Sunday, August 2, 2020

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emerald Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I first hiked to Dream Lake in 2015, when we spent the weekend in Estes Park after I ran the Loveland Marathon. It's a really nice 3 mile round trip hike, but definitely one of the more crowded hikes in the park. Then again, this past January, I did a winter hike to Dream Lake again, this time also getting up to Emerald Lake (Emerald is just a little past Dream Lake) which was even more stunning and super fun hiking in the snow.

Hallett Peak is the left peak towering over Dream Lake.

Hiking to Dream & Emerald Lakes in the winter.

So, when I got a permit to go into Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday, July 11th, I decided it would be a great time to try to hike to Hallett Peak. However, as I was researching, it appeared there isn't an actual trail to Hallett Peak - there's a trail to Flattop Mountain, which is next to it. From what I read, it sounded like a lot of people did still go up to Hallett Peak, but it just wasn't a designated trail and wasn't shown on the Rocky Mountain National Park maps. I like hiking, but I'm not much for route finding, so I figured we would hike to Flattop and then decide if it looked like Hallett was doable or not.

The hike up Flattop Mountain starts from the Bear Lake Trailhead - the busiest trailhead in the park. I had a permit to enter RMNP between 6am-8am. After thinking it through though, we decided it would probably be best to actually get to the park before 6am so we wouldn't have to worry about getting a parking spot. This turned out to be our best decision of the day because when we entered the park at 5:30, there were already lots of cars in front of us, and when we got to the Bear Lake Trailhead around 5:45, there were probably about 10 spots left out of the hundred or so there. This had me a little worried about crowds on the trail, but thankfully there are tons of different trails that jut off from Bear Lake Trailhead, so at least everyone wouldn't be on the same trail.

We started on the trail right around 6:00am and made our way from Bear Lake north to the Flattop Mountain Trail. There's a couple other trails that split off from here, but not any of the really popular ones, so thankfully we didn't have to navigate through too many crowds. The distance from Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain was 4.4 miles one-way with about 3000 feet of gain which honestly made for a really nice hike. It was a nice uphill workout without being too challenging and before we even knew it, we were above treeline.

Shortly after making it to treeline, we did have some heavy traffic as about 5 different groups seemed to all catch up at the same time. So that instance required a lot of getting off the trail to let people pass, but after that, the traffic really wasn't bad for the rest of the day. As we got above treeline, I started stopping for lots of pictures (if I haven't said it before, being above treeline is my absolute favorite thing about hiking in the summer), so we slowed down a bit as we kept making our way up.

Along the way, there were several overlooks to see Dream and Emerald Lake from above. We also saw lots of Marmots and Wildflowers, and then we had one snowfield to cross before finally making to the top of Flattop Mountain. As it's named, it was pretty flat at the top, so we found a nice rock to have a snack break and decide what we wanted to do about Hallett Peak. From what I could gather, it would be about 3/4 of a mile one-way and about 400' of gain to make it to the top. It didn't sound too bad, but it looked a lot higher than that. But after our break, we decided we might as well give it a shot since we had already made it this far.

Looking at Hallett Peak from Flattop Mountain

I'm so glad we did, because it really wasn't that bad at all. The longest part was getting from the junction of Flattop Mountain to the start of the ascent. It was pretty rocky, so it just took awhile, but once the ascent started it went quicker than I thought and in no time we were at the summit! We also found a perfect spot to sit down that was blocked from the wind which actually made it warmer at the top of Hallett than it had been when we were on Flattop Mountain. The views from the summit were awesome - including some incredible views of Long's Peak.

Looking at the summit of Hallett Peak from the start of the ascent from Flattop Mountain.

Tyndall Glacier

Looking at Long's Peak from the summit.

Looking back at Flattop Mountain from the Summit of Hallett Peak

I think this section that jutted out below us is the "pointy" part you see from Dream Lake.

Proof we made it to the top (with Long's Peak in the background)

After enjoying the views for awhile, we made the journey back! It ended up being a SUPER hot day on the way back down, but overall this was a really nice hike. It was hard, but not overall hard by any means. Our total distance with Hallett Peak ended up to be about 11 miles round trip, with about 3100' of elevation gain. I definitely recommend this one and would do it again sometime.


Hike: Flattop Mountain to Hallett Peak

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park, Colorado)

Date: July 11, 2020

Round Trip Distance: 11.15 Miles

Starting Elevation: 9,479 Feet

Flattop Mountain Summit: 12,324 Feet
Hallett Peak Summit: 12,713 Feet

Total Elevation Gain: 3,234 Feet


Elevation Profile

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Zion National Park Trip 2017

On November 19, 1919, Zion National Park was established as the first national park in Utah, so in honor of it's 100 year anniversary today, I've decided to post an extremely belated post about our trip we took here in September 2017 that I never got around to sharing. Two years later you're probably wondering why even bother to post, but my primary purpose of this blog is a to provide myself with a way to quickly find my photos from memorable trips and it has always bugged me that I never had a chance to get this trip up since it was one of my favorites.

This post will mostly just be photos since it's been over 2 years, but a quick little recap explaining what we did: 

We visited over Labor Day weekend in 2017... now normally I would avoid visiting one of the countries most popular national parks on a holiday weekend...but I had won a lottery slot to hike "The Subway", so a holiday weekend it was! We drove there, so it was 2 days of driving and 2 days in the park. Day 1 was our hike to The Subway, which was awesome. Since it's a hike only accessible by lottery we were able to really enjoy it without the any crowds. The next day, when we went into the main portion of the park was a completely different story with SO many people we had to wait over an hour get on a shuttle (shuttles are required to access most of Zion during peak season), but nevertheless, we did still enjoy hiking to Observation Point (honestly this hike was probably the best choice for how crowded it was - the views are actually better than Angel's Landing but less people hike it because 1.) it's longer, and 2.) it doesn't have the "thrill factor" with drop offs on both sides that Angel's Landing has. 

Another goal had been to at least hike a short section of The Narrows, but with the lines for the buses, we ran out of time... however, I honestly think with the amount of crowds, it wouldn't have been that enjoyable anyways... so on my bucket list is to return in the off season sometime to do The Narrows and Angels Landing.

So now for the fun from the trip:

Visiting the "Kolob Canyons" portion of the park on our drive in.

This was right at the start of hiking to the Subway, and one of my favorite pictures from the trip!

Most of the hike to the Subway was spent hiking in and out of water.

The entrance to "The Subway"

It was such a cool place!

This water fall was at the very end of the hike and required swimming to get to it - so we left the DSLR and I just took my phone for a couple more pictures.

One of the areas you had to swim through. It was SO cold.

After finishing up The Subway, we checked out the road that went up to Kolob Reservoir.

Hiking to Observation Point the next day.

View from Observation Point

The trail to Observation Point - not quite as "thrilling" as hiking to Angels Landing

And that was our trip! I know people say this is an over rated park with the crowds, and yes, the crowds are A LOT, but it's SUCH a beautiful and unique place. I seriously can't wait to get back to this park someday. If there is one thing I am most bummed about since we moved back to the Front Range, it is how far all of these amazing places in Utah and Northern Arizona are now... but despite that, I am so thankful for our time on the Western Slope that allowed me to discover these beautiful places!

Until next time Zion....

Sunday, May 26, 2019

"THE" Boston Marathon

How to even begin recapping my Boston Marathon trip...? Honestly, I don't know, which is why I've been putting it off for the past month (honestly I can't even believe it's already been that long...). Nevertheless, as one of my two biggest running goals, I must get it done, so here we are. It's a little long, so if you make it through color me impressed!

As you may recall, I qualified for Boston almost a year before the race (after 3 1/2 years of trying), at the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon where I ran 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 28 minutes. I still can't really believe I finally did it because I am NOT a fast runner and that was HARD. It took lots of dedicated training and hard work to say the least. When I qualified I had every intention of training hard again for the actual Boston race. I knew I wasn't going to try and PR, but because it's "Boston" (and most of the running field at Boston is seriously hardcore) I wanted to have a "good" time (and yes I do realize the term "good" when describing a race time is very relative), but life had other plans for me and my training was less than stellar this past winter. I got in all of my long runs, but my weekday running was virtually non existent. And while I will say the long runs are probably the most important for preparing you to finish a marathon, speedwork would be what helps you finish fast...and that I did not do. I was hoping to still be able to run a sub-4:00 marathon, but even going into the race I knew that was probably a long shot given my lack of overall mileage. So as I packed up and headed to the race, I decided that instead of a goal for a "good" time, I would instead have a goal to have a "good time" (as in have fun!).

I flew into Boston on the Friday before Marathon Monday (the Boston Marathon is held on Patriot's Day, a holiday celebrated in New England, always on a Monday, and thus the Boston Marathon has gotten the name, "Marathon Monday"). With the two hour time change and four hour flight, we didn't get into Boston until dinner time, so once we made it to our hotel, we met my parents for dinner, and then called it a night before we would all be running the 5K the next morning.

Mimosa's at the airport to celebrate finally being "Boston Bound!"

The B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) puts on a 5K the Saturday before the race. It's a great opportunity for family members to also participate in the fun, so we all signed up to run which was great! The race started at 8:00am, but with the amount of people doing it, it wasn't until closer to 8:30 by the time we started (the top finishers actually finished before we even got to the starting line). Scott and I ran together and it was a lot of fun - it was raining out but still pretty warm overall. We had fun running the streets of downtown Boston and crossing the marathon finish line!

My family and I getting ready to run the 5K!

After the race we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the rest of the day where we leisurely walked the couple miles to the marathon expo so I could get my bib for Monday and browse all of the various vendors. I have to say, although the expo was big, it wasn't quite as big as I was expecting - in my opinion, it didn't feel any bigger than the expo for the Disney or Houston Marathons, so in that sense I was a little unimpressed. Don't worry though, that did not stop me from buying #allthethings... (and waiting in line for an hour to get my official marathon gear!).

Walking through the Boston Public Garden on our way to the expo!

At the expo!
All my swag!
The famous "right on Hereford, left on Boylston" intersection!

Had to try the new "26.2 Brew"!

After the expo, we walked back down Boylston street and stopped for some pictures at the finish line. Later, Scott and I went to Trident Booksellers where Ryan Hall (American record holder in the Half Marathon and fastest Boston Marathon by an American) was having a book signing for his new book which was exciting! After that we headed back to our hotel by way of Beacon Hill before calling it a night.

The famous Boston Marathon finish line!

On the finish line!

Meeting Ryan Hall and getting an autographed copy of his new book!

Checking out the famous "Acorn Street" in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
After the pre-race excitement on Saturday, Sunday was our main day for sight seeing the city of Boston. With only one day to really see a lot of it, we decided to walk the famous Freedom Trail. I was glad I was not planning to run the marathon for time because we walked ALL DAY. It was a lot of fun though and we had great weather! We started with The USS Constitution, then made our way to Bunker Hill, then Paul Revere's House and back to the hotel around 3:00. This gave us a little bit of time to rest before we got an early dinner and then I got ready for the marathon the next day.

The entire route of the freedom trail is marked by a red brick line!
The U.S.S. Constitution
Bunker Hill

Paul Revere's House

I loved the signs welcoming runners all over the city!

Getting my flat runner ready for one of my biggest races ever!

This was by-far the latest marathon I've ever ran with my wave scheduled to start at 10:50am. Per the race instructions, Wave 3 runners were supposed to show up to the buses between 8:00 and 8:45am. Well FYI if you ever run Boston - show up earlier than they tell you! I ended up getting to the bus pick-up around 8:20 - right in the middle of the time they mentioned. After waiting in line for probably 20 minutes or so, I got on a bus that left a little before 9:00. We didn't get to the drop off until AFTER 10:00. By the time I finally made it to Athlete's Village I had less than 40 minutes until my official start. I immediately got into the porta-potty line... which took until 10:40.

After over an hour on the bus, I finally made it to Athlete's Village!

By the time I got through the porta-potty line, I was super stressed - I was totally going to miss my start, which I was super bummed about! Not only did I still need to take off all of my extra layers (it had been raining when I walked to the bus, and the forecast was very iffy, so I had about 5 layers on that I still needed to peal off, including changing my shoes... I quickly found a spot to sit down and change and then starting running to the start line. Because of the weird weather forecast, the race had decided to start Wave 4 at the same time was Wave 3... this meant that I couldn't even get to my start wave because all of Wave 4 was already in front of me... so I ended up just weaving my way here and there until finally getting to the starting line. This whole part was a blur honestly because I was super stressed about missing the start. I had been so excited to be in Wave 3, Corral 1 because it meant I would be at the very start of Wave 3 going off...but I completely missed it. So I don't even know if they had a gun go off or anything for the separate waves...

Making my way to the start line!
Trying to make my way from Athlete's Village to the starting line!

Apparently this is what the starting line looked like! (I was too stressed about missing my start time to notice!)

Despite all of that pre-race stress and having no time to really take in the fact that I was "THERE" at the start of the Boston Marathon... I did finally start sometime around 10:55am.  And once I did finally get going, my frustration, anxiety, and nerves finally calmed themselves and I started to enjoy the experience! From the very get-go, there were crowds on all sides of the course and I soaked it all in by running along one side of the course and high-fiving as many people as I could for miles and miles and miles... (this actually ended up being a blessing and a curse because, while I was LOVING it - seriously, it makes you feel like a rockstar, my arms ended up so tired from constantly having my arm out to high-five people! I also realized that by NOT paying attention to my watch, I ended up going out WAY too fast. My first couple miles were 8:15-8:30's, which I was NOT in shape to be able to keep up for the long haul.

Sometime during the first couple of miles - one of the few spots where there weren't tons of spectators along the side.

Nevertheless, I kept at my fairly fast pace because I still felt good. I ran next to a Skirt Sports ambassador from the Denver area within the first couple of miles. Then around Mile 6 I ran into another Skirt Ambassador Cary, from Hawaii. The crowds has spread out a little by the time I ran into her, so I snapped a picture of us, which turned out to be one of my favorite pictures I took on the course!

Running by Skirt Ambassador Cary - we were wearing the same skirt!

Around Mile 10 is when it really sank in that I went out too fast and that I needed to slow it down. From then on I focused on slowing a little and started to shift my focus towards some of the different landmarks I knew about. I knew the Wellesly Scream Tunnel would be around the halfway mark, and it ended up being about 12.5 miles. I had so much fun giving high fives to everyone in the Scream Tunnel - although I will say I was super surprised that the Scream Tunnel was only on one side of the road - I had just assumed it would be both sides since they call it a "tunnel", but it was just on the right side!). I tried looking for my sign that they had made me (you can request the Wellesly girls make you sign - which they then post on facebook), but I never did find it. I really did have a blast through this section though - the cheers and excitement is such a crazy, unique, memorable experience!

Giving high fives to everyone in the Scream Tunnel (my arm was SO tired after that section!)

My scream tunnel poster! (I did not see it on the course though - they posted them all on facebook).
I'm not going to lie...after the scream tunnel I was starting to get seriously exhausted. I honestly think that the whole "don't look at your watch" thing hindered me more than helped. Had I looked at my watch, I probably would've reigned in my first several miles... so here I was only half way through and exhausted... this was going to make my "have fun and just enjoy it" mentality a little more of a challenge. Nevertheless, I told myself to just try and not care what my splits were showing up as when people tracked me.. it wasn't about that... it was about having fun and enjoying the experience like I had said. So I just tried to focus on having fun and kept at it!

Meanwhile, it had really gotten seriously HOT out. Not to mention all of the rain made it extremely HUMID, and if there's one thing this Colorado gal is not used to or good at, it's running in the humidity (just take a look at Houston Marathon 2017...). Then of course around mile 16ish, the hills start... and so yes, I'm slightly ashamed to admit it, but I totally let myself walk through a lot of the Newton Hills. On one hand I'm upset with myself for that, but on the other hand, it was part of my "try to enjoy it" mentally... I figured giving myself some walk breaks would allow me to enjoy it more. Plus, at the end of the day I am still a Boston Marathoner whether I walked a few sections or not, right? So that's what I did - I took turns between walking and running as I made my way through those infamous Newton Hills.

Another Skirt Ambassador, Deb, was volunteering at Mile 17, so I made sure to keep my eye out for her and was so happy to see a familiar face along the route!

If you look at the course profile, you'll see that there are four major hills starting at Mile 16 and ending with Heartbreak Hill around Mile 21. I tried to count them as I was on them, but they were kind of rolling as you were on them, so I totally thought I was on Heartbreak Hill earlier than I was... nevertheless I eventually made it through (this whole section I was mentally wanting it to be over, but at the same time I had waited to run this race for SO long that I didn't want to be finished... it was an interesting experience for sure!).

Once I finally crested Heartbreak Hill I knew it was mostly downhill from here so I tried to pick up my pace a bit. It was still really hot out and I was SO thankful that most aid stations as well as spectators along the course were offering ice to runners. I kept taking handfuls of ice and putting it in my sports bra and on the back of my neck. The sun had come out around the half-way mark, and it was around 70 degrees out. That may not seem that hot, but with the high humidity and winter, it feels seriously HOT when running this kind of distance... Because of this, I was actually grateful when the rain started around Mile 23 or so.

At first the rain started slowly, but as I started making my way into downtown Boston it really started picking up. Despite this, I still tried my best to keep enjoying the experience, and made sure to snap a few pictures (including the famous CITGO sign). I knew Scott and my parents were spectating about a mile out from the finish so I set my sights on looking for them.

I loved this view of the city as I made my way into downtown Boston!

Of course I had to get a selfie with the CITGO sign!

Finally I was on part of the course that overlapped with the 5K from the day before so I knew I was really close! My family was right on the other side of an underpass, before the turn onto Hereford, so I made sure to look for them despite the rain which was now coming down even harder. They were a little ways off the course, so I just waved rather than going up to them, but it was good to see them nevertheless!

Right after passing them it was time for the famous "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston"! This was, of course, the most exciting part of the race. I was almost to the finish line of THE BOSTON MARATHON. Hereford is a super short stretch, but after you turn onto Boylston you have about a third of a mile to the finish line, so I truly tried to soak this stretch in - the rain was pouring but the cheers were so loud - it was amazing! And before I knew it I had finished... I was a Boston Marathoner!

Race: The 123rd Boston Marathon
Distance - 26.2 Miles (my garmin came in at 26.47 miles)
Date: April 15, 2019
Location: Boston, Massachusetts 
Temperature: 60's - cloudy and humid at the start, sunny in the middle, pouring rain at the end!
Elevation Gain: 889'
Bib Number: 16596
Official Time: 4:17:29
Average Pace: 9:50 per mile
Overall Place: 19764 
Gender Place: 8217 
Age Group (F18-34): 4175 
Splits: 8:15, 8:24, 8:37, 8:28, 8:53, 8:47, 8:37, 8:55, 8:53, 9:04, 9:14, 9:18, 9:38, 9:30, 9:58, 9:39, 10:40, 11:47, 9:51, 11:07, 12:34, 10:39:10:26, 11:05, 10:33, 10:19, 9:19 (last .2)

Course Map
Elevation Profile

The first few minutes after crossing the finish line I was still in post-marathon bliss... taking pictures and enjoying myself. But then of course the fact that it was pouring rain and the temperatures had dropped significantly left me freezing in a matter of minutes and I was so thankful for the typical post-marathon space blanket. It's kind of funny though - I have gotten tons of these at races but this was the first time I truly needed it and noticed how much they really do help when you are freezing and don't have any  warm clothes on. 

This is my "I just finished the Boston-Freakin-Marathon" face!

After getting my post-race snacks and medal, it took awhile to get in touch with Scott and my parents, but I finally did and we decided the best course of action was for me to find them since they were stuck behind crowds and I needed to go that direction anyways... so about a half hour or so after finishing we finally met up at the corner of Boylston and Arlington by the entrance to the Boston Public Garden. We took a few minutes to get pictures before making our way back - by way of Dunkin Donuts (the cold weather had me seriously craving a hot chocolate... which is so funny considering how HOT I was for most of this race).

How cool are these signs that they had at Dunkin Donuts!

After the race we headed back to our hotels to shower and rest for a bit before we had a celebratory dinner later that evening!

Post-race dinner!


Honestly, I loved everything about this experience. My absolute favorite part was how the ENTIRE city of Boston is into the marathon and excited about it. I've done some fairly big marathons before  but outside of the race itself and the expo, no one else really pays much attention to the fact that there is a race going on. Boston however goes ALL out. All of the street signs are decorated with marathon banners, people at the airport are talking about it (you can even get a shorter line through security if you're wearing your medal), the downtown hotels all had Boston Marathon banners and some perks if you were doing the race, waiters at restaurants we went to would ask if we were doing it... It just makes you feel like an elite runner (despite most definitely NOT being one)! As far as the race goes, I'll be honest, the course itself was just okay... it's the crowds, the hype, and the history that make this race truly AMAZING and truly one of a kind! So much course support, so many spectators and people out. I just loved it all. Just experiencing the city of Boston was great too - I liked walking the freedom trail and loved the city itself.

So will I do it again? I definitely hope so! I know it won't be an "all the time" thing like it is for a lot of people just because A.) It's HARD for me to qualify and B.) It was VERY expensive... but I do hope to go back SOMEDAY. It probably won't be anytime soon, but maybe in 10-20 years if I'm (hopefully) still running, I would love to come experience this again. There's just so much excitement surrounding this race, I would love to be a part of it again. Of course, you never know what life has in store, so whether or not I get to come back someday, I'm just so grateful I got to experience it once. I truly did have an amazing time! I'm so glad I got to share it with Scott and my parents - thanks to all of them for coming along as I achieved one of my dreams!


Scott and I hadn't done a "big" trip in awhile, so I knew I wanted to combine this Boston trip with something else as well. I had originally looked into going to Cape Cod, but the weather can be pretty iffy this time of year (and a lot of places aren't even open), so when I discovered that Bermuda is only a two hour flight from Boston, I figured it would be the perfect post-race getaway! So on Tuesday after the race we made our way to Bermuda for the rest of the week!

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...