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

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pictureless post, pneumonia, trail brick, and mountain biking

Well, bummer, this is a pictureless post. I forgot the camera both days over the weekend as well as my outing today. Bigger bummer, Steve has pneumonia!!! He almost never gets sick. We both got flu shots last week, me on Monday and he on Wednesday night. Friday night he started feeling "not quite right" and by Saturday he had full on body aches, headache, chills, and fever (103.8!). We figured he was having a bad reaction to the flu shot, called our after-hours on-call nurse at our doctor's office Saturday evening who did confirm that occasionally people do have stronger reactions to the vaccine. Long story short, we couldn't get his fever to go below 102 and it was mostly staying between 103 to 104 so after a call back to the on-call nurse on Sunday afternoon, we were advised to pay a visit to one of local after hours emergency facilities who confirmed pneumonia. He had no other symptoms - no breathing problems, cough, or congestion. He's beginning to feel a bit better tonight now that the antibotics are working into his system. We aren't so sure about the flu shot for next year. I had very low grade symptoms last week but nothing debilitating like Steve had over the weekend. We can't help but think the shot was related in some way especially after some things we read on the CDC's website. Hmmmm . . .

As for me, I got out for a quick run before work on Saturday morning. Yesterday (Sunday), I must have been feeling frisky because I did a 7 mile technical trail run in Ute Valley near our house, came home, changed into bike clothes and headed back over to Ute for 12 miles on my mountain bike. Not huge miles but it's a pretty good workout with the constant up and downs and technical, rocky, rooty, and sandy nature of the park. I loved it! It felt great to be on my mountain bike although I would have liked it even more if Steve could have been with me!

Today, after getting Steve all tucked in and situated for awhile, I met Becky for a mountain bike ride near her house on the trails around Mt. Herman. It was tons of fun, again, to be out on the mountain bike on technical trails. We managed to get in 18 high quality trail miles. I remember now why I never used to do much weight training in the summer when we were putting in lots of miles on the mountain bikes. Riding technical trails requires lots of body english and provides a great upper body workout as well as working the legs. Powering over rocks, roots, and boulders and good climbing keeps the upper body lean and strong. Plus I think it's a good change from the weight training routine for a few months - it mixes it up and challenges the muscles differently. I don't know if it's just because it is the "end of the season" thing, but I feel like I am hearing the siren song of mountain biking beckoning me back . . . . We'll see. I do love trail running (and shoes and running skirts too much!!!) but the mountain bike has always been my first love . . . . . .

We have had gorgeous weather, albeit a bit crisp the last few days. I don't care. Just give me sun and bluebird skies and I am happy as a lark. The gray, dark days really get to me. The extended weather report through next Monday is showing lots of sun and 60's. Yahoooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Next weekend I WILL remember to get some pics whatever we do although I anticipate Steve will be taking it slow for a week or two. Happy trails this week!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Manitou Incline Monday

I had really been hoping for a long, sunny mountain bike ride with Becky today but cool, gray, and misty conditions changed the plans. Instead, I headed over to the Manitou Incline, our local Stairmaster machine. Looking for quads of steel? Hit the Incline!

It has about 3000 railroad tie steps that ascend 2000 vertical feet in one mile. Read a little interesting info here: http://www.inclineclub.com/incline.htm

The picture above shows the steps going up, up and away into the fog!

It has probably been about 2 years since I have done the Incline, as Steve doesn't "enjoy" it like I do. I kind of had forgotten about it. It is the perfect quick and challenging workout on marginal weather days like today. I hope to use it more frequently this winter season!

In the picture above, I stopped to rest, er, I mean, stopped to snap a picture looking back down from whence I had climbed. I am in the middle of the steepest part at 68% grade! It is STEEP!
Here I am at the top! Yahoooo! Picture Rocky Balboa running up the steps and jumping around at the top with his arms raised - that's what I always picture when I reach the top. The Incline is behind me, in the photo. The Garmin didn't measure my time accurately - I think it shut off because I was going so slow! I will have to make some adjustments on the Garmin next time. The fastest I have ever climbed it was 32 or 34 minutes (?) - it has been a long time. I am guessing it was closer to 38 today.
Here, I am at the intersection of the connector trail and Barr Trail. It's all downhill from here! You get to descend the 2000 feet, you just climbed, in about 3 miles.
Barr Trail is very lovely although it requires some careful foot work at times. The surface is our local Pikes Peak granite, which can be compared to running on marbles. There is also a fair amount of imbedded rocks, ruts, and roots. Stay light on your feet!
Coming out of the trees, this is a nice view down into Manitou Springs.
Here, Barr Trail continues it's descent, contouring the mountainside. In spite of altering my riding plans, it ended up being a fun workout day. The Incline is just one more training option in our already full quiver of local trail options. I am so thankful for the great area we get to live and play in. Happy trails to all this week!
Shoes: Asics Trailsensor 1

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lake Pueblo South Shore Trails

Headed the opposite direction on I-25 today into Pueblo for a visit to Lake Pueblo State Park. Once again, this is an area we have never visited since living in Colorado. Neither one of us grew up on water sports, so the parks with the big reservoirs have not been a draw for us. However, over the last few years, Southern Colorado Trail Builders have been putting together an impressive trail network, primarily on the south shore area of the park. We have heard rumors that the trails were equivalent in quality and experience to Fruita - a tall order indeed - so we decided to take a trip down and investigate. About an hour's trip door to trail put us on desert singletrack, with blue sky overhead and 78 degrees for today's high temp.
We headed out on the Cuatro Sinko trail and were immediately greeted with narrow, winding singletrack rolling through pinyon, cactus, prairie grasses and tumbleweeds.
After entering the second major wash, we hooked up with Pedro's Point trail, crossing a small stream that is most likely waist deep during spring runoff.
Don't know which species of cactus this is, but there were 'forests' of them all along the southern end of the park and many had these bright yellow flowers on them. They are cool to look at while running, but when we come back to explore here by mountain bike in the near future the mantra will be "spare tubes"!!!
We exited Pedro's onto the Waterfall trail, which is a canyon with a series of linked step-downs that would indeed form an awesome waterfall during runoff or flash floods. It was a fast, twisty descent with lots of steps and a high fun-factor.
Here Steve is in mid-flight coming off one of a series of steps on Waterfall. You can see the piles of tumbleweeds that have collected along the sides of the trail - wouldn't want to get caught in a wind storm out here!
We made our way along the South Shore trail over to the marina, with great views of the eastern end of the reservoir from the canyon rim above. Barely visible in the center of the photo is the greyish tip of Pikes Peak some 45 miles to the north.
Kathleen cruises along the South Shore trail.
Steve winds his way up one of the canyon trails on South Shore. We were amazed at the quality and narrow width of the trails as this area gets major amounts of trail traffic.
Kathleen ascending out of one of the South Shore inlets with some fall color springing up from the desert floor.
High up on the Conduit trail, we were treated to a birds-eye view of the dam. With 3600 surface acres of water behind it, this wall has a very important role.

We were certainly treated to some awesome trails today, linking together about 10.5 miles of good running. And the weather this weekend has just been phenomenal - we don't want our "Indian Summer" to end and intend to soak up every bluebird day we get. We figure there are probably another few days of exploring on foot at Lake Pueblo before needing to repeat any routes - that is fantastic! We will also be back here for sure with the mountain bikes. As for a rival to Fruita, we'll reserve judgement for a few more visits as we have become quite fond of our Western Slope riding/running destination. But at 4 hours less drive time, we have some high hopes for a new addition to our favorite visit list. Happy Trails!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chatfield State Park

With gas being down another forty cents and a full year's Colorado State Parks pass hanging out on the windshield, it was change of venue time this weekend - heading for some new trails! All the years we have lived on the Front Range, we have never been to Chatfield State Park on the southwest portion of suburban Denver. Until today.
We started our run at the southern tip of Chatfield Reservoir and headed south toward Waterton Canyon. It was an awesome day with sunny skies and 75 degree temps making for trail running bliss.
Heading south, we first passed the Gravel Ponds. We ran past more water today than we do in months of regular trail running, so it was a nice change of scenery. Also, the trails here were mostly flat - don't get to say that too often in Colorado but it was good for the legs to have some different cadence. The only thing that was odd - and a pet peeve when a park charges for trail use - NO trail markers. But we survived with only a couple small detours.
A lot of the trails we ran were surrounding the Chatfield Wetlands - a series of ponds and marsh areas near the Platte River.
Here Steve runs along the Platte River on unnamed trail #3 with splendid fall color for a backdrop. We ran a combination of trail surfaces ranging from open grassland type areas with gravel and deep sand to densely wooded, leaf-covered singletrack that was twisty, narrow, and contained many roots and rocks camouflaged by the fallen leaves. It was very quiet and peaceful in the woods and these trails are probably sheltered nicely from the wind on cool late fall/early spring runs - we'll make a mental note of that.
Kathleen briefly comes out of the forest cover for a quick glimpse of the Platte River. We saw quite a few cyclists in the park but no other runners - odd for such an outstanding day.
Steve crunching through the leaves on one of the forested trails. Today was a great discovery day for us, adding new trails to our list and enjoying a totally different type of trail conditions than we normally run close to home. We had a spectacular run and Good Times as always!
Thanks to the Colorado Masters Running/Racewalking Association for the tip on the route - we ran the 10 mile course (plus some extra) from their November 'Chatfield Five & Dime' trail race. Since we enjoyed ourselves, that race might just show up on our November 15 post!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mid-week Trot

I never can get a shot of the entry to Palmer Park after my runs lately because it is dark, so I "cheated" and snapped this one while I was at lunch. This is at one of the main entrances near the baseball fields, playground, dog park, and volleyball courts. At over 700 acres and more than 25 miles of marked trails, this is a nice oasis wedged into the middle of our city.
Got a later start than I have been and had virtually no sunlight as I began my run out onto the Grandview Mesa. It was quite chilly with a stout breeze, but I needed a run and did not mind the environmental conditions. I ran into a handful of mountain bikers who, like me, were desparately attempting to squeeze the maximum dosage of daylight from the park - comraderie of the trail junkies in fall!! It is important to be cautious when running at dusk, especially on more technical trails such as these, because the shadows are sometimes odd and depth perception is off. Another tricky part are the dang rabbits - darting back and forth across the trail, seemingly timed to perfection to arrive right below your next foot-fall. I was able to squeeze out a nice run, free from any bunny squashings, and felt like I maximized my available daylight. Pikes Peak stands watch over the 'skyline' of Colorado Springs and in the darkness of the foreground, the trails are closing down for the night.
Not really having a great deal of anticipation to riding the trainer on these mid-week workouts, so I will get a few more dimly lit runs in before waving the white flag. If we decided to do some night running, it would most certainly be played out on much more tame trails than these. The jury is still out on that as the cold night air is not always kind to our lungs. Get out and enjoy the trails!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Opportunistic Monday

I had been really looking forward to a ride today but contemplated blowing it off when I looked out the window and saw all the frosty white rooftops in the neighborhood. I ran upstairs and logged on to The Weather Channel page for our local zip code and confirmed what my eyes were bleakly seeing - a dreaded 29 degree number. NOOOOOOOOO!!! I screamed. I ran downstairs to let Sage out for her morning "potty", and yes, the outside air that greeted my face when I opened the door also confirmed The Weather Channel's report. Like I said earlier, I ALMOST blew off my ride. After moping around a few minutes and being cranky about the long cold winter heading our way, I realized I needed a serious "attitudinal adjustment". Instead of being negative about the arrival of cold weather, I gave myself a swift kick in the rear and decided to take a more positive view of the situation. Today is an OPPORTUNITY to start developing my thicker "winter" skin. So develop I did. Get out there and suck it up buttercup!

So here I am, above, decked out in my winter gear,and doing so quite happily, after my attitudinal adjustment. Here's a description of my winter wear: base layer is a lightweight merino wool long sleeve. Wool is, after many years of trying all the fancy-schmancy wonder fabrics, THE BEST next to skin layer. It stays warm in spite of getting wet and sweaty. Next is a Pearlizumi Kodiak Light bike jersey. Top that off with a Wind Pro Fleece Vest which blocks the wind and adds a bit of insulation. Tights are winter weight with a front wind panel. Socks are merino wool DeFeet Blaze - I love these socks for riding and running in the winter. Many a time last winter I ran in the Blaze through ankle deep snow and my feet did great each time. Buy some! On my hands, I've got REI's Wind Pro gloves. When it gets extra cold, I will put a pair of Smartwool liner gloves underneath (only when I ride. Usually, the Smartwool glove liners are all I need when I run in the winter). A Smartwool earband tops out the protection. Merino wool and Wind Pro are two of the best fabrics for cold outdoor aerobic sports like running and biking. I like wearing a vest in most cold weather situations rather than a jacket because a vest allows my arms to vent some of the heat build-up but still keeps my core warm. FYI: Sport Hill's 3SP is another MUST HAVE winter fabric, particularly for running. I have a 3SP pant and a 3SP top. Awesome pieces!
It ended up being a wonderful ride. It's amazing what a little swift kick will do!
I headed north on the Santa Fe Trail, winding through the Air Force Academy which is always enjoyable.
Although the weather was crisp and rather gray, I felt blessed to be able to get out and enjoy the day, ending my ride with about 26 miles. It was great!

One trick that works for me in the cooler weather - I always run and ride with an Ice Blue Throat Lozenge in my mouth. It helps to keep my throat and nose from getting irritated breathing in the cold air. The blue Brachs mints work well, too, although they are very difficult to find around here.

Here's a side note unrelated to running and biking: I am making my very own homemade vanilla extract! I will bottle it up and add the bottles to the Christmas packages/baskets I am putting together this year. It is super easy to do. The pictures below show the 3 stages my vanilla is in right now. The bottle on the right has been "soaking", "marinating", "fermenting", "stewing", whatever vanilla does, for 2 days. The bottle in the middle, 2 weeks and the bottle on the left for 4 weeks. Basically all you need to do is get canning jars, vodka, and vanilla beans. Mix the vodka and vanilla beans and let "marinate" for 3 months - shaking the bottles every other day or so over that 3 months - then you have wonderful vanilla extract! If you are interested, I've attached 2 links below. One is for the recipe I used and one is for the supplier I purchased the beans from. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winter is coming ... thankfully not quite yet!!

The clouds lifted overnight, leaving us a very crisp but clear morning and revealing some new snowfall on the Peak. We have had some great fall weather this year which we did not have last year, so we are quite thankful. But we know there is winter on the way - you could feel it in the air this morning. Since the forecast was for more of yesterday's gray skies, we wanted to grab the opportunity for some sun and blue sky while we could and decided to head down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park - our new trail stash we found last week.
There are mountain bike races on the trails here next weekend, so we figured we would get some running in today and go elsewhere next week. It was 50 and windy (making it feel more like 40) when we started but it beats a foot of snow and we were thankful for the chance to get in a long run.
The colors have finally started to change on the south end of town - to the north where we live we have already lost all the leaves on 2 of our 4 large trees! This scene is near the lower end of the park on Zook Loop with a little fall color behind Kathleen. Zook loops away from the main parking area and branches to many other trails.
At the intersection known as the Rock Garden we diverted to the Blackmer Loop and started the climb. We wanted to try a few new trails this visit, so we climbed part of Blackmer to the Boulder Run trail and headed to the north side of the park we had not seen yet. We ran Boulder Run to Racoon Ridge, Bobcat Way, and Soaring Kestrel trails, all of which are partly to mostly finished but still in "raw" form in a few areas. There are a couple large open meadows on Bobcat with views out to NORAD and good sight line to the 'Antenna Farm' on top of Cheyenne Mountain - gotta keep track of all those satellites!
These friendly cactus provide a nice warning to stay on the trail as falling into a patch of these would make for an unpleasant drive home.
Kathleen blazing the trail through fall foliage on the Soaring Kestrel trail. With some of our friends and family experiencing difficult times of late, we never take for granted our opportunities to explore and enjoy the trails and take in a great day!
Near the bottom edge of the park on the Turkey Trot trail, we were being observed by several of these curious critters. We were lucky this guy stayed above board long enough to be photographed. It is good that dogs are prohibited from the trails here as Sage would never leave this area!
Back up onto the Cougar's Shadow trail, Steve enjoys the descent through the pines while weaving between the boulders. The forest and scrub oak areas of the park were mostly sheltered from the wind today which allowed us to be much more comfortable than the wind chill would have felt elsewhere.Kathleen finishing strong toward the bottom of the Medicine Wheel trail, a technical and twisty boulder-filled trail that tests your footwork and gets the heart rate going - gotta keep those knees up! We were able to string together 10 miles of beautiful trail running and finish with the sun shining on us. Within a half hour of arriving home, the clouds had backed in against the foothills and we finished the afternoon gray and cold - we are very thankful for the window of opportunity we had to hit the trails - Good Times!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gray Day and a Cup o' Joe

For scheduling reasons, we had to get moving early this morning - well at least by 7:15. When the mercury is sitting at 39 degrees, that is early enough. We needed to be time efficient, so we took off from the front door and ran a loop on the trails in Ute Valley Park. Must have been a schedule sort of day because we saw several other runners and hikers out early for a crisp, foggy morning. We ended up having a great run, though, logging about 6 miles of trail and feeling pretty strong after some good runs on our week off. We're trying out a new plan for the cold season - go as long as possible with light clothing until forced to break out the "winter" gear. We'll see how it goes - you always feel better (and run better) when not mummified by multiple layers of clothing.

After Kathleen took off, Steve went with Sage to the local park to get her a little exercise. Australian Shepherds do not do well when they have to stay inside all day!
Sage actually enjoys this time of year much more than her parents, especially with the heavy fur coat she wears. She looks darn good for getting ready to celebrate her 11th birthday! As you can see behind her, there were no mountain vistas to be had today. The weather is calling for more of the same tomorrow, not good since we need a long run.
Our walk was cut short by the rain man - we made it home a little damp and then the rain really started. One of those gray days...
So I was forced to put on a pot of coffee rather than rake leaves and mow the lawn - bummer!!! In case you were wondering, I am a coffee freak. Kathleen does not like hot drinks, so she has been more of an iced tea person. However, I recently got her hooked on Iced Mochas (key=chocolate), so my espresso maker has been doing extra duty. Back to the Joe - today I brewed some Organic Blacklightning from Aroma Coffee of Santa Fe that I picked up while in New Mexico. It is quite a nice coffee, smooth and dark which is my preference. Contrary to what you might think, the dark roasts are not necessarily the strongest in terms of caffeine. What I like about the dark roasts that I generally buy is that they are not as bitter and don't leave the after taste of some of the brighter roasts. If you are a coffee junkie also, I would highly suggest trying out some beans from Rocky Mountain Roastery in Fraser, CO. I have three all time favorites there - Italian Roast, Organic French Roast, and Team Totally Wired. RMR is a small batch roaster and often times when you order beans, they were roasted the same day or the previous day and come to you nice and fresh! Plus, they are coming straight from one of our favorite trail areas on the planet so every cup evokes memories of sweet singletrack.

Here's hoping that tomorrow brings a long run and some trail photos.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo...

Is owning 4 pairs of trail running shoes considered obssessive for a 41 year-old, otherwise somewhat normal trail running male? I'm not sure but somewhere along the line I have picked up Kathleen's affection for footwear, at least as far as running goes. I wouldn't call it a fetish, I just like to have my options.

I went for a post work run at Palmer Park tonight and squeezed out 5 miles before dusk was upon me. The leaves crunching underfoot and crisp evening air remind me that fall is not going away, so I better enjoy the trails as much as possible. It was a great run for an evening after work and it is beginning to look like we might have to follow the suggestion of TZ and pick up some running worthy headlamps. I for one am not ready to give in to the seasonal mandate of indoor seclusion on the bike trainer (no treadmill in our home) - there are too many days in a Colorado winter where that is the only option, so why burn those up now?

... and by the way, I picked green tonight!

PS - Didn't want to leave out that Kathleen picked up 21 miles on the road bike Monday and got in a 5 mile trail run this morning before work. Happy Trails!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

We hit the Jackpot!

...Well, not that kind of jackpot - we hit the new trails lottery! We have been wanting to find a fresh stash of trails locally so we could get a little more variety in our trail diet. We had heard from several people that the 'new' state park on the south end of town was nice but we had just never tried it. Cheyenne Mountain State Park opened in the Fall of 2006 but has been a work in progress. Definite kudos to the park officials and the trail designers as this is a top notch facility.
There are currently 20 miles of trails finished in the park and more coming. All of the trails are color coded on the park map and the trail markers, which is pretty cool. The trail surface ranges from buff, crushed granite to embedded boulders and all things in between. Sounds like fun running!
Color coordinated trail markers - collect the whole set!!!
Cheyenne Mountain is home to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and, more notably, NORAD - the Aerospace Defense command post that is 2000' underground inside the mountain seen above. Don't get any funny ideas about strolling up in your trail running garb and knocking on the 'front door' or you may not be home in time for dinner!!!
Steve is running on the Cougar's Shadow trail, which is a nice forested section above the Blackmer Loop. Since we have a lot of cougar in our mountains, I would have probably chosen a better name for a remote trail but they did not ask!
Kathleen is cruising a buffed section on the Blackmer Loop. It is a good climb from the base up onto Blackmer and then the loop rolls along in one of the more alpine sections of the park.
A cooperative boulder lent a helping hand to get a shot of both of us running a little farther up Blackmer. This park is immaculate and we are very surprised it has not had more use.
Kathleen coming through a 'rock garden' near the intersection of Zook and Blackmer trails. We call these babyheads, no offense to our friends out there with children!!!
A gnarled old tree makes a nice arch to run through on the Sundance trail. Sundance bridges the terrain between the alpine level, the scrub oaks, and the prairie dog colony in the open fields at the base. With a great variety of foliage and trail surface, and plenty of trails already established, this park is for sure going to become part of our regular trail regimen.
We linked together about 9.5 miles today and had an absolute blast! With the southern exposure of most of the trail areas and the position on the south end of town, this is sure to be a nice haven in the winter when our higher trails are snowpacked and icy. Happy Trails!
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