As Summer Begins, Boulder Runs

In my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Memorial Day and the Bolder Boulder 10K race are synonymous. This massive run/walk race pulls upwards of 50,000 registrants each year. That’s half the population of Boulder!

Some folks run, some walk the Bolder Boulder 10K race. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Yes, the race attracts many elite athletes, and there are sure to be some Olympian hopefuls here in preparation for the 2012 Summer Games in London. But mostly the race is for everybody: kids, people in wheelchairs, grandmas, and Boulder’s fit and finest. (Boulder is one of the fittest towns in America.)

Onlooks cheer the runners and wave flags. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

And while there’s a competitive spirit, the race’s motto is: “It’s not about the time you run, it’s about the time you have.”

A runner in a Big Bird costume stops to chat with fans. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

And Boulderites—as well as visitors from all over the state and country—have a grand time. Some people wear funny costumes, some attach balloons to their hats so that they can be recognized in the crowd.

Belly-dancers are always popular sideline entertainment. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Along the race route are bands to provide entertainment. And each year, a troupe of belly-dancers add an air of exoticness. Crowds line the street and cheer; dogs bark their happiness. At mile markers, race officials with bullhorns announce the next water/Gatorade station.

Fun run: The annual Memorial Day Bolder Boulder race. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Some people run, some walk, some run with strollers. Along the way, onlookers this year had a cotton candy machine—popular with the younger runners. Midway along the route, someone always serves bacon?!?

Some young Bolder Boulder runners stop for free cotton candy along the race route. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach.

So far I’ve always been a happy spectator, watching my husband Ken whisk by on the part of the race course that’s only about half a mile from our house. But maybe some day that will be me with a numbered bib pinned to my chest, crossing the finish line as the crowds scream their approval at Folsom Stadium on the University of Colorado Campus.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

P.S. What’s your favorite way to celebrate Memorial Day?

Boulder’s Tastiest Restaurants: First Bite to Last

First Bite Boulder is an annual event that highlights Boulder’s culinary scene. Each fall—usually a week or so before the holidays start—more than 40 of Boulder’s top restaurants offer a special three-course $26 prix fixe dinner menu. And we diners jump at the chance to sample their menus.

First Bite Boulder first course: Polenta and Pear at Alba. The polenta was crispy, the poached Bartlett pear sweet, and the gorgonzola sauce added tang.

For me—and a lot of folks—First Bite lets us try a three-course meal for a fraction of what we’d usually pay.

Granted, the portions served on the First Bite menus are smaller than what you’d get if you paid full price, but it’s nice to have the experience of a more extended meal than we could otherwise afford. (Alcohol is extra, of course).

What’s really cool about the First Bite concept is it showcases how “foodie”-friendly our town is, and how many Boulder restaurants cook with local organic ingredients.

Buying local means we gourmands get the freshest produce and meats, plus eliminating shipping ingredients from around the globe saves fossil fuels.

In past years, friends and I partook of First Bite at Leaf (a vegetarian restaurant), The Kitchen (an organic bistro) and Arugula (northern Italian).

Alba Restaurant and Wine Bar

This year we tried a new spot: Alba Restaurant and Wine Bar, which also specializes in northern Italian cuisine.

For my First Bite experience, I sampled Polenta and Pear (first course); Seared Harris Ranch Hanger Steak with Tuscan friend potatoes, arugula, and salsa verde (second course); and a Torta Cioccolata (dessert).

Everything was fabulous; our table of five had only kudos for the meal (although one friend found the espresso lacking).

This year’s First Bite lasts from November 12 to 20.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

P.S. If you’ve been to any of the First Bite tastings, share the experience by leaving a comment below.

The grand finale: Alba's flourless chocolate torte with vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of hazelnut pralines

Self-Discovery at a Yoga Retreat

There’s something special about the change from one year to another—something more than just the chance to drink or dance. Most people find themselves reflecting on their lives over the past 365 days and projecting new ideas and goals for the coming months.

As I look back over 2008, I’m thankful for the many writing assignments I’ve had that allowed me to explore new ideas—most applicable to my own life. One that stands out in my mind is my article about life-visioning retreats, called “Journey to Self-Discovery,” which is in the January/February issue of Experience Life magazine.

What is life-visioning? It’s something many of us are doing at this time of year: dreaming about what the future will bring. As I learned while researching this article, it helps you to accomplish your goal(s) if you dedicate some focused time for self-exploration.

Having a week or a weekend—ideally at a retreat center or a place where you can be alone and in proximity to the healing power of nature—can help you firm up your intentions, set concrete goals, and visualize yourself achieving the goal. It’s also helpful to set aside some time to plan small, doable steps you can take toward your goal—and to write those steps in your calendar so that you have deadlines.

Does it work? I think I surprised even myself.

Contemplation at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

Last July when I was writing my life-visioning article, I decided I should test the methods I was researching, so I visited a beautiful mountain retreat center just an hour’s drive from Boulder, Colorado: Shoshoni Yoga Retreat. Frankly, I was petrified to do all the jumping through hoops that I thought I needed to do in order to create my own life-changing getaway.

At Shoshoni, I stayed in a cute cabin (without electricity) in the woods, attended yoga and meditation sessions, hiked a trail to the Buddha Rocks, and dined on fabulous vegetarian Indian food. I was having a great, relaxing time, but by nightfall I had barely started my collage project. I was supposed to be making a picture of my ideal life by following the steps outlined in Visioning by Lucia Capacchione, PhD, ATR (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000).

So there I was with moths dive-bombing my headlamp as I hunched over my collage at midnight, but by then I’d become so intent on cutting out pictures and arranging them on the poster board that I barely noticed the insects.

The moths inspired me to paste a giant pair of butterfly wings behind a photo of a young woman wearing a dress of flowers. Earlier, in the meditation temple, I was impressed by the intricately carved Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. His picture went in my collage too. (I needed all the help I can get to eliminate my personal roadblocks.)

By morning’s light, I could see that my collage was filled with images of dancing women and pens, typewriters, hieroglyphics, calligraphy (because I’m a writer). A boat’s sails billow with exotic locations I plan to visit. Shells unfurl their spiraled chambers; doors stand ajar with possibility. The words “magic,” “adventure” and “fearlessness” leap out.

As it happened, my collage lit a fire in me. Shortly after my mini-retreat, I asked my dear, creative friend, Ann Kontak, to design my website. And then we manifested that website together.

Shortly after that, I launched this blog. And, right now I’m serving as interim Production Editor for the Sounds True, an audio and book publishing company that focuses on spiritual and self-help titles. The permanent editor will be back in February from her maternity leave, and it’s a real thrill to be working on book manuscripts.

So much personal and professional growth¾all directly traceable to a simple (?!?) collage.

Big Dreams

In these tougher economic times, you might be tempted to forego the dreaming and stick to “realistic” plans for your life. (Yes, out of fear, I could easily succumb to that line of thought myself.)

However, I urge everyone—myself included—to dare to dream. If you don’t have the money to go to a fancy retreat center, create a reflective, meditative environment in your home and do it yourself. (I have some suggestions in my Experience Life article for do-it-yourself retreats too).

Make a collage, draw a picture, meditate, answer life questions, explore new possibilities. (I highly recommend Your Heart’s Desire by Sonia Choquette and Visioning: 10 Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D.

So, as the first day of 2009 approaches, I’m dreaming of even more change—and I’m envisioning how my life can be for the next 12 months.

What wonderful things are in store for you?

—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor