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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl


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Fall camping in style

Fall is one of my favorite seasons in Colorado for a reason that I can sum up in two words – golden aspens. There is something magical about seeing my favorite mountains carpeted in yellow leaves. Although the Golden Leaf Half Marathon was not my most enjoyable race ever this year I still got to camp in the midst of the changing leaves in Aspen this past weekend, which was a huge win.

On Friday night Graham and I cruised up Castle Creek Road in the dark and found a campsite by oh 10 p.m. I wish I could say this wasn’t typical for us but we have definitely done some late night campsite picking in our day! Anyway, the Golden Leaf was on Saturday morning so we didn’t worry too much about finding more than just a flat place to throw our tent for one night. After the misery of the Golden Leaf was over on Saturday and I had sufficiently drowned my running woes in french fries Graham and I headed back up Castle Creek Road to find a campsite for the rest of the weekend.

photo-1Glamping.

We found an awesome campsite around 10,700 feet that was nestled in the woods off the road and right by a creek. Graham is well stocked with all camping supplies ever, so we had a pretty swanky camp with complete with a hammock, collapsable table, and a huge canopy that we affectionately nicknamed “The Pagoda”. Of course Cooper was a huge help gathering firewood while we were setting up camp.

photoOh hey Cooper. Thanks buddy!

We had a lazy Saturday afternoon setting up camp and cooking dinner. I was glad we were by a creek because that gave me a chance to clean up after running. Who needs a shower when you have cold mountain water and Camp Suds?

For dinner we made pasta with italian sausage and vodka sauce with additional fresh veggies. It was delicious! I definitely eat better while camping than in real life. I was exhausted (probably from waking up early and running a half marathon?), and we headed to bed around 9 p.m. Got to love going to bed at grandma time in the mountains!

It absolutely poured rain on the tent all night, and in the morning I was worried that we were going to have to take down all the camping gear in cold September rain. Luckily the rain cleared eventually and we were excited to find that what had been rain for us had materialized in the form of snow 800 feet above us. The mountains tops had a dusting of snow which looked beautiful against the backdrop of the half golden aspens.

noname-1Our campsite? Meh it was kind of pretty.

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Awesome shot by Graham.

noname-4Half golden, all beautiful.

noname-3Snow and aspens, does it get better?

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Reusing extra italian sausage from the night before (genius) we had scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, potatoes with green peppers and onions and sausage for breakfast.

aspen1Yum.

The clouds looked kind of questionable above the surrounding mountains so we worked on taking down camp following breakfast. We almost made it and got everything down but the Pagoda before the rain.

After packing up camp Graham and I were not quite ready to leave the area just yet. We headed further up the 4WD road, and the rain seemingly cleared. We parked the truck and decided to hoof it up the road. It was still cloudy but the clouds just made the surrounding mountains look mystical.

noname-6Hiking with my boys.

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Engulfed in the clouds.

noname-7We started feeling some raindrops and figured our luck was running out so we headed back to the car. It was kind of just in the nick of time as it started hailing on the drive down the road.

aspen2Hail while driving through this tunnel o’ aspens

Reluctantly we headed down Castle Creek Road back towards civilization, and a great weekend in the mountains came to an end. Hail, snow and rain, all in one day! That’s fall camping in Colorado for you – gorgeous scenery and unpredictable weather.

Speaking of snow you know what the very best part about golden aspen season is? Winter is just around the corner…!

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Race report: Golden Leaf Half Marathon

I don’t even want to write this race report, which is pretty indicative of how this race went for me. Sigh. This year was my third consecutive Golden Leaf Half Marathon, and it’s usually one of my favorite races of the year. It’s a gorgeous course and I love having an excuse to be in Aspen at the height of golden aspen season. The race also has consistently good technical tees, which is hard to find as a female. You know it’s the little things, like race swag, that really count.

Graham and I decided to camp in Aspen over the weekend for the race because camping is fun and free! I had hiked Castle Peak a few years ago and knew that there were awesome camping spots along Castle Creek Road. I had talked to my brother on the phone on the way up to the mountains, and he thought I was crazy for camping the night before a race. As it turned out the only real downside to camping before a race was the fact that our campsite was a good drive up a dirt road and it took about 40 minutes on race morning to get to the start of the race at Snowmass. I made it to packet pick-up with five minutes to spare!

imageA patch of golden aspens on the race course.  

I don’t like waiting around at the beginning of races for very long, and Graham and I got to the start with 20 minutes to spare, which was perfect in my book. I remembered from previous years that the start of the race was straight up a ski hill and incredibly brutal. I had hoped that maybe all my training for the Mt. Evans Ascent and the Pikes Peak Marathon would make the hill feel more manageable this year. No such luck. I died, per usual.

The first aid station was at the top of the hill, about 1 1/2 miles into the race. I grabbed a cup of water and then was hoping that I would recover on the next downhill portion.

image-1It was more like the “Green Leaf Half Marathon” this year. Oh well, the aspens were still beautiful.

I didn’t magically recover during the downhill portion like I hoped and instead I felt even more dead. My legs had nothing. I reached the mile 3 marker and I was pretty ready for the entire race to just be over. This was a problem because I still had 10 miles to go. Bummer.

image-2Blurry photo on the run! At least the trail is pretty.

GLpic1In the aspen grove.

The next 10 miles were not very fun for me. The trail was more technical than I had remembered, and as much as I tried to lift my eyes from the trail and just enjoy the scenery I had a hard time doing so. I shifted into survival mode and tried to keep moving. I started thinking about the Pikes Peak Marathon and doing the math about how long it had been since that race. I realized it had only been four weeks, and then I cut myself some slack. It was a little ambitious to run a trail half marathon just four weeks after the marathon and expect to feel good.

GLpic2Heading down into Aspen around mile 10/11. The end was near!

The last few miles of the Golden Leaf course are basically no fun, and wind through the outskirts of Aspen. Some wonderful people were handing out cans of PBR as the course crossed a bridge, and I grabbed one for the finish. Naturally.

Finally, I neared the finish line. My time was nowhere near what I had been hoping to get but I was glad to be done.

GLpic3

So happy to be crossing that finish. 2:36:08

I was sore and tired after the race but eventually managed to hobble with Graham and Cooper to go grab some food in downtown Aspen. Post-race burgers, french fries and beer make all races ever worth it.

Even though this year’s Golden Leaf was not a very fun race for me, I was proud to even finish a race so soon after running my first trail marathon. It made me a better runner, whether I liked it or not! (Spoiler: I definitely did not like it.) So okay I didn’t win the race or meet my time goal but I got to spend the rest of the weekend in a beautiful place with Graham and Cooper, two of my favorites. I can’t really be upset about that!