Saturday, June 30, 2018

Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat 2018

The first weekend in June was the annual Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat - a weekend of camaraderie, inspirational talks, yoga, hiking, and culminating in a Half Marathon, 10K or 5K race. I missed it my very first year as an ambassador and was so bummed that I've made sure to make it a priority these past couple of years (and I'm so thankful to live within driving distance!). This year marked year three of being able to attend and it was once again a blast and a reminder (not that I need one!) of what it is I love about this company and the community they have created!

I drove over on Thursday night because I knew I wanted to attempt the Boulder Skyline Traverse on Friday morning before the festivities began. That was an epic adventure of its own right which I posted about separately if interested. I ran it with a fellow ambassador, Dawn (one of the reasons I love this community - I always have friends to run with wherever I go!), and we finished mid-afternoon, giving us just enough time to head our separate ways for showering and getting dressed up (Skirt Sports style!) for the first retreat event of the weekend - the Friday evening cocktail party. As an added bonus, this year, my mom also became an ambassador, so we got to go to all of the festivities together!

The Friday Cocktail Reception is basically just a fun time to shop, meet new ambassadors and catch up with old, hear fun stories about the company from founder, Nicole DeBoom, and get a glimpse at the upcoming seasons attire coming out later in the year (via fashion show that I've had the privilege to be in the past couple years despite definitely proving that being a runway model is not my forte). It's the first event of the weekend and always goes by so fast - there are so many new and old faces I swear by the end of the night I haven't even had a chance to catch up with half of the people there! It's a lot of fun though and this year was no exception. Many thanks to our sponsors of the night for the wonderful food and drink - Ska Brewing, Jackson Wineries, Kim & Jakes Gluten Free Bakery, Illegal Pete's and Justin's Nut Butter.

Photo Credit: JoAnn Vaughn

Having fun modeling some of the Fall 2018 product!
Photo Credit: Jenn Allen

Photo Credit: Jenn Allen

Day #2 consists of a slightly more formal event with speakers, yoga, break out sessions, and a hike. Our speakers this year were Kara Burns, Mirna Valerio, and Colleen Cannon. They all had very different but all incredible stories and talks. Kara and Mirna have actually been on Nicole DeBoom's podcast "Run This World" and both have some great stories - you can check them out here. Colleen is a former professional triathlete who now puts on women's retreats which sound AMAZING). After the morning's event, we had a grab-and-go lunch from Mad Green's before venturing to Davidson Mesa in Louisville for a short hike and ending the day mid-afternoon. Many thanks to our Saturday sponsors: Alpine Start (the best instant coffee around!), The Tea Spot, Noosa Yoghurt and Mad Greens.

Photo Credit: JoAnne Vaughn

Photo Credit: JoAnne Vaughn

Sunday was race day. I did a lot of speedwork earlier in the year leading up to my BQ at Revel Mt Charleston Marathon, but hadn't been maintaining it, so I decided to see if I could "race" this Half at that same pace and see how it went. While I'm not training for speed right now, I have a lot of ultras coming up and I would like to try and keep some of my speed just because it helps keep my "easy" pace up, which is good for ultras! The half marathon course changed a bit this year from one larger loop with a big hill at Mile 9 to two smaller loops on Davidson Mesa (a crushed gravel trail) with a slightly smaller hill at the beginning of each loop (although it did not feel smaller for the second loop, that's for sure!). Loop #1 started out great and I was definitely on pace to run the entire thing at 8:00 pace as planned, but by a Loop #2 that second uphill followed by the crushed gravel trail made it a little difficult to maintain and my paced slipped a little...but I still managed to run a 1:46:28 which is pretty good for me and to my surprise, was good enough for 1st place in my age group as well!

After I finished I decided to head back out again and see if I could find my mom who was walking the Half. This is also a great race to head back out on since there were so many ambassadors to cheer on - so I spent the time cheering on and taking pictures of ambassadors as I made my way back out, eventually catching my mom and then walking it in with her and the other two ladies she was walking with.

Pleasantly surprised to win my age group!

Some of the many pictures I took!

Mother/Daughter Ambassadors!

THIS is what it's all about! Supporting everyone from the first runner to the last runner!
Photo Credit: Jenn Allen

After we made it in to the finish line, we cheered on the remaining runners still on the course before heading to brunch. The brunch is always a great way to finish off the weekend, and I enjoyed chatting with a few other ambassadors I hadn't had much chance to see thus far in the weekend!

Post-race brunch!

Normally post-brunch would have been my time to head back home, but this year I had the awesome opportunity to stay one additional day and be part of a photo shoot for the company with a couple other ambassadors! I had a such a fun time at this, although I once again am not sure I can pull off the whole "model" thing very well (it's a good thing Skirt Sports is all about using "real" people). This day was a blast though and a great opportunity to get to know (or know better) some ambassadors I hadn't had a chance to meet yet or spend much time with. We had six of us at the photo shoot coming from all different backgrounds, abilities, and sports - Emily, who just finished her first full Ironman with one leg, Mirna Valerio - author, teacher, ultrarunner, and the 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (NBD), Dyenna - ultrarunner and triathlete, Latoya - blogger, chef, and ultrarunner, and Sam - ultrarunner and running coach who just ran 80 miles of Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Honestly I felt a little out of my league, but thankfully everyone there was awesome and didn't make me feel that way (just my own insecurities tugging at me :)! Overall, it was a lot of fun and the point of our shoot was to show that Skirt Sports is for EVERYONE no matter what walk in life you're on! Here's a few of the awesome pictures taken by Bobbie Turner Photography.

We might've been having a little fun!

So, overall this was once again an AMAZING weekend. I know I say it all the time, but I just love being a part of this company and community. While the retreat was almost a month ago, I also find it fitting that I'm finishing this post up today because tomorrow, July 1st, marks #31DaysofSkirtSports and #31DaysofMoving! These are great challenges throughout the month of July to get yourself moving everyday and experience a little of what this community has to offer. If you're interested in joining - check out the hashtags on Instagram and join the #REALWomenMove Challenge Group on facebook - a completely free group for women looking for inspiration and motivation. It is run by Nicole DeBoom, founder of Skirt Sports, but you don't have to have any Skirt Sports to join this group - it's just about women supporting women and encouraging you to lead a healthy and active life! The #31DaysofMoving challenge is to encourage you to get at least 15 minutes of "moving" per day - open to whatever that looks like for you - running, walking, biking, yoga, strength training, swimming, ANYTHING!

I stopped off at Vail Pass on my way home for a short run to these views!

Boulder Skyline Traverse

The Boulder Skyline Traverse makes for a great trail run traversing the five major peaks above Boulder in one go: South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and Mount Sanitas. Coming in at just under 18 miles with almost 6000' of elevation gain (my garmin clocked 5,947') - much on technical, rocky, steep trails, it is no easy feat, however, and will probably take you significantly longer than anticipated. Nevertheless, it's an excellent run and provides for a great way to see all that Boulder has to offer in terms of mountain running!

If you only know me from social media, you  may not know I actually grew up in a small (at the time) town right outside of Boulder. However, I didn't find a joy for running until after I moved away, so whenever I come back to visit, I try to explore a little bit more of these awesome trails that people come all over the world for! When I first heard about "The Traverse", I just knew I had to do it sometime! 5 peaks with tons of elevation gain over 18 miles was right up my alley... now it was just a matter of finding a time I could do it... I knew I would be visiting the area the weekend of June 1st-3rd for the Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat, so I decided to try and fit it in. This weekend is always crazy busy, but I figured if I drove over Thursday night, Friday morning could be a perfect opportunity (plus going Friday would mean WAY less crowds than trying to do it on a weekend - if there's one thing I don't miss about moving to the Western Slope, it's how crowded the trails are on the Front Range!).

As mentioned, I made my drive over the mountains on Thursday night, went straight to bed, and was up just before 5:00am the next day. I was meeting my friend Dawn in Boulder a little before 6am, to drop her car at the finish area (Mt. Sanitas), and then we drove my car over to the South Mesa Trailhead where we would begin our day.

Pretty sunset on the drive over!

Around 6:15 we set off for what would be about an 8 hour day. The route starts out on Mesa Trail, which is a smooth, non-technical trail, but with some nice elevation gain right from the get-go. We ran/walked the first couple miles on Mesa Trail before getting onto Shadow Canyon Trail and beginning what would be the biggest climb of the day - up to Peak #1 - South Boulder Peak. It also changed from a nice smooth trail, to a very technical, rocky climb, part of which involved climbing up over large boulders. I have actually done this route a couple years back though, so I was mentally prepared to know it would be slow going - and it was - as we gained close to 3000' of elevation from Miles 1-4 - and 2000' of it over 3 & 4 alone. After continuing up, up, and more up, we finally reached the saddle between South Boulder and Bear Peak.

Views as we started our journey!

While the trail was still nice and non-technical!

Starting to get into the technical steep section!

From the saddle, we turned left to head towards South Boulder Peak first. The trail started out nice and defined for a quarter mile or so before turning into just a big pile of boulders leading up to the summit. We climbed over the large rocks and made it to the top - reaching Peak #1 of 5 for the day - right at the 4 mile mark!

Peak 1 down!

Looking west from South Boulder Peak (Long's Peak in the top right).

Looking back towards Bear Peak - where we would be going next!

After snapping a picture, we turned around and headed back down towards the saddle, and then where we went left before, we now went right to head up to Bear Peak. We had dropped down a couple hundred feet, so we now had to go back up another few hundred, but compared to the 3000' from before it wasn't too bad, and we reached Bear Peak around Mile 4.8. This peak has a bunch of large boulders to climb over to reach the summit, so we slowly made our way up for our Peak #2 pictures before climbing back down and then starting our first major descent down Bear Canyon.

Looking back at South Boulder Peak as we made our way up to Bear Peak.

Peak #2 down!

Looking north towards Green Mountain and down at the Flatirons!

Looking at the Flatirons and the city of Boulder from above.

The first half mile or so down Bear Canyon was steep and technical, but after that it opened up to more runnable trails and we were finally able to make up some time for a few miles as we continued down the northwest side of Bear Peak, dropping about 1200' before crossing Bear Creek and turning left to start heading up to Green Mountain. We were now around 6.75 miles total and had about 2 miles with 1000' of gain to the summit of Green Mountain. Once again, after the earlier morning climb, 1000' over 2 miles didn't seem to bad as we started heading up. And it wasn't for the first 1 and 1/2 miles. The last 1/2 mile to the top however, it once again got rocky and steep, and we were back to going nice and slow! As we got later in the day, we were also starting to see a lot more people (I had been very surprised to only see 2 other people up to Bear Peak). After a slow going last half mile, we made it to the summit of Green Mountain - about 8.75 miles into our traverse!

Looking back at Bear Peak (left) and South Boulder Peak (right)

Finally getting to a runnable section!

So green going up Green Mountain!

3 Peaks Down, 2 to go!
Looking back towards Bear Peak from Green Mountain.

After our Peak #3 picture, we headed back out and started to make our way to Flagstaff Mountain. This section was pretty runable, and I really enjoyed the next mile and a half or so as we descended down pretty green single track making our way towards Flagstaff Mountain! After a couple miles of down, we crossed a road over to the Flagstaff Parking area. After getting slightly mixed up as to which trail we wanted to be on, we ascended a couple hundred feet before making it to what we think was the summit. The information I had read from "Trail Run Project" just said that, "To tag the true summit of Flagstaff, head off trail to the left of the highest point you can find"... so not very descriptive. This peak was also covered in trees, so it was kind of hard to tell whether or not we were actually at the summit...but we felt it was close enough to call it good and take our Peak 4 Selfies!

Running down from Green Mountain.

4th Peak down!

Views from Flagstaff Mountain.

You'd think with 4 peaks down and only 1 to go, it would be easy-peasy from here on out, right? Well, it wasn't. This was the longest stretch by far between peaks and it felt like it took forever to make it from Flagstaff (mile 11) just to base/start of Mt. Sanitas (mile 15). We had to go down Flagstaff Mountain all the way back into the town of Boulder, and this "going down" section, while on trail, required you to cross Flagstaff Road multiple times. It also got confusing in a couple of spots, but thankfully the Trail Run Project app shows your location and makes it easy to get back on course if you get lost. Around mile 14, we finally reached "Eben G Fine Park" - the only place to fill up water (unless you want to filter some in Bear Canyon around Mile 6.75). We stopped here for a bit to fill up water before getting on a short section of a paved bike trail which took us underneath Canyon Blvd in Boulder and then through the Settler's Park area of trails (which required a short and steep ascent), before heading back down to cross Mapleton Ave / Sunshine Canyon Drive where we finally got onto the trail up to Mt. Sanitas!

Looking back towards Green Mountain.

Making our way back down into town.

Looking towards our last peak - Mt. Sanitas (on the right).

Finally...our last ascent of the day. That all being said, the hike up Mt. Sanitas is no joke. 1300' of elevation gain in 1.5 miles in the heat of the day... yeah it wasn't fun. Nevertheless, we kept at it - one foot in front of the other as we inched our way up the rocky trail. After what felt like the longest mile and a half ever, we finally reached Summit #5 of the day - Mt. Sanitas at 6,863' - right at 16.3 miles in (by the way, the Trail Run Project app listed the traverse as 16.3 miles...which when I did my initial research I did not realize meant 16.3 to the last summit...not including the mileage needed to get back down - so expect closer to 18 miles!). After taking our Peak 5 summit picture along with our usual peak photos, it was time for our final descent back to the car! I got down right around 17.7 miles, so of course I added an extra quarter mile to make it an even 18 before calling it a day!

Making the ascent up Mt. Sanitas (Flagstaff and Green Mountain in the background)

Poppies on the way up Sanitas!

Making it to the 5th Peak requires a sock picture ;) !

WE DID IT! 5 Peaks, 18 Miles and almost 6000' of elevation gain in one day!

Mileage: 18 Miles (17.7, but I added a little at the end to hit 18)
Elevation Gain: 5417' according to Trail Run Project, 5941' according to my Garmin.
Overall Time: 7:55:04 (moving time: 5:27:07 - we might have taken a lot of picture breaks!)
Pace: 27:21 average overall pace, 18:49 average moving pace
Weather: 60's at the start, high 70's at the end and a bit windy all day!

So, would I do this again?

Yes! Overall this was definitely one of my favorite long runs I've done along the Front Range foothills. There were a few minor challenges - it can get very hot depending on when you do it (I would not recommend this for mid-summer!), and the route can be a little tricky to follow, especially in the section between Flagstaff Mountain and Mount Sanitas. The views, however, are awesome, and running it in May or early June is a phenomenal time because it is so green! I highly recommend this if you're wanting a challenging long run (with a lot of hiking thrown in) in the Boulder area!

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