Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rocky Mountain High

"The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. 
It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it."
-- Herbert A Simon

Hello, friends! I'm fresh off a plane after spending the last four days with one of my best friends in Denver, CO. Denver was as beautiful as I remember it being in the fall, and I really enjoyed my visit. I did some walking with my bestie, some solo running, and a nice hike in Breckenridge on the Continental Divide before heading back to California today. (I really don't know how to relax on vacation! Ha!). 

You might have noticed that I threw in "some solo running" in that last paragraph. As you know, I've been training for the RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and 10K in November, so I was pretty determined to run at least a little while I was away. I tend to be an early riser, so I took advantage of same and squeezed in a run each morning while I was in town (my friend slept in). She lives near some beautiful trails, so I figured they would be the perfect substitute for my favorite trail at home.

If you didn't know, Denver sits at a little over a mile high with an average elevation of around 5,300'. I grew up in a small town that sits a little higher than Denver, and I ran in college in Albuquerque at roughly the same altitude. All that being said, I haven't lived at a high altitude since 2005. My current city (like the last three cities I lived in) sits at around sea level. I haven't done major cardio at a high altitude in a long time, and minor attempts at same (slow hikes; running last Thanksgiving at home; etc) have reminded me that I haven't acclimated to the higher altitude. Still... I decided to go for it  and planned my routes prior to arrival.

My first run wasn't fun. I took the running trail heading south on Saturday. I started my NikePlus app from my friend's apartment, approximately a quarter mile uphill from the trailhead. It's kind of sketchy getting to the trail as you have to cross a very busy street to get there. Once on the trail, however, it was smooth sailing! I felt pretty great until I started going uphill. At this point, I had to stop - my lungs were filling with liquid, and I found it very hard to breathe. I stupidly didn't bring my inhaler, so I had to focus on controlled breathing exercises to get everything back under control. Bah! Once my lungs calmed down, I walked the rest of the way back to her apartment. It was a low moment, y'all, and I felt like crap the rest of the day.

My second run went MUCH better. I started the second day run similarly to the first, only this time I headed north on the trailhead instead of south. I ran down the hill to the trailhead, but then decided to walk for about a mile to get my lungs in sync with my heart rate. I enjoyed it a lot - the trail is beautiful, and I used the time to call a friend back in California. At my turnaround point (I thought this was at 1.5 miles to make it 3 miles roundtrip, but I messed up), I hung up the phone and jogged back. The trail has a bunch of hills and stairs going back so my pace sucked, but it felt much better than Saturday's run. 

While I didn't hit the 3-4 miles I had planned on running on Sunday, I was pretty happy that I got my run in at all. The Becky of yore would never have had the motivation to hit the trail before her friends woke up. This Becky not only got up, but ran in high altitude! Woohoo! I was pumped for the rest of the day... so much, in fact, that I hiked another 2 miles on the Continental Divide (more on that in another post). It was a very productive day!

Alas, back to reality. My goal this week is to hit 45 minutes of treadmill running tomorrow and Thursday, another 3 mile run on Saturday (or 3 mile hike...), and an 8 miler on Sunday. We'll see how it goes. I have got to get my long runs in on time. I only have two more months until my RunDisney races!!!

Have a happy, healthy week, y'all!

--- Becky

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rocky Road (Hiking Pinnacles National Park)

"The desert sharpened the sweet ache of his longing,

amplified it,

gave it shape to it in sere geology and clean slant of light."

-- John Krakauer

Welcome back to the blog! Actually... This post is actually pretty overdue. I have been so focused on personal issues and Wine & Dine race training lately that I neglected to post about my hike earlier this summer at Pinnacles National Park. (I'd like to say that I was clever and decided to wait for the NPS Centennial to make this post, but I'm not that clever.) Pinnacles had never been on my radar before, and I wish I could take credit for wanting to go here. I let my niece choose at least two day trips that we would take on a weekend while she was here, however, and she was adamant about visiting Pinnacles. She had studied geology and volcanoes at school during the spring, and really wanted to check it out. Yes, the spires and caves at Pinnacles are remnants of multiple volcanoes that erupted over 23 million years ago. It's always pretty amazing to remember how old our earth is and how brief our visit is on this planet. 

There are over 30 miles of trails in Pinnacles Park, so we made sure to research ahead of time to pick the trail(s) that would be the best fit for us to do. Katie and I had recently hiked Vasquez Rocks with the Girls Who Hike LA, and that was a good measure of how strenuous of a hike she could take on without further training. We settled for the Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop, a moderate hike around 2 miles long with about 500' of elevation gain. 

You gain about half of your elevation gain pretty quickly - gaining about 200' in the first quarter of a mile (according to my NikePlus app). This is part of the trail is well marked and shady - you're in a canyon for most of the first half of the hike to the reservoir. It was about 100 degrees the day we tackled this hike, so I appreciated the shaded trail immensely! 

We picked this trail mostly due to its level of difficulty, but were happy that it would also include some of the famous Pinnacles caves along the way. This was the first of three that we climbed through on our hike. The "caves" here are mostly old lava tubes, which just added to the appeal for my niece, Katie. 

To her disappointment, however, the trail to the Bear Gulch Cave was not accessible during our hike. It's apparently closed seasonally due to bats that are in having babies during the summer. Bummer! Alas, there was more to see so we continued.

The trail after the Bear Gulch Cave trail split becomes much more of a climb than a hike. The trail isn't as well marked here, and you literally have to climb over and/or jump down from various rocks, cliffs, and trees to proceed. It's a lot of fun, but keep that in mind if you have any type of disability.

As you finally make your way out of the canyon, you go down through another cave. This one is marked a little more clearly, and has makeshift stairs taking you down. My niece and I are short, but I feel bad for anyone tall that has to crawl through here! It's a pretty tight fit. 

The final leg before the reservoir includes about 100 stairs. I wish this picture did these stairs justice - they're very narrow,  steep, hand-chiseled stairs. This makes them a bit interesting (and unstable) to climb, but it's doable. The railing on the left is very necessary, as it's a near vertical drop off the side of them. My niece and I were surprisingly unafraid of these stairs anyway, and kind of enjoyed the view. 

You reach the Bear Gulch Reservoir at the top of the stairs. The view is incredible! Despite passing several hikers along the way, we found ourselves alone up here. It was peaceful, and I really wanted to spend more time there. 

The sun was quickly chasing us down, however, so we had to make up our minds on the route going back to the car. Despite the late hour, we opted to tackle a portion of the High Peaks trail to see how much we could get done before sunset. I'm so glad that we did - the views were incredible!

We really took our time enjoying the view of the spires as we made our ascension to towards the summit. THIS is what Kaitlyn was wanting to see! I enjoyed it too - I think it was around the time that I took this picture that I thanked Kaitlyn for asking to go here :)

While the sun was quickly setting and we didn't want to get caught in the dark, we decided to continue up the mountain. The trail becomes very steep as you near the summit. Kaitlyn predictably rolled her ankle around this point, and we decided that we would only go another 15 minutes before turning around. (Poor Katie! I need to buy this girl some boots next summer!)

From this point, the summit is in sight. We could see people at the top of the mountain, and wanted so badly to continue. But appearances are deceiving... As we neared the top of this trail, I realized that the trail turns into many, many switchbacks as it continues up the mountain. We both so badly wanted to reach the top, but her ankle was throbbing and I started to fear the impending night.

We decided to sit for a while and just take in the view. We hiked for just over 2.61 miles and gained around 900 feet in elevation. It was a remarkable feat for my niece, who rarely gets the opportunity to hike like we did that day. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me as I got to share my love for hiking and the outdoors with a young lady who means the world to me!

If you're ever looking for a good hike, I would definitely give Pinnacles National Park a chance. It's not terribly far from Monterey or Paso Robles, so you could easily add it in to a day trip if you're visiting either area. I have already put it on my list to visit again in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. :) 

Back to our regularly scheduled running programming beginning tomorrow. I finished 7.5 miles today at just nary over my goal race pace time, so I was pretty happy with that today. I can only go up from here! Big shout out to my co-blogger, Natasha, who finished the Summer Sparkler Virtual 10K today! (You can see her race picture on Instagram). It's been a great weekend, my friends!

Until we meet again...

--- Becky

Monday, August 22, 2016


"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run." 
-- The Gambler

Hellooooooo friends! This weary little friend of yours just returned from a whirlwind visit home over the weekend. I visited both places I refer to as "home" during this visit - Albuquerque and the Four Corners area. I left on Friday, and just returned this afternoon. And I'm E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D! Frankly, I think I might be sick. I'm really hoping that it's just this crappy air quality we have here in "beautiful" southern California, but man, I feel like crap. I actually didn't feel awesome while I was home - as you can see in the picture above, I was quite the swollen, sneezy mess. 

While I had every intention on running while I was home, I never got around to it. My friend, Miranda, even brought her running shoes to run with me on Saturday... but we opted for breakfast burritos and a split cinnamon roll from Frontier instead. We were up late-ish and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me! Running aside, my vacation was anything but lazy. My mom and my sister and her kids went for a long walk at the park after the movies on Saturday, and I did a lot of walking during our trip to Rico/Telluride on Sunday. I haven't lived in the area in eleven years, though, and the altitude (and allergies) definitely got to me. Plus, I drove approximately 4 hours on Saturday, 8 hours on Sunday, and another 6 hours today. I'm pooped!

I should run tomorrow, but I think I'm going to give my body one more day to recoup. I always push too hard, and end up getting myself either injured or sick. I'll do my morning yoga and my morning/evening walks, but I think that'll have to do for tomorrow. Sometimes, you just gotta know when to let your body rest for a while, you know?

This trip, like many I've taken recently, was very eye-opening. It's hard not to think about life and your place in it when you're driving for hours and hours and hours by yourself (see what y'all get for not answering the phone?). But just as the lyrics above are relevant to running ("know when to hold them"), I think there are some other areas in my life that I need to let go too ("know when to fold them"). I often hold on to things/people longer than I should, and I also always give people too much credit when they aren't really acting like the friend I thought they were or that I needed. So, like any great gambler, I'm going to take these learnings and "know when to walk away," and close that chapter (or those chapters). It's never going to be what I want it to be, and I'm not willing to take the leap of faith to find out anyway. When I feel better later in the week, I'm going to "know when to run" in the literal sense... as a way of helping me cope with what I need to let go of so I can move on with my life. I've been stuck on a couple of things for longer than I should have been. (Word games are fun! And sorry this is so vague.)

Anyway, I'm sleepy, hungry, and not feeling great so I'm going to end this one here. While this probably reads as an excuse for why I didn't run this weekend and won't be running tomorrow, I hope you'll cut me some slack. I hope that I will cut me some slack too. Pushing yourself is great sometimes, but sometimes you gotta recognize when rest is more important too. 

I hope that you have a great week. For those friends who are training for Wine and Dine with me... wish me luck! My training isn't going as amazingly as hoped, but I hope to be back up and "running" with y'all soon! (Haha... I'm such a dork.). 

Until we meet again...

--- Becky