Friday, August 31, 2012

Trail running

We've established that I'm currently obsessed with running.  I wanna run to and from everywhere.  Surprisingly, I've logged just under 100 miles this month.  Yep, that's the longest I've logged in almost two years.  I used to log quite a bit two to three years back when I was not obsessed with triathlons, when I had to divide my time between swimming, biking and running.  But now, it's all about the running... with my pink shoes.

This long weekend, my man would like to go to Aspen... and hike, of course.  But I'm feeling so tired that I'd prefer not to.  Unfortunately for me, looks like I just do not have a choice.  Our peaks of choice are Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak both in the Elk Mountains and just a few steps away from each other.  The geeks from don't even recognize Conundrum as a 14er (even though its summit sits above 14,000 ft) mostly because it's too close and you don't lose enough elevation coming off the one peak before you head back up the second (which should be 300 ft).  Me?  I'm a believer that those two are indeed two separate peaks therefore I'll count them as two.

In addition, the man also wants to climb Pyramid Peak, which is a mostly class IV climb.  Too hard for me.  Well, actually, I've done class IV climbs before, but I think I'm mentally exhausted these days and do not want to deal with it so I'm sticking to class III climbs as my hard ones, but mostly, I want to run, so gotta do class I - class II max.  Pyramid is not a mountain that you can run. So I've said we are not doing that one, but instead, I found access to amazing trails where I can run long in Aspen.

Hunter Creek trail would provide a 4.8 mile run out-and-back, but according to the review I found, you can connect to one of many trails from here for longer options.  I'm aiming for at least a couple of hours... and I'm excited.  So me and my not-so-new-anymore pink shoes, will head out for a fun Sunday run (or Monday?  or both?)

"The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life." - George Sheehan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

14th 14er

It was two weeks ago on Sunday that my man had planned on going for a hard climb with one of his buddies and I did not have any specific plans, but staying at home seemed like a bad, boring idea. Although today, I wish I had a day to just lay in bed ALL DAY.  

He left on Friday evening, and I spent my Saturday doing things that normal people do.  Woke up at 10am, walked the pup, had a late breakfast and went for a run up Sanitas (ok, not a lot of people just go run up Sanitas, but I guess some of that crazy athlete had to come out every once in a while).  I came home to take a long shower and then go to the Broncos game in Denver.  Nice, chill Saturday.  

On Sunday though, my alarm went off at 4:00am.  I already had my stuff packed: peanuts, gummy bears, water, Gatorade and of course my hydration vest.  A warm jacket, hat, gloves, etc.  Where was I going?  I was headed to the top of the mountain that had kicked my butt 3 times in the past.  Also, I needed to go check out whatever was left of my second home.  

I was at the trail head before 7am, got Levi ready and started jogging.  Fun fact: I've been running up in the mountains a lot lately and have been bringing a pair of shorts and a light sweatshirt.  This day, it was 30 degrees at the trail head.  Ouch.  Good thing I had my puffy... this was my first time running wearing this!  Felt hot fast, but it was too chilly to not wear it. 

Chilly, but gorgeous morning

This mountain is so much more forgiving in the summer.  The past three attempts have been in the winter, once with lots of snow, the other two with lots of wind.  This time, it was sunny and not windy at all.  Wait, scratch that... it got windy, but not as bad as it was the previous times.  It was definitely easier to walk up this mountain with no snow.  And I made it up to the cabin site in just 25 minutes.  I almost cried.  I miss the cabin, although there's some of it left up there... I was happy to visit.  

Me with what's left of my second home

I got back on the trail and jogged up to the saddle between Mt. Sherman and Mt. Sheridan. I was up there within 36 minutes.  Kept moving fast and before I knew it, I found myself on the last stretch of the ridge to the summit.  It was one of the most fun ridges I've been on.  Crazy that I've been on that mountain 3 times before and I never really made it to that part.  

Awesome ridge!

I got to the summit in just 1h10m.  And it was awesome.  I had the summit for myself for a good 30 minutes before other people started arriving.  I had never had the top of mountain for myself and it felt pretty good.  

Summit shot.  My 14th 14er

And the views did not disappoint: 

On my way down, I set my eyes on the mountain right next door: Mt. Sheridan.  A 13,750-ish foot mountain. I decided to jog down fast and head up to the summit of the second mountain.  It looked like it was really close.  

Mt. Sheridan as I saw it coming down from Sherman.  It looked close, but it wasn't really... 

It was a steep mountain, but I made it to the summit quite fast.  It took me just under 50 minutes to get off Sherman and summit Sheridan.  It was a cool summit. 

Summit of Sheridan

Sheridan summit

It was a successful day, which ended with an awesome breakfast at the Burro Cafe in Fairplay.  One of my favorite breakfast places in the world.  Also, not only was this a 4th, and successful attempt of this mountain, but this is the 14th 14er that I summit.  Maybe there's something special with this mountain... and number 4 I guess.  

Apart from still playing in the backcountry, I've also been training for my 50K race... which reminds me, I haven't shared the fact that I got a new coach and he's been kicking my a$$ like no one before.  I like it.  Maybe one day I will summit all these mountains in just 30 minutes... cause he sure is making me faster.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My name is Gaby and I'm a triathlete

No news there... I am indeed a triathlete and I accept I have an addiction.

The past few weeks have been incredibly fun. So much fun that I haven't had time to write on my blog. My bad. But I've been all over the place. We hiked/ran in the San Juans, I went solo on a hike that, although easy, had proved a challenge since I had attempted it 3 times before... This time, I summitted (more details to follow).

Why have these few weeks been "funner" (is this even a word?) than before? Well, for once, I'm not training for Ironman, which gives me SO MUCH extra time for stuff that normal people do. But in addition, I've been focusing in running. Lots. I had forgotten how awesome it was to JUST run. Equipment? Shoes... that is it. You and the road, you and the trail. One foot in front of the other, 15 minutes or 100.

But today, while at a bookstore, I picked up two magazines to browse as I drank sipped tea. Trail Runner and Triathlete. I've always been a Runner's World kinda person but my subscription ended in May of 2011 and never got around to renewing (was obviously too busy with my triathlon life). But lately, I have been toying around with the idea of getting Trail Runner.  In the end, I've been slowly moving on to "off-roading".  The magazine was awesome, it has pointers and some awesome stories as well as some pretty epic runs out there.  I'm in.  Got home to subscribe.  Can't wait to get my new issue.

Then I moved on to browse through Triathlete. First words out of my mouth: "Triathlons are awesome!"  Ok, guilty.  I'm addicted.  I can't help but smile everytime I see a picture of someone crossing the finish line of a triathlon, sprint or Ironman.  It's so much work and so much discipline that it makes it so so special.

So, long story short... while I'm enjoying my running days (which will be a few months for sure), I look forward to signing up for a couple half Ironman distance triathlons next year.  While full Ironman distance is awesome and will probably do it again, for now it's best if I stick to half Ironman, that way, I can also focus on my running and mostly, my trail running. I look forward to some epic 50 milers in the next year or two.

Happy running.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Beauty of Irrational

"Human beings don't always make rational decisions.  But making irrational decisions is precisely what makes us human.  These decisions, based on an impulse or a feeling, often lead us to those perfect moments when it feels great to be alive."

I got back to the office from an appointment with a client to find an email from my man who just said: "To inspire you". Followed by this video. My man knows me well.

Happy running.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Leaving your best friend behind...

Who is YOUR best friend?  I consider myself a lucky lucky girl.  I have many friends and a few spread around the world.  I have some friends who I talk to less, but I know they'll be there for me no matter what.  I also have some friends who I see very often who I argue with more but I love dearly and would not know what to do without them.  And then I have some other friends who I see every once in a while, but we talk as if we hung out every day.  Some better than others, but in the end, they are all my friends.

I have one friend who is by my side no matter what.  I met him three years ago, and while he was brought to my life through someone else, we've become REALLY close over the past 2 years.  He is my BEST FRIEND.  He listens anytime I need anyone to just listen. He understands when I'm sad and sits by my side when I cry. He celebrates my successes with me (he has an amazing smile)... and plays with me when I'm in the mood for playing.  His name is Levi and he looks something like this:

This is Levi

Levi has been in my man's life for a good 4(ish) years and I've been in theirs for just over 3... and let me tell you, it's been an honor.  They're my boys and I love them both.  Over the past few years, we've hiked many mountains, we've gone on endless runs, we've snuggled, we've played, we've watched tv together... all sorts of things. And honestly, I don't know what I'd do without him (and I'm talking about Levi... I guess Chuck as well, hehe).  All our trips, weekend plans and outings are planned with our puppy in mind.  We've driven thousands and thousands of miles instead of flying, just to be able to bring our puppy with us because well, he's family... and yep, we are a GOOD LOOKING FAMILY.

A-top Mt. Elbert.  July, 2012
A-top Mt. Belford. April, 2012
As you can see, we take him anywhere we go.  Even top of mountains.  But we tend to be very cautious when we make decisions of when and where he can go based on his abilities.  He's an outdoorsy and active dog, just like mom and dad... so he's a great companion, but as such, we try to make sure he'll be safe at all times.  When the days are long, we make him carry his pack, with booties to protect his paws/pads if need be, a blanket which we sometimes use for him on the summit for him to lay on, some water, some food and some treats.  We treat him as our kid and look after him at all times.  He's great at staying close, staying on trail when asked to, and overall, he's a pretty great hiking partner.

The reason why I post this is because as of Sunday, someone posted on, that they found a dog, left alone, hurt and dehydrated on the Sawtooth.  A ridge that connects Mt. Bierstadt (one of the easiest 14ers) and Mt. Evans (another 14er... one that you can drive up to).  If interested, you can find the route by clicking here.  Anyway, the couple started a thread where they post a picture of the dog, and tried to (with the aid of yet another picture) explain the location of the dog.  They said the dog's paws were badly hurt and she refused to walk, but they put some bandages on her paws, left some water and food and came back home to post that thread and ask for help.  They, unfortunately, were unable to carry the dog out being that she is a big German Shepherd and they didn't have anything to carry her with.

Picture posted by "wash" on

This triggered all sorts of comments by way too many people... but regardless, a rescue mission was organized by people that had never met this dog and were just determined to save this poor soul who was abandoned up there with no shelter, food or water.  Apparently, the first rescue attempt failed, they couldn't locate the dog... but a second rescue mission was organized, again, by members and this time, this person "wash" was coming along.

Long story short, they found the dog yesterday... they carried her down and pretty much saved her life.  In the meantime, the thread on the website was going all over the place.  The owner of the dog was mentioned a few times, but there was no sight of him.. anywhere.  People were actually wondering if the dog was truly there since there was no one claiming a dog... SAR (Search and Rescue) did not mention of anyone claiming the dog.  Apparently animal control didn't know either.  All these authorities were called before heading out on a rescue mission.

Dog found on the ridge under pretty harsh conditions by the rescuers (Photo posted on
Last night, the story was on 9news at which point the owner decided to join and claim his dog.  Ok, members are a tough crowd and this episode created all sorts of opinions, but seriously... let others randomly find your dog, put their own lives at risk, rescue your dog and you come out of the blue and claim her?  One person saw him hiking on Aug 5th., that means... he left the dog on the mountain that day, the dog was found on Aug 12th and rescued on the 13th.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Leave your dog to die for 8 days... I just can't wrap my head around that.

Carrying the dog down to safety... I think she looks relieved (Photo posted on
What does the owner say?  Well, the dog was tired and hurt, she wouldn't move so he (and his climbing partner) tried carrying her down but weather was on it's way so they had to move farther down for safety.  Ok, we all seem to understand that you gotta be safe... but the question is, why didn't you come back for your dog?  Why didn't you alert anyone?  Put flyers at the trailhead?  Post something on (ok, seems like he was not a member up until this morning) but craigslist?  ANYWHERE.  Common sense: you lose your dog, you ask for help. Well, apparently he was too tired and had blisters on his feet. So, he gave up on her. Just like that.

The 14ers community is hesitant to give the dog back.  Their thoughts are: you gave up your dog, you thought she was dead, so maybe someone who actually cared should keep the dog.  Someone that would actually do ANYTHING for the dog (like the 6 or 8 strangers that went out there to rescue her).  I have my very own opinions and while I've drafted a few replies on the original thread (now with well over 400 replies), have not gotten myself to click the "post" button.  I judge the owner, yes.  I would do ANYTHING for Levi and if I have to hike down to safety during a storm, I'd come straight back up to get him afterwards. If I can't, I'd sleep in my car and wait for next day hikers to help me and I pray that a blister (as big as can be) will NEVER stop me from saving my best friend.

I'm glad the pup, Missy, is safe.  She apparently is at the vet healing and hydrating.  I can't imagine what she went through over 7-8 days with no water, food or shelter.  Waiting for her best friend to come rescue her and he never came, he didn't even try. I wish the owner has closure knowing the dog is ok and under a responsible dog owner's care.  I'm sure he will now think twice when getting another dog OR taking a dog up a mountain.

Rescue team with Missy back at the trailhead.  I don't know these people, but in my eyes, they are true heroes!  (Photo posted on
As for us, we also pray we never find ourselves in that situation, but if we do, I promise to myself, my man and my pup that I will do anything in my power to save him.  I love him more than anything and could not bare the thought of losing him "just like that" without even trying.  Sad story, with a happy ending.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm never doing this again...

These are the words that have come out of my mouth way too many times and yet, I find myself doing things over and over again.  As painful as may seem...

This past weekend, I found myself at the start line of Ironman Boulder 70.3.  If you've been following my blog, I wrote about my very first experience on this course in 2010.  It was painful.  I was signed up to race this year and really put to the test everything I've worked for in the past couple of years.

I don't want to brag too much about my swimming abilities, but while I swam lots when I was younger, and I've kept my swimming consistent but haven't really done much speedwork, I've seen a couple minute improvement and granted, I can now comfortably swim the distance, although not fast.  Two years ago, it was a victory just to get out of the water.

2010 Swim Time: 47:31
2012 Swim Time: 46:00

The bike has been a whole different story... I've been training pretty hard on the bike this year.  Mostly, because I need to make sure that by the time I get off the bike, I'm still feeling strong to have a good run. I had been successful at both big events this year: Oceanside and Coeur D'Alene and I had made it my mission to keep it that way in my 3rd event.  My only goal for this race had been to break the 3h mark on the bike... And so I did.

2010 Bike Time: 3:21:32
2012 Bike Time: 2:54:13

Now, run... this has happened to me a few times this year: I'm SO excited about my ride, that I go on my run feeling absolutely amazing.  While on my bike I was thinking that my only goal was to beat 3h on the bike, I got to thinking that this was a race, and I had been having a great year.  In addition, this was indeed my last triathlon in the F25-29 age group as I will be 30 next year so I figured I'd give it my all on the run.  Not only that, but the one thing I've been doing the most the past 6 weeks has been, well, RUNNING.  It was time to press the play button once more.

Just like I did in Oceanside, I got in a comfortable pace and just kept going.  I made a point of slowing down at aid stations and drinking plenty of water, it was getting pretty hot.  And all in all, I had a pretty amazing run absolutely crushing my previous year's run.

2010 Run Time: 3:19:47
2012 Run Time: 1:58:59

And just as that was a HUGE improvement, it was way closer to what my Oceanside time was: 2h13m. Granted, this time around, I was 10lbs lighter as well. Not only am I saying that my run improved significantly, which I'm basing on the times of my run races alone, but I'm sure that my bike has been pretty good for me as well, since now I've been strong enough to get off the bike and run a very respectable half marathon.

I am happy and now, I move on to another age group, more running, to getting faster, a new season and a new coach.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trail Running

I'm back!  It's been a little too long since I last wrote. Anyway, I've just been busy.  But fun-kinda-busy.  Been hanging out with friends, working, moving, training, but mostly, I've been TRAIL RUNNING.  Yes, me, Mrs. Weak-Ankles.

On July 28, we tackled Mt. Elbert.  The highest mountain in Colorado and not only did we go for a hike, but just like a couple weeks before, we jogged as much as we could on the way up, and ran as fast as we could on the way down.

We woke up at 4:00am and hit the road.  We stopped at the gas station to pick up some Krispy Kremes, but it was under construction and we had to settle for some crackers.  By Idaho Springs, we decided to stop by McDonald's.  Who doesn't love a HEARTY Mc.Donald's breakfast?  I absolutely LOVE the egg and cheese biscuit, the hash brown and orange juice.  It's perfect.

We had friends waiting for us to start at 6:00am, and we knew we'd be late, so we texted them and had them start.  We got there almost 45 minutes late, got ready and started at 7:00am sharp.

At the trailhead

While the trail started with some steep switchbacks on the Colorado Trail, we stuck to a nice slow jog.  It was absolutely GORGEOUS. This is when it hit me, I gotta come back and run along the Colorado Trail much more often. Anyway, after the steep switchbacks, it got nice and flat (or so I thought so.  It was actually downhill and I realized this when I struggled to run it on the way back).  After a mile or so, unfortunately, we take a turn and start going up... but I know I'll be back to run the Colorado Trail a little more.

To Mt. Elbert...

After another mile and a half, we reached treeline.  We had been on the trail for a little under an hour and we reached one of the people in our group that had started at 6.  We had passed SO MANY people.  I guess my man is used to it, but I'm not.  Like I mentioned last time, I'm NEVER the fast one on the trail, but I guess my running legs have been amazing to me this year.  It puts a smile on my face and gives me the energy to keep going.  Obviously, as a good triathlete, I get competitive and I wanna beat everyone to the summit.

At treeline

Above treeline, we passed Chuck's other two friends and just kept going up.  This is where we started some other switchbacks, and while I hate them when I'm hiking, they seem much more friendlier while running, makes it less steep and you get up them WAY faster than when hiking.  I did a mix of power-hike and jog.  This was followed by a nice flatter saddle-type-thing before a VERY steep section.  We had no option but to just walk up it.  We talked to a guy that had just come down and was jogging, he said apart from him and us, there was only one other runner on the mountain.  This other runner he was talking about was pretty crazy, cause we saw him start as we were getting ready, we saw him come down right before we hit the summit and later in the afternoon (way later) we saw him just running around on the roads... I wonder if he EVER stopped running.

My goal was to hit the summit within two hours.  I had read about the route and on the website, they said it was a 9 mile roundtrip, so given the elevation gain, I figured I'd be right around that, but I hit 4.5 miles and I was not on the summit...  I hit 4.5 miles somewhere around 14,200ft at 2h8m.  So I was off by 8 minutes, but kept pushing for the summit.  The summit was at 4.8 miles and I reached it in under 2h20m, so not too bad for someone that JUST got started with trail and elevation running.

Good enough in my books! 

I did a little research and the fastest ascent of Mt. Elbert was recorded by Sid Hayes in 1987.  He summitted in 1h13m.  The second fastest was Roger Briggs, also in 1987 in 1h37m... I'm sure that with a little bit of practice, I will get closer to AT LEAST the second fastest.  That guy Sid, just sounds like he's not from this planet.

Anyway, we took the summit family shot and waited for the rest of our group for an hour and 20 minutes before we started going down.

We are a handsome couple... just saying!  :)

The man and I ran down... I walked the steeper sections since they were a little gnarly, but once past  that, before the switchbacks above treeline, I ran as fast as I could.  It was SUPER fun, just like the other time and I can't seem to get enough of it, I wanna do this more.  I passed quite a few people that were going up, and it seemed dumb, since the sky seemed to get slightly stormy as I was coming down... I warned those that were still a long way from treeline, but no one seemed to listen.

I got back to the car and had done the whole thing in 3:40 minutes... and also, got a nice little blister.  I seem to get this same blister over and over again when I run downhill on trail.  Surprisingly, it only bugs me while running, but not while walking.

Total trip


Chuck and I sat in the car and had some beer.  We waited for a while before it started pouring rain, and one by one the rest of our party started showing up.  Both Chuck and I were back before noon, and the last one of them showed up at 3:30pm.  It was a LONG wait, but we were dry, warm, and beered up.  I feel bad for those who got rained on and were cold, but oh well.

Now, the man wants to take me to do Humboldt Peak and traverse over to Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.  It seems like a long day, and it wouldn't be a trail running day so I'm trying to talk him into doing something else.  But who knows, maybe we can run to the first one, do a safe traverse and run all the way down.  With the storms brewing early in the day, we may just have to run anyway.  :)

On to the next adventure...

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go." -T.S. Eliot