A disclaimer, a recipe and a few random thoughts.

This is going to be a short one. I have A LOT of feelings about what is going on in the United States and the world right now, it is very scary and disheartening.  I usually lean away from discussing politics on the internets but I feel that since I’m writing more openly now, it’s important that I express my thoughts. I am working on a post that I will share with you next week. Then, I am going to take a break from writing while I’m on vacation through early September.

In the mean time… That meal plan I talked about earlier in the week, yeah, I never wrote it. My mind has been occupied with other things. Here is one recipe I tried that turned out great!

I started with this Paleo Veggie Mushroom Burger Recipe from Lexi’s Kitchen. I was all set to follow the recipe exactly until I pulled out my mushrooms and they were slimy.

Instead of mushrooms I cooked up some broccoli and cauliflower to replace the mushrooms. I nixed the red pepper flakes and added turmeric. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sweet potato helped bind the patties so they did not fall apart like a lot of veggie burgers do, and the flavor of the sweet potato and walnut really came through.

I ate the patties with spinach, sauerkraut, avocado and my fave toppings – Paleo mayo and Cholula. Super yum.

A few other quick things. 

I had a really good 7 mi pace run on Wednesday.

Jim saw a BLACK WIDOW in our back yard yesterday. Eeek.

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HOLY S#!+

Brand New released a new album, Science Fiction. Still emo. (Yes they are)

I watched What the Health, one of the newer food documentaries on Netflix, and though they make some valid points about the food industry it is pure propaganda. Get your information elsewhere.

Finally, have a great weekend! Do something to promote positivity, the world needs it right now.

 

*Almost* Falling on My Face

My mom and sister visited over the weekend and that’s a wrap for visitors this year. We had a great time visiting Garden of the Gods, doing Yoga on the Rocks and taking in some mountain air with an evening in Breckenridge. I love being able to share the mountains and sweet Colorado living with friends and family. It was especially fun for my little sis to spend time with the dogs who she affectionately refers to has her niece and nephew. The doggos will surely miss the attention!

Now that I’m back to “normal” life it means seriously buckling down on training and diet. When you have visitors almost every week it’s hard to find time to shop and cook and sleep and exercise can fall by the wayside. It can be frustrating and make you feel a little out of control.I haven’t missed a day of training but admittedly the quality of my workouts has taken a bit of a hit.

It’s a fact of life that sometimes you fall down. Literally and figuratively.

Apparently tripping and falling while running is a thing that happens to all of us runners, eventually. I’ve only had my first couple of experiences lately. Twice now I’ve almost completely bit it and of course had an audience for both occasions.

It goes something like this. My toe catches, I feel my other leg come forward as to continue the run but the caught foot is still extending back in the air, not reaching the ground to brace my stride, panic sets in, I notice the position of my hands, arms, face, which one would hit the ground first??

I know I’m not always going to be so lucky but in both instances, I grasp on to whatever balance I can find, airplane arms, my torso is horizontal to the ground while my legs feel like they’re spinning in circles to keep up with the trajectory of my body. After a couple of seconds of that, I am upright, breathing a huge sigh of relief and continue running. Nothing to see here, people.

The first time this happened I thought,”Sh!t, f*ck, omg, that was scary”, but also “This is why I do yoga!” Maybe run, trip, fall, and try to keep your balance should be a new yoga pose…

I desperately want to avoid a falling down & getting back up cliche here but it’s too perfect! You can hone your focus, strength and technique but there will always be things that are out of your control i.e. when running, gravity and inertia. Same with everything in life the only thing you can control about a situation is your reaction to it.

Since my diet has also been falling flat, I am mapping out a meal plan for the next two weeks to get my butt back on track. Stealing some ideas from the Paleo Leap 2 Week Plan and adding some other great recipes from my collection. I will share more on that later in the week.

My lunch today and one of my favorite summer go-to’s is a very simple salad:

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 5-6 strawberries sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • a drizzle of evoo

The cucumber strawberry combo is just perfect. Fresh with contrasting flavors, textures and colors.

I hope you kick Monday’s ass and as the little things inevitably come up throughout the week don’t let them get you down, remember how strong your foundation is. ☮

 

 

 

Running Routes in Europe

This summer has gone by so fast! That means that our big travel month is right around the corner. We’ve had Euro-trip flights booked for a while but really just got into the nitty gritty details over the last week. I seem to expend all of my Type A-ness on running and nutrition now and have been uncharacteristically lax when it comes to all other aspects of my life. This is probably not a bad thing.

Now that we’re making plans I.AM.STOKED. I got my new duffle, booked our housing, started making museum, food & cafe to do lists and, duh! began looking for running routes! There was a moment when I thought I’d just take a break from working out while on vaca but yinz know I won’t be able do that. My goal is to get in one good run in each city.

I found a great website and app called STRAVA which I’m going to mess around with. I’m not sure if it’s worth paying for Premium access but without signing in you can access some great local guides with maps, mileage and descriptions of running trails by city.

See LONDON

See PARIS

See AMSTERDAM 

I am seriously excited about London because we are staying right by Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens which has a perimeter of up to 4.3 miles – blimey! I can run that a few times with a giant smile on my face 🙂

Anyone out there in London, Paris or Amsterdam have running tips for me, or wanna schedule a meet up run!? Or want to loan me a washing machine, because I’m only planning on bringing one work-out outfit…

Climbing Gray’s Peak – First Fourteener!

I hiked my first fourteener this weekend and it was nothing short of awe-inspiring! From the early morning start, to the physical and mental challenges along the way, to the moment that you finally crest the summit; the whole experience conjures up a range of emotions that are eventually succeeded by the sense of accomplishment that takes over when you finish the hike.

So, what is a 14er and why are they so special? A 14er is any mountain with a peak elevation of at least 14,000 feet. Fourteeners are found in only four states in the US – Alaska, California, Washington and Colorado cashes in with the most at 53 (or 58 depending on what definition you use).

The tallest peak in Colorado is Mt. Elbert at 14,433′.  The tallest peak in the Contiguous US is Mt. Whitney in California at 14,494′. The tallest peak in the Continental US and in North America is Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska at 20,310′.

As altitude increases, the air gets thinner, pressure increases, and the amount of effective oxygen decreases. Between 5,000′-7,000′ is the altitude at which the average person may begin to experience mild altitude sickness including trouble breathing, nausea, headache, etc. Those already acclimated at Denver’s Mile High altitude of 5,280′ are not immune, but will feel the effects at closer to 10,000′.  When you climb a 14er the altitude can pose as many challenges as the fundamental difficulty of the terrain.

The best way to approach the challenges of climbing a 14er is to be prepared. Here are a few tips you’ll see everywhere, that I can also validate.

  1. Make sure that you’re in at least decent shape with no medical conditions that would be aggravated by strenuous activity.
  2. Pack lots of water. When you think you have enough water, pack more!
  3. Snacks are your friend! Granola bars, sandwiches, fruit, carrots. I actually used the Jelly Belly Sport Beans (that I have been hesitant to use when I’m running) and they were great.
  4. Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots that have tread and make sure they are broken in.
  5. Layer up. The temperature can change drastically and quickly.
  6. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.
  7. Check the weather. Late morning and afternoon storms are always possible in the mountains and they can be dangerous. We got lucky with a hazy but mostly cloudless sky.

After some debate on which mountain we were going to tackle, it was decided that we would do Gray’s Peak in Arapahoe National Forest. Gray’s Peak at 14,278′ is the 9th tallest peak in Colorado and is connected by a ridge to Torrey’s Peak, the 11th tallest at 14,275′. Thus by crossing the ridge you can summit two 14ers in one day.  They are Class 1 and Class 2 mountains respectively. I’ve seen discrepancies in the total out and back mileage ranging between 7-9 miles. We clocked in right around 9 miles round trip for Gray’s Peak and the folks who did the double play and hit Torrey’s were probably closer to 11 miles.

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When you have a group of friends together it can be tough say “We are not going to stay out and party on Friday night so that we can get up and hike on Saturday,” but when you live in Colorado you find yourself making that decision quite often. It’s always worth it.

The trails in Colorado are highly trafficked and the 14ers, despite their challenges, are no exception. Early arrival is a must.

With a 3am wake up call, Jim, me and 6 of our friends set into the mountains. Gray’s Peak is about an hour and half drive from Denver on I-70 West. You exit at #220 Bakersville, and you’re *almost* there.

Thankfully our friends did some research so we weren’t surprised when we encountered a 3 mile dirt road that, even on a good day, could give an AWD vehicle a run for its money. We also weren’t surprised to see that there were hundreds of other people there at 4:30am, all vying for parking at the end of that dirt road at the trailhead.

Note, there is a parking lot you can use if you don’t want to traverse the dirt road but it’s a special place reserved for those who opt to trade a few extra hours of sleep for another 6 miles tacked on to their hike.

Driving into the mountains when it’s dark outside gives off an eerie feeling. You know that you’re amidst something spectacular but you can only barely make out the rocks and ledges that you are narrowly driving between. The drive up the dirt road was turbulent, and all along we had our fingers crossed that we were still early enough to get parking space when we cleared it. We did!

It was just before dawn and the darkness was broken up only by the lamps bouncing around on hopeful hikers heads. A couple of our friends had head lamps. I did not. I thought about what it would be like if no one had lamps or cell phone flash lights and we let ourselves adjust naturally to the darkness a la the Pleiades installation at the Mattress Factory; but I was glad to have the light.

The trail starts across a foot bridge under which you can hear a stream lapping at the banks in the chill morning air. Some sparsely placed 2x4s create steps that assist with the adjustment to walking on a grade. It seemed like everyone started out at a quick pace, which slowed as all of the different groups started to disperse along the trail. After a few minutes (or longer) of pushing hard through the darkness, the sky lightened and we could see the magnificent wall of the Continental Divide to the left and vague outlines of the peaks and valleys that surrounded us. It felt like waking up from a deep sleep.

We stopped for a moment to catch our breath and to take in the surroundings. The sun peered up over the wall and yellow, red and purple wildflowers popped in the soft morning light. We were in a rolling meadow which was in stark contrast to the stately gray peaks that stood, what looked like, so far away.

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Before sunrise.

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After sunrise.

Onward we went. If you think about the distance left to traverse, you’re inevitably going to psych yourself out. You have to stay in the moment. Watching that each step is on a steady stone. Every turn in the trail opens up to more turns. After about an hour of hiking, the landscape changed from green to brown. The rolling meadow was starting to shrink in the rear view.

The sun moved across the sky but the chill never left the air. I layered and un-layered. My decision to bring a beanie proved to be a good move – having my head covered helped to regulate my body temperature. Also, never underestimate the power of a lightweight windbreaker. I’m a baby when it comes to being cold. The temperature in the low 40’s was really quite perfect.

Eventually we were at the foot of the mountain. The point where you look up and see nothing but rocks and switch backs. Little to no vegetation. Up and up.

This hike, as I imagine all 14er hikes are, was a mental game. The terrain was tough and there were very few spots where the grade leveled out to the point where you could relax. It was a grueling leg work out that was accompanied by shortness of breath.

After 4 hours of hiking, we made it to the top of Gray’s. Some of us had stopped a couple of yards from the top to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Together we scrambled the rest of the way to the summit. Being with loved ones made it even sweeter.

The view behind us was that which we had admired on the way up and a 360 view opened up exposing a mountains beyond mountains that stood lower than we stood at that moment. At the top I felt small yet larger than life at the same time. I’m not going to get all Thoreau on you, but being on the top of a mountain is one of the most incredible things you can experience, and when you work really hard to get there the payoff is even greater.

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Summit of Gray’s Peak, 14,278′

A few friends crossed the ridge and hit Torrey’s peak as well. I opted to start the descent from Gray’s. If you’ve ever hiked anything you know that coming down is no cake walk. It took almost as long to get back to the bottom as it took us to get up. We passed familiar sites and twists and turns that again seemed never ending.

All in all it took us 8 hours round trip. We left tired, hungry and satisfied.

As with most things of this nature, I’m hooked and pondering the next one. 🙂

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Resting on the way down.

I’ll Keep My Eyes Fixed on the Sun

I’ve been in little bit of a funk the last couple of days and I’m sitting here in my favorite coffee shop with a bit of writer’s block. I mean, I’m not required to write on this blog. Hell, I don’t even know who reads this blog. Writing in this blog makes me feel happy nonetheless, and it drives me to learn new things, which also makes me happy. That’s why I do it.

This morning got off to a rough start and Jim helped me get the peanut butter Kongs ready for the dogs before he left. I came out to see that Mr. Doc had eaten ALL of the peanut butter out of both Kongs while I was getting ready and he just sat there with his wide eyed little face looking at me like he did nothing wrong. At least Doc is having a good morning. We should take notes. Eat all of the peanut butter and you, too, will feel good.

If only it was that simple.

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These two make me smile every day.

The thing is, it is that simple. The hard thing is remembering that. Here are a few little reasons that I know that the day is going to be turned around.

As I mentioned, I’m sitting here in my favorite coffee shop, drinking my favorite iced coffee and working on something that I enjoy. I can actually feel my mood changing the further I make my way down the page.

SEPHORA on the 16th Street Mall opens today! I will be taking a long lunch break and spending time ogling my first true love, black eyeliner.

Also, the sun is shining! We’ve had a few days of haze and cooler weather here in Denver due to wildfires. Coming from a city with limited days of sunshine (I’m talking to you Pittsburgh) to a city with 300 days of sunshine, I can 100% tell you that the evidence and the folklore is true. Sunshine makes you happier.

To round it out, Cage the Elephant released a kick ass acoustic album that I have been rocking out to all week and will continue to rotate throughout the weekend. I have a mantra that comes from one of their songs and it’s fitting for a day like today. Take it for a spin with me…

I’ll keep my eyes fixed on the sun ☀️

 

 

Fasted Cardio, Yea or Nay?

I started off the day with Body Pump and I feel great. Monday is a “rest day” for me but I’m pretty into Body Pump (can you say addictive personality?) I need to make modifications to my training plan to try to get to BP at least once per a week – with Monday being the easiest day for me to make it.

We had a great weekend celebrating our wonderful friends Brett and Nina who eloped in March with a beautiful ceremony at Sunset Cliffs. Brad & Jess, and Pete & Karly are back visiting for a week. Jim, Brett, Brad and Pete are best friends and all of us ladies have become close as well. This is the first time we’ve been together since they got married so we thought, why not throw them post-wedding surprise bachelor/ette parties!

The ladies had a blast dancing to some old faves at Snap! 90’s Dance Party at the brothel themed Ophelia’s and then made our way to the, oh so famous, Charlie’s. As happens on most weekends, we were up way too late and indulged a little too much.

I had an 11 mile long run to do on Sunday. I don’t know how I do it but I usually get up early and power through my long runs no matter how sleep deprived I am.

Note again, I am not a model runner! I am a normal girl that sometimes likes to party and just so happen to like to work out more than I like to sleep. This is actually a horrible process to follow and I don’t recommend it.

Yesterday was no exception. I woke up and hit the road around 8:30am. I realized about half way through that I hadn’t eaten anything before I left the house. That got me thinking about fasted cardio as a concept. It also got me thinking about how awesome I would be if I was more strict with my indulgence and sleep schedule but that’s a story for another day.

I prefer to run in the morning. It’s very hard for me to get motivated to run later in the day but also I’ve always had a preference for running on an empty stomach. When I was running a few miles every few days this was no problem. Now that I’ve upped my mileage I do like to eat a Larabar or banana before I go out. My question is, what is the best way to do it? Trust me, I know that fasted – hungover – cardio is NOT the way to do it 😛

As with carbs vs. low carbs, fasted cardio is a debated topic in the fitness community. The idea is that if you run on an empty stomach your body will burn more fat. When done correctly this promotes body fat loss and especially for burning “stubborn fat” off of your body – abs, hips, etc. Sure, I want six pack abs but I also really want to run 26.2 miles in November so how does fasted cardio impact endurance training? Does fasted cardio help put you into a fat burning state a la ketosis and how do carbs come into play?

I don’t know the answers but it sounds like there is potential for fasted cardio to be beneficial for endurance training. Here are a few articles on the topic that I’m finding helpful and I’m on the search for some podcasts. Podcasts are the best because you can hear about other’s experiences. Does anyone reading this have experience or thoughts on the topic?

Comprehensive article – Why and How I Use Fasted Cardio to Lose Fat as Quickly as Possible from Muscle for Life

Long technical read – Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state from the Journal of Applied Physiology

A little more – What Is Fasted State Training: A Complete Guide from Beach Body

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And since I’m still channeling my inner 90’s here’s a song to put your Monday on a level.

 

 

Doc’s First Run

Milestone! I took both dogs for a run with me this morning and it wasn’t a complete comedy of errors. Today was a 3 mile day and I’ve been working out like crazy this week so I thought it was a good time to mess around and see how the dogs would do. I half expected to be turning around before I left my street.

Stella’s an old pro but lately she hasn’t been wanting to run with me. I started to suspect that she doesn’t like going because she doesn’t want to be separated from baby brother Doc – aw sweet puppy love ❤ Stella has some attachment issues, and I was missing my running partner so I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to bring the both of them.

Doc needs some work on the leash. His signature move is to run as fast as he can until he reaches the end of the leash and then he flops around by his neck trying to break free. When he realizes he’s stuck, he chills out for a minute. Repeat.

We did a lot of that ☝🏼 for the first few blocks but amazingly once we hit our stride, Doc did great (he gets a B-). At times I felt like I was mushing and being propelled forward by 100 lbs of Goldendoodle. Overall they were a good distraction from the Thursday short run that can be tedious at times.  They slept on the kitchen floor all morning and that too is a win when you have two giant fur balls.

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I’m feeling quite caffeinated today. Iced coffee protein smoothies are my new jam and I made one of those for breakfast. It’s really crazy that this isn’t more of a fad because iced coffee protein smoothies are amazing. Maybe I should make it a fad.

I use my Nutribullet and fill the cup a little over half with coffee, add some coconut or almond milk, chocolate protein powder and ice to make it really cold. Sometimes I add a banana or other fruit. The only downside(?) is that this drink is so good that I end up chugging coffee.

Another milestone today! I finally, albeit accidentally, took the PUP CD out of the disk changer in my car. Yes, I still use CDs. My iPod adapter broke. It’s been rough. I’ve had this PUP album in my player since June of 2014 when I bought it for $5 at our first show in Denver which was The Menzingers, PUP and Cayetena at the Marquis Theater. I instantly fell in love with PUP that night and 3 years later, it’s a love that’s still going strong. FullSizeRender 31

The reason I did this, though! I heard the new Mynabirds song Witch Wolf on the radio and it’s so good. I honestly kind of forgot about them as a band but they’re another one that I was drawn to immediately the first time I heard them. So I had to give the old CD a spin. I usually try to randomly eject a CD when I add a new one and this time the eject lottery went to PUP.

New music from The Mynabirds here:

Have a great end to your week!