sunshine. 

I hadn't made it very far up when my boss passed me. Walking. He was calmly walking up the steps and he passed right by. He said something like, "Really? Maybe you should walk?" And he disappeared ahead of me up the stairs. 

I ran and rested and ran and rested and felt like I was living in an Armistead Maupin story. Besides not being able to breathe at all, I felt a tremendous sense of joy. Sunrise on the Greenwich Steps! Inside a secret garden built into the side of a cliff in the middle of a gigantic city! Or was I climbing the Filbert Steps? Whichever they were, I was in a dream land. 

At the top I reached Coit Tower and around it, more amazing views. 

 Coit Tower is the payoff at the top of the steps, on Telegraph Hill

My boss was calmly waiting for me, laughing internally I’m sure. But I was so happy! I had run up more than 400 steps! I was going to have to work up to running the whole thing without stopping, but what an adventure!

the views from the top of the steps are so beautiful

We looked around and spotted another set of steps that led to North Beach where we could cross over to China Town and on to our hotel. It was time to head down for coffee. 

The next day I figured out that we had climbed the Greenwich Steps. And as soon as I had a break, I headed out to find and run the Filbert Steps, huffing my way back up to Coit Tower through another magical garden with just as much joy. And I did ask my boss if he wanted to run them with me, but he said he'd go to the gym and we could meet for coffee after.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Colorado Mountain Running Camp: How to Create a Running Camp

We were reminiscing about Matthew’s amazing experience at Geoff Roes’ Alaska MountainUltra Running Camp. It’s 5 days of running in the mountains above Juneau with evenings spent in cabins with hearty meals and lots and lots of fun. In Matthew’s opinion, as well as many others, Geoff has developed a camp that’s near to perfect: insane setting, epic running, comfortable accommodations, delicious food and drink, and camaraderie with runners of every (fit) level. And Geoff has kept it affordable.

We started thinking, instead of trying to find a new camp to attend the coming summer, what if we tried to make our own camp? And if we did it, where could we run that would be breathtakingly amazing? So, with Geoff’s camp model in mind, and with the key word being breathtaking, we began to plan Colorado Mountain Running Camp. 

We would run a different route every day. And we would make amazing meals at night and drink great beer. We picked Rocky Mountain National Park as our base and began to research camps and trails.

You enter the south end of Rocky Mountain National Park by way of Granby, Colorado, home to Lake Granby and Grand Lake. We chose to base our camp in the more laid back Grandby over the bustling Estes Park, which sits at the north end of RMNP. 

So, our base camp turned out to be a base glamp. The large condo had a balcony with an amazing view, fireplace, a pool and a hot tub, foozball, the very very beneficial washer and dryer, and complimentary coffee each morning. My parents-in-law would serve as our Camp Counselors, helping out with meals and shuttling us back and forth and generally providing support. Jeff, Matthew and I would run and hike our hearts out. And we'd also invite a very special friend who happens to be Matthew's coach. He is an insanely accomplished ultra runner and triathlete. With luck, we'd survive running in the Rockies so we could end the week with a celebratory visit with Tim.   

It was time to plan out the runs. We had a variety of running experience amongst our campers:

Matthew: Has run the Boulder100, The Bull Run 50 Miler, Stump Jump 50k, The North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon two times, and he has run most of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia as well. And as I mentioned, he’s run with Geoff Roes in the mountains above Juneau in the summer snow.

Jeff: Does not run much but he hiked 800 kilometers from the French border in the Pyrenees across Spain. Twice. He also race walked the San Diego RNR Marathon and has run a few trail races. He has traversed most of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

And then there’s me. I have 2 Marathons, 5 Half Marathons, Stump Jump 11, tons of running time on the Appalachian Trail, and countless runs up and down Old Rag under my belt. I’ve hiked across Spain as well. I’ve run and hiked 80 miles of the C&O Canal. 

So, while we were all comfortable on trails, we were all severely lacking in high altitude running experience. Or even altitude hiking experience. We had all skied Colorado, and we had all run and hiked in Colorado before, but could we handle a full week at altitude? How high could we go? Could our legs and lungs handle it? Would we be able to keep going day after day?  

We had no idea if we had the skills, but we had the desire, so we set out the goals for Colorado Running Camp: have fun, run to amazing vistas, conquer big mountains, do not get injured, come home with the desire to return. And with all this in mind, we set a run itinerary that none of us were quite sure we could achieve:

Saturday: Fly into Denver, p/u SUV, drive to Granby
Saturday Sunset Run: Doe Creek Trail 8,200-9,000 ft.
Sunday: Ute Trail 10,759-11,796 ft. 9 miles 
Monday: Mt. Flora 11,307-13,132 ft. 6.5 miles
Tuesday: Lone Pine Lake 8,391-9,885 ft. 11 miles
Wednesday: Devil’s Thumb 11,671-12,000 ft. 8 miles
Thursday: Watanga Lake 8,475-10,771 ft. 9 miles
Friday: Arrival of Extra Special Celebrity Runner 
Saturday: Drive Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park 
Sunday: Fly home from Denver

Day 1 - Doe Creek:

After getting settled at Base Camp, Matthew and I headed out for a warm up run at sunset on the Doe Creek Trail. Access is from Lake Granby and the loop trail is classified as a "good intermediate workout." We started at 8,200 feet and climbed up to 9,000 feet, mostly running through gorgeous meadows and quiet woods. Though it's a loop trail, we were fighting darkness so we made it a 1.5 hour out and back, each at our own pace. Our first breathless run was in the books. Here's what I noted that day:

Doe Creek Sunset Run: 
The terrain is forgiving but the 
altitude is a bit of a challenge. 
And by a bit, I mean a bitch. Such a blast! 

Doe Creek Trail at Sunset

Day 2 - Ute Trail - Milner Pass to Alpine Visitors Center:

Day two took us up into Rocky Mountain National Park. Jeff, Matthew and I left a car at Milner Pass ready to tackle some altitude. 

We headed up the trail up to Alpine Visitors Center, the highest elevated Visitors Center in the US National Park Service, located at Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet. 

We each kept our own pace, with Matthew doubling back to run down and up again with Jeff and me. 

The trail headed up up up through the woods and eventually became more and more exposed. 

At Alpine we had amazing views of gorgeous snow fields, Longs Peak, and gigantic sandwiches.  

gigantic sandwiches

Before we headed back down to Milner Pass, we climbed up above the Visitors Center to 12,005 feet, making it up to the highest elevation ever achieved in all of our lives. 

The run down was genius, with each step taking us lower and lower  with more and more air available to our screaming lungs.  

Day Two at Colorado Running Camp was in the books. 

Day Three - Mt. Flora

We had all survived 12,000 feet but how would we fare up above 13,000 feet? None of us were sure, and we were all a bit weary when we headed up from Berthoud Pass at 11,307 feet to make a summit attempt on Mt. Flora. The entire route is exposed. Views are of the Continental Divide Trail and mountains that stretch to the horizon. We had checked the weather carefully as lightning strikes are common up there and there was little chance of a storm but we hustled the best we could just to be sure. 

Jeff making his way to the summit
 Matthew on his way to the summit. 

It's just over 3 miles to the summit. Near the top, the climb winds through a boulder field and then up and around big boulders, finally ending with a spectacular 360 degree view. We had reached 13,132 feet - again achieving the highest place we'd ever been on earth. 

 Summit achieved! Matthew on Mt. Flora

Jeff summits with a dance on Mt. Flora

Coming down was once again a joy. Taking care to keep our footing, we still were able to crush the 3+ miles back to the trail head. 

Matthew running down off of the summit of Mt. Flora

Running back down from Mt. Flora - air is SO GOOD!

Day Four: Lone Pine Lake 

We were starting to get a little tired, and though we now had fantasies of tagging a Fourteener we were thrilled that the schedule called for a more comfortable run to Lone Pine Lake. 

Here's what I wrote that day:

We started at the now comfortable 8,500 feet today and climbed up to Lone Pine Lake at 10,000. It was much more forgiving from a breathing standpoint, but we still climbed and climbed all the way from Grand Lake to Lone Pine Lake and as usual my heart was pounding. 10.6 miles with quite a bit of run ability. The trail felt like home (rocky) but with different trees and very strange wild animal scat (eeks!) And it poured on us for awhile too. Epic adventure. Can we go to the Hot Springs tomorrow??

Jeff had stayed back at Base Camp, so Matthew and I set off, as usual at our own paces, planning to meet up at the lake. It was a gorgeous route, with gentle terrain, a waterfall and a climb that felt similar to our home routes in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It was a perfect run for our tired legs and lungs and even the late afternoon rain felt great. 

On the trail to Lone Pine Lake

 Matthew on the trail to Lone Pine Lake, with our start/end point, Grand Lake, in the distance

We met at Lone Pine Lake for a brief rest before heading back down to Grand Lake, another amazing day behind us. 

Quick break at Lone Pine Lake

 Matthew makes it to Lone Pine Lake

Day Five: Devil's Thumb

I wrote this about the Devil's Thumb: 

Today we ran the never ending trail to the Devil's Thumb. High point was just under 12,000 feet. Climbed up from 9,600 feet on noodle legs for my favorite run so far. 8 miles.

The route to Devil's Thumb is gorgeous. The pay off is unbelievable. It just feels like forever getting there because you start in a meadow with the Thumb far, far away.  

Then you run through the woods for a couple of miles and then pop out into an exposed valley that is summited via switch backs. Next you climb straight up for a half mile or so to the Thumb. 

And you can see the thumb for so long but you have to keep running, up, up, up to get there. It feels like you'll never arrive. 

When I reached the top, Matthew was lying in the sun, with piles of snow here and there, the Devil's Thumb looming above him. Jeff joined us in moments and we all collapsed on top the mountain, looking down both sides, amazed that we were so fortunate to make it up this high and to see such beauty again today.

Day Six: Watanga Lake

Today we climbed 4,800 feet up from Grand Lake to the gorgeous Watanga Lake which sits at 10,900 feet. Nine miles of complete insanity. My legs are absolutely trashed. Such a great adventure. 

God we were tired. I'm not sure any of us *really* wanted to head out on this run, but it was our last running day at Camp and no one was going to speak up to suggest a rest day. We briefly considered something a bit more forgiving, and then decided to go for it. The route was described as one mile straight up, followed by 3.5 miles of easier climbing up to the lake. Sure enough the trail immediately climbed so steeply that I had to hold on to keep myself from sliding back down the trail at times. I kept looking at my Garmin, hoping I would make it to that one mile mark and get some relief. 

My super powers are making the 1st 8/10 mile climb feel like 8-10 miles & the ability to ultra-flare my nostrils.

But when we made it to the top, Watanga Lake appeared out of nowhere, a secret oasis high up in the Rockies.

With Watanga Lake behind us, we ran down the mountain and headed back to camp, six days of adventure in our hearts and we were feeling every mile. The next day our extra special guest, Matthew's coach, and our friend, Tim arrived with his wonderful wife Joanna and their boys. They are the kind of friends where even if you haven't seen them in a couple of years, you hug and start right back up where you left off. We went swimming and made a gigantic dinner and we talked running and cycling and training and family and heard and told stories and laughed into the night. No trip to Colorado would be complete without spending time with Tim and his family and it was the perfect way to top off six days of adventure. 

The next day we said goodbye to Tim, and gave my in-laws a HUGE thank you for taking such good care of us as we traipsed around the Rockies for a week, and we headed once again into RMNP, along Trail Ridge Road, but this time by car. We made our way slowly to Estes Park, enjoying the views while sitting down for the first time in a week. Luck was in our favor when we got a notification from Facebook that we had a friend who was nearby. Turns out, two of our friends from Virginia, Gomer and Jiamie Pyles, were in Estes Park at that very moment, celebrating a reunion with a group of their friends who had walked across America in 1980, when Jiamie was just a year old. Her dad Gomer wheeled her in a wheelbarrow across the country. The extra bonus was that it was also Jiamie's birthday. 

An unexpected birthday celebration with Jiamie in Estes Park. 

It was a perfect ending to a perfect week. Colorado Mountain Running Camp met all of our expectations and then some and our bodies held up just fine, especially our hearts that may have been tested a bit up at altitude but are now forever filled with gratitude for big mountains and amazing friends. 

If you want any more advice on doing a DIY running camp, I'm on twitter. And if you want to see any more of my Colorado pictures, I'm on Instagram