The Racin’ Rams (Coaching During Covid and Our Virtual Fundraiser Race)

A little background info for those that are new to my blog: I am a Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track & Field Coach at a local high school. I have been coaching for over seven years. This post is merely to provide some information and observations during this unprecedented time. I will not open the floor for debates on the efficacy or rights of mask-wearing or the realness of COVID, because….well, there’s nothing to debate. This is my blog and I TRUST in science and the experts and think that a minor discomfort is worth the chance I could be saving a LIFE – anyone’s life. In the words of Colorado’s Governor, “wear a damn mask.”


Coaching in the time of COVID is, well, interesting. With regulations and requirements changing weekly, sometimes daily, it’s has been a challenge. Despite the stress it may cause myself and my fellow coaches, I do have to say that I truly believe it is extremely beneficial for the kids, as well as us coaches, to get out, run and see other people – as long as we can do so safely. Luckily, we can!

Kids (gosh, I would have hated being called a “kid” in high school) need to play and see their friends – all ages; I could see it on their faces when we played our first game of ultimate frisbee (albeit with some new social distancing rules). The laughter and joy that game was that first game was magical.

I know this time is tough right now, but I’m super grateful that the school district and local high sports association has allowed the kids to resume practices. By far, cross country is the easiest sport to implement the health protocols put into place by the local officials. It’s truly a blessing to be coaching this sport (in comparison to football, for example, where there are many more things to have to worry about, sanitize, and monitor).

With all the end of the world, zombie apocalypse, dystopian books I read and movies I watch, I never thought I would live through a time like this. It’s surreal seeing everyone in masks all over the place. Currently, when we all arrive, the coaches first, take a medical screening. Our temperature is taken and we’re asked if we have had any health concerns recently. We are required to wear masks when gathering and screening the kids. If we are not physically practicing with the kids, we, as the coaches, are required to wear a mask the whole time.

The kids have to show up wearing a mask and keep them on until we are actually running. It is weird looking, to put it simply.

As soon as we are running and practicing, we can remove our masks. Ultimate frisbee is allowed, with no contact, and keeping distance while “guarding” your opponent. We also have to regularly sanitize the frisbee itself. Some kiddos, about three out of the 24 that come to summer running practices, choose to wear their masks the whole time. Power to them! It’s not fun to run with a mask, doable, but definitely uncomfortable!

Most of the kids are great at following all the rules. They do need some reminders to keep their distance from each other because kids just naturally gravitate toward one another. We do have to keep on them because there are people from the district “spying” and taking pictures.

We still don’t know what the season will look like. We don’t know what competitions/meets will look like. They could say that all the participants need to wear masks in the races at the meets. They could limit the number of kids that can compete, even in the JV races. Who knows!

Truth be told, we could be practicing all summer, and “they” (the local high school sports association) could just say no. If one fall sport is deemed not safe, they would probably cancel all sports. Or, more likely, they push some sports to the winter season and some to the spring season. I hope that’s not the case. It’s actually kind of nerve-racking to think about.

But we are positive! And we push on!

Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.

But seriously. You do have to prepare like all will be well; it keeps the kids happy and in a positive mindset.


Since this year is a bit different, we have been looking at different ways to fundraise for our team. In the past, we’ve had a live 5k race that raised money for ALL the sports programs of the school. We’ve done financial presentations and Chipotle nights. Sold merchandise and candles.  But this year fundraising needed to be easy and less stressful.

So I suggested a VIRTUAL 5k! Introducing the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k Fundraiser!

racing rams virtual 5k race.

Yes, I am the “race director,” and here’s my shameless plug. If you’re looking for some virtual motivation and want to help out a local Colorado Cross Country team, sign up for our race and let us know Coach Vestal sent you! All funds raised go towards meet fees, transportation, food, safety and health equipment, uniforms and room and board plus transportation for our regional and state meets.

You’ll receive a Racin’ Rams t-shirt (gender-specific), sticker, and digital bib. Plus the cost (only $30) includes all fees and the mailing cost! You run anywhere you want before the end of August and you can report your time to see how you rank with all our athletes!

Walk, run, skip, hike…join the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k!

Sign up HERE!

#60HikesDenverChallenge – Mt. Sanitas

(In 2017, I had a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver.” I didn’t make it through all 60 that year (I only got about 18) or even in 2018…and now were into 2019. I still want to get through all the hikes in the book – eventually.  All the specific trail details can be found in the book or online, but I’ll highlight some things about each trail in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail here. The numbers below are associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

I did this hike back in April when I was about six months pregnant (I just never got around to finishing this post).

Trail #3 – Mount Sanitas
Completed: 4/24/19 | Number Completed: 24/60
Mode: Hike with Ben, while pregnant
Location:  Boulder
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Hard
Type of trail: Round trip; hard-packed dirt for half and very rocky on the other half.
Exposure: Half shady
Facilities: Pit toilets (pretty gross ones) and picnic tables. No water.

My Experience:
I actually really loved this trail, except for the crowds. This trail is known to have a ton of people and there is barely any parking. Despite that, this trail is actually quite nice! It has just the right amount of difficulty without being a gut buster. Ben and I did this hike when I was about six months pregnant and it took us a really long time. I had to stop and rest often, but we made it the whole way. We did the loop counter-clockwise and after seeing the side we went down on, I’m glad we did it this way. When you go clockwise, the uphill part is slightly shorter but way steeper!

Pros:
-Close to town; this trail is just outside of Boulder.
-Doesn’t feel close to town. Once you get away from the road, you don’t realize you’re that close to town until you get to lookout points and can see the city.
-There are a ton of other trails nearby as well.

Cons:
-Very busy! Even during a weekday, midday.
-No facilities. There is no water and the pit toilets are some of the worst I’ve seen.
-Not much parking; the little bit that is there fills up fast!

Tips:
-Bring Water!
-Hiking poles come in use for the steep downhill.
-Bring some cash! If you do manage to get a parking spot, it does cost ($5 I believe)!

Overall:
I would love to go back to this trail now that I’m not pregnant! It was pretty hard while being six months pregnant, but manageable. It’s a short enough hike that you could add this into your week for a training run or hike like the locals do. I do recommend this as a good trail for out-of-towners as well as a great example of a Colorado trail. Plus, the views from the top are worth it. To the east, you overlook Boulder and to the west, you can see mountainous landscapes!


Park Info

Get the book!

Ragnar Trail Snowmass Bound – Again!

If you’re reading this on Friday, the day I scheduled it to post, I’ll be up in Snowmass, Colorado! Depending on the time of day, I may still be in the tent, catching some sleep, getting ready for my first loop, or recovering from the 6+ mile red loop!

Follow me on Instagram for real-time updates and posts! 

This is my 5th time running the Snowmass Trail Ragnar. I’ve run it every year they’ve brought the trail race to Colorado. It’s a blast and a new adventure every time with a new team and new memories.

Read about some of my past Ragnar adventures:

My favorite blog post ever and it’s about Ragnar (2016)

Trail Ragnar 2014 Part 1

Trail Ragnar 2014 Part 2

Road Ragnar 2014 Part 1

Road Ragnar 2014 Part 2

#60HikesDenverChallenge – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver”  You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #22 – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop
Completed: 4/3/17 | Mode: Running!
Location: Alameda and Union, Lakewood
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Hard, steep climb
Surface: Hard packed dirt with a few bigger rocks in parts
Exposure: No Shade
Facilities: Port-o-potty at Alameda Trailhead, no water

View into Golden!

My Experience:
I have run on Green Mountain more times than I can count. This is the place where I had my first trail run experience many, many years ago and a place I still love to this day. This is also the place that I just about lost it when I saw some people cutting the trail. Green Mountain does get used regularly and it hurts me to see the signs of overuse or people disrespecting the “rules” of nature. In fact, I just drove by the last week and the signs  were marked RED indicating “OVERLY MUDDY CONDITIONS, use not recommended,” and yet the parking lot was still packed. Come to find later in the week, when the trails were finally dry, there was bike tire ruts baked into the trail – NOT FUN for the ankles!

I look grumpy…but I was just squinting.

Anyway, I’ve run all over this mountain, just about every trail that there is. There are all types of trails here: long easy runs, steep hill climbs, a mixture, etc. Plus, it’s close to where I work and live (I coach track right across the street), making it super convenient to get a trail run in without traveling far. About a week before I completed the exact trail from the book, I inadvertently did the trail in reverse as I just ran around aimlessly. I went back to repeat the trail from the book, just because.

Quite the challenge, going the direction the book recommends takes you up, UP and UP for a whole mile without relenting. Not going to like, it was pretty tough. I ran most of it with a little bit of walking, took in the views at the top and ran the downhill (my favorite part) back to my car.

Awesome views of Denver!

Pros:
-All types of running can be found
-Good views in the distance
-Plenty of miles of trails! The full loop is over 6 miles, but can add trails in between.
-Wildflowers for a brief season in the spring

Cons:
-Not particularly beautiful on the trails
-Some parts have really loose, smaller sized rocks, making footing super tricky
-Crowded
-Overused
-TONS of bikers!
-There can be rattlesnakes

Access Road Trail on top

Overall:
While I do really love running here and I do so multiple times a week,  I wouldn’t recommend it for out-of-towners. The trails and park itself aren’t that spectacular to look at. There are some great views of Denver and the nearby foothills, but the whole mountain is brown/yellow in color most of the year.  If you’re looking for a great trail system to get some miles on without going too far out of the city, this is the right place!

Sometimes it’s green…


Join me in my #60HikesDenverChallenge: