The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


…Leadville Trail Marathon

I’m all settled in Canberra now, so it’s high time I get back on this blog-wagon!

I have to play some catch-up with a very real, very serious marathon I ran nearly a month ago…

When I was considering my Colorado race schedule early this year, knowing full well I’d be moving out of the country in June, I had this wild idea to run the Leadville full marathon as my send-off race. I considered it a “goodbye gift” to myself before heading off for foreign lands. Interestingly enough, the majority of my training would fall in the three months Nick would already be in AUS (he had to start work in April) and the marathon would fall the weekend before our wedding.

At the time, all of this seemed SO well planned. I would have uninterrupted training time and I would be in fit shape for the wedding! And yes, I did have uninterrupted training time. But I was so consumed with finalizing wedding plans, finishing my school year, packing up my classroom, packing up our apartment, and preparing to leave the country, that my mind was in a million different places. Constantly. Scattered. And my heart was in Australia with Nick.

Despite all of my distractions, I did stick with my training plan; I just didn’t get the mountain/elevation workouts that I had hoped for. I had run the Heavy Half in 2012, and I knew what would be expected of me. X2. So, I was uncertain how I would fare once on the course. A course that had to be rerouted due to snowpack still on the mountain. A course that once rerouted, increased in difficulty. Good thing I knew about that after-the-fact!

Original course profile:

But, this was a race to be run. Not to be raced.

If you know anything about Leadville, CO, you know that it’s a historic mining town in the Rocky Mountains, that it is the host town of a huge run/bike series in the summer, and that it is situated about about 10,100 feet elevation. And the race course just goes up from there, capping out at just over 13,000 feet. So, I started slow. I paid attention to my body, yet also others around me, getting subconscious tips from them, and stopping at every aid station. I felt that with the elevation, combined with the distance, I needed to ensure that I was fueling, despite the time cost. I race enough with time constraints placed on myself, so this was a nice interruption from my usual MO.

During the first half of the course, I really wasn’t feeling the high elevation. My lungs didn’t feel any different than they normally would when running in the mountains. There was a lot of climbing/hiking, but I took it in stride, knowing that hiking up the mountains was just as efficient as running. Or more. For me.

This was the view on my way up Mosquito Pass (the second and main climb on the profile above):


A very windy climb to the 13,185 foot summit of Mosquito Pass and despite the smile, I was freezing!


I felt great on the way back down for my second half of the course. I was still keeping it easy. Drinking a lot of fluid. Eating what I needed to. Taking in the scenery. I was blessed enough to have Nick there, who had arrived into town the night before; he would be there to support me from beginning to end. Oh how I had missed him… Nick and Chase showed up around mile 17. It was so great to see them at that point! When I was tired, the hardest part was done, and I just needed a little boost to get me through the rest of the race.

But those final 9 miles were harder than expected. More climbing, combined with my trashed legs, presented a true challenge. This race was not for the faint of heart. I think I had to dig the deepest in these final miles. Not because I wanted to stop, but because I wanted to finish.

I ran the downhills, hiked the climbs, and cried a few tears as I rounded the corner to 6th street in downtown Leadville, that would take me to my red carpet finish.


Time: 6:39:15
Overall: 272/435
Female: 57/103
AG: 19/34

It was done. I had earned my mug and medal. But the best part of all, was having Nick back in town to be my cheer squad.


After this, it was all wedding business.




…Oiselle Photo Shoot Sneak Peek

I am so excited to be a part of something Oiselle has up its sleeve! The Colorado chapter was asked to do a photo shoot for a little project they are working on. Of course I recruited my usual photographer, Nick, to take some shots while we were in Aspen and Crested Butte a couple of weekends ago. He took so many great ones (which is funny to me since I loathe pictures of myself) that I had a hard time narrowing it down! I sent my best off to Oiselle, but here a just a few for you…





We also saw 3 moose hanging out together!


Then we saw them a little closer. They came up by the road, we did not go down to them! Moose rules…

It was the perfect weekend to be up in the mountains to see the changing colors with a gorgeous white-peaked backdrop.





Ragnar CO Recap

It’s been crazy around here. And wet. Very, very wet. Thankfully, my house/neighborhood were fine. We are waterlogged and it has been a complete inconvenience to get anywhere due to road closures and detours, but we are well. I had two school days off last week because of the floods and I’ll have another two (so far) this week as well. Before you start getting excited for me, know that I will have to make up at least a few of those days. And probably at the end of the year. But better that and ensure everyone’s safety in travel and work environment.


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Last weekend, I ran Ragnar Colorado. It was an experience unlike any other. And I’m still riding that runners high, days later.

As my first Ragnar and first relay, everything was new to me. But I was ready to take on this intense new challenge. My amazing teammates filled me in on all the ins and outs along the 200 mile course at high elevation.

Lisa, Meghan, Bry, Holly, Vieve, Yours Truly
Start area

We ran this relay as an ultra team (6 people instead of 12). Needless to say, there was very little sleep, but a lot of our favorite thing: running. With beautiful Colorado mountains as our backdrop, and a ton of great sponsors (in a subsequent post), we were set up for success.

Epic Views

Of course the pride of contributing to the teams Roadkillz was exciting!
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An encouraging van driver is essential. Especially one who gets into the spirit of things by embracing our theme. Nuun Ned/Papa Ned took great care of all of the girls in the van, never bothering with sleep himself either.
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Mood lighting for the night legs; which were only a little unnerving…
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And a division WIN never hurt anyone. 28:49:10 was also good for a 3rd place finish amongst all ultra teams (mens, womens, mixed), as well as coming out on top amongst the women’s 12-person teams.
Tears at the Finish

Needless to say, I was ridiculously exhausted at the end. But the fullness in my heart for my team and our accomplishment overcame all of that. I can’t wait to run another ultra relay with these girls!



…Handies Peak and Lake City

The first week of June, my family, Nick and I went camping in Lake City. It’s about a 6 hour trek from the Denver area, but definitely pays back by way of the views, the 14ers, and the local bakery. We found a campground right on Lake San Cristobal; and since it was early in the season, there weren’t any other campers nearby.

This was our campsite view, including the beaver sighting on the 2nd night.


I also saw my first moose!


There were several Cat 1 and 2 14ers in the area, so we all summited Handies Peak together. “We all” included my parents (my mom’s first!), brother, sister-in-law, 2.5 year old niece, 9 month old nephew, Nick, me, and 2 dogs. We were quite the party! It was an early season 14er climb, so there was a lot of snow left on the mountain. Snow fields covered much of the trails, and on the way down, we were falling through, up to our knees, in the areas we couldn’t go around. Aside from dealing with the mud, of course. There was no one else at the summit, so we couldn’t get an entire family photos, but below are bits and pieces. Clearly, the view was spectacular…




There were also several waterfalls in the area, so we searched one out and viewed the North Clear Creek Falls.


The town of Lake City, in the San Juan Mountains, itself is small. 400 people small. Resting around 9,000 feet, it’s probably best known as the site for the Alferd Packer Massacre. Time to read up on your cannibalism stories. Main Street is all boardwalk, tourist shops, homemade fudge, soda fountains, bakeries, local coffeehouses, restaurants, and cute.


This was a great Colorado find! A hidden gem. I’d definitely return and recommend it to those who are looking for some camping/hiking/4-wheeling off the beaten path.

Next stop, Minnesota!



…around Telluride and a Mt. Sneffels summit

I’ve had this obsession with Telluride lately. And by lately I mean for years.

Telluride is a small Colorado mountain town about 7 hours from where I live in the Front Range. It’s not easy to get to, in that you have to WANT to get there. A lot of highways and byways and one particular road that leads you directly through downtown; and essentially ends at Bridal Veil Falls. For as long as I can remember, in my adult life, I have had a small affinity for this magical place that seemed so far away. Specifically, I’ve wanted to attend their Bluegrass festival held mid-June, but it’s just never worked out.

Now, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting twice! In one month.

Round One
My family and I ventured to Telluride the first week of August for no other reason than to enjoy an area none of us had experienced. The fresh mountain scenery. The gondola rides. The locally owned restaurants. The Victorian inspired homes. The friendly people. I was immediately smitten.

Downtown Telluride (yours truly)

View of Telluride from the Saint Sophia Gondola Station

Then, there was Mt. Sneffels.

An unassuming 2+ 14’er, with a silly name, bragging of a decent 1700 foot elevation gain in just a mile. My brother, dad, and I drove in on the 4WD road as far as we could, but had to hoof it about a mile and half to the highest trailhead.

With Kismet Mountain (a 13’er) looming before us, our true destination was hidden for much of the climb.

The San Juan Mountain Range is much more rugged than the Front Range peaks. There would be no “running” of this 14’er, as the terrain was primarily loose rock, or scree. Oh yeah, and that pesky incline. Combined, it made for a very interesting climb. In fact, this 14’er was downright scary. At least for me. I found the climb to be pretty difficult with so much sliding rock. Everywhere. Even Gerry Roach suggest wearing a helmet on this one because of the potential for rock slides. And at that incline, those rocks start coming down fast. And hard. I found out, several times, along the way.

This was the view on our left as we made our way slowly up the Lavender Col.

We then ascended a steeper gully that would take us to the summit (between the two rock outcroppings). There were no trails here, so we just had to cross from side-to-side making our own path. I primarily had three points of contact all the way up and stayed really low. Otherwise, I had fears of falling. In reality, this was just a “short” hike, distance-wise, but it took well over an hour.

The view after the long ascent, back down to the saddle. Low clouds were beginning to roll in, but it was still mid to late morning and no storms were a threat.

At this point, directly right of the photo there was a “V” notch (two boulders together) that needed to be climbed over. “Climbed” like leave-your-pack-and-find-your-own-hand-holds-as-you-hoist-yourself-over-the-boulders-with-exposure-to-your-left-that-drops-directly-down-the-gully-so-don’t-fall-or-you-might-not-see-tomorrow. So my brother and I did it, as my dad decided to call it a summit from where he was. I don’t blame him.

A short scramble and we made it.

Brother/Sister Summit

No. 7 is in the books.

The climb down was almost scarier than the climb up. With the scree and incline, every step moved beneath you. Every step was really a slide. And many steps caused mini-rock slides. I was nervous descending. I’ve never had so many thoughts about how I was going to react WHEN I started sliding all the way down. But, I didn’t. My dad was a huge help!

Overall, this was the most difficult 14’er I’ve summited. It was the shortest 14’er and yet took the longest with time. And at only a 2+, I’m not sure how I would be with a full 3, much less 4 or 5. Perhaps for now, I should focus on the 1’s and 2’s!

Round Two
Over the Labor Day weekend, the boy’s family was in town from Minnesota. They had been mentioning the 4 Corners area and Telluride, as they had never been either. While they left a few days prior for their road trip, so they could explore a little further southwest, we decided to meet them in Telluride for the long weekend.

I was anxious for the boy to see the area because I knew he would LOVE it. And he did. Chase did too.

There was an indie film festival in town, so we spent the weekend walking around town, people watching (we saw this movie guy, but failed to catch a glimpse of Ben Affleck, Jen Garner, Bill Murray, and others), and connecting with the locals in some street-side Jenga competitions.

I’m officially in love with Telluride. It’s a shame that I’ve lived in Colorado nearly my entire life and have just now discovered this gem. Isn’t that the way it is though, sometimes? You don’t always realize what you have in your own backyard. With so many opportunities to travel and explore our scope has broadened and we often look too far beyond ourselves and our environment and we miss out on the true beauty that surrounds us.



…the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon (15.5 miles)

I’m sure my five readers are wondering how I did this past weekend with my back-to-back races. Considering I didn’t exactly train how I thought I should, I think I faired pretty well. And by “pretty well” I mean I finished both. Here’s how it all played out…

The boy, Erika, Danielle, and I headed up to Leadville on Friday night. And I really do mean “up.” Leadville is the highest city in the USofA at 10,430 feet elevation. On Saturday morning, Danielle and I prepped as usual (or as best you can when you are camping) for the big race. We all rolled into town around 7am for packet pickup and eventually made our way to the race start.

Danielle and I knew this would be a tough one, climbing to 13,185 feet at the top of Mosquito Pass.

With nothing to prove and no time goals, we started the race at a slow, conversational pace. Of course, the route began on an uphill. And as you would assume, there really wasn’t much relief, save a brief mile or so down hill, before the final, brutal ascent.

I had read that the average finish time for the half was 4h and 14m. So, I guess I was going for 4h and 14m. Or at least a minute faster. To be honest, I really had no idea what to expect. At least it was beautiful.

We ran until about mile 5.5 or 6, when the only choice was to hike. Everyone was hiking.

One of the best parts was watching all the frontrunners coming down the hill. Seeing the lead men and women was such a rush. They are some of the most encouraging people, too. Good job! You’re almost there! Keep it up! Nice job! It was like having a personal set of cheerleaders. You couldn’t help but to return the favor and encourage their pace and stamina.

When we finally summited, at the top of Mosquito Pass, at 1h and 55m, it felt like a huge accomplishment.

Now for the fun part and the faster part…downhill.

The rock field on that last mile or two before the summit was hard enough to maneuver hiking up, much less trying to run down it, avoiding the runners still ascending! There were a lot of little slips and ankle rolls along the way. Once we finally made it past that part, I was beginning to feel queasy. I recalled the same feeling from a previous run I had not two months prior. Uh oh. I tried my best to keep my mind off of it.

The hard part of this race for me were the final few miles. The small downhill we had on the way up (about a mile) was now an uphill on the way back. And although is was SO minor in comparison to the hike up to the summit, it felt much worse! Over 7 miles of uphill, followed by 5 miles of downhill, my legs were revolting. But I pressed on, each pink and black flag that marked the course were my points of contact.

With only two miles to go, my stomach began to revolt. I knew I had been doing a lot of jiggling around, coming down the pass so quickly, but this felt mulitcolor yawn worthy. I tried to ignore it as much as I could, especially since I was now only a half mile from the finish.

Finally, with just a few hundred yards to go, I had that feeling. That feeling that something is going to happen and you just can’t stop it. Since there were no porcelain gods on the course, I frantically made my way off the course to unswallow everything in my stomach (which wasn’t much). Sorry, town of Leadville.

Naturally, not one to quit, I kept running and even passed someone on my way to the finish. Danielle and I crossed in 3:11.

Before even getting my medal, I made my way to the side of the finish and wished there were trash cans there because I cried Ruth one more time. Sorry, Leadville. Now, I just feel like I owe the town of Leadville some community service.

*Note to all Race Directors: PLEASE have trash cans at the finish line so queasy people like me, who can’t figure out why they are getting queasy all the time at races now, can vurp in a contained area, as opposed to streetside.

After I assured the volunteers that I did not need a medic, nor a phone call placed on my behalf to 911, I cleaned up and laid down for a while. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who isn’t totally grossed out when I readjust my fluids. Or if he is, he just doesn’t say anything, but helps me anyway. I really need to figure this out.

Once I was feeling better and smelling better, sans the runner B.O., I returned to the finish to finally meet Courtney! What a cutie! With her lulu shorts and fancy camera and easy conversation, I knew I liked her right away. Can’t wait to run with her soon! She was waiting on her main squeeze who was running the full.

This was a really tough course. Really. Not for the faint of heart. The incline alone was difficult; coupled with the elevation and this was a bear of a race. On one hand, I would love to do this race again, knowing exactly how to train now. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to do this race again!

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t say a big thank you to all of the race volunteers. Everything was very well organized and the aid stations were well stocked with great snacks, plenty of liquids, and fabulous people! They were happy and encouraging and it felt as though they wouldn’t imagine being anywhere else!

Because I had another half marathon the next day, I knew I needed to eat and take care of my legs. We headed back to camp to load up. Danielle would be going back to the Denver area; Erika, the boy, and I would head 2.5 hours north to Steamboat Springs, where I was looking forward to sitting in a hot tub.

Time- 3:11:14
Pace- 12:26
Overall- 89/403
Women- 21/177
AG (30-39)- 12/73 (apparently, this is a really competitive AG; especially in trail running; I mean, 12 of top 21 women were in my AG?!)

Next up: Steamboat Mountain Madness Half, the 2nd race of the weekend, and a huge bonk!



…back-to-back races

This is the weekend I’ve been waiting for! The weekend I overbooked myself to run. On purpose.

A few weeks before Boston, I registered for two races, back-to-back. The Leadville Heavy Half on Saturday, June 30th, and the Steamboat Mountain Madness Half on Sunday, July 1st. At the time, I thought, no big deal; I’m feeling great and I can maintain some decent mileage, while giving my body some recovery time after the marathon. Plus, these races were three months away from when I registered. Plenty of time to get in the training I needed.

I did pretty well with keeping up with some long runs and weekly mileage, until I got sick. Being out of commission for 9 days kind of felt like a set-back. And when I was finally back to running again, it was already the beginning of June. Oh sure, I’ve had plenty of trail runs and even “ran” some 14er’s (as best as that can be done), but overall, I don’t feel quite as ready as I’d like to be. But how often do we really feel “ready” for a race?

I know these two races won’t really be raced. I never intended to do so. That should take some pressure off! The Leadville Heavy Half is actually a 15.46 mile course; an out and back over Mosquito Pass, that until recently was closed due to a wildfire. The course profile is a little daunting, but I will approach as I would if I were running/hiking a 14er. At least I get to run back down! The other major factor for this race will be the altitude. The silver lining is that this will be a PR race since it isn’t truly a 13.1 race course! Yippee! I’m lucky to run with my friend, Danielle!

The Steamboat Mountain Madness Half is an actual 13.1 half. The course will be over several county roads and parallel the Yampa River at some points. I love Steamboat and just want to enjoy the area when I’m running. I think my legs will be pretty shot after the previous day anyway. At least elevation won’t be too much of a worry since I’ll be dropping 4000′ to run this one. That hill might hurt though! I’m lucky to run this one with Erika!

And of course, the boy (and the dog) will be there the entire weekend, cheering me on, taking pics, and just looking hot on the side of the course when I pass him.

My plan: Have fun. Exclamation points. I really have no choice but to just enjoy these races for what they are. Slow it down. Just have fun!

I’ll try to tweet along the way. Maybe even a pic or two. Albeit, blurry. Because we all know my iPhone pics look as though I just breathed on the lens to give it a blurred look. *don’t judge; holding out for iPhone 5*

Hoping to finally meet the running couple of the year, while I’m in Leadville! LC will be running the full, and he has a good overview of both the half and full on his site. Go.