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After spending the weekend amongst the elite ultra runners at the Leadville 100 race, and seeing it with my own eyes, I still can’t fathom how they ran 100 miles. Not only 100 miles but a course which starts at a little under two miles high to an elevation of 12,600 feet.

Leadville cabin near twin lakes
A gorgeous Colorado scene

We arrived in Leadville two days prior to the run and the atmosphere was abuzz with the anticipation of the event. It was wonderful to be back in the Rockies ~ wide-open spaces, beautiful mountains, crisp clean air and charming western towns. Aside from an occasional rapid heart rate when going up steep steps, none of us succumbed to altitude sickness.

My involvement with the 100 mile run, along with my daughter, was strictly as a crew member for our New Zealander friend, Jean. I felt as though I was part of the run ~ minus all the bother with the painful, difficult, exhausting running part. My husband had dual responsibilities as a crew member AND a pacer. Thankfully, he’s still talking to me even after I misinformed him that his running would consist of 10 miles. Once we got to Leadville, Jean asked if he could pace her from Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery aid station to the finish. Hmmm…nothing like a surprise marathon (24 miles) at night.

How we ended up in Leadville: We met Jean three years ago in London. When she first told me she was an ultra runner, I distinctly remember thinking “what a nutter” and didn’t think we would spend much time together since, in my mind, ultra runners surely had to be totally obsessed with little time for other activities. Happily, she shattered those myths ~ her life is as balanced as anyone I know. Fast forward to this past January, we found out Jean was coming to the states to run the Leadville 100 in Colorado. I invited myself and family to be her crew. Somewhat presumptuous since I had no clue how to be a support crew but I’m always willing to learn a new skill set and was thrilled to have the chance to help her meet her goals. As we planned what we would do as her “crew”, we talked about split times. She told us to let her know if she was in danger of missing any cutoffs, especially the final 30 hour cut-off. That all changed when we met her at the first aid station ~ she was running fast enough to finish between 22-23 hours. Even after 75 miles, she was projected to finish between 24-25 hours.

Leadville 100 outbound at the Outward Bound fish hatchery aid station
At the Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery station

John joined her at the 76 mile point (Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery aid station) and this is where it became apparent as to the importance of having a pacer who could help with the timing. We knew she had a good shot of finishing under 25 hours which meant she would get the coveted big belt buckle. We next saw John after he had been running 13.5 miles with her and his only comment to me was “I’m running with a billy-goat!”

Highlights of the Leadville 100:

bazu-6820817
Photo credit: Official Leadville 100 Race Series.
Jean crossing the finish line at 24:57:15 ~ with a smile on her face.  Not going to lie, we were holding our breath wondering if she’d make it under 25 hours.

Leadville rainbowBeautiful rainbow and an inspiring message on the fence.

Leadville 100 Jean at Twin Lakes aid stationJean coming into the Twin Lakes station well under the time we expected her to be there. Leadville 100 at the Fish Hatchery stop #2 chilly and slight drizzle. Loved the camaraderie with the other crews. It was a little chilly and raining but spirits were still high.Leadville Dog
There were so many dogs ~ including this cutie.

Leadville 100 at the start of the run 4am
The 4am start was fun especially the playing of the national item and the shotgun (a real one) start.

Leadville 100 last runner under 30 hours
The “last ass” finisher. He came in right under 30 hours. He’s a cross-country coach and his students walked with him across the finish line. He didn’t topple over at the end ~ he’s kissing the ground. There were lots of cheers and even a couple of tears.

Over 600 runners started the run and 312 finished. It’s a tough run and I was thrilled to be a small part of Leadville 100. I have no ambition to actually run a 100 miles but I would certainly be on a crew again ~ it was a lot of fun planning out what to have at the stops and cheering the runners on. We clapped for everyone who came through the stations.

Next time I’ll actually know what I’m doing!!

 

Lake Bled Castle and swans

Bled, situated in the Julian Alps, has beautiful churches, a castle high on a hill, picturesque mountains, hiking, boating, swimming, delicious restaurants, a casino and a whole lot of history. The first mention of Bled was when Henry II (Holy German Emperor) gifted it the Bishop Brixen in 1004. At that time, there was already a Roman tower on the cliff which is still a part of the castle.

Lake Bled Sunset
Looking out to the Castle and sunset

Bled dinner with a view of the castleEnjoying the view while having a delicious dinner Blejska kremna rezina
Blejska Kremna Rezina (Bled Cream Cake). Ištvan Lukačevič, a pastry chef at Hotel Park, invented the delightful cream cake in the 1950s. When you’re in Bled, always leave a little room for this gem of a dessert.

Lake Bled Castle and ChurchBled Castle Lake Bled Running TrailThere’s a running/walking trail around the entire lake, about 6.7 km. Although it should only take about an hour to walk it, I prefer to stop often, enjoying all the lake has to offer: watching the swan family, running to the top of the bleachers at the rowing center and stopping to enjoy the gorgeous views.

Lake Bled serene settingSerenity in Bled Lake Bled Rower statue Rower Statue. Slovenia’s Olympic rowing team practice at Lake Bled. Bled petting the swan Children attempting to pet the swan, who really only wants some food. The ONLY type of food that should be given to the swans are dandelions. Bled Lake Swans and a babyLake Bled Church
The Church of the Assumption of St Mary on the island at Lake Bled. More about the island in my next post.

If you’re visiting Slovenia, you should definitely spend at least one night in Bled, preferably with a view of the lake.

Washington DC: Goats and Graves

CC PS Bench
My six year old self would have shuttered to know I was going to a graveyard just to explore and read the historic names on the tombstones. But my much older self enjoyed wandering through the lovely setting known as Congressional Cemetery.

Established in 1807, it’s officially the Washington Parish Burial Ground and is owned by Christ Church. In 1807, Senator Tracy (Federalist from Connecticut) was interned and until the mid-1830s, almost every Congressman who died in Washington was buried in the cemetery. Since it was associated with US Congress members it became the first National Cemetery (50 years prior to Arlington Cemetery). The cemetery occupies 35 acres and is the only place in Washington DC where a person can be buried within L’Enfants’s original city-plan. Congressional Cemetary toppled headstones

Congressional Cemetery is a feel-good story, other than the fact that it’s filled with dead people. It went through a period of neglect in the 20th century and, by 1997, it was added to the list of most endangered Historic sites. Thankfully, a group of dedicated Capitol Hill Washingtonians started taxing themselves for walking their dogs on the grounds. The taxes paid for mowing.

CC Dog friendly

Currently, the K9 Corps of the Historic Congressional Cemetery numbers in the hundreds. They pay an annual fee to walk their dogs off-leash. Other volunteers including service organizations, members of the armed forces and school groups have put in thousands of hours bringing the cemetery back to it’s original state. It’s designated as a National Historic Landmark and the association has regularly scheduled tours, fundraisers and 5k runs. The US Marine Band plays often at the grave of John Philip Sousa. Sousa enlisted into the Marines at age 13 by his father, after Sousa attempted to join the traveling circus. He excelled in the Marines, becoming the conductor for the Marine Corps Band. After the Marines, he started his own band and wrote “Stars and Stripes Forever” CC Henry Clay
Cenotaphs are monuments erected in honor of someone whose remains are buried elsewhere. There are 165 Cenotaphs for many famous people such as Henry Clay, John C.Calhoun, Tip O’Neill, etc.

CC Girl statue

Beautiful statues can be found throughout CC Music is the answer

CC A lifetime togetherInteresting quotes can be found around every corner.

And then there are the visiting goats.The Browsing Green Goats have been brought into the cemetery (paid for by an anonymous donor) for two weeks to control invasive species including poison ivy. Rather than use herbicides or expensive landscaping crews, the goats offer a wonderful alternative to battling the invasive plants. Plus they leave a good bit of helpful fertilizer. CC signs to the goats

CC Goat signFollow the signs to the goats PS Black Goat

CC Goats restingToo full to move CC Goat B&W

CC Brown goatDetails for visiting:

  • Congressional Cemetery is located at 1801 E Street, SE, Washington, DC
  • Cemetery hours are 9 am-5 pm
  • Goats can be seen from Dawn until Dusk
  • Goats will be at the cemetery until August 20, 2015
  • For more information about events (including the goats), click here

Lake Bohinj, nestled in Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps, is crystal clear and a fabulous location to spend a hot summer day. Surrounding the lake are quaint villages, many churches, the mountain peaks, forests, waterfalls and gorges. Hiking and rowing are popular but it was too hot for me to partake in any strenuous activities. It was July and the temperatures hovered around 36°C (over 96°F). Despite the crowds, we were able to enjoy a few times when we were alone by the lakeshore and the only ones in the church.

Logan and Patti at Lake Bohinj SloveniaThe waters of Lake Bohinj felt so refreshing on a scorching summer day.

Bohinj LakeClean pristine alpine lake

Bohinj lake rowersGreat place to take out a kayak or canoe. The only tour boats allowed on the lake are electric so it’s very quiet. Bohinj goat

Slovenia has a lot of legends and I particularly like the one about Zlatorog (which means Golden horned). The Golden horned goat lived in Mount Triglav, and attended by three virgins, he guarded a vast treasure at the mountaintop. Many men attempted to kill Zlatorog and steal the treasure. One such greedy hunter was able to shoot the goat which caused his blood to run for miles ~ carving out the mountains and lakes surrounding Triglav. At the scene of the crime, the world’s first edelweiss flower sprouted. When Zlatorog ate the blossom, his life was restored. He ran toward the hunter, who was blinded by the sunlight reflecting off the goat’s golden horns. The hunter lost his balance and fell off the mountain to his death. The symbol of the Golden Horned Goat represents a warning against greed. Bohinj view from the boat of St John the Baptist Church

Bohinj lake sitting by the shoreThe goat guards the lake… St John the Baptist Church next to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park Gothic styled St John the Baptist Church sits on the eastern bank of Lake Bohinj. It dates to the 15th century (first recorded mention of it was in 1464) but it is thought to be older. The beautiful bell tower was added in the 1700s. St John the Baptist Church Triglav National Park IIIThere are beautiful frescos inside St John the Baptist Church but the church also had some rather morbid looking paintings and displays: St John the Baptist Church with head of St John. Triglav National Park Head of John the Baptist. I realize it’s an accurate depiction but who wants to stare at a head all through church service. Bohinj Outdoor restaurant just up from the lake
A restaurant near the lake. Don’t remember the name ~ they served pizza, beer and the likes.

Triglav National Park Bus StopThe little villages around the lake are so pretty and quaint. Even the bus stops are adorable. Every single one of them had beautiful flowers. Makes me sad to think about our pitiful bus stops (usually just a sign)… Bohinj House on a misty morning
Beautiful house in the mountain mist

Bohinj Flowers in every windowTaken from the car so this is fuzzy. But every house seemed to have flowers in every window. So lovely…

Lake Bled Home with flowers near mountain
Fabulous mountain view!

Mrcina Ranch Lake Bohinj region
Mrcina Ranch. We wanted to get out into the backcountry on horseback but it was too hot for the horses. The ranch has the cutest Icelandic horses but also has other larger horses as well. It’s definitely on our “to do” list for next time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Travel Tips

My first visit to Ljubljana was in 2002 and, since then, I’ve recommended the capital city and other places in Slovenia to many of my friends. I’m happy to say everyone who visits has had a fabulous time. It’s the one country I don’t have to caveat with any exceptions ~ there is something for everyone.

On my recent return visit (after a 10 year absence), I was thrilled to find this incredibly charming city as I remembered. There are a few more cafes, bars and activities (paddleboard on the river, Segway tours, etc) but the positive vibe and essence of the city is still fantastic.

Cheeky Bar signVegan RestaurantAn especially nice change for the better are the new vegan restaurants located in the city center. We ate at Ajdovo Zrno for lunch and it was delicious. The restaurant is located at Trubarjeva Cesta 7, Ljubljana.

If you decide to visit, here are my suggestions and recommendations: Spend at least 2-3 days in the capital city of Ljubljana. It’s a great place to base from while exploring the rest of Slovenia. From the city, it’s 40 minutes to Lake Bled, 90 minutes to Piran (on the Adriatic coast) and 38 minutes to Postojna (Castle and Caves).

  • Check out the Visit Ljubljana website. Purchase a city card for 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours. It offers admission to over 15 attractions, free travel on city buses, a guided tour of the city, a boat cruise, a free funicular & tourist road train ride to Ljubljana Castle and 24 hour internet access.
  • If the weather is nice, definitely enjoy a stroll along the river and stop off at a cafe along the river and enjoy a coffee, beer or glass of wine. If you’re a foodie or have special dietary needs, check out Ljubljanajam and their food walks.
  • I didn’t get a chance to take one of their walks but it’s at the TOP of my to do list for my next visit.

  • We took the Roman Tour of Emona by Torchlight. It was a very interesting ~ I had no idea about all the roman history of the city. But I admit to refusing to wear the Roman outfit provided by the tour guide. It’s would have been a fashion disaster ;)
  • Slovenia Vignette

    We’ve always driven to Ljubljana and this time was no exception. We flew into Italy and drove to Slovenia the next day. It’s only a two hour drive from Venice to Ljubljana. If you drive, make sure you purchase a Vignette (toll sticker) or else you will be subject to a fine between €300-€800.

    Where to Stay:

    Castle View Union HotelGrand Union Hotel located directly behind the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation (the pink church)

  • In the past, we’ve stayed at the Grand Hotel Union during the off season when room rates were lower. It’s a beautiful, historic hotel which dates back 110 years. It’s located a block from Prešeren Square and the triple bridge. Fantastic location and superb service. This time, we opted to stay at Central Hotel which is operated by the same hotel group as the Grand Union. Go to Union Hotels for more information. We booked a family room with 2 bedrooms, one bath with a hearty breakfast included. Best part: it was only 2 blocks away from the Grand Union hotel and the river.
  • I haven’t stayed at either of these hostels but they looked like nice places for those backpacking through the area. Hostel Tresor was a former bank and has rooms in the vault. Hostel Celica is in a former prison. Not sure I’d be brave enough to stay there but it looked nice from the outside.
  • Dotto Trains
    Tourist Train in Ljubljana. Didn’t ride the train. We took the funicular:
    Funicular LjubljanaLjubljana Slovenia street leading to Castle Trail
    Street leading to the castle (it’s a tough climb if the temperatures are high)

    Outdoor cafe with cooling mistersOn a hot summer day, look for one of the cafes with the cooling misters. We had a lovely dinner right by the river ~ all the while staying cool with the water mist Sausage and Beer
    Beer and Sausage ~ my husband was in food heaven

    Observing people in a city is fascinating to me but I don’t want to be too obtrusive when taking photos. I appreciate those who don’t mind. I once had a woman ask me if I wanted her to walk by again so I could get a better shot (and no, it wasn’t in a sarcastic tone).

    People Woman and bikesBikes are very popular in Ljubljana People watching atPreseren Statue in Ljubljana Slovenia II
    Resting at the Preseren Statue near the Triple Bridge

    People two women and vespaI always say “if you work hard for a rockin body, then by all means show it off” People Smoking
    So pretty but wish she’d lose the cigarettes. Smoking is prevalent at the outdoor bars/cafes

    People Hare KrishnaHare Krishna group chanting along the river People First date
    I’m thinking first date ~

    People alone at the cafeAlone at an outdoor cafe People 4 walking
    Too much concentration going on

    People Music drum and hornsWe came across Brass Against The Machine while walking around Ljubljana. Very entertaining. If you ever get a chance to see them play, go! People Music Festival II
    Brass Against the Machine entertaining the crowd. High energy!

    Only thing better than people watching is: DOG WATCHING. Ljubljana is very dog friendly.

    Dog saying hi to hot dog in bike basket Ljubljana SloveniaDog in Bike Basket Ljubljana Slovenia
    “Hot” dog in a bike basket

    People two men and a dogTwo men and their well-coiffed pup People Ice cream eating dog
    Ice cream eating dog

    People Dog waiting for owner
    Waiting on pizza

    Standing on a hill overlooking Ljubljana is a beautiful castle, Ljubljanski Grad. The views from the top are fabulous especially from the top of the tower. On previous visits, we hiked to the castle from the Old Square in Ljubljana but it was over 36°C so we rode the funicular.

    Ljubljana Church
    View from the top of the Tower of Ljubljanski Grad

    Ljubljana Slovenia penitentary at the castle
    One of the cells in the penitentary

    Looking in the jail cell at the castle Ljubljana Slovenia Looking out to Ljubljana Slovenia Puppet and Logan at the Castle Ljubljana Slovenia Castle stairs Ljubljana Slovenia
    Stairs leading to Castle Tower

    Castle in Ljubljana
    Castle high on the hill

    For more information about visiting the castle, click here.

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