Friday, August 9, 2013

Colorado Springs Part I: Pre-Race Post

Finally I've gotten around to writing about my vacation! I had such a wonderful time in Colorado with my family :) I've decided to write this really long, picture filled post as a 3 part trilogy, you might say. This post will focus on everything I did leading up to the race. The next post will cover the race, and the final post will talk about things I did after the race. This should make it easier to keep organized and easier for your reading pleasure :)

First things first! MY FIRST PLANE RIDE! I was lucky enough to sit with a wonderful woman who let me have the window seat :) Turns out she's a social work alumni from the very same graduate school I will be attending in just 2 short weeks! Small world!
This is as we are nearing Atlanta. I did well on the plane but got a little queasy with a slight headache. Overall I was extremely at ease, and not bothered by the ridiculous height.
When finally touching down, the view was incredible. You could see for what seemed like hundreds of miles! And the mountains provided a nice directional orientation for those of us who lack navigation skills :)
Everything was just simply gorgeous. Views were breathtaking!
My cousin lives amongst the Black Forest that was ravaged by the fires this summer. Luckily, her house was unscathed by the flames (otherwise the trip wouldn't have been an option!). It was extremely odd how trees across the street from each other, or even right next to each other could have one burnt to a crisp and the next still green and lush.
Did I mention the wildlife? This is a wind scorpion that my cousin's husband caught from their basement. They fed it crickets the entire time I was there... *shudder* Thankfully, there were no major wildlife sightings. No bears, rattlesnakes, or mountain lions!!

The first day there, Wednesday, we shopped at some outlet malls and had dinner at my Aunt's house where I met some of their lifelong friends. I also attempted my first run at altitude (3 miles) and discovered it took much more effort to maintain a 10 minute per mile pace than I was used to. The first mile I huffed and puffed but eventually felt a little better. Thursday morning held another run (also 3 miles) and felt better than the first one. Still a bit out of breath, but definitely easier. I was acclimating well. Thursday morning I also registered for my first semester of grad school! I got all of my first choice classes (which has NEVER happened while registering) so I was in an outstanding mood all day. It set a good tone for my vacation :)
Then, my Aunt, myself, and my cousin Melissa (in that order) boarded the Cog Railway headed for the tippy top of Pike's Peak Mountain.
As we went up, the view just became more spectacular.
Almost there! This lake is the the highest natural lake in the US, I believe. It has been dug deeper by humans, but still was naturally there before we meddled. And that road over to the far left bordering the lake is someone's 17+ mile driveway! The only inhabitants on the mountain :)
Almost there! It's crazy how the treeline just STOPS at a certain elevation. They don't even thin out like I thought they would. Just BAM, goodbye trees!
Finally at the top! We stayed up there for about 20-30 mins, which was plenty of time. My Aunt and cousin felt the elevation a little, so you can imagine that I had a pretty gnarly headache. Just bending down to pick up rocks and then standing back up sent my world spinning a little and stole my breath away.
But the view was totally worth it!! We lucked out on a gorgeous morning so we could actually see everything around us.
And at an elevation of 14,110 feet we definitely had a lot to see!
Like a Sasquatch! Can you spot it?! (just kidding, it's really a person in a coat, but the resemblance is uncanny)
On the way back down we got a view of one of the most dangerous roads in the US. A normal trip up takes about 1.5 hours to cover the 8 or so miles. They do hold a race where cars nearly careen off the edges. Last years winner completed the course in roughly 8 minutes. Melissa and I had fun calculating that if we were running to race the Cog Railway on a flat surface, we could beat it :)
Also on the way down we ate some of the world famous Pike's Peak donuts! Baked at the very top with a special recipe, they are famous for being rock hard by the time you hit the bottom of the mountain, due to the elevation difference. If you bake them anywhere else in the US, they will not come out the same :) Elevation is the secret ingredient (not so secret anymore, I suppose).
Friday held the zoo! Fully equipped with some hungry giraffes. Some even trying to eat their way out of the enclosure, hehe. (there was lettuce in my hand but they snatched it so quickly it was difficult to get a picture with his tongue out and the lettuce still visible)
It was awesome how close we were able to get to all the animals. These hippos were just lazing about on the fine morning we visited :)
Melissa's adorable kids accompanied us on most of our treks to touristy locations.
They were absolutely precious and so well behaved! I loved having the kids around because they brought a youthful, innocent spark of energy to everything we did. When around kids I feel like I appreciate things more, seeing life through their wondrous, curious little eyes.
We ended Friday by dropping the kids off at Mark's parents and checking into a hotel in Pueblo, Colorado so we wouldn't have to drive as far to Beulah in the morning. Some pre-race drinks settled our nerves so we could sleep like babies the night before.

And that is where this post shall end. My vacation was packed, but I wouldn't have had it any other way! I got to experience so much. It was such a wonderful experience! My next post will let you know all about the race!

Safe and happy running!

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