The Boulder Experience: Training Log and Daily Diary (May 15-29, 2017)
Prologue: Arrival Day (May 15)
Considered one of the meccas for endurance sports enthusiasts, Boulder has long fascinated me and been on my short list of places to visit. Finally here, I'm looking forward to the serenity of the mountains, the welcoming vibe of the people, and exploring the culture in general. But, my main purpose is to train and to hopefully reap the benefits of running at altitude for two weeks. With Grandma's Marathon less than 5 weeks away, running will be my focus, though I'll definitely be a fixture in the gym too. Pull-ups, dips, push-ups, and core work are all on the menu. This is something of a two week fitness fantasy camp and I can't wait to get started!
Upon arrival, priority number 1 was hooking up a gym membership. I did a little research beforehand and went directly to the Colorado Athletic Club. This looks to be the perfect gym for me. They have everything I need, most importantly an outdoor pool that I can run in. What a relief! I should also note that the staff (specifically the manager Max) was as nice and accomodating as could be. A great vibe here already!
With the gym membership taken care of, I settled into my Airbnb across the street from the Foothills Community Park in North Boulder, and then met up with my friend Amy to get a lay of the land over beers at the iconic Avery Brewing Company. What an awesome place! Our waitress Megan was extremely cool and helpful, the beer was phenomenal, the vibe perfect, and they even have a handful of vegan options, including pretzels. Looking forward to tomorrow!
Avery! The perfect place to kick things off!!
Training Log Note: After perhaps my best training run ever on Sunday, May 7 (18 Miles with 14 at 6:54 / mile pace), I awoke to knee pain the following Tuesday, May 9 (the day after I booked my Boulder trip). It appears to be water on the knee and I've been unable to run. Bad timing for an injury, but I've become a world class pool runner while sidelined and hope that I'm close to returning to land. I plan on giving it a test tomorrow.
One final note - you'll (hopefully) notice 100 push-ups listed each day in my training log below. Compared to my pull-ups and dips routine, this is not much. The reason for this is I'm simply not very good at doing push-ups. I often plan to do them, but rarely follow through. I'm going to use these two weeks to try to establish a groove. 100 per day, that's it. No more, no less. Keep it very easy with the hope that it becomes a part of my routine.
Day 1 (May 16)
Pull-Ups: 10 sets of 15 repetitions (3:00 minutes between the start of each set). Feeling strong!
Pool Running: 1 hour in the outdoor pool at Colorado Athletic Club. So much nicer to do this under the sun! I continue to get significantly stronger with each session and I'm curious to see how this translates to actual running. I'll post specifics about my pool running workouts soon.
Run: 4 slow miles outside of my Airbnb at the Wonderland Lake trail to test my knee. A little pain here and there, but it's getting better. We'll see how it reacts to my first run in 8 days.
Core & Stretching: 1 hour
Summary: What's not to love about this town! I awoke early to the peaceful vista of the Foothills Trails. I visited Ozo Coffee early, Walnut Brewery late, and the Pearl Street Whole Foods a number of times in between. Located right around the corner from the Colorado Athletic Club, this Whole Foods features a juice bar with acai bowls. Today I had the Double Green smoothie and later the Acai Berry Bowl. Both delicious and highly recommended!
Morning view of the Foothills from outside my Airbnb
Day 2 (May 17)
Run: 8 Miles on the Flatirons Vista Trail
Pool Running: 1 hour
Dips: 1x50, 4x30 plus 1x10 with 25 lbs assisted (3:00 between sets)
Core & Stretching: 1 hour
Summary: I was anxious to get out on a trail for some real running and a true taste of Boulder. The Flatirons Vista Trail was a bit rocky with some climbing, and though I moved tentatively, my knee felt better.
Flatirons Vista Trail
Day 3 (May 18)
Pull-Ups: 12x12 (2:30). Felt easy!
Run: 14.3 miles on the treadmill (2 hours); 7.1 mph the first hour, 7.2 mph the second.
Core & Stretching: 1 hour
Summary: It snowed heavily last night and most of the day. I arrived at the gym early and - as expected - found swimmers training outdoors under the falling snow. A spectacular sight! I tried to run on the Twin Lakes Trail by the Avery Brewery, but by 1:00 PM it was nearly impossible. I abandoned the trail after 1/2 mile and returned to the gym for a 2 hour treadmill run. Though I was initially bummed to not be outdoors, I must say that it felt good to run on an even surface at a normal pace. This evening I went to The Dairy Arts Center to see the film "Deconstructing The Beatles: Revolver." Both the movie and Arts Center were great! A perfect end to a solid day of training. I even got to enjoy an Avery IPA during the film. If you're in Boulder, check out The Dairy!
Swimmers training in the snowstorm at the Colorado Athletic Club
Another shot of the foothills outside of my Airbnb
Run: 6 miles on the Boulder Creek Path
Dips: 1x55, 5x30 (3:00)
Core & Stretching: 1 hour
Summary: My knee feels pretty good after yesterday's 14, but I stopped by the Boulder Running Company to get some new shoes. I had my eye on a pair of Altras, feeling the need for more room in the toebox after a few recent issues with my feet. Josh Stevens, a competitive trail runner, helped me into the Altra Escalante. I gave them a test with a 6 miler on the Boulder Creek Path and they felt great. This was the first time that I've run on pavement in almost two weeks, so it will be interesing to see how my knee feels tomorrow. I ended the day with a super fun hang with Carter Pann, at composer who teaches at UC Boulder. We visited License No. 1, a unique and hip subterranean bar at the Hotel Boulderado. Afterwards, we went down the street to the Bohemian Biergarten, another awesome place.
With composer Carter Pann at License No. 1
Day 5 (May 20)
Run: 10 miles at the Boulder Reservoir
Pool Running: 30 minutes
Core & Stretching: 1 hour
Summary: Thought about turning the 10 miles into 20, but decided it was best to see how my feet and knee react in my new Altras. I'll go 20 tomorrow if everything feels ok. Not a bad run, averaged 8 minute miles. Stopped by Fleet Feet on Broadway (was that Noah Droddy who sold me my socks?), and then strolled around Pearl Street where I happened upon an interesting place called Wonder. I got a juice and sampled some of their homemade nut milks. I'll be back! Absolutely gorgeous evening and it seems like the whole city is out and about. I'm turning in early. I could use the rest for tomorrow's big run.
The long and winding road at the end of today's Boulder Reservoir run
Day 6 (May 21)
Run: 20 miles at the Boulder Reservoir and on the Eagle and Sage Trails
Core & Stretching: 30 minutes
Summary: I knew from the 2nd mile that it was going to be a "just put one foot in front of the other" kind of day. My legs were heavy and I was tired, but the views were extraordinary and I felt a little more adventurous getting out onto the Eagle and Sage Trails. I ran alongside freely grazing cattle and endless dogs, who were walking their owners on this beautiful Sunday morning. Footing on the run was rough, especially in my Saucony Virratas, which I used instead of my new Altras to be safe. I didn't stop once, so though it was slow, it was a great workout and brought my weekly mileage total to 62. I'm very happy with that given that I hadn't run for eight days before arriving in Boulder. I've been nursing my knee back to health and it seems to be getting better every day. I'll rest tomorrow and hope to come back stronger on Tuesday.
On the Eagle Trail, part of today's 20 miler
Day 7 (May 22)
Dips: Dips: 1x60, 1x35, 3x30 plus 1x10 with 25 lbs assisted
Core & Stretching: 90 minutes
Summary: Today I took a break from running, but I still got some quality gym work in. I caught up on a few "real world" items, including laundry, and met with Amy at Under The Sun. This brewery was hopping and looks to be a popular destination for runners post workout. Beforehand, I stopped at the very cool Flatirons Running Store next door and picked up a copy of Boulder Running Journal 2015. This is an absolutely beautiful book that I highly recommend to runners everywhere. I spent 15 minutes leafing through it in the store and can't wait to really dig in later. You can buy it on Amazon.
I'm happy that I got talked into a Jeep. I've been living out of the back all week :-)
Day 8 (May 23)
Run: 12 miles total. 8 recovery miles in the morning around the Wonderland Lake Trail, and 4 more this evening on the streets near the gym.
Pull-Ups: 11x15 (3:00). A new high! See summary.
Pool Running: 30 minutes
Summary: Today was the first time that I got out for an early run. I took an easy stroll around the Foothills and Wonderland Lake trails, and then down 4th street. It was really nice to check out a few of the beautiful neighborhoods by foot, and I hope that my knee allows for similar explorations this week. I stopped by Wonder on 9th and Pearl Street for a cinnamon cashew latte afterward. What a beautiful place! This afternoon's pull-up workout yielded a new high, 11 sets of 15 repetitions! Even better, I'm pretty sure that I could have done at least one more set, maybe two. Stopping where I did is in line with my training philosophy of trying to improve as often as possible by as little as possible (or at least not too much). This is a lesson that I've learned the hard way, and one that I was reminded of with a recent - yet too spectacular - long run that invited the knee injury that sidelined me for the eight days prior to this trip. Finding pool running to be the best rehab for my knee, I did 30 minutes of easy aqua jogging this afternoon and had the good fortune of sharing my lane with professional triathlete Kirsty Jahn. How cool is that! We chatted for a while and she gave me some tips on the Boulder scene. Athletes everywhere!
Wonder! A 100% organic, cold-pressed juice and nut milk shop.
Day 9 (May 24)
Run: 12 miles at Boulder Reservoir with 5x1200m. Hot and Windy!
Dips: 1x60, 1x40, 4x30 plus 1x10 with 25 lbs assist (3:00)
Stretching: 30 Minutes
Summary: Hot out there at the reservoir, but it felt good to do some fast(er) running. I bumped into Josh Stevens on the trail, the ultra trail runner who helped me out at the Boulder Running Company the other day. Joanne, aka The Korean Vegan, arrived this evening for the remainder of the trip, so I'll surely have much more to report on regarding the local restaurant scene. Until now I've been more than content with a steady diet of Whole Foods, Chipotle, and occasionally Native Foods, all located within a stone's throw of my base of operations, the Colorado Athletic Club. After picking Joanne up from the airport, we went directly to City O' City in Denver to meet Matt Letten, one of Joanne's friends and 1/2 of the Vegan Bros. City O' City proved to be a real vegan gem, and so popular that we had to wait about 45 minutes for our table. Anyway, it was more than worth the wait. Incredibly good food and great company! A fantastic night all around!!!
A gorgeous day for 12 miles at the Boulder Reservoir
At City O' City in Denver with Joanne and Matt Letten
Day 10 (May 25)
Run: 15.25 miles total. 5.25 at the Boulder Reservoir around noon, and 10 evening treadmill miles.
Stretching: 30 Minutes
Summary: I went out for a 14-15 miler around noon at the Boulder Reservoir, but got caught in a downpour and had to abort the run. Instead, I picked up Joanne and we went for food at Naked Lunch. We got the Tofu Scramble and Hummos sandwich. The latter was especially delicious. And the vegan chocolate chip cookies were amazing! I was feeling a little sluggish midday, but rallied for a fantastic 10 miler on the treadmill (the weather was proving unpredictable). Afterwards we went to Leaf for one of the best meals we've ever had!
Tomato Pate from Leaf
Day 11 (May 26)
Pull-Ups: 5x20 (3x20, 1x17+3, 1x10+2x5)
Stretching and Core: 60 Minutes
Summary: Today was largely a rest day. Joanne and I went to an incredible vegan brunch buffet at Jills Restaurant in the St. Julien Hotel. Every Friday they do vegan only dishes. Afterwards we drove up into the mountains on Canyon Road to find one spectacular sight after another. We then checked into our Airbnb for the weekend. Wow! An unbelievably beautiful house owned by two professional athletes. Spectacular views and a very hip and modern place with a swim spa outside. We spent the evening strolling up and down Pearl Street before returning to Leaf for another great meal.
Joanne in the backyard of our Airbnb
New career ideas springing to life along Pearl Street
Day 12 (May 27)
Run: 3 hour 22.65 Mile treadmill run.
Dips: 1x65, 2x35, 4x30 plus 1x12. New high!
Stretching and Core: 1 hour
Summary: Great day! We awoke early and tried to beat the storms, but they moved in much earlier than expected. Not wanting to wait around to see if the skies were going to clear, I decided on the treadmill. I had 20 miles scheduled, but decided to stay on for a full 3 hours, my longest treadmill run ever. Who knows how well the treadmill was calibrated, but running at an 8:00 per mile pace for the first two hours, I barely cracked 133 bpm on my heart rate monitor. That is the high end of my recovery runs. Could be a very good sign! I picked up the pace for the last hour so my heart rate reached my marathon intensity of 145 bpm. Needless to say, though it was a long run, it was a fairly "easy" one and my legs feel great. In the evening we went to the Dairy Arts Center to see the John Coltrane documentary, Chasing Trane. I was happy to get another opportunity to go back to the Dairy, and I really enjoyed the film. Afterwards, we returned to the Avery Brewery Company and Joanne - in true Boulder fashion - even had a beer!
Back at the Avery Brewing Company
Day 13 (May 28)
Stretching and Core: 60 Minutes
Summary: Other than my pull-up routine, I took it fairly easy today in the gym. It was a gorgeous day and we took in the sights at the Boulder Reservoir and walked Pearl Street. Joanne cooked a delicious pasta dinner and we ate outside at our fantastic Airbnb. Bolder Boulder 10k race tomorrow morning.
From the trails at the Boulder Reservoir
Day 14 (May 29)
Run: BolderBOULDER 10k Race
Summary: We awoke early for today's BolderBOULDER 10k. I had a starting time of 6:56, and Joanne began at 7:10. Despite being one of the world's largest races, it proved to be incredibly - almost unbelievably - well organized. In fact, I would say that it was by far the most amazing road race I've ever been a part of. 50,000 runners, starting in 94 different waves, rolled in and packed Folsom Field at UC Boulder to welcome in the elite pro runners and teams. 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion, Boulder resident, and race co-founder Frank Shorter led the TV coverage before one of the nation's largest Memorial Day tributes took place. The weather was perfect and I can't imagine a better way to have concluded my two week stay. Not yet recovered from Saturday's 3 hour run, I wasn't particularly fast at 42:53, but pleased nonetheless and anxious to see how things progress as I return to sea level. After the race, Joanne and I stopped at Watercourse Foods in Denver for brunch before heading to the airport. I had the French Toast, Joanne a Burrito, and it was absolutely amazing!! It lived up to its reputation and then some.
Runners finishing the BolderBOULDER 10k in Folsom Field at UC Boulder
Joanne and our incredible brunch at Denver's Watercourse Foods
Epilogue: The Training Haul
My first trip to Boulder exceeded my lofty expectations in every way. Although I arrived nursing an injured right knee, I seemed to run myself healthy as I managed 130 total miles. I also set personal highs in pull-ups (11x15) and dips (65 consecutive repetitions); I logged several hours aqua jogging, got myself into a nice push-up groove, and dedicated considerable time each day to important core work and stretching. I'm arriving home with just under 3 weeks until Grandma's Marathon, where I hope to narrow the gap between my current PR of 3:13:18 and my eventual goal of 2:59:59. This week will give me an idea of what might be possible, but I hope that - despite losing almost two weeks to injury - 3:08 is still in the cards if the weather cooperates.
Before traveling to Boulder I read several different takes on altitude training. Though my injury situation might make it difficult to gauge any benefits, I'll report back here soon with some thoughts.
Finally, my little push-up experiment worked. 100 push-ups per day was easy, and I got better quickly. On Day 1 it took me 4 sets (40, 30, 20, 10) and 5 minutes total to complete 100, but on day 14 it took only 2 sets (60, 40) and 3 minutes. I'm now in a groove and will begin increasing my daily numbers soon. After all, it only takes a few minutes of my time.
Below are some links and tips if you're planning a trip to Boulder, especially if you're an athlete and you're looking for vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
Gym: The Colorado Athletic Club
As previously mentioned, they have it all and were happy to offer a weekly pass. You don't always find that. In addition to great weight training and cardio equipment, their other amenities include a sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor pools, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs. You will also find yourself in the presence of many elite amateur and professional athletes. To top it all off, the location is ideal.
They've been voted best coffeehouse in Boulder for six years running and it is easy to see why. In addition to one of the best lattes I've ever had (soy latte for me), you can feel the welcoming sense of family and community. I enjoyed a handful of cafes, but none more than Ozo on Pearl Street. I literally started every morning there.
Restaurant: Leaf Located right off Pearl Street, Leaf is beautiful and intimate and offers some of the best food we've ever had. Over the course of our two dinners, we had the Avocado Tartare, Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos, Tomato Pate, Raw Kale Salad, Jackfruit Carnitas-Enchiladas, Udon Noodles, and Spaghetti Squash Peanut Noodles. Everything was first rate!
Running Trail: Boulder Reservoir and Eagle and Sage Trails
Because I was nursing a knee injury, I was a little less adventurous than I'l be next time. That being said, I was more than happy with the Boulder Reservoir, a popular 5.25 mile loop frequented by athletes of all levels (I saw track stars and competitive trail runners out there during my handful of visits). It's relatively flat, out in the open, and a very nice place to get your feet wet while still offering spectacular views. And if you want to veer off onto slightly more adventurous trails, the Eagle and Sage trails are right there. Magnolia Road and Mount Sanitas are on the list for my next visit.
Grocery Store: Whole Foods on Pearl Street I love Whole Foods, and this location was particularly great and served me well. Within walking distance of the Colorado Athletic Club, it was easy and convenient for me to hop right on over between workouts and refuel at their nutritious juice bar, or grab some fruit, a coffee, or other.
Brewery: Avery Brewing Company I probably should have checked out more breweries, but I enjoyed Avery so much on my first night that it was hard to go anywhere else. They have a huge beer list - which they offer in multiple serving sizes, beginning at 4 oz for generally around $2 - and a super great vibe.
Culture: The Dairy Arts Center
This thriving multi-disciplinary arts hub houses everything from visual arts, theater, and film to dance and music. And for me, it completes the community and makes Boulder, well, just about perfect! Films are screened in the Boedecker Theatre, an intimate 60-seat art-house cinema which offers wine and craft beers to moviegoers (I had an Avery IPA). During my trip I was lucky enough to catch two outstanding documentaries: Deconstructing The Beatles: Revolver; and Chasing Trane.
Liquor Bar: License No. 1
"When Hotel Boulderado opened its doors in 1909, the City of Boulder was dry. Once home to dozens of saloons, breweries, distilleries and gambling halls, Boulder reformed its evil ways in 1907 and outlawed the sale of demon rum and spirits within city limits. In 1969, the first legal license to serve hard liquor in a restaurant was issued to the Catacombs Bar and Grill located in the basement of Hotel Boulderado. Today License No. 1 Liquor Bar continues with the very same liquor license first issued in 1969." (from license1boulderado.com)
Vegan Lunch Buffet: Jill's Restaurant
Located a block off the Pearl Street Mall, Jill's Restaurant is a beautiful modern bistro that serves up a delicious vegan lunch buffet every Friday. At $14.95 per person, this is a no-brainer.
Denver Favorite Restaurants: City O' City and Watercourse Foods
Though I only made it to Denver twice, each time was specifically to dine at one of these two incredible and very highly recommended vegan / vegetarian restaurants. I would make a special trip for both of them again and suggest that you consider doing so too!
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