On Friday, I had some coaching calls midday that didn’t require me to be in front of my computer, so I took advantage of that time to drive up to the mountains. I think my coachees are learning that when I’m driving, it’s actually an awesome time to catch me for a call – I have a horrible habit of multitasking when I’m on a call in front of my computer (trying to break it, but it’s not easy. When I’m driving, in contrast, my attention is completely on the other person!
I got up to Minturn in time for a late lunch while on another call, and stuffed this fabulous quinoa bean salad into a wrap along with some spinach. It really hit the spot! For the month of August, I am trying to cook a new-to-me recipe every day, and this is definitely one of the winners so far. For dinner later that night, though, I ended up making a second new-to-me recipe – garlic noodles with broccoli (I skipped the beef and added mushrooms). It was exactly what I had been craving! I can’t rave enough about Budget Bytes’ recipes – I’ve cooked several dozen of them by now, and they’re always really easy and delicious.
The next morning, I slept pretty late – until 7:30am. I woke up wondering if I ought to just skip my planned hike / run for the day? But I had been looking forward to this all week, and I decided that as long as I got it together quickly, I wouldn’t be that far behind. I skipped my morning core, and just hustled trying to get ready. Fortunately, I had made a spinoff of Budget Bytes’ baked oatmeal the day before – chai spiced coconut baked oatmeal! I basically took one of her baked oatmeal recipes and crossed it with the flavors from this Indian-spiced oatmeal recipe, and it came out delicious. I usually make one of these baked oatmeals every week, then heat up big squares of it for breakfast – 30 seconds in the microwave, and then a few minutes in the air fryer to crisp it up. It’s soooo good – kind of like a larger portion of Bobo’s oatmeal bars, but healthier.
With that in my stomach, I filled up my Camelbak (and made sure I had packed my filter straw), and then… headed out the front door and started running. For this weekend’s adventure, I was going to do the same 29 mile loop I had done last weekend, but start at my house and run to the trailhead rather than driving… then afterward, run from the trailhead to Vail Brewing Company down the road. From my house to Vail Brewing was about three miles, but I’d be adding a little less than that because I wouldn’t do the entire Meadow Mountain Loop (I’d be starting on one side and finishing on the other). My friends Kirk and Heather were teed up to meet me for celebratory drinks after at 5:30pm… so now I just hoped to be done in time!
I headed out on my way a little after 8am, and was ascending Grouse Lake trailhead by 8:10am. Here we go! It was nice to know from last time what lay ahead – a steady incline for the next four hours or so, then some rolling hills for a few hours, and then two more one hour ascents followed by long descents. Maybe that sounds daunting to some, but I thought it sounded like a really fun day!
My route was a little bit different at the beginning, since I was starting at a different trailhead (Grouse Creek vs Meadow Mountain); about two miles in, I hit the trail I had taken last time. I then spent the next three hours trying to figure out how much shorter (or longer) the trail was from this trailhead to the summit of this first ascent. Last time, I got to the summit in about 9.5 miles. This time, I thought I had cut off about half a mile, but I wasn’t sure. No matter – I was going to be out here all day anyway! 🤣
I was once again listening to the Rachel Hollis podcast while I hiked, and a few miles in, got to her 100th episode… which was some of the best parts of other episodes. I had a really strong sense of deja vu when I was listening to clips of the Joe Biden episode exactly where I had listened to the full Joe Biden episode the week before!
This time around, when I got to the turnoff for Olsen Lake, I stopped and stared at it for a moment. Where was Olsen Lake? (Well, clearly the way the sign was pointing.) This was about seven miles in, and I thought it could make a nice short hike to do an out-and-back up to Olsen Lake in the future… something to check out! After the hike, when I looked it up on Protrails, I learned that just past Olsen Lake is an unnamed peak that is probably what I keep eyeing from the Grouse Mountain ridgeline, and that it is climbable. So maybe this out-and-back will be in my future hikes!
For now, I passed the Olsen Lake turnoff, and kept heading up to the Grouse Mountain ridgeline. Knowing it would be super windy on the ridgeline, I stopped just short of that, on a wide flat rock with stunning views. Perfect spot for a stretch break and to get a few pebbles out of my shoes! I also had a can of this yummy vanilla cold brew coffee to get my energy up, which really hit the spot. I got a few cans of this as some sort of giveaway (maybe a race swag bag?) but now think I may order more for hikes like this.
I was thrilled to have the majority of the climb (4,000 vertical feet) now behind me! Last time, when I was running from the ridgeline down to Turquoise Lakes, I mostly did a fast walk rather than jogging, since I wanted to conserve my energy. This time, I knew what to expect, and I chose to push the pace to a run – which felt great! The ground was a bit soft, so running wasn’t always the easiest, but gosh… this type of trail is just absolutely one of my happy places. I love these tiny single track trails in wide open spaces with sweeping views, where I know I won’t see a soul. It feels like I’ve discovered some magical secret spot where I can just hide forever and be free of any kind of annoying real world obligations.
While I had been listening to podcasts up until this point, when I got to the final meadow before the ridgeline, I found myself really wanting to listen to The Greatest Showman – and I knew I would get service to do so. (I really need to set up my Spotify to download some of my favorite songs.) I cannot tell you how much joy it brought me to run through this meadow listening to “Rewrite the Stars” and “From Now On”. I can’t believe it took me till last week to finally watch Greatest Showman – the movie was amazing, and the music is incredible! I happily listened to the soundtrack not just in this meadow, but all the way through the forest and to Turquoise Lake.
After heading left at the fork, and successfully crossing a pretty marshy stream without getting wet, I ended up finding a great rock to sit on and enjoy my lunch, combined with plenty to drink from the crystal clear lake. I was hyper careful not to drop either my phone or my charger into the water this time, and also tried to eat quickly so I could be on my way. I didn’t pack the “adult lunchables” this time; just an Epic turkey jerky bar and a Nature Valley Oats & Chocolate granola bar. It really hit the spot!
However, a few miles down the trail, I started feeling a little bit sick to my stomach. Was it the food? The lake water? I wasn’t sure. Fortunately, I knew it was only about six miles till I’d get to the top of Beaver Creek, and could avail myself of the actual bathroom at the lodge. Stay strong, stomach! It didn’t hurt too much; I just could tell something wasn’t totally right.
The trail from Turquoise Lake to Beaver Lake was much less crowded than the week before, but when I passed Beaver Lake and started heading up the 1000 foot climb to Spruce Saddle at Beaver Creek, it had plenty of people again.
Finally, I made it to Spruce Saddle at the top of the Centennial chondola. (Speaking of people; this area was packed with people picnicking and enjoying the views.) I took a photo at the top of the trail map and Vail Valley beyond, which I thought came out great, and then jogged through the crowd to get to the lodge and hit the bathroom.
After I had hit the bathroom and refilled my Camelbak (which actually still was nearly half full), I was ready to roll. I texted Kirk and Heather to let them know I would likely get to Vail Brewing around 5:30pm, and then headed out to run the trails. Once again, these single track trails that cut across the ski trails were my happy place – I saw one or two mountain bikers, but I mostly had them all to myself!
Soon it was time to turn from the single track trail onto the service road that actually is a beginner slope in the winter time. While it wasn’t nearly as pretty, the upside of this was that it was wide and relatively smooth – so I could go fast and not worry about tripping! It was in speeding down this that I encountered a cute mountain biker and ended up chatting for a mile or so, exchanging numbers at the end to meet up sometime when we were less sweaty. Who knows – would be a cute story if it worked out! (And what is it with me meeting cute guys while heading downhill at Beaver Creek? Haha.)
I turned off to head down Paulie’s Plunge, and was happy that this time I clearly knew the way from the end of that trail to Everkrisp, which would be my last climb of the day. (Last time, I asked another guy on the trail to confirm, because I wasn’t positive.) I was also really happy that I was making much better time than the week before, and I thought I would make it to the end before my Garmin died – hooray! However, my phone battery was not doing so well – it seems I had drained it (and the charger) quite a bit while trying to listen to Spotify where there was barely any cell signal. I sent Kirk and Heather another text with my best estimate for an arrival time (now later than before, since I had misjudged the distance), and switched my phone into airplane mode to try to conserve battery as much as possible.
As I headed up the final climb, I tried to hustle – I felt really guilty that I would now be much later than expected in getting to the brewery! However, I was finding that I was a lot more tired than the week before – maybe because I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep, or maybe because I had gone so much faster this time. (Or maybe that stomachache was me getting sick? I hoped not.) I was kind of grumpy with how tired I was, but it didn’t stop me from admiring the views.
I was really relieved when I made it to the top of Everkrisp, since now it would be a solid downhill to the trailhead, and then just a slight incline to the brewery. However, I found that I was so tired, even the downhill wasn’t easy. I just wanted to be done! I crossed the marathon mark not long before I got to the trailhead (I think I was around 8.5 hours at that point), and was thrilled that I only had 1.5 miles to go. Piece of cake!
…or was it? I enjoyed running along the beautiful Eagle River, but my energy was definitely waning, and the slight gradual uphill didn’t help things. My phone was on its last legs, battery-wise, but for the final half mile, I threw on my “mile” playlist so I could finish with some power songs in my ears. And so I finally rolled into Vail Brewing at 6:30pm, listening to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”. Victory was mine!
However, while I was originally excited to eat and drink all.the.things after that kind of mileage… I was surprisingly not hungry. I did eat a quesadilla from the Rocky Mountain Taco food truck, but after that and one beer, I really didn’t want anything else. My stomach still felt a little bit off, and I just wanted to go to bed! I hung out with Kirk and Heather catching up for a little while, and gratefully caught a ride back to my house with them after, but then I just called it a night and stayed in bed. Hopefully the next day I’d be feeling better!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great night’s sleep, in spite of my adventure. I stayed up reading much later than I should have, and then woke up at 6am, which was far too early. I quickly packed up my stuff and headed back home to Superior, stopping for groceries along the way, and then did a little bit of nothing when I first got in. Well deserved from the day before, don’t you think?
But around 11am, I finally got my act together to do my daily yoga and core classes, and made lunch. I hoped it would be the start of some productivity, but it turned out to be just a short burst – and I proceeded to lie on the deck reading for a little while. I talked to one of my best friends on the phone for a bit, and then decided to close my eyes… and for the first time in who knows how long, I ended up taking a little afternoon catnap!
After that nap, though, I finally got it together – heading to the pool for my lap lane reservation, and then getting lots of chores and cooking done in the evening. And after dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out on my new deck to get some work done on my laptop. What a treat this deck is! Although I was nervous that it would be an investment that wouldn’t really pay off (since I don’t think I’m a deck person), I can now see how nice it is to have a great outdoor living space, and am thinking I’ll use it quite a bit.
It’s funny how Saturday was such a big adventure and then Sunday I didn’t get a ton done until the evening… like my body needs to balance out the crazy energy expenditure with some down time. Of course that makes sense from a physical perspective, but it surprised me how I was pretty checked out mentally on Sunday too. I’ve been noticing that a bit during the week too – if I have a day where I’m super productive, it’s often balanced out by a day where it’s all I can do to get through my back-to-back meetings. Although I had so much fun on my mountain loop adventure, I think it’s probably time for me to start trying to have slightly more balanced weekends – we’ll see how that goes next time!