How To Not Die In The Mountains

One of my goals this year is to do more adventure sports. Adventure sports are activities I used to refer to as “outdoors-y”, but “adventure sports” sounds so much cooler. Everyone where I live is “outdoors-y” so I was surprised to learn that isn’t what it’s really called. That’s one of many things I learned at some recent classes I took through REI and Alpine Rescue Team, classes I highly recommend!

The Maroon Bells

First, I took a “Cross Country Skiing Basics” class at my local REI store in Boulder. It was free, so I was a little concerned it was actually a giant sales pitch in disguise, but it wasn’t at all! What was great about this class was I learned what type of skis I would need for the area around my new neighborhood. I also learned what type of clothing I’d need and how to properly layer everything. Technically, I will be “backcountry skiing” which sounds a bit scary to me. This is where I should divulge that I’m a Colorado native who’s skied twice in her life, and neither of those times were in the last twenty five years. Come to think of it, that might be how I die in the mountains.

This will absolutely be me.

Next, I took a “Women’s Snowshoeing Basics” class, again through my local REI store. They offer lots of classes on various topics, so check your local store’s calendar. Like the XC skiing class, this one also taught me what types of snowshoes go with what type of terrain, as well as what type of clothing was best depending on the weather conditions at the trail head and at the higher elevations. The weather can be very different at each location and change quickly when you’re high in the mountains. Layering is the key to regulating body temps and avoiding hypothermia, and so is blocking wind and moisture. Luckily, the instructor said that if you can walk, you can snowshoe, so guess which adventure sport I’ll be taking up first?

Coco hates the cold. Lily just loves the sled. #seniordogs

The last class I took was a “Map and Compass” class, and it was the one I was most excited for. It was hosted by Alpine Rescue and it taught how to navigate by, you guessed it, map and compass! They also taught us how to triangulate your location using nearby landmarks. My sister, Carla, who is my frequent hiking partner, came with me. Not only is this a great skill to have since we spend so much time hiking, but we are planning our June trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and plan to do at least four hikes in those unfamiliar Parks. We don’t plan to stray from the trails, but safety first, yo! This skill does require some practice so she and I will be “hitting the maps” soon. What’s awesome is Alpine Rescue is an all volunteer organization and they will come save you on the mountain 24/7, 365. If there is a similar organization in your area, consider making a donation to support their efforts.

Shots I snapped driving to the map & compass class. Elk!

These classes were fun and informative, and they gave me so much more confidence to get outside, especially in the winter! I will probably need to win the lottery before I can take up any type of skiing, but snowshoeing while a bit out of my comfort zone is something I want to try.  I always wanted to learn how to navigate because you just never know what can happen. It’s one of my two big fears about the mountains, and I feel like I conquered it a little. With practice will come confidence. It feels good to push myself!


How do you like to push yourself? What new skill have you always wanted to learn?

Cotopaxi’s Journey to Good Health: Get Outdoors

Last week, I introduced you all to Cotopaxi and their Journey to Good Health initiative. I kicked things off talking about some of my favorite healthy snacks and how I fuel my body with the right things to keep me feeling good throughout my day and my workouts.

This week, I had planned on talking about the second item on the list – taking care of the mind, specifically through yoga and meditation. I was going to take my fiance to his first yoga class, but, as fate would have it, life happened and our schedules got really busy. SO. Instead, this week I’m going to talk about taking care of the body – through hiking! One of my favorite activities.

Cotopaxi_IMDM_v03@2x (1)

I talk a lot about how growing up in Alaska afforded me many opportunities to be outdoors as a kid. For weekend and summer activities, my parents took us out on the trails and into the mountains to climb higher and see farther. I learned that my body was capable of summiting the highest peaks and reaching the lowest valleys.

scoot c

scoot b


When I lived in Wisconsin, my friends and I would visit Hixon Forest and climb the bluffs and the coulees of the driftless region. We spent so many afternoons looking out across the Mississippi and taking in the beauty around us. I learned that even when under the stress of school, my body could work and sweat and I could feel more alive in the fresh air.


la crosse


Living now in Virginia, I get to explore the Appalachians and the Great Smokies. I go backpacking with my good friends. I spend time exploring our National Parks with my love. We go to the mountains to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and work and obligations. When we are taking in the views from the Blue Ridge Mountains, I learn that no matter where I am in the world, climbing a mountain will always feel like home. That no matter what I’m doing, as long as I can get out and move my body, I know I’m okay. 

scoot  a


Hiking is one of the most fun ways to enjoy the world around you – and you can make it as easy or as challenging as you want. Go for an hour, go for two, an overnight, a week. Pack your backpack, lace up your shoes and get out there – your body will work hard and feel good and you’ll get to see some of the most beautiful parts of this place that we live.

In the next Cotopaxi installment, I’ll finally get to talking about that yoga thing. Fingers crossed that our schedules work out and the boy can join me! 

Camping: A How-To for Food

This weekend, we have plans. We’ll be spending the long weekend (and my birthday!) in the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia. I’ve been looking forward to this camping trip for a couple of months and now that it’s finally upon us, it’s time to start deciding what foodstuffs we’re taking along.


Okay, this is Alaska, but camping there is amazing, too. And isn’t this view incredible?!

Now, planning a menu for a weekend spent in the woods, sleeping in a tent, without a proper kitchen, can be a little daunting. But, thanks to years as a girl scout and parents who took us camping as kids all the time, the task of packing the foodz isn’t so bad.

(Really, we can chalk it up to my dad’s affinity for lists that has been passed down to me. Everything seems more manageable with a list .)

Getting started might be the hardest part, but here a few steps I take to make sure cover all my bases.

D211EAEF-1C30-407A-B3DF-4A966F6E6616What Are The Cooking Conditions?

I always start with this question, because knowing how I’m going to be able to cook my food usually determines what I can bring. This weekend, I’m tent camping, which means no camper or RV with a kitchen. We’ll either be cooking over the fire (dinners) or using my camp stove to boil water for breakfast, and packing lunches that don’t require heat (pb&j!). Knowing that I have a campfire with a  grate gives me lots of options – this weekend we’ll be using trusty pre-made (by me) foil packets. We’ll put salmon filets in some, and sliced potatoes, onions, garlic, etc. in the others. They turn out to be some of the tastiest meals ever. Yum!

meal planHow Many Meals Do You Have to Prepare?

I find it really helpful when packing for a camping trip, to plan out each meal ahead of time, that way I know exactly how much food I need to pack. This weekend, we’ll be out two nights, so as you can see from the above grid, I’ve planned out our days by food. This plan will be my grocery list for tonight and my packing list for Saturday morning. I’ll just throw things in the cooler and we’ll be good to go!

scoot 2What Are Your Daily Activities?

Knowing what you’re planning to do each day you’re out can really help determine what food you should bring. Typically, when I camp, I like to be pretty active, so I know that the food I bring needs to sustain long periods of activity, but also be easy to throw in a day pack. We’ll be hiking for much of the day Sunday, so while breakfast and dinner will be had at the campsite, lunch and snacks will be on the trail. Protein bars, trail mix, granola, and pb&j sandwiches are all great options. They’re easy to pack, both in the car and in your day pack, they’re full of the protein and carbs to sustain a long day of activity, and they’re yummy!

scoot 3Be Bear Aware: Food Storage

One thing that’s important to consider every time you go camping: how am I going to store my food? Remember, you’re going to be in a wilderness area – you’re coming in to an animal’s home and just because you set up your tent and stake your claim to an area doesn’t mean that all of the critters will leave you alone. Growing up and camping in Alaska, I was taught to always be bear aware, and that included knowing how to store my food while in the woods. If you’re car camping, lock it up inside any time you’re not using it. If you’re tent camping, make sure you store your food in a bag, off the ground, away from your campsite – never in your tent! Flimsy walls will do nothing to keep a bear at bay.

IMG_1460 (1)Pack Out What You Pack In

Piggy-backing on the last point, the last key to a successful food venture in the woods is cleanup. Food waste and trash are notoriously smelly, and nothing attracts wild animals like the pungent aroma of last night’s dinner. Proper disposal of these items not only ensures that your campsite stays safe, but also guarantees that you’re doing your part to keep the wilderness clean, so that you and others can come back and enjoy it again. If you’re in a campground, there will be dumpsters for you to use – we usually take our trash out after dinner every night so it doesn’t sit in the car and stink things up. If you’re backpacking, you’ll need to pack out your garbage and dispose of it when you reach an appropriate garbage can.

Ultimately, camping is the funnest and cooking over a fire is one of my most favorite things. I’m looking forward to a weekend in the mountains, relaxing by the tent, hiking through the woods, and enjoying some s’mores by the fire – it’ll be a very happy birthday, indeed!

Spring Time is Trail Time!

This week, I needed an injection of motivation in my runs. I’m training for the Skirt Sports 13er in June, and I’m super excited for the race. Not so much the training. After talking to Mer about how I don’t take advantage of where I live nearly enough, I decided that it’s finally time to start trail running in earnest. I have every hope that will invigorate me to get in a training groove. I know a lot of you run trails. I see your gorgeous photos on Instagram and am so inspired by the gentle rolling hills and flat, heavily treed forests you run through. I wanted that to be me.



I checked out this trail and put it on the to do list.

So I struck out this week. I chose a pretty famous trail in Boulder, the Chautauqua (pronounced sha-talk-wa) Flatirons Trail, for my first foray. That is when I realized I was sadly unprepared for what I was about to tackle. Here are my lessons learned.

The goal is the top of those pointy things.

The best part of my trail run (read hike) was that everyone was smiling and friendly and happy. In general, people are pretty friendly where I live. We smile at each other as we pass on the street. We hold doors open for one another. We say please and thank you to strangers. But the folks I saw on the trail that day weren’t just wearing polite smiles for the sake of being pleasant. No, no, they were positively radiating happiness. Their smiles said “it’s a gorgeous day and we’re alive and we’re free and LOOK AT WHERE WE LIVE. I love everyone I see!!!” It was marvelous! Nature heals everyone’s spirit. I’m not sure about you, but I can always use more of that kind of energy in my life.


Just because I’m a native doesn’t mean I’m a natural. I forgot what “trail” can mean here in Colorado. What some folks might call a trail, others would call a hiking path. Emphasis on hiking. I was out of breath less than a quarter mile into the trail. I’d looked at the trail on a map before heading out, but I didn’t pay too much attention to the elevation change. My bad, lungs.

Oh hai, rocks.

Oh hai, rocks.

Looking at my FitBit later, it said I’d climbed 48 flights, and I didn’t even make it close to the top of the mountain. I realized I’m not at the fitness level I thought I was. It was hard.



That’s when I wondered if I should stick to flat trails on the plains, at least until I get stronger. My rugged pioneer blood deceived me into thinking the hike was no big deal and I could handle it because I’m from this place. My blood lied.  Also, I needed water, which I didn’t bring. That brings me to …

Always wear your CamelPak. Everyone on the trail, errr, hiking path, had a backpack of some sort. Not far in I was wishing I had brought mine, too. Once I was surrounded by trees, the wind died off and I was hot. Having water and a place to store my pullover would have been awesome. In this area, seeing a black bear or a mountain lion is not uncommon. So in the future, maybe some bear spray or a change of underwear in my pack might be helpful. Just saying.  And don’t forget the sunscreen!


Dress Appropriately. Duh. The day I went it was in the mid 60’s and overcast. The mild wind held a crisp bite to it, though, which is typical this time of year at our elevation. I was wearing capris, a tank, a long sleeve tech shirt, and a fleece pullover. Rule numero uno about living in Colorado, dress in layers. The chilly wind was giving me ear aches and I really needed a beanie. I went back to the car for a hoodie I could cover my ears with and then I was sweltering. There was no winning with the gear I had. It was cold in the open spaces and hot in the forest, so layers are uber important.



Be a Good Steward of the Trail I saw lots of baggies of dog poo lying next to the trail. This is great in that people are cleaning up after their dogs, but hopefully they remember to pick their baggie up on the way back down the mountain and toss it in the trash. I read another trail runner say she always tries to pick up at least one piece of litter while on her run. I love this idea. I will be packing a grocery sack in my CamelPack for this purpose in the future!


Looking back over Boulder

Looking back over Boulder

There is Nothing more Calming to the Soul than Nature’s White Noise It is essential that when you’re out there, pounding your feet on the soft dirt, that you to actually stop and take a moment to be present. There is an indescribable sound you only hear in the forest of the Rockies. It’s the sound of the wind whispering through the tops of the ponderosa pines, the hum of a hummingbird as it speeds by, the sound of aspen leaves quaking, combined with the rushing swoosh of a distant creek or river. There is the calm stillness in the forest. A place where technology and obligation are far removed from the fallen tree you find yourself sitting on.  Don’t forget to sit. Take big deep breaths. Look around. Be grateful for this time to connect with our environment. You will leave with a more grateful heart and calm center.


Do you run trails? Where? Which are your favorites? What do you like about trail running that you don’t get out of road running? Tell me all about it in the comments!


East Coast Beat the Blerch 10k

In the past I’ve talked about the differences between North and South Jersey. Besides sports team preferences (don’t tell anyone but I give not one iota about sports), city preferences, and the way you say water, there is also a very vast terrain difference.

Which normally is not a big deal. A non-issue really.

Except if you sign up for a run in North Jersey.

When you’re from South Jersey, you’re used to all smooth sailing with the occasional bump that we call a hill down here. But if you sign up for Beat the Blerch at Lewes Park in Morristown you can expect trails, hills, and rugged terrain.

Which I knew when I registered because my dear friend Sharon hosts the Phillips 5k/10k Trail Run/Walk there each year. I’d seen the pictures.

But um, I sorta forgot.

Until we were driving up a deep winding road to get to the parking and the reluctant runner, Jay, turned to me and asked, “So, what do you think the course will be like?”

Not wanting to lie, I said, “Well, I think we’re in for an adventure.”

It's like Jersey, only NORTH!

It’s like Jersey, only NORTH!

At that point we made our one and only race goal: don’t get hurt.


We want to LIVE.

Solid plan, right? We decided that we would run where we could and just try not to get hurt and/or hurt anyone else. We arrived early (because we are those people, always) and it’s a good thing that we did because there was a bit of a line for the buses to the race site.

This was the first time that Beat the Blerch came to the east coast, based on the popular comic by The Oatmeal (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go check it out. Seriously. Go. I’ll wait!) so we expected there to be a few snafus on the inaugural race. And there were, but we rolled with it. Because it’s so much easier and we were going to expend all energy on the course.

The 10k was slotted to start at 9:30 but from what I understand, there was an issue with many people getting there in time for the half marathon (which started at 9am) so they pushed the 10k start time back to 10am. A small wrinkle as a 10k runner, but one that if I were a half marathoner, I would have appreciated.

We used the extra time to hit the line of portapotties. Given the size of the event, they probably should have had twice the amount, at least.

Visiting with the Blerch was a must and he even offered us a seat on the couch. What a great guy!


All races should have free pictures! MAKE IT SO, UNIVERSE.

Just go. I'll catch up. Never.

“Just go. I’ll catch up. Never.”

We somewhat reluctantly made our way to the start (those couches were really comfy) and soon we were off to the sounds of the Lion King and an announcer in a bacon suit. Mmmm, bacon.

Me = optimist Jay = realist

Me = optimist
Jay = realist

Very, very quickly we realized it was survival mode. Game on. We ran when we were able to. We walked when it wasn’t possible (for us – I’m sure those who run trails regularly were just fine). I stuck to the right hand side, trying not to fall off any slopes and also making myself as small as possible as to not be in the way of those who were confident to run.

I watched the trail runners for tips, their toes pointed slightly out and their quick light feet, especially on the downhill. The trails I have run are compacted dirt and this one was filled with roots and rocks so the tripping potential was high.

The trail was gorgeous but I can’t really say that I got the full beauty feel of it because I was busy looking at the ground the majority of the time. It was also very narrow at certain points so unless you decided to run through the brush (some did, I did not), it was very single file.


How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

While neither Jay or I got hurt, we saw people getting busted up left and right. We saw bloody knees, bloody elbows, sprained wrists, twisted ankles. There were emergency vehicles placed throughout the route and they were being fully utilized.


This was right around mile 3. After I took this pic I ran up the hill because Jay texted me that there was CAKE.

This was right around mile 3. After I took this pic I ran up the hill because Jay texted me that there was CAKE.

The day was gorgeous but I felt a bit dehydrated throughout. Thankfully it was cool enough and the tree coverage made it less of an issue, but the tiny cups at the water stations weren’t doing it for me. The volunteers were trying their hardest to keep everything filled but I don’t think they were prepared for the amount of people coming through.

CAKE, you complete me.

You complete me.

We took a selfie at the stop, hitched up our boot straps and prepared for the second half of the trail.

Note: while I have the earbuds in, there was no tunes. I needed all my senses out there.

Note: while I have the earbuds in, there was no tunes. I needed all my senses out there.

Here’s where things got a little (more) hairy, because the half marathon and 10k routes converged onto one path. I hugged the right as much as possible while walking and made sure to check behind me if I planned to hit the left to run.

I questioned my sanity multiple times. The miles dragged and while I was fine endurance wise, around mile 5 I was ready for the race to be over.

Soon enough, we came to a clearing and we had about a quarter mile to go. At least that’s what the volunteers told me at the bend. My watch lost signal while we were romping around in the mountains (I might be exaggerating slightly but it felt mountainous).


And the Blerch was there, right near the finish line! He quite obviously missed me.beattheblerch8

He tried to sideline me with the offer of a selfie, which I happily accepted. Because when you can take a selfie with the Blerch, even if the finish line is 300 feet away, YOU TAKE IT.


And then I politely said, “Excuse me, I have to go beat you now.”

Me = optim

And then I got my medal and my banana (which tastes really good with Nutella) and the aforementioned Nutella and cake and purple drink.

So the good? The medal, banana, Nutella, cake, and purple drink. And free race pictures! And the Blerch! Also the fact that I didn’t die, fall off a cliff, fall in any which way (and trust me, that was a real possibility for me, the girl who falls often).

The “needs improvement” category is basically just logistics. The Interwebs rumblings are that transportation company that was originally supposed to work the race backed out. There were 6 school buses that were making the rounds for a lot of runners to get to and from the parking lot to the race site.

The line to get to the race was a bit long but bearable.

The line to get from the race site back to the cars was much more tedious.

Additionally, there were just too many people out on the course for the size of the trails. If everyone were going the exact same speed, I don’t think it would have been a problem (or maybe less of a problem?) but it was tough with everyone at different skill levels – it felt very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

But despite all that, I beat the Blerch. And for that I call it a win!


Have you Beat the Blerch? What do you prefer, roads or trails? North or South? East or West?

Changing it up: Vic’s cross-training chronicles

You may have noticed that I’m not running as much.

Yes, I’m still running, but given the demands of my work life and home life lately – and a somewhat bothersome knee – I’ve been cross training A LOT more.

That means more swimming, hiking, paddling and yes, it even means yoga.

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

A little HikYoga action with my pal Amy!

I have to say guys, I’m loving exploring. Perhaps I was in a bit of a running rut and didn’t even know it. In the last week alone, I went paddleboarding in the bay with a friend, hiked a nearby nature preserve, swam 2,200 yards in the YMCA pool, practiced yoga in the woods then hiked a stunning gorge.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

Enjoying the view in this small but mighty town park by my house.

I’m not training for anything. I’m just living life. I’m exploring Rochester, which I have to say, is damn gorgeous.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

I fell in love with SUP yoga and went repeatedly this summer.

Sure, I’ve been trying new activities for work – sailboarding, footgolf, SUP yoga. I even tried Taekwondo AND broke a board! You can read more of my articles here.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

Hiking through the gorge in Stony Brook State Park near Dansville NY.

I just went on a HikYoga outing last week, and plan to go target shooting this coming weekend. Stay tuned kids! This could get interesting.

I’ve been enjoying the change of pace, and not being a slave to a marathon training schedule. I even branched out to try my hand at a monthlong yoga challenge, where through a local health club I am posting a daily yoga pose every day in September on my Instagram feed. It’s been interesting and definitely outside my comfort zone, but I am so glad I gave it a shot.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

The 30-day #midtownyogachallenge. Day 22: Plank in a waterfall in Grimes Glen.

Sure, I’m still running. I tackled 4.5 miles last night and witnessed a stunning sunset with my trusty running partner Gary. I’ve been running 4-5 miles at least 3 times a week and even ran a 10-mile race with Oiselle teammate Beth. It was a stunning course through rural Orleans County (including a mile through a fruit farm), albeit I could have done without the 10 am start time on a hot, humid summer day No matter. We’ll be back for sure!

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Best race pic ever. We are laughing our butts off since neither of us were well-trained for this race. But we finished.

Stay tuned for more adventures as we head into the next season. Welcome fall! What activities should I try in the cooler weather?

Are you in an exercise rut? What do you do to change it up? How do you cross train? What activity should I try next? Tell me in the comments!

Marathon Training: Hiking Edition

So, sometimes, marathon training can get tedious. I mean, think about it, running miles on miles on miles, week in and week out, trying to find new routes, trying to avoid others, battling heat and humidity… It has a tendency to wear a runner down. Literally and figuratively.

How does one fix that kind of nonsense?

Find a fun way to cross train.

Typically, my cross training is cycling, but I usually do spin classes at my gym, and while that’s a great workout, it’s inside. Being inside all the time when it’s gorgeous outside is stupid. And I’m a little crunchy granola child who needs her trees and water and alive things to be happy.

Fortunately, my training partner Sarah feels the same way. Sarah is also the friend who will go backpacking with me for days on end, so it should be no surprise that the two of us decided that despite our very busy summer schedules, we needed to get at least one hike in before the fall.



Great Falls Park. Gorgeous.

Due to the aforementioned summer schedule craziness, an overnight backpacking trip wasn’t in the cards (poo), so we determined that a day hike would be the next best alternative. Living in Northern Virginia, we’re fortunate to have a lot of hiking trails relatively close – a fact that is a little surreal when you also consider the fact that the nation’s capital is also a stone’s throw away.

We got a date on the calendar, invited some friends and last weekend took a short jaunt up to Great Falls Park to get our hike on. Mind you, we did this the day after running a very hot and sweaty 9 miles. Sarah, myself and my friend Courtney are all training for the Baltimore Marathon in October – and we all needed a little bit of a break from the monotonous mileage.

Though the morning was very warm, it was a beautiful day to be outside. The park was pretty busy – lots of folks hit these trails because of their proximity to the city – and we saw everyone from families out for a walk in the woods, to people running with their dogs.

The trails in the park run along side the Potomac River and offer some beautiful vistas. It’s such a nice change of pace to surround oneself with nature after days on end of office buildings and city streets.


Sarah and the Hon Monster.

It’s also nice to get to play with Sarah’s dog, Honey, since I don’t have a pup. I’ll use any excuse to get puppy time – and hiking is always a good option!

While our hike wasn’t super long, we were all pretty beat by the time we stopped to eat the lunches we packed with us. It was a hot day and our legs we pretty tired from our run the day before. We tried (unsuccessfully) to map our mileage for the hike, but gave up after Courtney’s Garmin kept losing the satellite. Oops.


Training Partners. Hiking Partners.

Sarah and determined that we might be heading back up to the park to do a trail run or two before training season is over – the hills alone would be good for us, and the scenery can’t be beat. Mostly, it’d be something different than the bike paths and streets that we run on every other day.

Mostly, I just want another excuse to go run around in the woods and see things like this:



I seriously can never get enough. Give me all the nature. Always.