Vacation Thursday - Drive from Cortez to Estes Park

I woke up Thursday morning and went for a run since I was convinced I'd be sitting still the rest of the day.  I'd planned a 3.1 miler but at the turn around point, I found a path along the river so I extended the run to about 5 miles.  Nice. 

The rest of the day was driving for Qat Lady who felt better about the mountains in some places and worse about them in others.  I highly recommend the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and would've done much better driving on it than the scenic drive I wound up with the next day.  The hairpin turns nearly did Qat Lady in (I don't understand because I drive a stick shift so I was completely unhelpful) but we made it to Rocky Mountains in one piece and ended the day with our feet up enjoying the view.


Vacation Wednesday - Black Canyon and a fear of heights

Fear of heights seems to be a hereditary thing in my family, much like the distaste of tomatoes.  I don't have it quite as bad as my dad or some of my aunties.  At least it's fair to say I don't have it that bad yet.  I think Dad was still pretty traumatized by the drive out of Mesa Verde and was just done driving so when we got to the canyon, I took over.  I'm still not clear on why someone with a fear of heights wanted to visit cliff dwellings or a canyon but I'm sure there were reasons.  My mother on the other hand, is completely fearless at all heights and altitudes.  It's pretty special.

We took the "rim drive" which is really not too close to the rim.  At the top we had lunch.  Then we found a nature trail, also not too entirely close to the rim but with some astounding views.  Dad didn't want to come along so he sat and worked on a painting while Mom, Marge, the Qat Lady and I took our hike.

Mom and I also spent some time looking at the Scenic Lookouts.  Dad stayed in the car.  Black Canyon was ultimately a pretty cool trip and I really liked it.  It was nice to spend some time with Mom.  Another nice moment was with Dad and went like this:
Me: Do you want me to drive your car?
Him: Yes.
Me: You can ride in my car or with Qat Lady and Marge.
Him: I want to ride with you.

Super nice because Dad is a fairly fussy passenger, although much less kinetic than Qat Lady.

We went to a place called the Camp Robber for dinner. After which, we stopped at Target and then a liquor store so we could finally enjoy the local brews in Colorado.  Win for us.

Vacation Tuesday - Cortez and Four Corners

This turned out to be the biggest surprise of the trip.  This day was really shaping up to be not so nice but had surprise after surprise.  The night before it was determined that no one would be returning to Mesa Verde.  The 16 mile road with hair pin turns, steep drop offs and no guard rail were appealing to exactly no one.  The night before Mom and I cobbled together a few plans for some more local walks around Cortez and Marge wanted a trip to four corners.  It wasn't looking promising, more like just a day to kill.

I woke up and headed out for my first true run at altitude.  I had a plan to run around a lake but when  got there the road was closed.  Instead I used it as a scouting trip to find the city trail we were meant to walk later on.  It's a good thing I looked for that stupid trail head becuase it took me more than one try to find it.  It turned out to be a good run.  I threw in a few walk breaks, just because I am opposed to having a heart attack but it gave me some confidence and burned off a lot of energy.

This rout and profile aren't that impressive.  I just think it's cool to have an elevation profile that says 6200 feet. 

This is the more impressive photo from the run.  The views were gorgeous.

After breakfast we headed out to a paved walking path maintained by the City of Cortez.  (Thank goodness I'd found it.)  At first, Qat Lady was saying she wouldn't explore in case she was tired from yesterday but eventually we explored the dirt paths and the side trails and had a really nice morning.
The second path we planned to walk was also under construction (like the lake I tried) so we headed over to the Anasazi Cultural Heritage Center.  AAA does not have this place rated as a gem but they totally should.  Just saying.  I basically can never enjoy any museums since spending countless years working in them so Mom and I took the 'half mile' walk up to the summit to look at the ruins and the scenery.

We also had a request to visit Four Corners which I described as "a cross on the ground in the middle of a desert".  That's really all it is but the drive out is pretty fantastic.  Turns out, true deserts are alive and scenic.  Four Corners is a totally cheesy place, but worth visiting if you're only 30 miles away.  It's great for a photo op and added several states to my "been there" tally.

 Marge didn't want to touch the ground so she hovered.  In her defense, the ground was really hot. 

The flags are of the US, the four states and also more than one tribe from the area.  I'm not clear but it sounded like four corners is at least partially on Navajo and Ute tribal land.

This is the only family photo from the entire trip.  After Mesa Verde, Dad was just totally over heights so he didn't do too much else with the rest of us.

 Taking a picture in the desert.  It's so big

We had Italian for dinner at a fantastic restaurant and another gem of Cortez. Then we made our plans for the next day.

Vacation Monday - Sand Dunes

This was my favorite day of the vacation.  I loved the Sand Dunes.  We were disappointed the day before by lightning and didn't really get a chance to get on the dunes then.  I magically convinced the Qat Lady that it would be a good idea to stay in Alamosa for the morning and go back to the park.  Mule deer welcomed us back.

We got after the climb right away.  Where the dunes had been rained on, footing was pretty good.  Where they were drying out, footing got harder.  The climb was definitely challenging but also felt like the biggest accomplishment of the trip.
 Playing around on the dunes, taking a break.

 That colorful dot?  That's the Qat Lady.  Those dunes are tall and they are for real.
Qat Lady and I collected ourselves at the top of the dunes and had another hiker take our picture.  It would not be an understatement to say we ran down the dunes.  Because doesn't it look like it would be fun?  However fun it looks like it would be, it was more fun.  As we were heading down, the dunes were getting more and more crowded.
No collecting!  Give the sand back to the dunes before you go.

We headed back to the hotel and got cleaned up (literally) and then drove to Cortez.  We were planning on meeting my parents at Mesa Verde but got a call that went something like "don't come into the park, the road is horrible".  I didn't understand because it was Qat Lady who talked to my Dad, but we agreed to meet the team at the hotel instead.  On the way Qat Lady learned to drive in the mountains.  We stopped for a fantastic chocolate shake and met some Texans who told us where we could stop on the continental divide and get our picture taken.  Then we stopped at a scenic overlook to take a picture of the valley from above.

Cortez looked slightly less promising.  We ate at a weird restaurant for dinner.  I think ultimately I had a steak and beer and wound up enjoying myself.  I explained hockey and football jerseys to Mom.  Then we headed to bed.

Best.  Day.  Ever.     


Vacation Sunday - Sand Dunes

Sunday morning I woke up in Denver and headed out for a run.  I'd been warned repeatedly that there's little to no oxygen in Colorado and that I should only run "a mile or two" and it would feel like I'd never run before in my life.  To prevent the feeling of death, I did a run-walk program of 90 second running, 30 seconds walking for 20 minutes in a park near the hotel.  Happily, I lived. 

We packed out of Denver on our way to Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We stopped somewhere along the way (I could look at a map and tell you...) and it was an hysterically funny place.  We ate at "All Gon" Pizza and shopped for what I'll loosely call antiques.  The drive was gorgeous.  We passed over a mountain range and stopped in the San Juan Valley.

Great Sand Dunes were fun until it started raining.  We went on a ranger lead hike (Thanks Ranger Sara) and then got out on the base of the dunes.  Lightning scared us back inside the building and ultimately back to town for dinner.


Vacation - Days 1 and 2: Driving

Two Fridays ago (can't believe it's been that long) I headed out for a morning run, did my once a month "Liz works on Friday afternoons" thing, and then headed out for vacation.  Friday was also exciting because I got to try out my new running shoes.
First stop: the middle of Minnesota to drop off a cat.  Followed by a trip through Southeastern Minnesota, Iowa, all of Nebraska and then into Colorado for a stop in Denver.

 New running shoes.  They have a lower cut than I'm used to but super light.  I think I will like them.

 Beautiful day at Lake Nokomis.

 Hotter than blue blazes in Nebraska.  Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Ever seen a rain storm on the plains?  They don't sneak up on you.


My turn to drive

Theme song for the day: Heavenly Day - Patty Griffin.  Also called "I'm so over heights".



So high!

My mom is a bad ass because she's the only one I know who isn't bothered by heights.  Turning around too quickly makes her dizzy, but an 1100 foot canyon?  No problem.  Bad ass.

Theme song for the day: Poco - Keep On Trying.  


Mountains Beyond Mountains

Mountains Beyond Mountains - meaning when you get to the top, you can always sees what lies beyond.  Which makes the trip up totally worth it.  What are you looking at?


How to do long runs in the heat: It's awesome until it's not

It was long run Thursday today.  I'd thought about doing one Monday but decided to have a fever instead.  This was the next day I could schedule one and the weather looked like it was going to be decent.  It wound up being around 70* and 85% humidity (you think I exaggerate) when I started.  It's still in the 70s now and the humidity is still deadly.

Those of you from around here, or who have run the Twin Cities Marathon will recognize this route as miles 11-21 of that course.  I was going to do the same course as last week, but decided it will be better to mix up routes and prevent boredom and frustration. 

This was a surprisingly good run, until my mind left my body and I got tired, and then it was hard.  When I originally saw the weather report I thought "I'll just galloway the whole thing".  (See here for an explanation of the Galloway method).  Then I was all "you have to go to work today too; run the first four miles outright or it'll take too long".  Then I though "run the first eight" and then "try running the first 12; you made it to eleven last week".  I was surprised to make it 12, and still feel basically okay.  At the beginning of the run I'd expected the humidity to destroy me.  I'm feeling stronger than at this point last year (not faster, just stronger) and also better able to find a proper long distance pace, find the rhythm and stick with it.

I used the galloway method to cover the rest of the miles back home.  I'm doing runs with running and galloway miles to build miles quickly since I was on schedule to run a marathon the last week of October and now I'm running one the first week instead.  The end of the run was rough.  My brain left my body so  I couldn't really concentrate or focus and the heat was starting to get to me.  (It was so hot.)  Also, my left shoe was soaked and I have no idea how that happened.  I was sweating a lot but not quite that much. 

How to survive long runs in the heat - lessons from today:
  • Go early.  Aim for sunrise or slightly before as a good starting time because those are the coolest temps of the day.
  • Bring water (or whatever) and drink it.
  • Learn the galloway method and use it.  Adding scheduled walk breaks has the advantage of keeping your heart rate lower and keeps your body from working harder than it needs to be
  • Plan a shady route - Duh! right?  If you can run a route along water (river, lake, etc) that's good too.
  • You can always stay close to home and do a couple loops of a shorter course.  Staying close to home is good, less far to walk if you have to stop early.
  • Keep drinking your water
  • Go as close to naked as legally possible.  Side note here - I was totally caught starting at these two guys today who were running with no shirts on.  Smooth.
  • Keep a realistic, steady pace and be patient with yourself.  Hot days are not the days to set a land speed record.  That's what fall races are for.
  • Try a shorter run in the heat before trying a long run - then you know what to expect and how your body will react.  I remember my last hot run and I just expected my body to collapse after it.  Today was much better.
  • Trust your training.  Long runs in the heat are harder than long runs in 50*, but still totally possible.  I always think of those people who run Badwater and think, 'well if they can do it in 120*, my body can probably handle this'.

Musical highlights from the run:


The Best Headphones for Running and Working Out - a Review

I've been having ongoing issues finding the right pair of head phones for working out.  Am I seriously the only girl in the world who sweats and then the ear buds get all wet in my ear?  Ewww.  I have some information for those of you seeking the perfect pair.

The earbuds I've tried over my running career are:
Here's my annoyances, complaints, and loves about headphones:
  • Fit - ones that fit are good; ones that pop out of my ears are bad.
  • Crazy long cords - are super annoying; all they do is bounce around.  I hate bouncy cords.  They're visually annoying and the cheap ones make that cord slap noise.
  • Two part cords are only slightly better.  I've never run across a two piece cord design that made sense.  The short cords are always just long enough to clip an iPod Nano on my collar which is awesome until you realize that my collar is the first line of defense in all the sweat that I produce when I work out.  Awesome.  Seriously, make it long enough to clip onto my sleeve.  
  • Clips - if you're going to insist on a crazy long cord, at least give me a clip to attach the middle of the cord to my shirt. 
  • Cord tangle - light cords are great because they're quiet and don't flop around, but they tangle like no other
  • Sweat - all these things say they are "sweat resistant" and I don't seem to be able to break them but I hate it when sweat gets in my ears with the ear buds.
  • Noise isolation/cancelling etc - I have mixed emotions on this one because I like to be able to hear cars and people when I run outside but I love to shut you all out at the gym.
  • Durability - I beat the crap out of these headphones.

In order of my owning these headphones, and also in order of expense -
Sony MDRE9LP - the old school items that I had when I started running.  They fit me but were definitely a "one size" kind of deal.  The cord was crazy long, and it was with these that I developed the method of wrapping the cord around my bra strap to prevent cord flying, slapping and tangling.  I still use this method but that's a different blog post.  For sure there was no clip.  I don't remember the "sweat in my ears" issue.  They did not have noise isolation/cancelling (they're like $8 at Target, what'd you expect?)  I feel like these were fairly durable and I beat the crap out of them in heat and cold.

Sony MDR-J10 Headphones - I've owned two or three pairs of these, and still have one in working order.  The little hook around my ears is really nice and keeps the earbuds in place.  I usually run with a bandana and that holds the hooks down as well.  Everything I said about the cord (length, stupidity, etc.) for the little ear buds goes for these guys too. 

Apple iPod Earphones have always fallen out of my ears for any kind of activity.  There's no point judging them on any other merits if they wont stay in my ear long enough to enjoy.  Sorry guys.

Nike HJ030 Vapor Sport Headphones were a brief flirtation with anything other than Sony.  They fit well.  That metal hook was actually pretty comfortable and locked those things in place.  It also had a two part cord (thank you), although I usually used both pieces.  The cord was thinner so more prone to tangling.  Ultimately these were the least durable of any of the many many earbuds I've tried.  That hinged hook that held the earbuds in place broke much sooner than I thought it should've.  The earbuds can't be used without that piece as they're super heavy and fall out.

Sony Active Style Earbuds - apparently I learned my lesson and went back to Sony.  These things have a two part cord and were also my first experiment with noise isolation.  When they say "noise isolation" what they mean is "this piece of rubber is like a suction cup in your ear - except it will let sweat in".  The cord is super tangley.  Like I wanted to give my pocket a boy scout badge in knot tying for the crap it produced.  When not in knots, these things fit super well and I was able to figure out how to place them in my ear to still hear traffic when I'm outside.  I have some reservations about the durability of these because the connection of the two piece cord is starting to erode, perhaps becuase I use it to work out and it gets covered in sweat.  (How did you not see that coming?)  These were also the first earbuds I had that would get covered in sweat and seal the little sweat beads in my ear.  Gross.  That said, these may be my favorites on the list (which could change if I could ever get this last pair to fit right). 

MeElectronics Sound Isolating Earbuds - I took a chance on these because I read a good review and they were wicked on sale at Amazon when I bought them.  They have six different ear bud ends to ensure a perfect fit.  I haven't found the right one yet.  Serious.
These are the five sets I'm not using; the one I am using goes in between the one on the right and the pair second to the right.
They are noise isolating and prone to the sweat goo issue as well.  (Maybe I should just go back to the cheap $8 ear buds and be done with it?)  These win for having a cord that is impossible to tangle (I've tried, I assure you) and for having a clip on the cord so I'm not tying it in knots around my sports bra.  I haven't owned these very long.  The only comment on durability I have is that they get full of my sweat and continue to work.

Runners, bikers, and everyone else - what earbuds do you use when you work out?  Do you have the perfect pair?