Bella’s GoPro Game Recap



We’ve had a busy trail race season this year. Between half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons, it’s been a challenge to make brain space for little else other than running logistics and training. Sadly, Bella wasn’t able to come along and crew any of the major races so far due to dog restrictions, as well as the fact that Pat and I have both run all of our races together. As bookends on each side of the busy race schedule, we signed up for two fun 5ks with Bella.  The last race official of the season for me was the Rocky Dog Trail Run 5k at the GoPro Mountain games in Vail, Colorado.  It was refreshing to have a shorter, fun run as the last race of the season.  I wouldn’t have to deal with a running pack, gels, hydration, salt tabs, or chaffing.  And best of all, Bella, Pat and I could all work as a team.

The GoPro Mountain Games


Bell enjoys some dirty, late-season resort snow.

The Vail GoPro Mountain Games are a three-day-long celebration that kicks off every June. Numerous competitions include everything from dock dogs, to white water kayaking, slacklining, trail running, bouldering, to mountain biking.  In addition to athletic events, adventure-loving people from all over the country gather to celebrate a mountain lifestyle with movie screenings, live music, and art. The event is dog-friendly, and dogs of every shape and size can be found at the Games.


Rocky Dog 5K

This is our second year running the Rocky Dog 5k. Last year, I was the third woman overall, and Pat won his age group, even though he slowed down to stay with Bella and I. I learned a few valuable lessons last year, which included not starting too far back in the pack at the start line. Trying to pass groups of tightly packed people and dogs connected by leashes was a nightmare last year, and it cost me some time! We also faced a few extra challenges this year, including a hefty sinus infection on my part, and irritated front paw pads on Bella’s part (she had dug a hole with something sharp in it a week before).  Luckily, Bella’s paws healed relatively fast and she was able to run without boots or vet wrap. I knew I would just have to deal.  Additionally, Pat and I had just completed the “Dirty 30,” 50k ultra marathon the weekend before and weren’t feeling very fresh, and it was still about 80 degrees in Vail by race time at 6 PM.

All factors considered, we decided before that race that we would run as a team, just as we did last year. If Bella struggled in the heat as she usually does, we would just have to slow down and go at her pace.  If one of us wasn’t feeling it, we would still stick together and cross the finish line as a family. This is the only race of the year where Pat and I run together.  Pat would be the “rabbit” and run just slightly ahead of Bella and I, and hopefully Bella would feel fast and want to pull me as she did during skijoring over the winter.

At the start line, we stacked up just behind the first row of runners.  The announcer explained the course as “you go up, and then you go down!”  The course was slightly different from last year, but we knew it would similar and there would definitely still be a climb.  I’m stronger climbing than on downhills, so I knew I’d have to play to my strengths and give it everything I had for the first half.

When the start was called out (there was no gun, so as not to startle the dogs), Bella shot off like a bullet.  Pat weaved between runners up ahead, while calling to Bella.  She followed right behind him without skipping a beat.  We plowed up the hairpin turns on the ski trail, and Bella pulled like a Siberian Huskey in her harness.  At the aid stations, we dumped cups of water on her cooling vest, and allowed her to run through a few streams along the course. I’m usually a little hesitant when running down hills on trail courses, but we flew down the mountain.  I didn’t have a choice, because Bella was pulling me so hard!  About a quarter mile to the finish, Bella was spent.  She slowed down considerably, and fell behind me.  We called her and tried to get her energy up, but we knew we had to ease up slightly for her.  Right at the finish, another woman passed us.  Even so, it was the fastest 5k time I’ve had in several years!

Race Day Gear Picks

  • Ruffwear Omnijor Harness–  We’ve trained Bella to pull ahead in this pulling-specific harness when skijoring and on leashed training runs.  It doesn’t restrict her IMG_6902breathing when working hard.  We noticed that several of the top finishers also used these same harnesses with their dogs as well.
  • Ruffwear Roamer Leash- We have the Ruffwear Omnijor Hipbelt and Towline for skiing, but like using the Roamer with the Omnijor Harness for running. Even the long length Roamer isn’t quite as long as the towline, which we like for better control around other people and dogs.
  • Ruffwear Cooling Vest- This was a must for the strong mountain sun and soaring summer temperatures.  We refreshed the vest with water at the aid stations during the race, and along Gore Creek while visiting vendor tents.
  • Ruffwear Knot-A-Collar- Low profile, which was especially nice with all of the gear she was already using for this event.

Awards and Recovery


During awards, we learned that I had won my age group, and Pat still placed third in his age group despite slowing down for Bella and I.  Once again, we earned two medals!  Bella wasn’t thrilled about sitting on the Yeti cooler, but we still managed to snap a few victory shots. After the ceremony, Bella proudly wore her medals through Vail Village, but mostly seemed to enjoy all of the attention and pets from friendly strangers.

The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely hike in Vail with friends and family.  For once, we didn’t have a goal or objective, other than to simply enjoy our surroundings and turn around whenever we wanted.  Bella enjoyed some unstructured time with her best canine friend, Maxine.

What’s Next?

Pat still has the Never Summer 100k ultra marathon at the end of July. For that race, Bella will be able to come along to crew for the weekend.  As for me, I’m hoping to run a 14,000′ peak by late summer with Bella.  It’s been a great race season for me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion than my win with Bella and Pat at the Rocky Dog 5k this year!


Bella rests up for her next adventure at our campsite in Vail.

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Races: Marathon for Mountain Summers


Ok, so Bella isn’t actually running this one with me, but she’ll be there every step of the training process.  Also, the race I’m running is actually called the Colorado Marathon.  It follows the Poudre Canyon in Fort Collins, and falls on Sunday, May 3rd, 2015.  This year, I’ll be running the Colorado Marathon in memory of two young men and in celebration of all of the children who will benefit from Mountain Summers scholarships in the future.


Mountain Summers is a 501(C)3 that grants Low-Income and Native American children scholarships to attend the Colorado Mountain Ranch summer camp program. Mountain Summers believes that experiential education in the outdoors in a safe and supportive community creates THRIVING children!

Visit: for more information.

Watch Colorado Mountain Ranch “Happy” on YouTube

View Training in Process on Instragram321311_375765589189195_606427208_n

Training Partners


Pat and Bella at the finish line of the Leadville, CO 50-miler this past summer.

Patrick Walker:  Experienced ultramarathoner Pat was there with me every step of the way for my first marathon, and will be there again for my second.  In addition to supporting my marathon training and acting as a personal trainer, Pat also keeps me sane while I attend graduate school full time and also teach full time.  I think Pat should be granted an honorary degree from the University of Northern Colorado once I complete my program.

Bella:  Bella trains on short to mid distance runs with me, anything up to 13 miles, really. Her Singletrack Pack from Ruffwear keeps her well-hydrated, and reflects hot rays from the sun.  She also trains with me at night and in sub-zero temps. On my longer days, Bella is there to keep me company on slow walks to ease built-up soreness.

History of Mountain Summers

Mountain Summers Inc., a 501 (c)3, was founded in 1989 by Gail, Lynn and Mike Walker, owners of the Colorado Mountain Ranch, who identified the need for financial support for children to attend summer camp.478841_262405013858587_901151007_o

The Walkers also saw a need to support more equity for Native American Children. Mountain Summers Inc. began as a scholarship fund, offering deserving children the experience of summer camp in the mountains.  Over the years, Mountain Summers has run entirely on a volunteer basis!

Visions of growth have continued for Mountain Summers focusing on the many ways Mountain Summers can impact and connect with Boulder County, with the two main focuses being collaboration and fundraising.

Why a Marathon for Mountain Summers?

I’m a special education teacher and graduate student living and working in Boulder County.  In 2014, I ran my first ever marathon to give myself a focus outside of work and school.  During the fall of 2014, a 6th grade student of mine passed away unexpectedly, and I decided that I would run the race in his honor come May. I thought about fundraising for a cause in his memory, but at the time the pressure felt too great. On race day, I wrote his initials on my arm in sharpie and finished just seconds under my goal time.10295719_10101615892679966_4994841506994948725_n

In January of this year, another young person in my life passed away.  He was 17, caring, kind-hearted, and well known for his positive attitude.

I knew “J” from the Colorado Mountain Ranch, a summer camp in the foothills of Boulder County.  He attended the teen program at the camp, where I’ve now worked for 7 summers as a horse wrangler and children’s horse program director.  Just days before J took his own life, he posted this on his Instagram account, along with a photo I had taken of him with two young campers:

“This is probably my favorite moment of 2014. CMR (Colorado Mountain Ranch) was a place to be yourself and happy and be a leader and role model to the next generation.  Love this picture.  #missingit #foreverthere #neverforget #happiness #coloradomountainranch.”


I began thinking about the Colorado Marathon, which I had registered for once again this year.  Writing two initials now in sharpie on my arm, something so private and personal, didn’t seem like enough. But what cause would do the most good? Suicide prevention?  Mental health services for ouryouth? No, the answer became obvious.

Mountain Summers, a summer camp scholarship program for youth in need, allows children to attend camp at the Colorado Mountain Ranch and be given the meaningful fun they so deserve.  The Colorado Mountain Ranch has provided a sense of community, belonging, and meaning to thousands and thousands of children and staff members since it was first founded by Coach and Norma Walker in 1947.

It’s what J would have wanted.  462544_221622327936856_1845421508_o

Races: Boulder’s Canine Classic 5k


10001120_10101578445294826_7836673095536834557_o 14th Annual Canine Classic 5k, April 2014

The 15th Annual Boulder Canine Classic is Sunday, April 26, 2015 at the Boulder Reservoir.  Come out and support a worthy cause!  Bella and Pat will be back to defend their 2014 title of “fastest dog and human pair in Boulder, Colorado.”

Visit to register as an individual or team.  Early registration ends February 23rd!

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Event Information

The Canine Classic 5k Run/Walkis for runners, walkers, and dog lovers of all ages. (A canine companion is not required.) 

When: Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where: Boulder Reservoir, 5565 51st St., Boulder, CO

Gates open: 7:00 a.m.

Race start: 9:00 a.m.

Race timing: professionally-timed

A BolderBOULDER qualifier: Yes

Pre– and post-race activities: Yes

The Main Lawn is open from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM and includes booths for both human and canine participants, live music, great food, and a post-race beer garden. No additional fees are charged for these activities.