Lowa Cevedale Pro GTX Mountaineering Boots Review

Mountaineering boots are EXPENSIVE. For a reason, but they’re expensive.

Before Basic Mountaineering School, I knew I’d need to invest in a pair of mountaineering boots but I wasn’t too keen on spending $$$ when I really had no idea how I’d be using the boots or what would be important to me. I’d been hiking and backpacking previous to the class but wasn’t entirely sure what true ‘mountaineering‘ entailed.

So I kept my eyes on Sierra Trading Post and snagged a pair of Lowa Cevedale Pro GTX mountaineering boots for a steal. They had positive reviews, satisfied my requirements (stiff sole, crampon compatible) and were reasonably priced. When I brought them to the first day of mountaineering school, I got push back from my instructors that these boots wouldn’t work, that crampons wouldn’t stay on these shoes because there was/is too much flex.

Inspired by my instructor’s doubt, I filmed a (very elementary, not polished) review because I used these boots throughout my entire class – hiking, scrambling, rock climbing and couloir climbing – with no issues. No crampons popping off, no slipping, no blisters, no hot spots. I probably wouldn’t take these ice climbing as they’re not insulated but for the other 3 seasons? Hell yeah!

In a quest to get better at being comfortable on a video and at vocalizing gear reviews, I enlisted Alex to help me film this back in June. We made this video when 1) I was brain fried from our High Peak Couloir Climb (so you’ll hear ‘these boots these boots these boots!) and 2) we were still figuring out how to meld our creative visions. So it’s not the best video but I really love these boots (these boots!) and hey, every YouTube star started somewhere right? (to note: YouTube star is not on my bucket list.)

Trip Report: Mt. Bancroft East Ridge

Back in June, I skipped out on my Routefinding field day with my Basic Mountaineering School class. I had a flight for a business trip that night and made the choice to stay home instead of participating. I knew I’d need to make up the trip in order to graduate and this past Saturday was makeup field day.

Our objective was to summit Mt. Bancroft, a nearby 13er, via the East Ridge route. Bancroft sits at 13,250 and the East Ridge is an interesting scramble, much like Kelso Ridge without the knife edge. In June, too much snow on Bancroft meant the team snow climbed up a gully to the summit but in late September, we enjoyed a beautifully rocky East Ridge.

Mindy and I carpooled from Denver and met our other 4 members at Loch Lomond, a lake at the base of Bancroft where the team camped. A note to other non-high clearance vehicles: The dirt road to Loch Lomond is very rocky! It was do-able for my Subaru Outback for about 1+ miles before I found a pull off and parked; we hiked the remaining 1.5 miles to the lake.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Just after 7:30 a.m., we met our team, threw on our packs and headed up the mountain to gain the ridge we would follow to the summit of Bancroft. Because this was a student-led trip and I was technically the only student (the others had graduated), I was responsible for route finding. Instead of taking the trail to the southeast of the trailhead, I opted for the direct route…straight up. We bushwhacked through literal bushes and ~.25 mile and 600 vertical feet later, we were on the ridge.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

And then….the scrambling began. Holy moly did we scramble!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

It was mostly class 3/3+ scrambling that was very doable. Nothing too exposed and hand/foot holds were ‘bomber’, in climber lingo. We scrambled until we hit the infamous notch.

At the notch, climbers must rappel 80+ feet and then climb a 30+ foot headwall on the other side. There are a few obvious places to build a rap station as webbing from previous climbers has been left on boulders. We built our rap station and sent the team down, one by one. Note to future climbers: beware of loose rock on the rappel and at the base of the rappel. Lots of chossy, flakey rock. Also note that once you start the rappel, you have no bailout option except to finish the route so be sure you have time and energy to press on!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

On the other side, Sylvia lead climbed the headwall and belayed the rest of us from above. It was a short 5.2 climb with plenty of holds but, again, be sure to check the rock first.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

The rappel and headwall climb are definitely the crux of this route but most trip reports I read failed to mention the additional, exposed class 4 scrambling after the notch. Note to future climbers: way more scrambling ahead!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

The next section of scrambling was a bit more intense – definitely class 4 as we climbed along the top of the ridge. Without a cloud in the sky, we took our time and carefully moved across the ridge. Three or four false summits later (I lost count), we came out of the rocky scramble section and finally reached the grassy, ‘mellow’ hike to the summit that I’d read about online.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

And then, the summit! We did it!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

To return to the trailhead, we followed the southeastern ridge back to Loch Lomond. It was full of boulder and talus fields because what’s the fun in an easy, mellow hike out?!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

In total, our hike was 5.5 miles from trailhead to trailhead (does not include the 1.5 mile hike to Loch Lomond) and took us 7.5+ hours.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

lgsmash-created caltopo map or our route

actual garmin stats of our route

actual garmin stats of our route

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Looking back on the East Ridge route

Overall, I really enjoyed this climb. Definitely, more experienced climbers will move on the East Ridge much quicker than we did but with big blue skies and no threat of storms, we took our time and enjoyed the spectacular September day. This is what living in Colorado is all about!

I couldn’t help but notice how much I’d grown as a mountaineer on the East Ridge…where I would have been close to tears and battling with my mind to stay focused on the task at hand (and not jump to worst case death scenarios) in previous field days, I remained calm and steady. Not once did I feel panicked or anxious – just mentally and physically exhausted. I felt truly proud of myself and enjoyed every sip of my post-climb celebratory beer.

Super Easy Stovetop Broccoli Chicken Mac N Cheese

Last week, I was feeling pretty under the weather. Everyone at work was sick, Alex was sick…it was only a matter of time before it caught up to me, too. And when I’m sick, like the rest of us, I crave comfort food. Something warm and familiar. Last week, the only thing on my mind for dinner was mac and cheese.

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times before and it’s super easy. So easy that a sick person who doesn’t even like cooking can make it in 30ish minutes.

Easy Stovetop Mac & Cheese // lgsmash.com

Clearly, I’m not a food blogger or a very good food photographer but I’m posting this recipe so I don’t have to look it up elsewhere on the internet in the future. There are a ton of variations in how to make your own mac and cheese but this is what I’ve found I really enjoy.


  • 8 oz pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (1+ish fresh broccoli heads with florets cut off)
  • 1 lb cooked chicken
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese
  • S/P to taste


1. Boil pasta; when it’s a few minutes from being done, throw in broccoli florets. Drain when broccoli is cooked; leave in strainer or move to a bowl.

2. While pasta is cooking, pan fry (or cook however you’d like) the chicken. Be sure not to overcook the chicken. (Speaking from experience, it makes for terrible mac n cheese.)

3. Cut up cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and add to pasta + broccoli.

4. Using the same pan from cooking the pasta, melt butter over medium heat. Toss in onion and cook till slightly brown. Add in flour and whisk! You’re creating a roux so it will be clumpy and look not tasty. Slowly add in milk while whisking to create a creamy sauce. Keep stirring for a few minutes, letting the sauce thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add in cheese, keep stirring.

6. Once cheese is all melted and looks delicious, dump in the pasta, broccoli and chicken. Combine well!

From here, you can either choose to eat it as is (yummy) or transfer the pasta to a baking pan and bake for 15+ minutes in the oven (also yummy). If you’re baking, add some bread crumbs and sprinkle some extra cheese on the top for a nice cheesy crunch.

As listed above, you’ll end up with enough food for 2 hungry human dinners and leftover lunches.

Ibotta What?!

To be completely cliche, time FLIES when you’re having fun. And learning a LOT.

Today marks the end of my first month at my new job! After 5 years of working as a marketing manager for an insurance company, an opportunity to join an exciting, young startup fell into my lap and I jumped in.

I’m now working for a mobile app, based in Denver, called Ibotta. (said: i-bot-uh)

Ibotta screen

(Funny story: I kept calling it ‘ee-bot-uh’, refusing to say it phonetically for whatever reason. At one point, Alex made a joke when I mentioning I was starting a new job at Ibotta and said, ‘Oh? Ibotta what?!’ And…it clicked. Of course! I-bought-a. Sandy Moment.)

Back to the app! 

Ibotta is super cool and I’ve been using it even before I knew I might work for them. It’s essentially an app that pays you cash back (real cash! not points or kicks or whatever else) on your grocery and retail purchases. Really, anything that can be bought has potential to have an Ibotta rebate.

Here’s how it works. You download the app (here’s my referral link!) and before you go (grocery, clothes, Target) shopping, you scroll to see what products have rebates running in the app. Participate in two simple engagements (learn a fact, read a recipe, watch a super short video) for products you’re already going to buy and unlock cash back. Once you purchase that item, snap a photo of the barcode (UPC) on the product, upload a photo of your receipt when you get home and…voila! Ca$h monie$ in your account! You can then transfer your cash to a PayPal account, Venmo or redeem for gift cards.

I promise not to get too sales-pitchy but by using my referral link above, we’re put on the same ‘team’ (and if you connect your Facebook, your team includes your friends on Facebook who also have the app – but don’t worry, nothing is posted to Facebook ever.) Each month, there are ‘teamwork’ bonuses that give the potential for users to earn additional money. So the more people on your team, the better. And I use the app a lot (obviously) so I’m a good person to have on your team.

Back to Ibotta life! 

This week is Denver Startup Week which is basically a celebration of startups and the entrepreneurial spirit of in Denver. Truthfully, it’s felt like spirit week! We are all wearing our Ibotta shirts, our CEO and engineering team have been speaking multiple times on various panels and our office was a stop on the Startup Beer Crawl Wednesday night.

Team Ibotta! // lgsmash.com

It’s been a whirlwind of a month and I truly am excited and inspired to come to work everyday. I’m learning SO much every day – like how the heck a Mac computer works or why I can’t resize an image in Photoshop. I work with motivated people who are passionate about building something incredible. Our CEO has big plans for Ibotta and the startup community in Denver and is probably the most inspiring business person I’ve met.

So that’s what’s been keeping my days busy this past month! Maybe I’ll share more about startup life and what it’s like working for a mobile app but… maybe not. It’s definitely a different world but I’m certainly not the first gal who’s written in a blog and worked for a technology startup so..there’s that.

All I know is this: I’m incredibly grateful to the universe for aligning the stars for this change to happen in my life. Thanks for looking out, universe. (And Elizabeth!)

Ibotta Beer Crawl // lgsmash.com

tl:dr: startups are kewl but Ibotta is coolest. Go download the app and start earning cash back. Also, the universe rules.

Oh HAI, Mini-Life-Update

I’ll soon be back to my regularly scheduled programming but until I settle in at my new job, my online interactions will be sporadic! Things are going so well and I’m so excited about what I’m doing but at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is come home and sit on my computer or look at my phone. I’m certainly not complaining, just explaining the radio silence.

Anyway, Alex showed me this really funny video last week and, while I’m sure you all have probably seen it, I wanted to post it too. Mostly so I can come back and watch it later. Of course, I meant to post it on Sunday for obvious reasons but I spent the weekend working for DRY Soda and failed at getting myself online in my off time. But guess what! It’s just as funny on a Wednesday as it is a Sunday.


This weekend, Alex and I are headed to NYC to visit our friend Alex. I only have a few things on my agenda: 1. Run my Skirt Sports Virtual 10k 2. Find myself some new hipster glasses at Warby Parker and 3. Eat at the meatball only restaurant (The Meatball Shop!). Past that, everything else is a bonus!


Whirlwind Hoody Review (#ORInsightLab)

Disclosure: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. This softshell hoody was provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own. You can find my other Insight Lab reviews here: Airbrake Climbing GlovesVoodoo Pants, Clairvoyant Jacket.

Last but not least! It’s been far too hot here in Colorado to really put this hoody to legit test until recently. Sure, I’d taken it out a handful of times and it was always stuffed into my pack just in case but the weather was just not cooperating with me earlier this summer!

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

Of course, I failed at taking any sort of action shot, any time I’ve been out in this hoody except for awkward self-timer photos that no one needs to see. Blog fail.

I do really like this hoody – it’s lightweight and durable and a perfect top to throw in my pack for the in-between season adventures. I’ve been wearing it most mornings when I run around the nearby park, to/from workout classes and while camping in the evenings. I’ll definitely be getting more use out of this piece as summer fades to fall (but not today with 90* temps!) and I find the air cooler, crisper and windier.

What I Love About This Hoody

I love how lightweight it is, for sure. It adds virtually no weight to my pack – I mean, the thing weighs only 8.5 ounces! Another really nice feature is how the sleeves fold over your hands to cover exposed fingers. This is actually kind of genius because it allows you to protect and shelter your hands when you might only need a short reprieve from the wind rather than rooting through your pack for gloves.

As you can see in the photo above, the hood is legit. It looks and I feel like a conehead when I have the hood on but that thing does not move, something really rare to find in the lightweight/soft-shell pieces. Any time I threw my hood up, I knew that sucker wasn’t flying off like other hoods do. Much appreciated, OR!

And vainly, it’s also a really nice length for my long torso – I never felt like it was too short or that I had to yank it down. The fit it wonderful – long enough in my arms and torso. (For those considering this hoody – I’m 5’11″ and am wearing a medium).

What Would I Change

The biggest hangup for me was the little chest pocket. It can double as a stuff sack for the jacket – which is really nice – but in real life use, I wasn’t able to really utilize this except to hold an ID and credit card on a run. It is big enough for my phone – but the weight of the phone pulls the jacket down and bounces around. Same for keys. I like that there IS a pocket – I just wish I found it more useful!

Overall Thoughts

This is a versatile softshell hoody to easily bring along for windy 14er summits or cool evenings by a campfire. I rarely leave home for a workout or adventure without it! Again, fit is awesome and the high-quality fabric really seems to perform in cooler conditions for the in-between seasons. Will report back later this fall as the weather cools with any changes in opinion but I feel pretty confident that this will continue to be a staple piece of gear in my pack.

Two Years

Today marks our second wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it! Last year on our anniversary, we were driving across Nebraska en route to the Boundary Waters for a 6 day canoe trip.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Trip // lgsmash.com

This year, we stayed local and drove a few hours north to Steamboat Springs. Until Thursday, I thought we were coming to spend the weekend backpacking but Alex surprised me and booked a nice condo for us instead. It’s been rainy and chilly in Steamboat but our spirits are not dampered. We spent yesterday afternoon walking around Steamboat, drinking beer in a hot tub and just being goofy together. The best night are not always the fancy, expensive dinner celebrations – they’re the low key, making nachos and dancing to Spotify in the kitchen nights.

Today, we’re going to try our hand at mountain biking…which should be an interesting adventure. Especially in drizzly rain and on damp, muddy trails!

It feel like just yesterday we were exchanging vows in front of our family and friends. Time flies when you’re having fun right? And the past two years have been so fun – and the next few are sure to give these years a run for their money. As long as I’ve known Alex, I’ve known he was the person I was meant to be with – I’m so excited about the life we’re creating and the future we’re planning. As long as I’m with my person, there’s not much more I need in life.


Road Trippin’ Through The Southwest

When I knew I might be facing a job change, I also knew two other things: I was going to make sure I took a week off in between and I was going to do something BIG. I considered buying a plane ticket to visit my sister who moved to Las Vegas last year…but then realized it was definitely driveable. And driving would be so much more interesting!

I recruited my brother to join me on my adventure; I Google Mapped out a route that would take us through Moab/Arches National Park, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park and Mesa Verde National Park, so many places I’ve been dreaming about visiting! We planned to car camp when we weren’t in Vegas, see as much as we could and soak it all in.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com


We left on a Friday evening, just barely escaping the evening rush hour traffic, and found ourselves at Colorado National Monument late Friday night. Crossing our fingers, we tried the campground on the monument, Saddlehorn Campground, and to our delight, found many open campsites. We parked, pulled out our sleeping bags and slept under the stars.

And then we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by this.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

It was incredible! We spent as much time as we could exploring our immediate vicinity before it was time to hit the road. We wanted to stop at Arches National Park before parking in Vegas that evening.


A few hours west, we rolled into Arches National Park and hiked the Devil’s Garden / Primitive Trail. A short, relatively easy trek, we climbed up some rocks to take in the view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After about an hour and a half though, in the midday heat, we climbed back in the car and drove south a few miles to Moab for gas and lunch before hitting the highway again.

Throughout this whole trip, we spent a lot of time driving in the car but DAMN was it beautiful! We hardly minded the long hours because there was so much to look at.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We finally pulled into my sister’s apartment late Saturday night. We filled our bellies, caught up with my sister and her boyfriend and new pets and hit the sack. We had exploring to do in the morning!


We had all Sunday with Trisha in Vegas – we’d planned to leave for our next leg on Monday morning – so we packed in as many Vegas things as possible into one day. Upon waking up, we slathered on sunscreen and headed out to Trisha’s favorite trail just outside Vegas city limits.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We hit the Eagle’s Nest Trail in Kyle Canyon for a toasty 3ish mile hike. It was really awesome to see a different side of Las Vegas – the glitz and glamour are all well and fine but hiking and an active lifestyle? Not something that jumps to your mind when you think about Vegas.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After hike, it was time for a cool down…what else do you do on ‘Sunday Funday’ in Las Vegas than drink margaritas in a pool? So we did exactly that.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

That night, we ate dinner on the strip and celebrated the eve of my sister’s first day teaching at a new school. If you’re gonna do Vegas in 24 hours, call my sister. She’ll show you the spots!

On Monday morning, we stopped by my sister’s new school on the way outta town. It’s hard to believe my younger sister is old enough to be teaching high schoolers but she is!

Mid-Monday morning, we began our trek to Grand Canyon National Park!!! We back-tracked a bit (drove north from Vegas back up to St. George, UT before heading east) but made great time. As we drove east across Northern Arizona, we watched a spectacular thunderstorm drench the valley around us. The lightning was incredible.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Chris insisted on pausing to watch the storm (I wanted to ‘out run’ it and keep driving – look at that radar!!). He was behind the wheel so we stopped to watch for a while.


It remained rainy and gray the rest of the drive and we feared we wouldn’t be able to see much at the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, we were able to wait out the rain and as the clouds blew over, we were treated to very cool, moody Grand Canyon view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

(quite possibly my most favorite photo – Chris matches the Grand Canyon.)Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

As the sun lowered in the sky, we set out to find a campsite for the evening. Grand Canyon campsites fill up the minute online reservations are open (6 months ahead of the date) so we drove 12 miles back out to a forest service road just before reaching De Motte Campground. Alarms set for 5 a.m., we planned to hit Bright Angel trail again for sunrise.

Unfortunately, the time change screwed us up and when we pulled into the park in utter darkness, we realized Arizona (and the Grand Canyon) were on Arizona time, not Mountain Time. Whoops. We were an hour early. Instead, we posted up in a parking lot and napped for an hour, waking just before a cloudy sunrise. Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Sunrise was tranquil and beautiful, even with the heavy cloud cover. Knowing we had a big day of driving ahead of us, we sought out (way overpriced) coffee, mailed our postcards and hit the road. This time, bound for Colorado/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico!

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After a quick stop at the Four Corners (which charges $5 a person to get in, by the way), it was on to Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park!


Chris and I arrived at Mesa Verde early enough to pick a campsite and drive out to the two site we wanted to see, Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace. Spruce Tree House is the best preserved site at Mesa Verde and offers self guided tours so we did that first. We then drove over to Cliff Palace, expecting to just look from afar as we hadn’t bought guided tour tickets. Amazingly, Chris was able to talk us into a smaller-than-normal tour (don’t worry, we bought tickets after the fact) and we spent more than an hour listening to the best tour guide in all of Mesa Verde tell us about the history of the Ancient Pueblo people.
Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Seriously, Ranger Arragon (not sure of the spelling) at Mesa Verde is phenomenal – if you find yourself at Mesa Verde  and can request him, do it.

We camped out at Mesa Verde that night and warmed up next to a campfire. As we were turning in for the night, we listened to a pack of coyotes howl and yip in a nearby canyon; in that moment, I felt like, YES. THIS is where I need to be. In this moment. In this place. In this experience.

The campground had posted signs for a pancake breakfast and Chris and I had no intention of missing it on Wednesday morning.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Absolutely the bomb. Three giant, fluffy pancakes and turkey sausage for the WIN.

Back in the car after breakfast, we pointed our wheels east and north to return to Denver by Wednesday night.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

About halfway to Denver, we were stopped on 285 for the USA Pro Challenge bike race. Every possible route through the town of Salida was closed for an hour so Chris and I parked on a side street to watch the bikers fly through town. Just minutes after parking, the leader group sprinted past us.

Definitely not an expected experience on our trip but it was really neat to cheer on these badass bikers as they raced toward the end of their 96 mile day.

Soon after, the town and roads opened back up and we were on our way back home.

A few hours later, I was back in my apartment, exhausted but so content. The trip was a whirlwind of activity but is definitely a favorite memory already. I can’t wait to get back out to each of the national parks we visited again to truly experience it – we could have easily spent 5 days at each park! There was so much more to see that we just didn’t have time to see or do. Next time!

Ironically, I spent my final days of ‘funemployment’ recovering from my trip – I was so wiped out! Lots of sleeping, lots of alone time, lots of puppy snuggles put me in the right spot to start fresh at work on Monday.

tl;dr had a blast road tripping; saw 4 national parks, 4 states and covered 1800+ miles in 5 days.

Urban Trail Running: The Bluffs Regional Park

This little surprise trail in urban Highlands Ranch, Colorado, became an immediate favorite for me. Unfortunately for me, I found it far too late! As I start a new job in Downtown Denver today, this trail is too far of a drive for me to utilize regularly. Sad panda.

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The Bluffs Regional Park is a hidden trail, tucked behind a shopping center and smack-dab in the middle of neighborhood homes. It’s hilly and surprisingly tranquil, given its location. I learned about The Bluffs one winter night when I ran with the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost run club – they’d mentioned that because it was icy, we would run on the nearby sidewalks instead of the trails at The Bluffs. I made a mental note to check out the trail in the spring time. Fast forward to Kristen inviting me the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost for run club where we ran – you guessed it! – The Bluffs.

From the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost, it’s a 4 mile run to and around the park. From the parking lot, it’s a 2.5 mile loop.

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The 2.5 mile loop is hilly with a few sections of flat on a packed dirt trail. There are no trees and no shade so plan accordingly – lots of sunscreen, a hat and extra water!

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

This is a popular trail but it’s never felt overcrowded to me. I’ve run in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work. You’ll encounter runners, walkers with pups, mountain bikers…and snakes on occasion. I’ve only (literally) run into a snake once – it wasn’t a rattler and it wasn’t very big but it was an immediate reminder to keep my eyes on the ground ahead of me.

My favorite part of The Bluffs is how close it was to my work (5 minutes!) and how stepping on to the trail leaves the city noise behind. The view of the front range isn’t too shabby either.

Solo or with friends, give this trail a shot if you’re looking for an easy loop in south Denver without wanting to drive too far.

Trail Running with New Balance Elite Runners (Foam Fresh 980 Shoe Launch)

On a random Thursday in July, I called in a PTO day and drove myself up to Boulder for a full day of trail running with New Balance. Truthfully, I’m not sure how the New Balance PR team found me online but I was super jazzed and humbled to be invited to attend the launch of their new Foam Fresh 980 trail running shoes.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

But let’s back up a bit first.

In college, I had and loved a pari burnt orange New Balance classic style sneaks. I wore them everywhere to the point of wearing multiple holes into the toebox fabric and my then-boyfriend-now-husband was on the verge of refusing to be seen with me in my tattered shoes. I hadn’t thought much about New Balance after that until I attended a marketing conference in Boston last year and the Director of Global Marketing and Brand Management for New Balance, Hillary Keats, spoke about their Runnovation initiative, telling inspiring runner stories and, ultimately, redefining running as a social activity. The presentation was super interesting and I liked what I heard from Hillary Keats; New Balance was back on my radar.

Fast forward to this July. When the PR contact emailed me, inviting me to participate in this trail running event to celebrate the Foam Fresh 980 shoe launch, I excitedly wrote back, I’m in! I had no idea what I was signing up for but knew I wanted to be part of the ‘runnovation’ I’d heard about last October in Boston.

On that Thursday, after meeting the full group of ‘media’ – which included some friendly faces I already know! Heidi, Marissa, Heather and Kia were also invited – and elite runners – like Anton Krupicka, a dude who WINS 100 mile races – we all hopped on a bus bound for Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder to take a pair of brand spankin’ new Foam Fresh 980 trail shoes out for a spin.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

We set out on a (hot!) 3 mile trail run. And when you set out a bunch of blogger friends out on a trail run, you can absolutely expect we will stop to take photos on pretty trails.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

What I failed to mention is that while we bloggers were beginning our 3 mile loop, the elite runners were (probably) finishing their 3 mile loop. They’ve got speedy, speedy legs! New Balance team runners included Anton Krupicka, Dominic Grossman, Gina Lucrezi and Brandy Erholtz.

After the trail run, we headed back to Boulder for some lunch and a Q&A with the New Balance elite runners. It was incredibly interesting to hear about their race perspective, training schedules and daily lives. I (foolishly) assumed that because each person was a New Balance sponsored athlete, they didn’t work ‘normal’ jobs but that is so far from the truth! Brandy is a new mom and balances training (and winning races) with parenting, being a wife, a full time job as a teacher and coaching track. Dominic is an engineer and manages employees at an office. Until recently, Gina also held a full time job but is now able to dedicate herself to her running full time. Anton was the only one of the group who runs full time.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com


It felt like an ‘ah ha!’ moment, realizing these elite runners, while definitely kickass at running, are normal people like the rest of us. They work to find time to train AND have lives, they face race disappointment and injury, they are realistic and down to earth. And while their bucket list races are VERY different than mine, they have races they aspire to run and crush.

One of their closing remarks was about being approachable and it really struck me. They’d been asked about how to foster community in the ultrarunning world and they all echoed the same thing. Be approachable. You (read: they) might have just won a race but that race kicked your ass just as much as the person who finishes last. You’re all in the same mental and physical fatigue pain cave at the end of a race – just because you’re faster doesn’t mean the slower runners didn’t work as hard or don’t feel as tired. So if you see these folks at a race, go say hi! They’re super nice, very personable and really interesting.

I left the event feeling super inspired – almost convinced I should sign up for a trail ultramarathon! But then I came to my senses and remembered super long distances aren’t my thing. At all. I’ll leave the ultra running to Heidi and Paula.

But what about the shoes, right?

Well, I’ll get a full review up soon but I really, really, really like them for trail running (and walking). The shoe is super cushioned – as you’d expect with Foam in the name – but also super stable and grippy on rocky trails.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Trail Shoes // lgsmash.com

I’ve been running in only these shoes on trails since New Balance gave them to me; they make my feet and knees feel really great on uphills and downhills alike. I also brought these guys on my road trip for hikes at Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park – super comfortable for long walks and hours standing/walking. More to come but I am definitely a big fan of these shoes.

tl;dr New Balance Foam Fresh 980s are a super cushion-y trail running shoe and the New Balance elite team runners are badasses. Say hi when you see them.