Thursday, February 13, 2014

Colorado Trip - The Full Story

I wrote this post on the plane on the way home from Colorado. While writing it, and then again while reading it over just now, I realized how much I enjoy sharing stories of my silly little travels/adventures even if it's not totally triathlon-ish. I may not be doing anything grand like traveling to other continents, and I may share too many minor details that some people probably skim over or don't care about, but whatever. Actually, if you only look at the pictures and don't even read all this, that doesn't even bother me a bit. I enjoy the writing and reminiscing. (If you want the clif notes version, use the subtitles I added for ya to breeze through quickly.) Alright...

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As I write this, I am chasing the sunset on a plane back to SoCal. What a weekend it was -- an extended weekend, the best kind. It was sort of a random trip. A little business, a little pleasure and a little workin out "torture"/fun.  All totally awesome in my book.

The drive to Lucho's house. Off the main road is an understatement.
I had several people ask why I was even in Colorado in the first place, especially while Colorado's been experiencing abnormally cold and snowy weather. I personally welcomed the snow/cold as a chance to get some real winter weather since it's been rather hot in SoCal lately. But that's not why we went. It actually comes down to two, actually, three guys. It started during a podcast with Biju (of Skratch), and during our a post-interview chat I was hounding him to get some of his home-cookin’ (basically me asking if he'd cook for me if I found me way to his house lol). I was honestly serious about making a trip out, and he was sounding serious about making me authentic Indian curries (my request) if I got my ass out there. Soon after, I mentioned this to Lucho during one of our chats, and without hesitation he said I could stay with his family at their house. At this point I was getting very sold on the idea of making the trip. Then, the third guy who made it all come together was John, who was totally into taking the trip as well. I love traveling with John, so this made me super excited that he could, and wanted to, join. His motivation? Well besides the obvious of spending time with his loving girlfriend (hehehe), the answer is easy: There are like 5 million great breweries in the Boulder/Denver area that he wanted to hit up “for research” -- so, it wasn’t a hard decision for him to justify the trip all. 
Spoiler: Some of John's findings while in Colorado.

Sweet view from The Waggoners' casa!
With that, I knew I had to justify the trip being more than just dinner at Biju's lol. I started brainstorming on other cool things to do, namely, of course, how to involve the podcast. A no-brainer being that I would be with lucho and in a land of many Endurance Planet fans. Before I knew it, our schedule was full. I wasn’t even able to make all the ideas I had into a reality (which means another trip is in store).

We got in Friday and kept it pretty mellow just hanging at Lucho's place, and getting to know his wife, Jo, and kids. What a great family. It felt so cozy and fun being with them from the get go. Played with lots of toys that night. Chatted. Had a great time.


Bright and early Saturday, John, Lucho and I headed to Kompetitive Edge in the Denver area so that I could get a metabolic efficiency test. Now, you ask, why the hell would this sea level girl go a mile high to get this test done?! Makey no sensie. From what I mentioned above, this test was not the reason for going out. That said, one of our awesome EP fans, Dina Griffin, reached out to me after hearing of my trip offering her services to do this test on me. She’s part of Fuel4mance with Bob Seebohar, also coached by Lucho, and a great/smart all-around lady, so I was happy to take up the opportunity. Plus it's only a sub-max test so how hard could it be, right? hehehe.....

I decided to document the whole testing procedure for a video podcast that I'll post on EP, as well. No shame here -- I don't mind if you see my results up close, me running in my out-of-shape condition, and looking like a drown rat on camera after doing the test.... Yup. Super sexy, just wait. We’re releasing the video soon (it's on the shoulders of John the producer currently), but in a nutshell the video covers:
-Dina and I talking all about the concepts of metabolic efficiency for endurance athletes - i.e fat burning vs. carb burning, why it's better to burn fat for as long as possible, this test vs. VO2max test (which I've also done), and what does it all mean
-The test protocol
-Me actually doing the test (done on treadmill; bike option is available)
-Viewing and analyzing graphs that come from doing the test, using my results specifically
-Then going over the results and implications in great detail. Dina also pulled in other great examples of folks who have tested in the lab to show how and why this test and your fat-burning capabilities really make a big difference in your performance. I’ll link to the video once it’s up. Great info.

So, my test results? 
Post test with Lucho and Dina!
Results were good (I burn fat, yay! lol), but quite frankly this test hurt way more than I expected. I really think I suffer in those first hours at altitude (my test was just under 24 hours after arriving). Some people adhere to the idea that it's beneficial to do your workout/training/race immediately once you get to altitude before the effects set in, rather than waiting a few days. It makes sense, physiologically, and that’s what I was hoping for here, but I think I’m finally convinced that doesn't seem to work for me. I've tried that strategy several times, such as the Tahoe training/Big Bear camps last year, and now am convinced it takes me a couple days to feel good, which interestingly is usually not the case for most folks (usually you want to do your workout/race right away or wait for ~2 weeks acclimatization for best results). Travel probably played a role in my feeling cruddy too.

I was also 12 hours fasted for the test (required; not voluntarily). While I wasn't a total grouch, it wasn't "fun" to not have a hot cup of coffee and brekkie in the morning. Dina said some people, namely the big carb eaters and caffeine junkies, can be real duds going into this test, lol. 

For example of how I felt like junk: My current MAF pace at home/sea level, with a HR of ~150-152, is ~8:15-8:30 per mile, even with hills, but on this test on treadmill at 1% incline, my HR was well into the 160s at an 8:30 or sub-8:30 effort. It was abnormally hard on me. But I wasn't overthinking it or upset, and was willing to tough it out. This test was a bonus treat thanks to Dina, and I wanted to use it to help educate everyone about this kind of testing on the podcast. 

Anyway, the altitude didn't totally screw up the test, and the results were legit enough, for sure. I stayed in a primarily fat-burning state (60% or greater fat utilization) until ~7:50 something pace and HR at 177 (holy shit - my HR is never that high at 7:53 pace, ouch!!!). So regardless of the altitude effects, the test showed I am a decent at utilizing fat more than CHO (carbs), and it takes a while before I switch to mainly CHO burning. Even more promising is that I’m also not in great shape at all right now after the long offseason, so I’m sure my metabolic efficiency will just improve as I go deeper into training. What do improvements entail? A faster pace while still mainly utilizing fat as fuel not carbs, and being able to sustain that over long durations. How to improve? Diet... training... diet can be up to 75% responsible for positive results, with training only 25% of the equation.

So that said, despite the hurdles of altitude and lack of fitness, why were my results still decent? You guessed it: DIET. Dina and I both agreed that the way I eat is responsible for keeping me metabolically efficient. Most my meals are rich in healthy fats, quality proteins and not a lot of sugar/bad carbs. Most my carbs come from veggies, including everything from greens to starchier root veggies, some fruit (but not too much), minimal/no grains, and almost never any white/processed carbs or things with gluten. I do eat Bonk Breakers and Skratch on bigger training days, and I do indulge on chips occasionally, or have heartier-carb breakfast when I'm training hard... but those things are not the norm.

As far as the metabolic efficiency test goes, I’ll post more details on this test, what it all really means, etc, on my blog soon, but 3 more points:
1) What questions do YOU have on this test and what it all means? Would love to give answers in a future blog.
2) Everyone should get a test like this done no matter if you're elite or beginner
3) I plan on repeating the same test at sea level back at home soon, just to see the difference that altitude makes on me. I’ll try to keep other variables as consistent as possible too -- like training before the test, fatigue levels, etc. I like being a lab rat ;)


With Jenna-Caer Seefried, who's a
loyal Endurance Planet fan and kickass
After that it was time to hang with the crew and not talk about exercise. If you recall, I quit drinking beer after Kona and have loved it. I notice a huge difference, in a positive sense. My gut likes me when I’m beer-free. But in this case, I was with John and Lucho in beer country, and they were thirsty boys. When in Rome, as they say, right? It’s not like we drank tons, well on Saturday anyway, and in fact we were all sober that day having just some tasters mostly. Still, we certainly made our way through a few breweries in Denver. It was a blast. Jenna-Caer, an EP fan and fast triathlete, met up with us. She’s 26, super cool, and we got along great. Stoked to have a new tri girl friend!

Based on John’s research/list, the breweries we hit up were:

Crooked Stave - A trendy yet “hardcore” place situated in a cool mall-like area called The Source. Rage Against the Machine was playing -- a good sign -- and they had very interesting beers, including some barrel-aged stuff and even *gasp* house-brewed kombuchas on tap -- two flavors in fact! I was ALL over that. They also had the kombuchas mixed with beer. Both were tasty. Even Mr IPA Lucho agreed.

Great Divide - This is a popular beer that you’ll find even outside Denver commonly; I know John gets it from our local WFs. It’s a small place but they do smart things in their brewing which has led to their popularity. Great IPAs. Fresh, crisp, hoppy and tasty. We took the brewery tour. And I even got hit on standing at a table while the guys were grabbing beers. Hil-a-rious.

TRVE - If Rob Zombie opened a brewery, this would be it. Interestingly, they were the only ones who carded, which I wouldn't have guessed, but the funny thing about getting carded is that we all found out Lucho’s ID expired last November (Lucho included on this news), and the bartender chick denied him any booze. Hahaha!!! Beers were ok, not really my style.


Not what I'm used to seeing when I start a run. Bring it!
Thankfully none of us drank too much because Sunday we had big plans. John, Lucho and I bundled up bright and early, again, packed a change of clothes, then met up with a few EP fans -- GZ, Neeraj and Jenna -- for a trail run in Boulder area. The Flatirons Vista trail to be specific. Minus the vista part on this day. It was maybe 18 degrees and TOTALLY socked in with this thick, freezing fog. Couldn't see more than ~25 yards in front. It was surreal, but honestly one of the most memorable and fun runs of my life to date. We ran about 9.2 miles in ~95 minutes (out there for closer to 2hr with some brief stops), and it was simply epic. Yes, I used the cliche word. I’ve never run in snow, let alone on a crazy single-trackish trail covered in snow! Sometimes the snow was shin deep and it was super sketchy with footing, other times it was harder packed and easy to cruise along upon. As Lucho said, it wasn't about pace on this day, it was about effort. For sure. Although, I know GZ/Neeraj/Lucho were going easy lol. We all had a blast, and thanks to John we captured a fun video of the outing; click here for that.

Also a BIG thanks to GZ for bringing along his camera to capture the scene:

My love

All smiles... and
frozen fingers!
If you watch the video you see that “treat” I mention? Well, in case you couldn’t tell, that was part of a spinal cord/sacrum, totally bloody, from likely a dog we think, that was simply spit out of a mountain lion's mouth after his delicious dinner. Ya, it’s the wilderness out there, folks, haha. I felt safe in our group, but at one point this woman and her dog went blazing by in the opposite direction. I recognized her, I thought. Sure enough it was Mary Beth Ellis -- total badass pro triathlete, and that proved it even more!

During that run one thing that kept running through my head was how grateful I am to host the Endurance Planet podcast. It’s allowed me to meet some pretty darn cool people, like on this run... we were all very chatty during the run (it wasn't some hardcore badass tempo deal; way more of a MAF/fun run), and it was so special putting faces to the names I've seen, hearing their stories, learning about their lives. Solid, solid people.

The route we ran, in case you were wondering!


Anyway, it was a great start to the day -- Lucho’s comeback to running! And we ended up staying in Boulder the whole afternoon visiting a few more breweries:
Yup. #avery

Southern Sun - Perfect for post-race brews and lunch! This place feels like a ski lodge that you hitup in between shredding the slopes. Food was decent too -- not just crappy bar food. I got roasted red pepper/feta cheese soup and a salad with avocado, others got burgers which were made with quality local meat, etc. I liked their FYIPA but not the other IPA. It was stout month there, so they had some interesting spins on them, like a coconut stout and even a girl scout cookie stout. A little too artificial for me, but still interesting.
From Twisted Pine.
Excellent spicy beer.

Avery - Love this place, and it's a popular brewery so you'll see their stuff around outside of Colorado. If in Boulder it's a must try for some very unique beers you’ll never get anywhere else, plus they know how to do damn tasty IPAs like The Maharaja (cool names and labels on their brews). The highlight for me was their Gourd beer, a pumpkin pie beer, which was killer amazing. Nothing sucks at Avery, but many beers are very high ABV like 11% up to 18% (wtf!?) so you have to be careful -- they are beers that you sip like a cocktail or wine, and not chug like a corona light.

Twisted Pine - This was the only brewery that Lucho requested specifically, and super cool because they had the best spicy beer I’ve ever tried -- Billy's Chillies. And I would know, as I’ve tried many spicy ones looking for “the perfect one” with legit spice but still tasty. The place was like a cabin, which was cool because at this point it was DUMPING snow outside. Great variety of brews.

As you can see we enjoyed our tasters.

J. Wells - a tiny little brewery off the beaten path that’s very “word of mouth”, with a very homey feel... like being in a giant closet and/or a living room (not really sure haha)... complete with darts! Thanks to Rob and Laurie Timko for taking us there. If you want a feel for what it's like when a home-brewer turns his craft into a real deal business on a budget, this is your place. Beer was great.
J.Wells - this is it when it's crowded. :)
This game quickly got serious when Lucho realized I was capable of beating him.

Whew. That was a day...

We definitely enjoyed ourselves Sunday. And Monday I had quite a bit of work to catch up on -- thank goodness for wifi and my laptop; no cell reception at Lucho's. But shockingly I still got in a legit workout Monday... it just took me until nearly 11 to get going lol. My stomach absolutely was HATING me from the brews, and it made me remember why it wasn’t hard to give up beer. I didn’t care at that point, coming out of beer retirement for the weekend was well worth it. And actually the workout I did went really well. I felt better than during the metabolic test even!

Lucho set me up on his sick road bike, on the trainer, indoors, facing him as he worked. At first, I was like, "OK, fine." But quickly realized that was no bueno, and I moved the workout station to his outdoor deck. Ya it was kinda cold and snowy, but it honestly felt better than overheating inside. It was probably low 30s, so I was fine for 80min doing Z2/Z3 and a handful of max intervals. Toes froze by the end, that was it.
My setup at ~8300ft. How could you NOT want to be riding on the trainer with a view like this?! My workout, in case you care, was a WU, then 4 X 10’ as 3:00 high Z2/2:00 Z3 (going by HR/PE no watts) on ~3:00 recovery, finished with 5 X 30” all out sprints on 1:00 recovery. Easily hit the goals, and in fact that 4th interval was my call; Lucho only prescribed three :)
Better view than inside for sure.

Then Lucho had me brick to a T-run, he joined, and it was basically straight up a 2.62 mile hill from 8300ft starting to 9200ft at the finish. Ouch! But I seriously felt great and loved it. Ya, I was slow (total time 33:50ish), but really pace was the least of my concerns. Again, it was about effort and not eating shit on snow and ice. Plus, Lucho thought I was going to take more than 40min to run up, so I proved that dude wrong lol.
Top of the T run! Unfortunately we couldn't run back down for a reward, as it was too icy, slippery and steep.
And although Lucho is acting like I was superior to him here, he is still in great running shape, don't let him fool you.


Monday night was THE night that had inspired the trip initially. Dinner at Biju’s! Not only is Biju a great chef, he’s a great guy and great host, as is his girlfriend. The whole evening was such a pleasant experience and the food was to-die-for amazing. All of it. Totally worth the trip and effort lol. The Indian food and curries that Biju served were not the kind of dishes that come back to haunt you later. I felt great after his food -- so fresh, clean and superb ingredients/prep. It was a late night for John and I; it took close to an hour to drive back to Lucho’s (from Denver to secluded mountain country). Not that we cared, our bellies were satisfied.

I plan on posting a little video in a separate blog to come soon, but in the meantime, here are a few snap shots of the night’s fare:

New addiction: baked coconut. Nothing added. Better than any chip in the world.
Biju building the perfect plate. To begin:
Cabbage salad, basmati rice, and green beens/coconut as the base layer.

Then adding on a couple curry dishes, omelet thing, and some toppings...

This needs to be a new staple in my home.
Ginger, garlic, onion... and ? Need to find out
the rest, but it's a great dip/topping/anything!
One darn good pot of spicy meat.


Ok, now I'm getting sick of writing this blog, so I'm sure you're sick of reading it -- if you;re even still here. So let's wrap up.

Tuesday was just a short recovery run around Lucho’s hood (aka more hills, more snow, more icy streets and on this day painfully cold freezing wind), then a quick shower and cleanup for a video podcast with Lucho. We had lagged on doing a real podcast since we arrived, but it worked out great as the show ended up being a video recap of the weekend (so a lot of the same stuff you’re reading here but with more life to the stories). And not just that -- we cracked a beer, and even did a freakin' pushup and plank contest per the request of our podcast fans. Hahaha, Who won?!


Warning: It's nearly an hour long with randomness and rambling so maybe leave it on in the background as you work hehe.
Sneak peak of the random sh*t you'll find in the video podcast. That would be Lucho's kiddo, Liv.
This picture makes me laugh so dang hard!!!!
Then to the airport...

I love Colorado, so does John, and who knows maybe one day we'll move there for a while. It's not a crazy thought to me. In the meantime, we're already planning to take another trip back this summer hopefully!

And that puts a close to that trip... time to move on, baby. Back to no beer and sea level workouts, whew.
Lucky to have one cool ass coach.
Even luckier to have this guy. Love him so much.


  1. You were all over my stomping ground! Glad you had a great time (it's hard not to here)! Mountain Sun (and their Denver sister Vine Street) are some of my favorite places (with Stout Month being one of my favorite times)!

  2. Awesome to meet you and John, Tawnee. If you guys are out here in the summer we might have to talk you into a summer solstice brew run (we did 6 on the winter solstice). Views and brews ... miles and smiles.

  3. This post made me miss you guys!!! Looks like you had a blast and crammed A LOT of FUN into your trip :)

  4. Well that was maybe the best post i have read all winter:) lots of fun, beer, snow, training, good food, and friends:)