Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trail Running: Dakota Ridge & Red Rocks Trails

Last weekend we took a road trip down to Santa Fe for a luxuriously relaxing few days that included trail running, a few bruises, window shopping, incredible food, and our fair share of margaritas. But more on that later. I need to jump back a few weeks to get a recent trail run on the interwebs.

Beginning with the Colfax Marathon Relay next weekend, I have three races coming up in a matter of five weeks. BolderBOULDER, which may be considered a new tradition for us in our 3rd year straight, will come next and culminating with the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler. As I haven't run 10 miles since my last half marathon in 2011 - when I fractured my femur and came to the hard truth that I had to drastically cut back on my mileage.

In an attempt to be ready for these races, particularly the hilly 10 miler at higher elevation, I'm incorporating some technical trail running into my training, although I'm not following any specific plan.

Dakota Ridge Trail

A few weeks ago we took on Dakota Ridge Trail and Red Rocks Trail which is about a 20 minute drive from Denver and right near Red Rocks Amphitheater. We parked in the dinosaur lot across the road from the main Matthews Winter Park lot (pictured in the bottom right of the photo above). Right out of the gate we were climbing and it didn't take long for my heart to start pounding.

Dakota Ridge Trail

Dakota Ridge Trail

While we've hiked more difficult trails, this was the most technical we've run - at least the Dakota Ridge section. The terrain changed quite a bit throughout the 6 miles but there were plenty of steep rocky climbs and descents; long slow climbs; creeks to pass; rolling hills, and a lot of beautiful views.

Climbing Red Rocks Trail

We went early and on a morning that was overcast, as you can see from the photos. I believe this is key because while a clear blue sky would make for stunning views, the vast majority of the trail is exposed with little, to no, shade so I'm sure it can get very toasty.

Two days after this run my shins and ankles were still a bit sore. Definitely important to stretch and roll after this run. And eat well to help your muscles recover. My ankles aren't used to working so hard! Clearly I need to spend more time on the trails but I can already tell that the time we have spent recently has helped my running.

Red Rocks Trail

If you go:
  • Go early to avoid the heat and crowds
  • Carry a little water
  • Wear sunblock and consider a cap
  • Park in the small lot across from the Matthews Winter Park lot (less crowded, I'd say)
  • If you haven't been to Red Rocks, take a drive up to the amphitheater when you've finished, it's usually open in the morning and a national treasure (IMHO)
  • Find our 6 mile loop on MapMyRun
Do you incorporate trails into your running? * What races do you have coming up?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Running Waterton Canyon (+ an Epic Wipes Giveaway)

It's been a solid month since I last wrote. Not because I haven't been doing anything, but rather I've been so busy I just haven't had the time to sit and write. It's going to take me a bit of time to catch up, but let's start with a run.

Several of my Oiselle teammates have been clocking a number of long runs prepping for Boston and other spring marathons, and I had noticed a number of conversations - and beautiful Insta shots - around Waterton Canyon. So a few weeks ago on a nice morning, Matt and I headed south about 30 minutes from our house in Denver to the canyon, just a bit past Chatfield State Park. 

Waterton Canyon, also known as Platte Canyon, runs along the Platte River which supplies a great amount the water from the mountains to the Denver-metro area. There's a rather large parking lot with an outhouse just past the entrance to the Lockheed Martin facility. After crossing the road you'll encounter the trail sign and a pretty nice - and what looks to be new - water fountain perfect for bottle filling.

(Note that Waterton Canyon is closed Monday - Saturday until May 15 while work is being done on one of the dams. Enjoy the canyon on Sunday's until then.)

Waterton Canyon Trailhead

The path for runners and hikers is a wide dirt road that is pretty unassuming at the start. It's not until a few minutes into the run that you connect to the river and finally begin to see what all the fuss is about. While the road winds through the canyon along the river, and the mountain provides some shade, there are long stretches when the sun beats down. The temperature swing was pretty drastic between shade and sun - an aspect of Colorado weather you get used to pretty quickly.

As many of my friends love to run and hike with their dogs, I'll mention now that mountain goats are common in this area so to protect the natural wildlife, dogs are not allowed in Waterton Canyon. Mountain biking, foot traffic, and limited fishing in designated areas, are allowed.

Waterton Canyon

As usual, we started out on the early side as we'd rather not be on trails during the heat of the day. It was cool when we started and quite toasty when we finished. We ran a bit over 4 miles up the canyon to Mill Gulch Bridge where the trail/road switches to the other side of the river. The trail starts at about 5550 feet elevation and climbs steadily into the mountains. I could definitely feel it in my legs and breathing, but the nice thing about running up a canyon is that once you turn around and head back, you're going down the whole way.

Waterton Canyon

It really was beautiful scenery and a different type of run than we're used to. The dirt road means that it's not technical but you get to enjoy a softer surface than running on a regular street, plus if you're doing a long run there's no thinking involved. Just head out and go. Well, keep an eye out for wildlife and mountain bikers, but you don't have to worry about traffic or keeping track of your route. Plus, this is the entrance to the Colorado Trail, which stretches 500 miles to Durango. 

By the time we got back to the car, we were pretty toasty and a good bit dusty. Since we wanted to stop for coffee and brunch on our way home, we needed to clean up a bit. Thankfully, a few years back a cool new company, Epic Wipes, had reached out to me to try their product and I was psyched to try it out.

Epic Wipes

At more than 2 feet long, Epic Wipes are the most massive and amazing wet wipes you will ever lay your hands on. They are like nothing you've tried. Created by a doctor who's been stationed in Afghanistan and has worked with patients at Walter Reed Medical Center, Aeneas Janze decided to create a product that could actually be useful to anyone without access to a shower and doesn't require 10+ small wipes to get clean (we've all been there at some point, right?). 

These genius wipes are made of bamboo and other biodegradable materials, they are free of parabens and utilize antibacterial oils including chamomile and eucalyptus. They feel cool on the skin even after hours sitting in a car trunk on a hot day.

After our run up the canyon, Matt and I cleaned up with these wipes and they were perfect. I can't begin to explain how awesome they felt after that hot, dusty run. This product really could be useful for so many people beyond runners, the uses seem pretty limitless.

Epic Wipes

Epic Wipes

Unfortunately for us, these aren't on the market quite yet. While packaging is done and there's a great product video, from what I understand, the company is getting ready to launch a Kick Starter campaign, which you can get updates about by signing up on the website.


But, lucky for you, I have some to give away! I really just want to keep them all for myself, but two lucky people will win two Epic Wipes. 

I'm going to make it crazy easy for you to enter with a few options:
  1. Click HERE to Tweet about this giveaway (it'll open in another window) and leave a comment.
  2. Follow Epic Wipes on Facebook - and leave a comment below when you have
  3. Leave a comment on when you'd use Epic Wipes.
  4. Follow me on Instagram HERE and leave a comment to let me know.
To win, you must live in the continental United States. You MUST leave a comment on this post for your entry to count. Two winners will be chosen randomly. Entries will be accepted until 5:00pm MT, Wednesday, May 26th. The wipes I tried, and the wipes for this giveaway have all been provided by Epic Wipes. The thoughts I've expressed about Epic Wipes are all my own. 

Good luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Four Top Vegan Restaurants in Denver

One of the many things I love about living in Denver is the wide range of cuisines and restaurants we have in this city. When Matt and I decided to follow a (mostly) vegan diet, we had to approach dining out differently because while vegans can often find something to eat at a lot of restaurants and we're lucky that Denver is pretty progressive,  the reality is it's just not possible to eat at any restaurant in town. This might sound a little sad, and there are definitely times we've wanted to try the "hot new restaurant" only to find there's nothing on the menu we can eat, but there are a lot of great vegan-friendly spots that are incredibly satisfying and crave worthy in their own right.

Because there are too many to include in this one post, here are a few of my favorite vegan-friendly spots in Denver and I promise to share more soon.

Beet Box
1030 E. 22nd St, Denver
This casual cafe west of City Park is 100% vegan, and 100% delicious. A counter display is packed with baked goods including decadent donuts in a range of flavors, flaky croissants of the sweet and savory varieties, cupcakes, pies, and other deliciousness including the signature beet brownie. Coffee with house made almond milk is the perfect match with any pastry, but it doesn't stop there. They also have a small, but well-designed menu of sandwiches with fresh and unique ingredients stacked high on their own bread (which can also be bought by the loaf). Our non-vegan family has approved of the sandwiches, pastries, and pies, and there were raves all around when I took donuts to the office. It's not fancy, but with food this good, who cares?

Bonus: gluten-free friends can find several options to enjoy as well!

vegan donuts denver beet box

Watercourse Foods
837 E. 17th Ave, Denver
Watercourse is by far the "nicest" restaurant on this list. The beautiful, warm, sunny spot is great for date night, brunch with friends, or a meal with family. We're often asked how we can possibly ever be satisfied after a meal - well Watercourse Foods proves that is not a problem; we always leave happy and completely nourished. While this restaurant is 100% vegan, I'd say it's also very approachable for non-vegans. At brunch, order a sweet potato cinnamon roll as soon as you sit down (they go fast), then enjoy the Amsterdam hash with a cup of coffee from the full-service coffee bar and a mimosa. Later in the day the cauliflower wings are a delicious starter and I'm a fan of the macro plate and street taco platter, but they've added several new items that sound fantastic as well.

Bonus: A favorite spot to grab dinner and a drink before heading a few blocks south to see a concert at the Ogden Theater.

City O' City
206 E. 13th Ave, Denver
WaterCourse Foods' edgy sister, this coffee shop-bar-restaurant is just a few blocks from the State Capitol in Cap Hill. All the baked goods for this spot and WaterCourse Foods, are baked on premise. The sweet potato cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and muffins are perfect at breakfast, but they don't last long so go early if you want to try them. The bakery case is also filled with amazing deserts, a recent favorite being the salted caramel cake truffle. Of course, there is a full menu from breakfast till late night and non-vegan options are plenty which means that everyone in your group will leave happy. The kimchi stew is fresh and filling while the vegan chicken and waffles is another tempting dish.

Bonus: take a yoga class at Kindness Yoga upstairs and ask for a coupon to get 15% off your entrée that day.

City o City Denver Vegan Restaurant

3 South Broadway, Denver
Located on South Broadway, this bar with a punk-hipster-retro vibe shouldn't be overlooked simply because the front is a bit worn and it's pretty dark inside. The food is inventive and there's something for everyone - vegans and non-vegans alike. At brunch, choose the $6 mimosa carafe to share with your table and go for the Vegan Power Stack which is a plateful of two quinoa patties, sautéed veggies with just the right amount of crunch, home fries, and avocado (below). They serve Pablo's coffee and a full range of craft cocktails, and local beer. Stop by any day from 3 - 7pm for happy hour. I'm curious to try the vegan hush puppies and

Bonus: free wi-fi, a full espresso bar, and plenty of window shopping along S. Broadway

Sputnik Denver Vegan Restaurants

Denver's growing and high-quality local restaurant scene is one of the many things that drew us to the mile high city, and as you can tell, that includes vegan and vegetarian fare. I have more favorite eateries to share so be sure to check back.

For my non-vegan friends, do you ever try vegan or vegetarian restaurants? | Is brunch popular where you live? | What's your favorite meal after a hard workout?