My 7 Favorite Things About Colorado

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My husband and I recently returned from a week long trip to Colorado. While the primary reason for our trip was a friend’s wedding in Telluride, the decision to extend our trip into a longer adventure seemed like a no-brainer. During the week we managed to squeeze in a wedding, multiple backpacking trips, trail runs, hikes, and visits to towns less traveled. While every single trail and mountain and lake we saw in Colorado was amazing, there are plenty of less specific things that make the Centennial State one of my favorites. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say part of the reason I’m making this list is to convince my husband of my (not so) secret plans to move there someday. So without further ado, here are my seven favorite things about Colorado:

  1. Mountains, mountains everywhere. Who doesn’t love a good mountain, eh? Whether you’re driving down I-70 or camping in the backcountry, chances are you’re going to be surrounded by mountains (unless of course you’re in Northeast Colorado, which looks a lot like Nebraska, no offense). What could be more magical and inspiring than seeing mountains all around you? Nothing that I can think of.
  2. The people who live there and the outdoor culture. No matter where we went in Colorado, everyone we met was so welcoming and helpful. As soon as we mentioned we were from out of state and were looking for trail and backpacking ideas, people were eager to share their favorites with us. From the guy working at the Walmart Kinko’s in Montrose to the guy working at the running shop in Carbondale to the guy we sat next to at a brewery in Leadville, Coloradoans were happy to help us have an amazing experience.
  3. No one is in a hurry. Ok, so this was actually one of my least favorite things too. When it comes to driving, Coloradoans are the slowest of the slow. Maybe it’s because they’re busy enjoying the scenery? After the 6-hour turned 7.5-hour drive from DIA to Telluride, we were feeling less than charitable toward local drivers. When it comes to the trails though, I couldn’t agree more with the take your time attitude. After spending 15+ years competing in running and triathlon, I’ll admit that a lot of times I like to do things fast. While it’s a great gift to be able to cover long distances in a short amount of time, sometimes it’s great to be able to take your time and enjoy the journey and the views (and in Colorado there are plenty of them!). On our last day of the trip, I climbed 14er Mt. Elbert. Shortly after I arrived at the top, about 8 guys arrived in groups of two or three. They all sat down on the summit, a couple beers were opened, some legal plants were passed around, people took pictures of each other. In short, no one was in a hurry to end their journey. Except me of course, only this time it was because I had to get down the mountain, shower, and drive back to Denver to catch a flight. But I promise for the rest of my trip, I slowed down and enjoyed the scenery.
  4. People say it’s crowded but it’s really not. One of the first things people say about Colorado is “Oh it’s so busy, there’s too many people, I would never want to go there.” Sure, if you go to Pikes Peak or the Manitou Incline or the Boulder Flatirons on a summer weekend, you’re going to have lots of company. But trust me, there are lots of less traveled places in Colorado. As someone who has driven across the state multiple times in the last few months, trust me when I say, Colorado is a whole lot of nothing. Once you get a couple hours outside of Denver, I think you’ll be surprised. There are plenty of smaller towns with equally if not more amazing destinations than their more urban counterparts. On this trip we stopped in Carbondale and Leadville, which are both small towns with lots of activities and fewer people (and apparently named after elements). We had planned to visit Silverton (I’m sensing a theme here) and/or Durango on this trip, but the current forest fire near there changed our plans. There is still plenty of solitude to be found in Colorado if you’re willing to get off the beaten path.
  5. So many dogs! A lot of times it seems like outdoor adventures and dogs go hand in hand. I mean who wouldn’t want to share the best part of life with man’s best friend. From stores to trails to breweries to sidewalks, there are happy dogs everywhere. Walk into any local bike or outdoor store and you’ll likely be greeted by a friendly pup. Hike along any trail and you’ll see big dogs, little dogs, all kinds of dogs leading their owners up mountains.
  6. Year round activities! Even though our trip was obviously in the summer, it was easy to see that the adventures don’t end when the snow falls. Downhill skiing is an obvious one, but there’s also Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, mountaineering, fatbiking, the possibilities are endless.
  7. There is so much to see and do, it’s impossible to run out of places to go. Colorado is home to four national parks, eight national monuments, and three national historic areas. There are also 11 national forests and numerous state parks. Exploring any one of them could easily take weeks on its own. I feel like we saw and did so much during our week, but I already have a long list of other places I want to go and activities I want to try.

What are your favorite things about Colorado?

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Never Say Never – Biking After A Long Hiatus

Flashback to August 2015, I was coming into transition after my longest bike ride ever at my first (and as of now, only) IRONMAN. After many hours, 112 miles, and over 7000 feet of elevation gain, I had pretty much had enough biking to last me a lifetime.

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“Sell my bike.” I told my husband and sister, “I’m never riding ever again.”

“Okay” they snickered “It’s going to be tough. There isn’t a huge market for tiny bikes like yours.”

Comedians. I’d just spent many miserable hours riding up hill after hill and all they wanted to do was make short jokes. No matter, though. I had finally reached the best part of any triathlon, the run.

Since finishing that IRONMAN a few years ago, I’ve pretty much kept my vow to never ride again. I’ve gone for a short ride here and there but for the most part, my bikes have been silently collecting dust in the basement.

Part of the reason why I haven’t done any riding the last few years is because there is nowhere to ride. In a world that’s increasingly made for car traffic and to minimize any chance of people having to ever set foot outside their vehicle, there is less room for bikes. Add to that the fact that everyone has a smart phone and what seems to be a blatant disregard for other people, and I pretty much can’t think of a worse scenario for cyclists. In college, I lived in an area with miles and miles of country roads that were perfect for biking. The few drivers that were out on those roads were friendly and accommodating. When I think about where I live now with it’s constant stream of car horns, drag racing, and people watching movies and texting behind the wheel, it makes me miss the good old days. I used to love biking, but I don’t love it so much that I’m willing to put my life in danger for it.

Fast forward to a few days ago. My friend is training for a multi-day triathlon event that’s coming up in just over a month. I keep telling her she needs to do more biking, but she doesn’t always have the motivation to ride. When your options are: ride inside on a stationary bike trainer, ride on a dangerous road, or ride on a bike path made for dog walkers and children with training wheels, it doesn’t exactly make training easy.

After literal years of her trying to get me to bike with her, I finally gave in. I even convinced my husband to join in the misery, I mean fun. For our ride we decided on a nearby park on an island in the Detroit River where we could do five-mile loops. It was sunny, 70 degrees, and it was a park so there shouldn’t be much traffic (because who goes to parks these days, right?). We had all the makings for a great ride, or at least as great as biking can be.

But first, we had to get there. This meant getting our bikes onto the roof of our car. Easier said than done. Basically all the moving parts on our bike racks were corroded with years of non-use. To get the locks unlocked and to be able to adjust everything that needed to be adjusted required some chain lube, a wrench, and a snow scraper. After about a half hour, we finally managed to get both bikes on the roof, feeling like we had already completed our workout.

When we arrived at the park, there was chaos. Orange barrels, concrete stanchions, lanes ending, and cars, lots and lots of cars. So much for the low-traffic ride I had envisioned. The warm temperatures on a beautiful spring night ensured that we were far from the only people with this park idea.

After we parked our cars, put on our shoes, and pumped up our tires, we were finally ready to ride. Side note, this is another reason I think biking is annoying. At this point I had already spent an hour and a half collecting all my gear, getting bikes on the roof, driving to said location, etc. With running, you just put on your shoes and go, easy as that. But anyway, this day was about biking.

I considered it a win when I successfully got on my bike without immediately falling over. Maybe riding a bike really is “just like riding a bike”? On our first loop, we got the lay of the land aka where all the construction zones were, where there was glass in the bike lane, and who the especially angry drivers seemed to be. By the second loop, I was almost even having fun. My bike handling skills seemed to still be intact and I was even able to take a few pictures while we were riding. On our fourth and final loop, the sun was setting, there was less traffic, and I was almost able to see what I used to love so much about biking. Almost. The wind in my hair, the sound of my wheels spinning, having to yell to be heard (oh wait, I do that even when I’m not biking). These are things you just don’t get on a run or hike.

Would I do it again? Probably, but I’m not sure yet whether that will be in three days or three years.

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