Thank You Blend- You’ve Changed My Life [part 1 recap]

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Oh, Blend… what do I even say? Really, there are no words to sum it up.

Thanks to these three wonderful women, I can honestly say- I’m a better person.

Katie, Janetha and Lindsay: You’re amazing and I love you so much!

Let’s get down to business. (I’m going to have to break this re-cap up into at least two different posts, or it would be the longest post in history.) And if you’re a new reader, perhaps you should check out my post about how much I love Colorado to get why Blend has an extra-special place in my heart.

The Blend retreat was an idea born in the minds of the three ladies pictured above as a chance for bloggers and non-bloggers alike to get together for a weekend of food, fitness and fun. Unlike a typcial blogger convention, there were no sessions, no lectures… just a few (awesome) organized meals and workouts and lots of free time to hang out with friends. There were no cliques, no judgement and no snobs. Just a group of women that all had a common love for living a healthy lifestyle and a love for themselves. Before the retreat, I have to say I was a little bit nervous. The majority of the women were younger than me- and everyone was SO fit and so pretty! But all of that went away 2.5 seconds after I arrived. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in a group of women and not felt judged. In fact, I immediately felt a sense of community and a connection and thought these women are all just like me!

**

It all started Friday afternoon when I checked in and received my t-shirt and name tag as well as the key to my cottage at Chautauqua.

Oh yeah, and there was also a swag bag.

Holy wow- check out what was IN this bag!!

I was completely BLOWN AWAY by the amount of products that we were given! I was really excited to see some things that I hadn’t heard of or tried before that will likely become new staples in my life. I wanted to open up everything right away, but I showed restraint and just dug right into the Love Grown Foods granola (which might just be the best granola I’ve ever had- wish we had it in Maryland!).

Our cottage wasn’t too shabby either!

“Not too shabby” is actually a huge understatement. I was totally impressed and it certainly exceeded any expectations I had. I had registered to share the cottage with another attendee (the fabulous Amanda, who will be starting her blog very soon!) but there were extra spaces, so we ended up having the cottage all to ourselves. ;)

When I signed up for Blend, Greg and I used it as a reason to take a little trip out to our most favorite place to vacation, Colorado. Though we were both staying in the cottage, Greg didn’t plan on attending any of the Blend activities, except the group hike on Saturday. However, Lindsay was nice enough to insist that he come along to any and all of the activities, so he ended up participating in everything except the morning boot camps. I have to give my husband a lot of credit- he was the only male amongst several women for a good portion of the weekend, and he handled it very well. On the flip side, it couldn’t have been too bad- every single last woman at this retreat was strong, awesome and beautiful.

After settling into Cottage de Martin, I got a call from Kelly saying that she had arrived! We had planned to go over to dinner together- and this was our first time meeting in real life!

Kelly is even more gorgeous and sweet in person- if that’s possible! Check out her awesome guest post from last week, in case you missed it. :)

The three of us headed over to the dining hall for cocktail hour, and then the fun really started!

I was so excited to meet Laura, who’s quickly become one of my blogger BFF’s over the last few months. And I also met one of my new favorites, Heather! After a drink and some socializing, we headed into another room for a fabulous dinner. There I got to sit and chat with two more beautiful women: Calee and Christine! I had been really excited to meet the two of them as well!

Dinner itself was fabulous- and started with a delicious salad.

Followed by grilled chicken breast with huge chunks of garlic, quinoa and perfectly cooked broccoli.

And of course there was dessert, which was (mini) cupcakes.

The PB Pretzel was the best- but all of them were delicious (though I’m still dying to try the avocado sweet potato kind!). I actually emailed the bakers, who told me that the cupcakes are for sale at the Boulder Farmers’ Markets. I’ll definitely be seeking them out when I return in July!

We hung around and chatted for a bit and then all retired to our cottages. It was a long, exhausting, awesome day and everyone was beat!

**

Saturday morning started bright and early with a boot camp style workout, which was led by Lindsay and Tina, who are both certified NASM trainers. To be honest, after two days of hiking (and a pretty hardcore one on Friday in particular) my quads were screaming and I wasn’t too excited about doing an hour of bootcamp – especially since we’d be hiking a few hours later. Plus, I was tired because I was too excited to sleep the night before. But, I woke up and went anyway because I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t go. And I’m SO glad I did- it ended up being so much fun (and pretty ass-kicking!).

We met a little before 7 am to get our Amino, sponsored by FitMixer. I actually didn’t drink any and was fueled by a half a banana that I had in my cottage. (I have since tried the Amino and LOVE IT, btw.)

We started off boot camp with a little running, and everyone immediately felt the altitude. I’ve run several times in Colorado, so I knew what to expect. :) After that, we were led through a series of workouts by Tina and Lindsay. Tina showed up some awesome exercises with resistance bands (which we got to keep!).

And then Lindsay kicked our butts some more.

My favorite part of the workout was this:

The tennis balls had various exercises written on them. We were divided into teams and competed against each other. We had a minute to send one member of the team to sprint to the pile of balls, grab one, run back and have the team do the exercise. We recorded the number of reps that each of us did for each exercise, and the team who did the most reps overall won a prize. I loved this. It brought out my competitive side and I put 100% effort into each exercise. And my obliques were quite sore the next morning, thank you very much. I’m definitely going to have to remember this “game” when training people in the future. :)

When the boot camp was over, we were all energized and ready to GO. (and ready to eat)

Check out Laura. She even looks adorable after an hour of sweaty workouts.

Me? Not so much.

Shortly after boot camp, we headed into the lodge for an awesome breakfast, sponsored by Xagave. Check out the spread!!

I had some Chobani 2% yogurt (which I had never had before- and now LOVE) with fruit, granola and 1/2 of each of the muffins (carrot cake and blueberry!). And of course, some Green Mountain coffee.

I was surrounded by these beautiful ladies (Tiffany, Lynne, Heidi, Amanda and Kelly) for a wonderful meal. :)

It is some kind of coincidence that all of these girls are Colorado natives?

Xagave totally hooked us up with an awesome breakfast and some bottles of agave nectar to take home! And I really loved listening to (Steve?) talk about the benefits of Agave nectar!

After a very filling breakfast, we were all nicely fueled up to go hike the Flat Irons! Apparently all of the cool girls wear black and blue.

I’ve hiked at the Flat Irons a good 10 or so times before, but there are a bunch of different trails that you can explore there and various options to get to the top. The plan was to take the Royal Arch trail- which was great because I had hiked all the way to the Arch before. Our big group started out together…

We ended up being somewhere near the front of the pack, and the group quickly split up into several smaller groups. I started the hike next to Calee, and really enjoyed talking with her. She is most definitely my homegirl. :)

Most of the hike was pretty steep!

We stopped to check out the view at a few different spots, and of course… took lots of pictures.

Man, there were a lot of us!

We finally reached the arch, and the view was awesome!!

And on the other side, you could also got a great view of the Flat Irons.

At the top, I finally got to meet and chat with Ashley for a bit. I love her blog, and she pretty much creates the best recipes ever (and rekindled my love for buckwheat flour).

Here’s Lee and Lena, catching one of the best views in all of Boulder:

I have to give Lee a lot of credit. Over a year ago, I randomly stumbled upon her blog, and it was the first blog that I started following. And then of course, it all snow-balled from there. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have ever started my own blog or even known about Blend- so thanks, Lee!

After enjoying the view at the arch, we started making the long, steep climb back down to the bottom.

We were definitely that group that annoyed the other hikers because there were so many of us. But people kindly stepped aside as we went by. :)

It went by super fast, thanks to some great conversation with Janetha! And of course, more photo stops….

(With Janetha and Katie)

I even remembered to get a photo with my photographer husband!

We took a picture in this very spot last year. :)

What an awesome hike!

There was a yoga session scheduled for a little bit later, but I had brought up the idea of going to get lunch and then taste some brews over at Avery’s taproom- which seemed to interest a lot of the other women. Chicks who are into working out, healthy eating and BEER? These are definitely my people! After some quick showers and a change of clothes a large group of us headed over to Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery. Poor Greg was the only guy in this massive group of women. Luckily that meant he could take a big group picture!

The beer selection was fabulous. I got an FYIPA to start and a few of us split this delicious rosemary white bean hummus (which I’ve already tried to re-create at home).

That was followed by grilled shrimp and squash skewers over tostadas. Yum and yum.

I had great company at the end of my table, including Kelly, Lindsay, Gina, Calee and Heather.

And Greg too, of course. :)

The staff at Mountain Sun were extremely friendly and didn’t appear annoyed at all by our large group. (Maybe it was due to the fact that a “dispensary” is located next door. ;)

After an awesome lunch, we headed over to Avery (my favorite brewery in all of Colorado). Greg and I have been here a few times before, but the majority of the girls had not. When we got there, Greg finally got to be around another dude. His best friend John (and best man from our wedding) actually lives in Boulder, along with his girlfriend Tiffany.

I hung with ma bitches

We drank beer

and played with two awesome dobies that were at the table next to us.

(I’m pretty sure that Calee and I blew up Instagram taking pictures of them.)

Since it was Cinco de Mayo, we all planned on getting some Mexican food for dinner and hit up Rio Grande on Walnut Street. Since there were about 20 of us, and it was Cinco de Mayo, we pretty much had no hope of getting a table together. But at least we got to enjoy some drinks at the bar while we waited!

Free tequila shots? Yes, please.

I ended up sitting at a table with Lynne, Tiffany and Greg, which was perfect. I can’t say it enough: I love those two girls (but we missed you, Kelly!). :)

After my one (small) shot of tequila, I cut myself off for the night and stuck to water. I’m no dummy, and knew that any drinks beyond that would cause me to be hating life the next morning.

And hey- since I saved all of those calories by not drinking margaritas, it was perfectly okay to end the night with some GREEK fro-yo from Ben and Jerry’s, right?

Greg and I drove back to our cottage and passed out about 5 minutes after walking in the door. I kinda wish that I had stayed up with the other girls a little longer and hung out in the missions house, but I am an old lady and was pooped.

I gotta say: it was a PERFECT DAY.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!!