First adventure of 2016: COMPLETE.

Back to life, back to reality. I always repeat that song (in my head) when I get back from a vacation. Although, I have been back for two weeks and only now am finding time to finish this post.

We got back home last week, two weeks ago. It was 1am Monday morning, bed at 2am (a shower was a must after 10 days of camping), and back to the grind at 6am.

But what a wonderful adventure we had! Here’s a quick-ish view of our vacation! I would love to go in more detail on a few of our stops in some future posts.

New Years

We weren’t planning on starting our vacation until the first of the year but we decided to take an extra day and go up to Buena Vista, CO to the Mt. Princeton Resort. My friend is in a big swing band, William and the Romantics, and they were playing that night, New Year’s Eve! It was a blast! We rang in the new year by attempting to swing dance, soaking in the hot springs and hanging out with friends. It was lovely.

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Death Valley

Quickly after 2016 arrived, we headed straight to bed to get up the next morning and start the long drive to California. The plan: drive as long as we can before we needed to sleep.

We made it to Death Valley! We decided to camp there since neither of us had been before. Plus, it was free! We arrived way after sun had set and couldn’t see a thing out our car window in the dark park. We found our intended camp ground, set up the tent and went to bed. We woke up the next morning to some fantastic views!

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View from the campground

View from the campground

Since we were already there, we decided to venture around the park and check it out. We visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artist’s Palate, and went for a short, shake out run to Darwin Falls. We even saw some coyotes!

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Mesquite flat sand dunes

 

Artist's Palate

Artist’s Palate

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Coyotes

Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls

Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney

With daylight still around, we decided to set up camp at our next destination in Lone Pine. The plan: to hike the mountaineer’s route of Mt. Whitney the next day.

After eating a fulfilling dinner (spaghetti before a big day, duh!), we went to bed to wake up at 2am to start the long hike.

We didn’t summit the 14er (the tallest one in the lower 58 states), but we got in a great hike and my first attempt at mountaineering. The route/hike was a little harder than I had anticipated (I’m sure Ben could have blazed up and down the thing, twice) and I was already feeling worn out with 2/3 of the hike left. Plus this my first time doing anything like this, wearing mountaineer’s boots and crampons. We turned around at the three-mile mark, Boy Scout Lake, which already had an elevation gain of 2,000 feet! I learned a lot and want to go back and try again…maybe during the summer months!

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Sleep was nice that night but it was another cold night in Lone Pine. They next day we checked out the Alabama Hills, where a ton of movies and commercials were filmed. We learned all about it with a stop at the Film History Museum of Lone Pine. A ton of Westerns, Ganga Din, parts of Django Unchained, a scene from Iron Man, Tremors, parts of Star Wars, and a TON more were all film here!

the Alabama hills..interesting rocks!

The Alabama hills..interesting rocks!

San Diego and the Zoo

After the museum…we got right back in the car and navigated our way to San Diego! Oh the traffic – oh the horrors! Both my boyfriend and I can’t stand traffic and boy was there a lot in that part of the world! But we made it to our campground, the San Diego Metro KOA, took advantage of the shower situation (there was one!), cooked dinner and decided to try a local brewery, Iron First Brewing!

That’s when the rain started….for the next three days.

The following morning, we packed up our tent and straight to the zoo!!! I have always wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo! I heard it’s one of the best, plus they have PANDAS! We spent most of the day wandering the huge zoo, in the rain, and tried to see every animal they had. The rain was sorta BEAR-able (pun intended) for most of the morning into the afternoon, but later it started pouring on us. We stuck it out, determined to make the most of the situation and see the zoo since we’re only there once!

Baby Bonobo!

Baby Bonobo!

 

It's a PANDA!

It’s a PANDA!

 

Bucket list item checked off!

Bucket list item checked off!

Joshua Tree

After drying off in the car, we made the trek to Joshua Tree National Park. We had a nail-biting drive over some mountain pass where the intense, once-a-year, rain washed microwave sized rocks into the road. On the end of our nerves, we set up camp in the short break between rain storms, cooked some quick dinner and fast to sleep.

The plan was to climb in Joshua Tree…while we did eventually accomplish this, there were a few struggles, both personal and environmental.

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Obstacle #1 while climbing Joshua Tree: Cold Weather. What I learned from our vacation is that I don’t like climbing in the cold. It hurts! With the morning free of rain, we attempted to find some climbing, but rain free does not equal cold free. I am now on a mission to make the best climbing glove.

Cholla cactus

Cholla cactus

Obstacle #2: Cracks: Oh geez. To my non-climber friends, it isn’t what it sounds like. If you are a climber you’ll understand: Crack climbing is HARD! At least I think so. I have not really done any of this, so this was a first attempt. It feels like you’re going to break your feet, hands and arms. If you are not a climber, picture this: You wedge your toes and hands in a crack between two rocks and pull, repeatedly, to get to the top. It was very uncomfortable. I was told I would learn to like it. We’ll see…

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Obstacle #3: (Me) Being a scaredy cat! As told to me by the Boyfriend: “Joshua Tree is a very old school type of climbing.” That being said, a lot of the routes felt way harder than they were rated and even getting down from a climb was an obstacle. One down climb in particular left me in tears.

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Triumph #1: On our last day in Joshua Tree, the sun finally came out. We got a few routes in. My ever so wonderful boyfriend sacrificed climbing a lot harder routes to put up a top rope for me so I could (painstakingly) practice. I also discovered that I kinda like slab climbing (where you use less upper body and more leg/feet placement and core). I practiced a little bit more of this crack climbing stuff and still am undecided on if I “like” it.

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The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Sadly, we packed up camp at Joshua Tree. I actually did really liked it there. I would love to go back (with more crack climbing practice under my belt) and give it another go, but it was time to make the journey back toward Colorado. The plan to was to see the Hoover Dam on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning and make the 12 mile drive back.

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However, as shown before, the only sure thing about a plan is it will change. We arrived at the Hoover Dam in the afternoon, thinking we could just get right in and take a tour. No, that is not the case. The full tour does, indeed, sell out (much to my dismay after searching the website intensively). Having our hearts set on the full tour, we decided to walk around the top of the dam, take pictures and come back the next morning to be the FIRST people in line to get on the FIRST tour.

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We camped nearby at Lake Mead National Recreation Center which was definitely beautiful despite being noisy (the National Recreation center campground was full of RV’s that liked to run their generators at night).

Lake Mead

Lake Mead

The next morning, with a belly full of pancakes, we packed up the tent, one last time, and arrived at the Hoover Dam, again. We did get on the very FIRST tour and we VERY impressed and glad we decided to come back. After getting our fill of the Hoover Dam, we hopped back in the car and proceeded to spend the next 21 hours driving.

Picture from INSIDE the Dam!

Picture from INSIDE the Dam!

Home

That brings us full circle, arriving back home Monday, 2am.

 

 

Run for the Zoo – Post Race Recap

Ready, set, START!

I had a GREAT weekend! It was nice to get away from my real life in Denver on a short road trip…even though it was only 2 days! My weekend started out great with seeing The Avengers in Imax 3d, my best friend got engaged, and I made my way down to New Mexico! It ended fantastic with a PR by 10 minutes!!! Yep, you read that right!!

Let me tell you about the Run for the Zoo itself first and you can also check out my Pre Race Review.  This ended up being one of my favorite races I have done so far! Held in Albuquerque, New Mexico the Run for the Zoo was an awesome race and the proceeds went to support the Albuquerque Bio Park Society which includes the zoo, the aquarium and the botanic gardens. I signed up for the 10k, but the event also offered a half marathon, 5k timed race and a 5k family run/walk. It seemed like a nicely organized race: lots of volunteers directing you toward wherever you needed to go, plenty of parking – free and pay (well, at least for our race – we walked to our car later and watched people circling to find a spot for the later races), and the all important – plenty of porto potties!  Everything was clearly marked and easy to find. We drove around the night before just to be sure we could find where the race started and where we were going to park, but then again, we were out-of-towners.

Finishers!

The course itself: AWESOME! It was very pretty. The 10k took you a short trip through the neighborhood then along the backside of the zoo where you literally ran right by the elephants! I thought that was sweet (but smelly)! Next, you turn to run on Tingley Drive which was very cute/pretty itself running along small little parks, ponds and by the Country Club. This part of the city was beautiful! After a couple turnarounds, you continue through the surrounding neighborhoods and end right in front of the zoo. The terrain was mostly asphalt with a little bit of gravel in the beginning. Also, it was pretty flat the whole way – not that I’m complaining. I really liked the course!

The RUN itself: Felt amazing! So, I already hinted that I set an awesome PR: My chip time was 51 minutes flat! You don’t know how ecstatic I am about this! OK, I know that the elevation is lower, but still! My previous PR for 10k was 1:01:19 during the Bolder Boulder last year. I ran this race in 51 minutes. That’s 10 minutes knocked off! That’s awesome to me! I feel very accomplished. This is the best I’ve ever felt running. No hip pain (phew), no soreness. I breathed heavily of course, but I never felt horrible…..maybe it was the altitude, or lack there of, but I don’t care! I’m so proud of my PR. I also took 4th out of 87 in my age group/gender; 36/536 for females; 163/986 total. My friend ran it with me and also did very well! I am running the Bolder Boulder 10k again this year in a couple of weeks, and I’m really curious to see how well I do. It will be a great comparison to see how much the lack of altitude really did contribute to my PR or if I’m just that much more in shape awesome!

The Zoo!

The Post Race: We had some race provided snacks (fruit, granola bars, bagels and gatorade) and well as a free Popsicle (my favorite snack) and the best part about this whole event…….. The zoo! We got free admission to the zoo and stretched our muscles post race by walking around and seeing all the animals. Great way to end the day, well, afternoon. We then hauled it 7 hours back home.

Overall, it was a great trip! It was a little too short for a vacation, but enough to sample Albuquerque. I got to taste some food, see parts of the town, and I even met up with fellow blogger Amy who writes Lavender Parking! We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a margarita. Now, back to the real world…….

UPDATES! 

Next weekend, I actually DON’T have a race! This will be the first weekend I have off after running races three weekends in a row. I’m tempted to last minute register for a Mother’s day race but haven’t decided yet. But I’m back at it for sure with the Rugged Maniac on May 19th.

Check out my Project page: I have two states colored in now!! hahaha

Question for my regular readers: I didn’t talk too much about my actually trip….for those of you who read my blog regularly, would you like to hear about the travel parts of it??? Or just the running stuff…let me know!

Run for the Zoo, Albuquerque, NM – Pre Race Review

This Sunday I will cross off New Mexico for my completed states!  I am traveling to Albuquerque this weekend to complete the Run for the Zoo!

Two reasons I’m SUPER excited for this race:

1. It’s in another state (YAY)

2. It’s a run for a ZOO!! Isn’t that awesome!?

I am a huge animal fan. I mean, HUGE! I did, after all, major in Zoology in college and I currently am a vet tech. In all seriousness, I really do love animals. It’s my passion. I eventually want a real career involving animals especially something like conservation biology.

So, the proceeds for this race go to support the NM Biopark Society – so it supports the zoo, the aquarium and botanic gardens. And what better way to spend my race money on if it’s going to a zoo!?  Sounds perfect for me! I really do want to try to find all my races that go to some kind of good cause. I know that Amy from Lavender Parking will be there too!  Pretty exciting!

This event features all different milage of races. I am signed up for the 10k. I debated between that and doing the half marathon but I’m glad I went with the lower milage because of my hip hurting. (I have not gone to the doctor yet; and I probably didn’t do it any favors by playing soccer and rock climbing the day after my race – I couldn’t help myself! – but I did take two days off from running monday and tuesday, and finally went for a slow 4 mile run Wednesday. No hip pain! So we’ll see about this weekend). I took a look at the course map, and it looks like part of it follows a river, so I bet it might be a very pretty run.

I am really excited to get a another state knocked down for my project. I’ve been to New Mexico only once before when I was a kid…but I barely remember it. I don’t honestly even remember the city I was at right now. But I know it wasn’t Albuquerque. I love to travel to new places, so this is super fun for me, even if I’m only going to be gone 2 days!  HAHA! Me and my fellow running friend will be driving down from Denver early Saturday morning. She is also a science/animal nerd like myself (she even works with me!) and we’re both super excited to tour the Albuquerque zoo after the race – I’m pretty sure we even get in free!

My goals for this race:

1. Make it through with no hip pain! Maybe not too realistic, but until I get to a doc, it has been worrying me.

2. Run under 60 min. My PR for 10k is last year at the Bolder Boulder. I ran it in 1:01:19. I only need to knock of 1 minute and 19 seconds! I can do this!

3. Enjoy the new place! It’s a fun thing for me, and I really do want to take in the views while I run!

From reading everyone’s post this week, it sounds like a lot of you have races this weekend! Good luck on all them!