My picks in Vail/Beaver Creek

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We spend a lot of time in the Vail Valley, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite places and things to do in the area for those who might come visit.

First, the athletic stuff:

Best bike route:  I have three that are favorites.  For long, I like the Copper Triangle route. This is easy to do on your own with a few places to refuel en route. We ride it from Minturn to Leadville to Copper back to Vail.  Takes a little over 5 hours (for me) depending on weather and how hard I push.

This route has spectacular views

For a flatter, TT ride, I ride downvalley, out-and-back.  It’s slightly downhill on the way out, but usually into a headwind. The way back is uphill, but with a tailwind.

For a shortish grind, we head up Vail Pass. A classic.  Head down to Copper if you want to add miles, although that stretch of bike path can be full of yahoos on the weekends (i.e., people who do not understand riding on the right side of the path).

Best pool:  Avon rec center.  25 yards, 6-lanes. Usually not too crowded. Buy a punch card to save money. They have a great leisure pool and lazy river, but the water slide gets a thumbs down for the overly strict height requirement. My 6 year olds are still too short.

Best run:  Believe it or not, our running routes in Vail are flatter than our routes at home.  It is mostly just up and down the valley.  I usually run the bike path from Eagle-Vail to Vail or have someone drop me off in Vail and run back home. My favorite Vail running race is the Vail Half Marathon in July.

Spectators ride the gondola for free to watch the Vail Half Marathon

It’s a grind for about 9 miles, but you are rewarded with spectacular views and wildflowers at the top. There are two good tracks in the area – the old Battle Mountain High School track in Eagle-Vail (rubber) and the new high school track in Edwards (also rubber).

Best bike shop: Pedal Power in Eagle-Vail. Stay out of the village, where they mostly just rent cruisers and mountain bikes to people who take a gondola ride up the mountain and then ride down.

Now, the important stuff – food!

Best Fancy Dinner:  If someone with deep pockets wants to treat, have them take you to Sweet Basil, Terra Bistro or Larkspur.  All in Vail Village.  Of those three, Terra is my personal fave, but the people-watching at Sweet Basil is really very good.

Best Family Dinner:  In the summer, we like sitting on the patio at Vendettas in the Village.  Other than Pazzos for pizza, not too many of the restaurants in the Village cater to families. So we usually skip it and eat at home or take the kids to Edwards, which has a lot of good, more casual restaurants. We like the Gashouse, Main Street Grill and Larkburger.

Best apres ski Vail:  We don’t apres ski much these days, but if I did, I would go to Los Amigos at the base of the Vista Bahn. I know it’s an institution, but I’m not a Red Lion fan. Maybe if I were 15 years younger and liked crappy food…

Best apres ski Beaver Creek:  The outdoor fire pit at the Ritz. Get there around 3:30 and enjoy roasting marshmallows outside by the fire and listening to live music. Probably intended for actual hotel guests at the Ritz, but that detail doesn’t deter us.

Goggles are useful for keeping smoke out of your eyes

Best Shopping:  I do most of my shopping at the Chapel Square area in Avon. There’s Sports Authority for the essentials, City Market for groceries, Valley Girl for trendy clothes, a great toy store and a few furniture consignment stores that I like to poke my head into.  I like a good deal, so I am a fan of consignment.  I used to like Holy Toledo in Minturn, but I recently discovered the Eagle Valley Thrift store in Edwards, and it is pretty good as well.  I bought several pairs of high-end jeans there recently and paid less than I would have at Holy Toledo.

Family Skiing:  We were die-hard Vail-lovers until the kids started skiing. Now we are all about Beaver Creek. It’s more convenient and kid-friendly. My kids love the “kid adventure zones” on the mountain like the bear cave, the gold mine, Ripperoos Retreat and the teepees.  Vail doesn’t have any of these things. The Beav also has free parking (where you catch a shuttle to the lift) and less goofballs bombing down the slopes. For ultimate convenience, drop off the kids at Beaver Creek Landing and ski Bachelor Gulch. Warm and sunny and usually less crowded than the main mountain.

Kids’ Activities:  This list really is endless, but some of our favorite things to do in the winter are sledding in Eagle-Vail by the driving range, tubing on Meadow Mountain (pricey but fun), and ice skating on Nottingham Lake or in Beaver Creek Village. In the summer, we like to hike in the Gore Range out of East Vail (Booth Falls is a favorite hike), go rafting on the Colorado River, or day trip to the hot springs pool in Glenwood Springs.

Booth Falls last Fourth of July

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the above or other things to do in Vail or Beaver Creek!

East Vail on Dwellable

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No off-season for the weary

Lately, I have been getting a lot of “what are you training for?” when people see me swimbikerunning.

The answer is – next season. I am training to become a better athlete next season. And to achieve my goals, I have decided that there will be no “off season” or extended period of rest.

When pros or top age groupers describe the “secret” to their success in triathlon, a common theme recurs. Consistency. They are not taking a few months off after an event and then re-building their base and starting from scratch. Nope. They’re at it 12 months a year, usually day in and day out.

We used to do this differently. I watched my husband race one Ironman per year, usually in the summer, followed by a winter of taking it easy. Each spring, he would struggle to lose the winter weight and re-develop his base fitness. Then, a couple of years ago, he decided to start training year round, and not coincidentally in my mind, a lot of PRs have been set in the meantime.

Some people claim it is hard for them to keep the focus when their goal event is months away. I don’t feel that way. I always have the clock and my Garmin to tell me how things are going. The numbers never lie, and they are there every day to let me know how I am doing, if I am coming closer to those goals for 2012.

So, for me at least, there will be no true “off season” this year. Here are my off season S/B/R goals:

• get my 100 time into the 1:30s
• find 10 more watts on the bike at MAF HR
• break 1:30 for the half marathon in California in Feb

See you on the roads or at the pool!

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Halloween Hangover and Healthy Choices

It’s the day after Halloween and the kids have been busy organizing, counting, and categorizing their candy. I am thankful that we live on a little cul-de-sac with 20 or so homes, so we don’t have piles and piles of candy laying around. Typically, when we have too much candy or something else in the house we don’t want to eat, I just package it up for Mark to take to work. But I always feel a little guilty about that, too – promoting the unhealthy habits of other people by giving them crack, ooops, I mean, candy. I’m not sure what the solution is. Throw it away?

In the past couple of years, our active “tendencies” have transformed from a seasonal period when we would get in shape for some key races, to a year-round, active lifestyle. Mark and I do some sort of training pretty much every single day. In order to do that, we have had to reduce or eliminate other things from our life – like drinking. I like to have fun and drink with friends, but I have decided that I care more about feeling good for the next day’s workout. Mark has decided he cares more about getting a good night’s sleep. So we have a drink or two on occasion, but that’s about it.

People may accuse us of being boring and “no fun,” but those are usually the same people who express so much awe at our athletic endeavors. Time and time again, I hear, “I could never do what you do.” And in my head, I am thinking, “No, of course you can’t. Because you drink too much, eat crap all of the time, and never work out.” But I know because I have lived it that those people could accomplish physical feats if they wanted to. They would just have to make different choices.

Which brings me back to today and an article I just read from Lava by Dr. Phil Maffetone.  It was about staying healthy during the holidays.  Here is the list of healthy and unhealthy holiday habits:

The Best Holiday Habits:

1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
2. Be with those you want to be with
3. Stick with a holiday budget
4. Balance work and pleasure
5. Get enough sleep
6. Stay at home and have fun
7. Do things you’re passionate about
8. Shop locally
9. Buy and receive only healthy gifts
10. Share healthy food

The Worst Holiday Habits:

1. Spending money you don’t have
2. Visiting people you don’t like
3. Going to parties you’d rather avoid
4. Eating things you don’t want to
5. Drinking too much alcohol
6. Last minute shopping
7. Holiday travel (especially at peak periods)
8. Going on a diet January 1st
9. Gaining weight
10. Buying unhealthy gifts

Here’s to a healthy and happy holiday season!

Triathlon is Not Like an Episode of MTV’s “Made”

I’m not sure if the MTV show Made is still on the air anymore, but here is the premise: a high-schooler wants to accomplish something, like making the cheerleading squad, or losing weight for graduation. MTV swoops in to make this kid’s dream come true by giving them a “professional” to guide them through the steps to achieving the dream. They work at it for a few months. The kid usually gets frustrated by the challenge a few times, threatens to give up, the professional encourages them, and they get back to it. By the end of the 30 minutes, the kid has generally accomplished the goal, and everyone learns the value of hard work and is happy and fulfilled.

I assumed triathlon would be like this. I assumed that if I dedicated myself to the sport – three sports – I would get good fairly quickly. Sure, I could only swim breast stroke and didn’t really ride my bike, but I assumed I was fit enough to get good if I just put the time in. It’s been an interesting lesson in patience because, as it turns out, it can actually take quite a long while to become a good triathlete. It turns out that it can take years.

I was naive about this. I sincerely believed that I could put in the training for a couple of seasons – heck, even year-round – and I would be mixing it up with the best of them. What I didn’t realize is that running and cycling are actually two very different sports that require two different skill sets. It is easier to pick up cycling if you have been a runner and have a good aerobic engine, but that is just a piece of the puzzle. The past two years have taught me that there is much more to being a good cyclist than being fit. Things like power-to-weight ratio, strength, bike handling, and flexibility all come into play. And, as it turns out, some of these things can take years to develop and improve. Just as I did not transform myself from a 3:37 marathoner to a 3:05 marathoner in one season, I realize now that I cannot logically expect to become a great cyclist in a matter of months. While I have made huge progress in my biking, I know that I am still not in the same league as the top age groupers.

Patience is not something I am good at. I am an instant-gratification kind of girl. I’m not necessarily proud of this character trait, but it’s the truth. So, in addition to giving me new skills and fitness that I have never known before, triathlon is also teaching me patience.

Unlike a tidy, 30-minute episode of Made, my triathlon skills will have to be honed over the course of years. There’s no instant gratification.

I have a feeling the ultimate rewards will feel much more satisfying.