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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park

This is the last post from my Zion/Vegas getaway.  It was such a good trip filled with so many fun adventures and sights to see.  This last one was about a 1 hour trip on our road trip back from Vegas.



If you find yourself driving from Las Vegas, Nevada up to Salt Lake City, Utah, then I have the perfect pit stop for you.  Kolob Canyons is a part of Zion National Park.  It is the northwestern section that is accessible off exit 40 on I-15 (you cannot access this section through the Main Zion entrance).  It is the beautiful part of Zion that no one really talks about... but should.

Passing through Arizona on the way home

The park is literally right off the highway- making it an awesome pit stop for the 6 hour drive from Vegas to Salt Lake City.  You will see the signs right off the highway and it is about a minute drive from the highway.  Don’t forget, this is a National Park so you will be responsible for the $25 park fee.  If you were at Zion within 7 days, the pass you bought there will work here too. 



Kolob Canyons are 40 miles north of Zion Canyon and 17 miles south of Cedar City. The main scenic road through the park is a five-mile scenic drive along the Kolob Canyons Road.  Here you can view the crimson canyons and gain access to various trails and scenic viewpoints.

Familiar red roads of Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

In the northwest corner of the park, narrow parallel box canyons are cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, forming the peaks and 2,000 foot cliff walls. 
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Trails at Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
The trails are really easy to follow.  
We did the 2 mile out and back trail at the end of the road winding through the park. 

Trails at Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Viewpoint from the end of the trail, Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
Snow covered mountains, views from Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park
This was a gorgeous little spot and a great pit stop to stretch out legs and see another section of Zion.  It is right off the highway, making it a perfect pit stop for anyone traveling along I-15.  If you are visiting the main Zion Canyon and heading north after, add Kolob Canyons to your list.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Motivational Monday 3/23 to 3/29: and How to Recover from a Bad Run

Today's Motivation Monday and lesson is going to be about a bad run. 
Or in my case, bad runs.  
First, lets back up and recap the weeks workouts:

Monday:  8 miles (weekends long run)  and 50 minute Tabata 
Tuesday:  Rest 
Wednesday:  4 miles and 50 minute Tabata 
Thursday:  Ride 
Friday:  Rest 

Saturday: 12 mile run, 2 mile walk 
Sunday:  Ride/Fitness Training Class (Spin Class)
TOTAL MILES:  24 

I was unable to squeeze my long run in last weekend with a weekend of skiing and hiking with friends in town.  So instead of Sunday, I got my "long run" in Monday.  

The training plan I built has me doing two long runs increasing distance, and one long run going back a few miles.  After a 10 miler and 11 miler,  last weekend (moved to Monday) was back down to 8.  To create a challenge and get some hill work in, my friend Lauren and I decided to run our 8 up and down city creek.

That means 4 miles of constant uphill, followed by 4 miles of constant downhill. This.Was.A.Hard.Run.  I forgot how hard hills are.  This isnt even hills, because it is a constant incline for 4 miles with no relief until you turn around.  It was a great workout, and great training, but it really kicked my butt.  

Wednesdays run was uneventful.  It wasn't hard, it wasn't super easy, just a four mile maintenance run during the week.


Pre Long Run Breakfast:  Toast, peanut butter and banana with a drizzle of honey 

Now we get to Saturdays run.  Saturday's 12 miler from hell.  For my Utah friends, Salt Lake Running Co is hosting teaser runs on the weekends.  Basically, from 6:30 to 11:30, SLRC provided gatorade and water at several locations along 1.5 mile distances along a section of the Jordan River Trail.

Water and Gatorade at several stations but had to bring your own cup 

Lauren brought these AWESOME collapsible measuring cups.
Perfectly flattened out to fit in a pocket and pop out when needed. 

 If you want to do your long run on a gorgeous paved trail with company, comraderie, and hydration, then this free event is for you.  Read more about it here. 

Gorgeous Jordan River Parkway Trail
  

I usually run my long runs on the Jordan River Parkway anyway (relatively flat, and I get my river fix on a beautiful trail with no cars or stop lights) so this was perfect.  

Four of us tackled Saturday's run.  So nice to commiserate with friends.  

Well, not so perfect.  We started our run at 9:30 but I knew that was toooooo late.  By 10:00 am the sun was out, and the 75 temperature felt like 90 in the sun.  Utah is really dry and the sun feels so much stronger.   

I was roasting in the sun, running, and the worst part?  I had the WORST side stitch for about 9 of the 12 miles.  Like stabbing piercing pain in my side for an hour and a half.  This pain, the heat, and my legs felt like concrete after mile 7.


  This run felt really hard and was really discouraging for my morale.  Lauren and I spent the last 3 miles complaining and discussing how much the run sucked.  This run was a reminder how terrible some runs can feel and also a reminder to really appreciate the good runs.  

So that is my advice for today.  
Today I am sharing some tips
 on how to recover from a bad run from running.about.com

How to Recover from a Bad Run

Move Past a Disastrous Run and Keep Running



Updated January 01, 2015.
All runners have runs when we just don't feel great. You feel like you're trudging through the run, just going through the motions, and counting down the seconds and steps until the run is over. While it's tough to get through those types of runs, it's sometimes even harder to deal with the disappointment and frustration you feel after the run is over. Follow these tips to get over a bad run:

1.  Figure out what went wrong.

When you have a bad run, it's helpful to understand why it happened. Are yousluggish from overtraining? Did you eatand hydrate properly? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you bored with your routine? Figuring out the reason behind your bad run can help you avoid a repeat experience and can also help you make necessary adjustments to your training.

2.  Focus on the health benefits.

Even if you have a bad run, you're still getting lots of benefits, such as stress relief, calories burned, and other health benefits.

3.  Don't forget the mental training, too.

Getting through a tough run makes you stronger mentally. If you're training for an event, such as a marathon, these tough runs will help teach you how to deal with rough patches during your race.

4.  Write about it.

It may seem like writing about your terrible run will only prolong the agony, but expressing your thoughts about it in your training journal or blog can help you work through it. Having a record of what you think went wrong will also help you prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.

5.  Try something different next time.

Once you figure out what went wrong, try to change something that may have caused that problem. Get more sleep if you need it. Try warming-up a little longer next time. Run a different route if you're bored. Go with a group rather than by yourself. Even if you can't pinpoint what went wrong in your run, making a change will help you distance yourself psychologically from that bad run and help you feel more confident when you start your next run.

6.  Talk to other runners.

All runners, from beginners to elites, have days when it's tough it get through a run. Comparing bad run stories with other runners will make you feel better about your own experience because you'll know you're not alone.
More: How to Find a Running Group

7.  Appreciate your good runs.

The silver lining of having a bad run is that it helps you better appreciate your great runs. After a terrible run, try to push the bad run out of your mind by thinking back to the runs when you felt incredible and experienced that intoxicating runner's high at the end. Another great run is not too far away.

8.  Don't wait too long to run again.

Bad runs are usually pretty rare, so don't assume that you'll feel the same way the next time you run. So don't get discouraged and stop running for a week because you're afraid you'll have another tough run.






Friday, March 27, 2015

The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa

Disclaimer 1:  Warm weather, palm trees and frozen drinks are in this post.
New Englanders- Close the screen now if you can't handle this much sunshine so soon. 

Okay I am still talking about my trip last weekend.  I just have so much to say about my awesome weekend getaways., and this was one pretty fantastic.  After spending a day at Zion and a night camping right in the national park, we headed to Vegas. 
 Lake Las Vegas that is.  

What is the best way to wrap up a beautiful day in night in Zion National Park? 


 Well, do the compete opposite.

 In this case, it was drink Pina Coladas on a man made lake surrounded by palm trees and golf courses.  And then spend the evening on The Strip, eating fabulous food and wandering through casinos before collapsing back in a fluffy king size bed.   

It's a hard life folks, but someone has to live it.  

 

Several things made this trip affordable.  First, camping a night in Zion eliminated a need for a hotel that night.  Second, driving saved a ton of money as we did not need to purchase flights.  And lastly, I went to my trusty travel agent, Groupon.  


Of course, any hotel on the strip is going to run you $200+ a night.  I didn't need to be on the strip, I just saw that the weather was going to be 85 degrees and I needed to be by a pool, with a palm tree and froofy drink.  And Groupon was hosting some pretty sweet deals. 


When I saw this deal for The Westin Golf and Spa Resort on Lake Las Vegas, I jumped at the deal.  (Did I mention I purchased this while sitting on a chair lift at Brighton skiing?). 

I know, I am turning into a (gasp) west coaster (just a little). 


Of course, there were a few hidden fees, including a $29 resort usage fee and taxes and other fees, but it came in around $100 when it was all said and done, and I can live with that.  


You can buy beer right in the hotel and bring it down to the pool, for a fraction of the cost!
And food! We brought our own lunch/snacks. 

The hotel was nice, and had a stunning view of the lake, the golf courses, and the complexes surrounding Lake Las Vegas.  It was so nice to see green grass and palm trees. 

Westin Resort Map 

As a guest, you can use the kayaks for free (very limited number) or pay to rent a paddle board right there at the resort. I was more into sunning and frozen drinks so I passed on the water sports and ordered another drink at the pool. 

Westin at Lake Las Vegas-  Paddleboard for rent 

The Westin at Lake Las Vegas- Golf Course 

Second Pool, Lake Las Vegas, The Westin 

There are two large pools, one heated to 85 degrees, and one left colder (but with an awesome water slide).  It did seem to be a large family resort and I have to say one of the pools were shut down due to an accident in the pool (this was one of those trips where I was thankful I did not have children yet).  

Water Slide, The Westin at Lake Las Vegas

Water Slide, The Westin at Lake Las Vegas

Another great aspect was the Strip Shuttle.  The strip is about 35-40 minutes away so this is a great free feature for guests.  I will warn you, that you have to book this WAY in advance.  The shuttle fills quick and I could not get a spot on the Saturday shuttle (even when I called that morning).  



If you want to head to Vegas for some sunshine and pool time, for a great price with access to the strip when you want it, this is an excellent choice.

The Westin at Lake Las Vegas
  

The lady working the front desk was really nice and accomodating.  She let me check in two hours early without any additional fees (maybe she smelled the desperate I need a shower I have been camping funk on me- TMI?).  The rooms were spacious and clean, and the resort was everything I was looking for.  You can even buy alcohol right at the gift shop and bring your own food and booze down to the pool deck.  

This was the perfect taste of sunshine I was looking for. 
Vegas, I will be back! 


 Disclaimer 2:  The Westin did not pay me for this post, or compensate me in any way.  In fact, I paid them (one day blog, one day).  All opinions are my own. 


















Thursday, March 26, 2015

Horseback Riding on Antelope Island, Utah


Antelope Island is an insanely beautiful place.  I have been several times in different seasons for different reasons and fall in love a little more each time.  I talked about my winter hike here, and talked about my first time visiting the island and the lake here

January Hike, Antelope Island, Utah 

This place gets a bad rap because of the terrible bugs in the summer, and odor of the lake, but I find this place absolutely beautiful despite those faults.  Maybe its the fact that it mimics the ocean for me, or maybe it is because I only go in the winter and spring, but Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake are definitely on my "Must See Utah List".

Not only is the island gorgeous with water views, but it is a popular trail riding spot.  The trails are excellent for horses (most of them are perfect sandy footing)  and they have large lots to park your trailer, and even corrals for overnight hiking. 

Hitching Post, Antelope Island, Utah

Did I mention a few hitching posts around the trail if you want to pop off your horse and have lunch (if your horse ties...).  

  If you are unable to BYOH, Bring Your Own Horse that is, you can make a reservation to ride over at Fielding Garr Ranch with R & G Horse and Wagon..  If taking a nice ride around Antelope Island in a big western saddle is how you want to spend your day, then head on over to their website and make a reservation to ride.  Also, don't forget there is a $10 fee to enter the park.

Luckily, I have worked hard to make some horsey friends out here.  One of my newest equine friends out here has two horses about an hour north in Ogden.  She moved here about the same time I did and is always looking for someone who can ride to go trail ride with.  Her one requirement was " I don't care how you ride as long as you can stay in the saddle".  Well, that I can do.  We set off for a 5 hour trail ride around the island.  

Horseback riding at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 


I ended up riding a 20 year old arab mix in a big old western/roping saddle for about 5 hours. As someone who normally rides show horse types in a ring in an english saddle, this was about as different as it gets.  BUT- beggars can't be choosers and I am thankful for any ride I get, especially if they are on a beautiful island like this.  

 Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

Horseback riding at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

The ride was amazing, my butt was super sore, the western saddle pinched my poor leg, and I had just seen a few antelope grazing nearby.  When, all of the sudden, we see a herd of bison in the distance.  And they just happen to be within feet of the trail we are riding on.  

Bison at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

Thankfully they are very used to humans as they are a highly photographed critter here on the island.  I have to say, even though they didn't flinch, and the horses did not seem to mind, I was a little besides myself that I was within 10 feet of these massive terrifying looking creatures.  It was like "oh wee look bison this is the bestttttt" and then "holy hell oh my god holy shit that is huge get me outta here".  Amazing and sorta scary.  

Horseback riding with bison at Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah 

I can officially say I rode through a herd of wild bison. 
And hey, even stopped to take a picture. 


We rode the Bone Road Trail, to the Split Rock Loop, and finished around the half the White Rock Loop. SO yes, if my math is right about 13 miles.  My horse at home would have died after 3.  Fact.  If you are looking for more information on riding out in Utah, Here is a GREAT post on some western cowboys ride on the island.  He also has great posts about horseback riding all over Utah trails! 








Wednesday, March 25, 2015

China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada


After a day at the pool (which I will be recapping), it was time for dinner.  Where is there a better place to get dinner than the Las Vegas Strip?  After a shower and outfit change, we headed out to dinner in Las Vegas.  

        

Skirt (Marshalls), Top (Marshalls), Shoes (DSW).  

Las Vegas is a foodie city. Name a chef and they have a restaurant in Vegas.  At least one restaurant.  On my last trip to Vegas in October, I had some amazing food and several memorable meals, Bobbie Flay's Mesa Grill, and Joel Robuchon, to name a few ;)  Where did I decide?

China Poblano
Jose Andres
Cosmpolitan Hotel,
Las Vegas, Nevada





 I wanted to find somewhere fun and casual to eat.  I immediately thought of China Poblano, a restaurant I had walked by and glanced at the menu during my last trip.  China Poblano is a restaurant serving Mexican and Chinese food.  Not a fusion of the two, but literally a menu with Mexican and Chinese food on it.  Maybe it sounds odd to you, or maybe it sounds like the best idea ever.


A restaurant where I can have chips and salsa tacos, a noodle dish AND fried rice, all in one meal?  That is my kind of wonderful.  And that is exactly what I did.

We started with the Chips and Salsa: fresh tortilla chips/ house-made chipotle salsa ($4)  because we heard it was fantastic and you can never go wrong with chips and salsa. 


The salsa was amazing and the homemade chips made a big difference (sitting at the bar I spent a half hour watching this woman make tortillas).  The good news is that this is off the menu, so you can't just shove your face with free refills, you have to order it.  This was a bonus for me.

 Because lets be honest.......

Next we tried a taco.  
Because... tacos are just absolutely delicious.   



Barbacoa de Res:

Oaxacan-style barbeque beef, guajillo chile, pickled cactus paddle ($5.50).



 After the taco we moved on to the noodle dish.  I chose the Dan Dan Mian: hand-cut wheat noodles/ spicy pork sauce/peanuts ($12.88). The vinegar is to cut the spice of the dish. 



They were good.  Not amazing, but pretty good and different.  
What was absolutely amazing was the 20 vegetable fried rice.
Yes, I said 20 vegetable fried rice.

Maybe you are thinking wow $20 for fried rice or, holy hell how did they get 20 vegetables in there.  A.  It is worth every penny and B.  I didn't count but I am taking their word for it.  


I am one of those obnoxious people that asks the waiter what he orders, or what a first timer needs to try, and he instantly recommended the 20 vegetable fried rice.  He even informed me this is a famous dish featured on a few shows.  Sold, I should get some vegetables in this body, even if its stir fried, and who doesn't love fried rice?

I mean, this dish has its own video as it was featured on "Best Thing I Ever Ate".  Yes, you can watch a video about fried rice here. And yes, they list all 20 vegetables.  You can even find the recipe here thanks to Ellen.

The pops of flavors, the textures of all the different vegetables.  You need to head to China Poblano and order this dish!