If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Iowa trail running???!!!

This past week, we loaded up Sage in the truck and headed off to northwestern Iowa to visit my family (Kathleen's). My mom was recently diagnosed with appendix cancer, a vicious and little known cancer. Mom had a related major surgery about 4 weeks ago and will have another, what some people have described as M.O.A.S. (Mother of All Surgeries), the first part of November. She is feeling good so we wanted to spend some fun time with everybody before that surgery comes around. Of course we packed our running shoes intending to check out all the trails that had to weave in and around the corn and soybean fields. We Googled trails in their area and found one (ONE??????????????? How is that even survivable????????? We are so spoiled!) - the mighty Puddle Jumper Trail. It was, ahem, a 2 mile long flat gravel path that travelled between the corn and soybean fields. Seriously, though, it was a very lovely trail and we were thankful it was available for our perusal!
One of the trailheads started through this beautiful canopy of big, shady trees. After this canopy, it was out in the open bordering the corn and soybean fields. I thought the soybean fields were particularly beautiful. Everything was so green and lush compared to our dry and dusty high desert of Colorado. It was refreshing to see the green and a reminder of how dry our climate really is in Colorado. Sometimes we forget.
Did I mention we had oxygen??? We haven't been at low altitude in years. Orange City, IA sits at 1400 feet above sea level. Our house in Colorado sits at 6800 feet above sea level and we frequently go above 9000 when we head to the mountains to run, bike, and snowshoe. Coupled with the FLAT Puddle Jumper, we eeked out our fastest run average EVER!!! Even pushing it, we weren't out of breath - our problem was that our legs didn't know how to go fast!!! :-) Weird. Flat, fast, and extra oxygen - what more could we ask for? It was fun!
Here I am with our two nieces, Heidi and Gracie. We are sitting in the dark on Mom and Dad's back porch watching the fire flies. Very cool. You can see Sage peeking out from behind the girls on the bench - she didn't want to be left out! We enjoyed our wonderful visit to the beautiful (and green) state of Iowa. The endless rolling hills of tall corn stalks and the lushness of the soybeans, although not our beloved Rocky Mountains, certainly have their own refreshing magnificence. It was great to see Mom feeling well and preparing for her M.O.A.S., Dad doing well, and visit with my brother, his wife, and our sweet nieces. And don't forget, getting to sample the mighty Puddle Jumper - it made for a blessed and memorable few days!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Run at Monument Fire Center

We have mountain biked extensively in the Monument Fire Center over the years, but this was only our second trail run there. The Fire Center is home to the Pike Hotshots and Monument Helitack - guys and gals who will jump into the middle of the flames in order to help fight wildland and forest fires. This is their training center and it is filled with a mixture of some very technical, and some very smooth, singletrack, most of which were cut as practice for establishing fire breaks. Along with the great trails, there is a very nice memorial grove to honor fallen firefighters.
Above, Kathleen rounds a bend in front of an awesome rock spire, with Mount Herman in the background.
Steve blazing a path between the scrub oaks.
This is perfect narrow singletrack - just how we like it! It is a great place to hone your running and biking skills!
We were able to string together 9 miles of awesome trail running and there is plenty more for next time we head out to the Fire Center - the 1000 acre site has 26 miles of trail, and there is plenty more USFS trail area that can be linked easily on Mount Herman.

Another wonderful day running in the Colorado Mountains - Happy Trails to all!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spruce Meadows and Spruce Mountain

Went to Greenland, CO today (find that on your map) to run at Spruce Meadows / Spruce Mountain Open Space. The Meadows portion is mostly single and double track trail through open prairie between Greenland Open Space and Spruce Mountain. As usual, it was windy and quite warm. Anyone needing an early season ultra - Greenland could be your spot. You could get warm and sunny or cold and snow at that time of year - just roll the dice!
Ready to get started, you can see the rolling prairie and the top of Spruce Mountain in the background.
That is Spruce Mountain as seen from about the halfway point of the Meadows trail.
Once on top of Spruce Mountain, there are great views of the Front Range of the Rockies, looking north toward Denver above. Hard to imagine that only 600' of raw elevation change can yield such awesome vistas! With a little over a mile of switchbacks and solid climbing up onto Spruce Mountain, there is a very nice and rolling 2 mile loop on top that has scenic viewpoints in all directions.
On the bottom end of the loop there are great southern views, including Pikes Peak off in the distance in the photo above. Far below, at the end of the valley, the town of Palmer Lake sits nestled in front of Mount Herman.

Coming off the back side of Spruce Mountain, Kathleen is ready for the cruise across the Meadows trail to finish up the run. We got in a great 10 mile run today and soaked up some bluebird sky and bright sunshine - Good Times!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Six at Six O'Clock

The availability of time to get in good runs after work is starting to shrink some, so we have to get some evening runs in closer to the mountain - soon we'll need to stay east in order to have light in the evening. We headed to Garden of the Gods to take a chance with the dark clouds hanging over the foothills. It's amazing how different the colors and textures look under cloud cover.
Not long into our run, we noticed that we had "spectators" up on the hillside. Several of the rams were lying down as the 'Sentinel' kept watch on the trail below. We would not mind having some of their trail running skills!
The air was thick with humidity tonight and we were already pretty damp when it started to rain. It was not cold (unusual for here), so we kept at it until we saw our first lightning flashes off in the distance - time to get out of the open!!!
We made our way back to the park entrance, covering a nice 6 miles of beautiful trails - time to head home, put up our feet, and watch the lightning show. Another great day!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Santa Fe Trail Day

We were hoping for a dry spot to run today and we (sort of) found it. We got out to the Santa Fe trailhead not far from home to get in some mileage on another of our multi-use gravel trails that holds up to water OK. Santa Fe Trail is home to the American Discovery Trail Marathon, which will be run on Labor Day. We try to steer clear of Santa Fe all summer because we are required to utilize it more in the winter when our favorite trails, at times, are under snow and ice.

This is near the trailhead and is probably the least scenic part of our run. The running water is usually a dry creek bed, so the water is quite muddy after the rains. We have had 2.8" of rain since Thursday night, compared to only 6.7" previous to that since January 1! We'll certainly take it even if it puts a dent in our trail running time. So we ended up with a nice 10 mile run and as we walked our legs out back to the truck, it started raining - Perfect Timing!!! Good times and we are still very thankful to get out for our runs!!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Snuck one in!

I got my window of opportunity and took it! The rain let up so I took off on the gravel multi-purpose trail out of our neighborhood for a quick workout. We'll have to use the wide trails for a few days as our singletrack trails have a lot of clay and do not do well with loads of water. I was able to get in a nice 6 mile run even though it was raining again before I finished. Oh well, better than nothing at all. Kathleen had to work, so it was a solo run today :-(

An update on the Ascent - about 742 runners were able to finish in the freezing conditions and about that many were turned back at A-Frame, which is right below treeline on Pikes Peak. The weather above treeline had turned to sideways-blowing snow and sleet and they were fearful of having to get too many hypothermic runners off the mountain. The other problem was that the Pikes Peak highway had to be closed due to adverse driving conditions, leaving no way to get additional vehicle support to the summit house. Even though our friend PR'd (and got 3RD WOMAN OVERALL!), she said it was quite miserable.

Welcome to August in Colorado!

Word(s) for the day - SOGGY and COLD! In most parts of the country, these do not describe summer - welcome to the mountains. August can be unpredictable and can range in temps from the 30's to the 90's. It started raining yesterday morning and has not stopped. Don't get me wrong, we need rain like peanut butter needs jelly. We have had nearly 30% of our year-to-date precipitation just in the past week and a half! Imagine starting your Ascent of Pikes Peak in rain and low 40 degree temps, then climbing 8000 or so vertical feet to a summit temp of 29.8°F - that is the current reading at 11:52 AM on the Peak! Luckily, the cam shot did not show snow yet at the summit. While I sit sipping coffee in my wool slippers, our friend Connilee is trying to warm up for sure as she finished third overall woman in ~ 2:53:35 (unofficial post from Summit House) - Way to Go!!! Over in Leadville, the Leadville Trail 100 is being contested in a wee bit better conditions - it is 49°F currently and the runners have been on course approximately 8 hours now, having started at 4 am with light rain and 40 degrees. They will possibly face snow or heavy rain overnight - sweet. Here's a topper for you - this live cam of Winter Park, Colorado is from 11:40 am. There was supposed to be race #6 of the Winter Park Mountain Bike Race series, one of the best run series in the mountain west, but heavy rain overnight combined with snow this morning to postpone the race. Currently, Loveland Pass, Trail Ridge Road, and Mount Evans highway are all closed due to snow and as of 11 am, Eisenhower Tunnel was requiring chains for commercial vehicles. Yee-haw!!! So if I get a wild hair, you might get an update post later that I snuck out for a short, wet run - just don't count on it! It will be sunny and 80 by mid-week anyway, so a couple days of bizarre summer weather can't hurt, right...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is it just me or...

... Are the days getting shorter?
Headed over to Palmer Park after work to get some trails in. The storm clouds passed through early today and there was plenty of sun left on the mesa in Palmer Park. However, I can't help but notice a disturbing trend - by the time I finished my run, there was maybe 20 minutes of sunshine left on the top of the park.
So it is that time of year where every opportunity to hit the trails is golden as the shorter days steal away some of the opportunities for mid-week runs. That is one advantage of having Palmer Park so close to my work - I can pull the Clark Kent and hit the trails running in about a 10 minute window.
It was solo night as Kathleen snuck in her run pre-work as she often does. No action photos, but did squeeze out a couple shots, and got in 6 miles of sweet singletrack on an evening run!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Garden of the Gods run

We had to get moving to get our run in today - as you can see from the photo below, the clouds rolled out really early today. The spot above the word 'Garden' in the photo is normally occupied by the massive Pikes Peak, however today the clouds had already hidden it from our view. By the way, next weekend about 2600 people will be attempting to conquer the Peak. Saturday is the Pikes Peak Ascent - approximately 8000' vertical gain in 13 miles. Yikes!! For those who require a bit more abuse than the Ascent, Sunday is the Pikes Peak Marathon - all the delight of the climb up, plus the pure joy of shredding your quads on the 8000' drop on the way back down!!! Good luck to all and hope for no SNOW on the Peak next weekend.
It was more of a gray day today, which is somewhat what our legs felt like after yesterday's long run - a little baked. The humidity is killing us - what's up with that? We can't figure out how to breathe in this stuff - do you need gills? We want our high-altitude, thin, dry air back!
It is hard not to enjoy a run in the Garden, baked legs or not. Many of the trails in our region have a decomposed granite surface - it is like running (or riding) on marbles. However, after the rains, the trails were great and a bit on the tacky side - we have not seen mud since the snow melted this spring but we had some today. Some of the greenery is snapping back to life in the park - amazing what a nice drink will do for even desert-adapted plant life.
Kathleen stretches her legs on a nice section of the Ute trail.
Steve on a short, rocky descent on the Niobrara trail.
Kathleen climbing with a couple of the park's signature rock formations in the background.
Had to stop back for a group photo after the run. It was a fine day on the trails and we never tire of running in the Garden of the Gods. You must definitely visit the park if you are in Colorado Springs!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Falcon Trail - Air Force Academy

We needed a long run today, so we decided to run the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy. This would be only our third time to run it completely so we are just starting to get a feel for what our pacing should be for the loop. We had rain off and on since Wednesday night, which we desparately needed, so it was very humid today - abnormal for Colorado.
Surprisingly, the trails had soaked most of the water with hardly any ruts from water runoff -not bad for soil that has not had measurable rainfall since April or May. What was also nice was that the dust and loose gravel was mostly packed and the air was fresh.
We ran the course in the clockwise direction but we still are not sure which direction is "faster". It was interesting to pass a couple sets of mountain bikers on the climbs but not get passed by them on the following downhills. That must mean our slow pace is less slow than it used to be! (or there were just slow bikers out today...) We saw the manager of our favorite bike shop go by in the opposite direction we were running and he even recognized us running - cool!
It was odd to not have our normal creek crossing. They obviously have diverted the stream in a different direction because it would have been flowing well today after all our rain from the previous two days. You can see mostly blue sky behind Kathleen here, about 5 miles into our run. That would change before too long.
The grass seemed to have instantly responded to a much needed drink as all of the brown meadows had come back to life. August is typically monsoon season for us (as in there is measurable rainfall) but the last few summers it has been nonexistent. We're hoping that we get back to normal this year as we had been on pace for the driest year recorded to date.
Here is a nice view of the cadet area, with the renowned chapel standing in the background. This is about 7.5 miles into the route and is a welcome sight because it signals only one climb left and then mostly downhill to the finish!!! Anyone who has a chance to visit our area should certainly try to see the Air Force Academy. It is much more restricted access since 9-11, but it is worth the visit. The golf course has responded well to the rain - the fairways were definitely standing out against the views through the evergreens. In this photo you can see the clouds beginning to come in from the west, earlier than usual today as this was before noon. We were certainly noticing the effects of the humidity by this point in our run. The legs felt a little heavier than normal and we had a thick sweat that just would not evaporate - yuck! We'll take our thin, dry air thank you!
All in all, we don't look too bad after finishing the 13 mile loop. That distance seems to be our ceiling for right now but we're OK with that. For a couple of mountain bikers that decided to get into more trail running, we're doing just fine! As for the clouds, they chased us home and it poured rain within half hour of arriving at the house - perfect timing!!! We had a very satisfying day on beautiful trails - definite Good Times. Kudos to the USAFA for totally rebuilding this trail in 2006 after years of neglect - it is a Gem!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday fun

My faithful friend and Monday riding buddy, Becky, has been out of town the past week so I was left to venture out by my lonesome today! I ended up doing a mini "brick" - a quickie 3 mile run and then came home and saddled up the road bike for a hair over 27 mile ride. I certainly needed much more mileage than that after I finally finished up that nasty cinnamon roll this morning!!! Yuck! I think that will be my last cinnamon roll for a long time. The ride was all good - just did a few loop-de-loops around our area. There's not too much flat terrain around our house - lots of rolling hills with lots of steeper hills which are great for hill training! I think I ended up with about 3000 ft of elevation gain - not tons or abusive - but good enough for this long time cyclist who is trying to morph more into a trail runner! It was a gorgeous Colorado morning - sunny, bluebird skies and not baking hot like it has been the past few weeks, although it is supposed to be in the low 90's today. I am savoring the days I can be out in sleeveless and short sleeve tops - soon enough we will be back to long sleeves, jackets, and tights!!!

On a more deep and personal note (which we generally try to avoid on our public blog), these last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind blur. This past Saturday mom was officially diagnosed with a type of appendix cancer. It is very rare - literally a one in one million chance to be diagnosed with it - and very deadly. In women, it usually is initially mis- diagnosed as late stage ovarian cancer (which mom was). It is so rare that most doctors don't even know what it is when they see it. There is one treatment option and a very limited number of doctors who are trained to do the treatment. Without treatment, mom has a 2 -6 month life expectancy. With the treatment, 28 - 50% survive 5 years. Mom and dad live in Iowa. Once we know what the plan of attack is, we will be heading either out to their home or to the treatment hospital within the next few weeks. We are hopeful! Lots of positive things have happened since mom went in for her surgery last week and we know God can work in and through all things. We would love it if any of you who might happen across our little blog might offer up a prayer and positive thoughts on mom's behalf. Thanks so much for reading!

In spite of unexpected turns in the road and, at times, grim news, Steve and I always try to embrace the Hope we have. Each day we have is a GREAT DAY!!! Now get out to ride and run and have fun!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rampart Reservoir Trail

We decided to avoid our record high temps from the past few days and go to a little higher elevation to run the Rampart Reservoir trail. At 9000', we knew it would be at least 10 degrees cooler at the reservoir added to the cooling effect of the water.Whenever we drive through Woodland Park, we "must" stop at the Donut Mill for rocket fuel, or in this case the mother-of-all-cinnamon-rolls! Given the fact that Kathleen is losing the sweet tooth (other than CHOCOLATE, ...and Steve never really had a sweet tooth) we may be nearing the end of our Donut Mill tradition.
It was a beautiful day with very nice temperature and a slight breeze off the water. The water is down about 15 feet from when we last ran here, but that is not too bad given our extremely dry summer this year.
Kathleen crosses the stream - it is good to still see water coming in, as we are needing to draw so much from the reservoir for Colorado Springs' water supply. It was also cool to see a few boats out fishing today, which means they must finally have the Zebra Mussels under control.
Perfect opportunity for a group photo on the bridge! Too bad this spot is only 4 miles into the run, as this would be a great spot to cold-soak the legs after a hard run! We may have to try a re-route next time and take advantage of the natural refresher!
Steve rounding the shoreline - you can see where the water has receded in the background.
It is always nice to have a backdrop like Pikes Peak to frame a photo. Purple Mountain Majesty was definitely in full glory today! It was another great day of running combined with awesome views along the way. This 11.5 mile loop is quite a trail running gem and we would suggest it to anyone that wants to try something a little ways out of town. As always on a great day in the mountains with awesome trails under foot - Good Times!
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