For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

The Run Denver Race Series

Back in November, in the high of completing my fifth half marathon of the year, and third within a month, I thought it’d be a great idea to look ahead and plan for my 2015 race schedule!  Once you get bit by the run bug, there’s no turning back.  I started looking at small, local races, knowing the appeal of easy-to-manage race day events and the fun runner and volunteer atmosphere.  These smaller races and series truly showcase the running community with which you surround yourself.  I checked Active.com, and first looked up That Dam Half.  After running my first half marathon in February 2014, I was immediately addicted and wanted to find another one I could do right away.  That Dam Half was only a week out from the Disney Princess Half, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for it with enough confidence that I’d finish easily, or at least well.  So instead I decided I would save this race.

giphy
Don’t stop me, don’t stop me, don’t stop me. Hey, hey, HEY! Freddie Mercury, I don’t want to stop at all. Source

Now you may be thinking, “Why is this race called ‘That Dam Half’?”  It’s true, Colorado is not exactly known for its large bodies of water, but just 15 minutes down the road from me is the Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Cherry Creek cuts its way through Denver, much of which is followed by Speer Boulevard.  It’s derivation point, however, is out east towards the reservoir.  Conserving water is something we Coloradans must get used to, so reservoirs were established throughout the state.  Not all are in the same use at this point, and truth be told, the Cherry Creek Reservoir is now more for recreational use than anything else.  The reservoir is part of the Cherry Creek State Park, which boasts good biking and running trails all over and great views of the mountains out west.  Thus, That Dam Half quite literally winds its way around the reservoir and dam!  That is my long, drawn-out explanation for the obviousness of the name…

After checking out the half registration, I noticed there was a series built around this race, the Run Denver Race Series.  You provide me with a package of races, I cannot resist!  Especially when they have cute themes, are all close-by, and each is small and local.  So in December, I began my five race series, which includes 4 5ks, of which I am not normally a huge fan, and That Dam Half.  We kicked off the series with the Rudolph Ramble 5k, which took place the day following the ColderBolder 5k.  Obviously I ran both, because why not!  These races would guarantee me at least 14 races in 2014.

Great start to a fun race.
Great start to a fun race.

The Rudolph Ramble took place on December 7th, and it was so much fun – folks donned jingle bells, reindeer antlers, santa hats and other holiday-themed paraphernalia.  Given the size of these races, many folks brought their kids and dogs to participate.  This race took place in City Park, just north of the Cherry Creek area of Denver.  I have now run a number of races in City Park, some more treacherous than others, but this day was perfect.  Not too warm (it was unusually warm this weekend, unlike the year before when the high was 6 degrees), sunny, and no breeze.  We took a wide loop around the park and finished by the pavilion, where volunteers were lined up with goody bags (I mean nice drawstring goody bags!), water, Evol burritos, Aspire sports drinks, bagels and bananas, along with other goodies and freebies.  I am all about the freebies, so I just cannot resist.  What I liked most, however, were the awesome long-sleeve BornFit race shirts.  The shirts were a periwinkle blue with the Rudolph Ramble logo.  Part of the series perks included a BornFit grey half-zip, with which I am now obsessed.  Good swag for a small series.

The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.
The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.  Can you feel my excitement?

Two weekends ago I participated in the second race of the series, the Polar Bear 5k: Thrill of the Chill.  Thankfully, like the previous race, it was the opposite of

Krisitn (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!
Kristin (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!

chilly.  I am fairly certain it was about 60 degrees that day.  This time the race took place in Washington Park, or Wash Park as known by the locals.  My friend, Tessa, came to cheer me and her roomie on during the race.  They live in walking distance from the park, so it made for a great morning for all of us.  This race wound its way around the park, and took one additional loop through the middle to meet the 3.1 miles.  The volunteers for these races are notoriously fantastic, and there are folks interspersed throughout the course cheering on the runners.  The course is just the right ammout of small inclines and flat, so you can really work on speed for this race.  Like the race before, many participants had dogs and kids join in the fun.  Kristin, my friend’s roommate, took 1st in our age group, so we got to celebrate her during the award ceremony.  Personally, I felt great throughout the race and ran a 30:50 5k – I am determined to bring my 10k time solidly under 10 minutes per mile, so I think I am on track.

Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Yup, she's a rockstar!
Yup, she’s a rockstar!

This Sunday I will be participating in the third installment of the race series, the Super Bowl 5k also in Wash Park.  Finally something I would rather be doing on Super Bowl Sunday (especially since the Broncos didn’t make it this time… we won’t go into last year, but I definitely do NOT want the Seahawks to win…).  The following Sunday will be the Valentine’s Day 5k, and I will finish the series on March 1st with That Dam Race Half Marathon.  I couldn’t imagine kicking off 2015 any better way – time to pile on the miles!

Do you have a favorite race series? Do you prefer big races or small, local events?  Any fun themed races coming up?