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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cold, snow, running, and caffeine

The weather man really blew it for our holiday weekend. All week we were expecting some sun and at least high 40's - good running weather for the end of November...
...however, anyone who lives in the Rockies knows that weather professionals get paid to be accurate 20% of the time - if they do that, they get to keep their jobs! As you can see, we got another 2 - 3 inches of fresh powder over night (and someone forgot to bring in the door mat...) After a fantastic fall of blue skies and WAY above average temps, we're getting slapped in the face with mountain reality - winter has arrived! Now it does help to put the holiday spirit in gear and ramp up for Christmas. BUT, it also puts a real damper on the "trail" portion of trail running. We are now in the entry to winter version of Mud Season. Two inches of snow, temps hovering in the 30's, and a little of our high altitude UV rating produces a nice mixture of mud in the open areas and snowpack/ice in the sheltered areas. We try to not brutalize our trails, so mud is usually not an option for our runs unless it is limited and keeps the trail in a manageable state. As for the ice...
... it is time to dig the Screw Shoes from the closet and dust them off for winter. For those who are not accustomed to ice on the trails, fall on it hard once and then you'll beg for screw shoes. If you run trails in the snow and ice, these are essential and very easy to manufacture. Just grab some 3/8" and 1/2" slotted sheet metal screws from your hardware store and pull out your (or your neighbor's) cordless screwdriver and find a pair of shoes that you are comfortable wearing but don't mind putting some holes in the tread. As you can see in the pic, mine have 11 screws each - probably just about right depending on how icy and how much you weigh. Be careful if you are using a gel or air cushioned shoe as to the placement of the screws. Also try to attach at the tallest part of the tread so the screws actually make good contact. That's it, you are ready for the ice.
We did get out for a short run today, just to get some leg turnover after a couple pretty hard runs. It was a balmy 28 degrees with 14 wind chill with beautiful gray skies and light snow when we ventured out. With tired legs, we put in a quick 4.5 miles on our local multi-use trails and then came in for the day as it continued to snow. We ran two completely new routes in the past 3 days, which is not normal for us (we like routine), and both were hard runs. We will continue to add runs such as these to our lineup so we continue to build a base of both mileage and strength. We finished with our current favorite recovery fuel - caffeine, milk, and chocolate syrup - yummy. For you java heads out there, my current bean on-deck is from Dazbog, a Denver micro-roaster. Good stuff for sure, we used organic French roast for the espresso today, but their organic KGBlend is also quite good. If you live in a warm climate with dry trails, we envy you today. If you don't, bundle up and run anyway. Happy Trails!
Shoes - K Asics Gel Nimbus
S Brooks Cascadia

Remembering great moments of sport . . .

Today is a very different kind of post . . .

Seeing 2001 Women's Mountain Bike Champion, Alison Dunlap yesterday got me (K) thinking about a couple of incredible moments of "great sport" - you know - those wonderful moments that give you goose bumps, that make you smile, that might make you cry, that leave an indelible image forever etched in the memory bank. Those special memories provide energy, inspiration, enthusiasm, awe, and a reminder that lots of good still remains in a world where so much bad seems to pervade. The finish at the 2001 Mountain Bike World Championships is the first image I will never forget. . .

Steve and I drove up to Vail, CO for the day to watch the men's and women's Cross Country World Championship Mountain bike races. The race was taking place just a week after the devastation of 9/11. For us, it was a brief respite from the reality of the heart-rending tragedy that had just shell-shocked our country. We were there to cheer on our favorites of the sport. The women's race was first and all of the favorites jumped to the front at the start gun. The U.S. fans went crazy when Colorado Springs local, Alison Dunlap, took the lead on the final lap, passing Canadian and multiple World Champ, Alison Sydor. The course was a multi lap, 3 loop clover leaf pattern covering 12k per lap and allowed great spectator viewing. The energy was electric as AD pushed hard to stay ahead of AS. We watched on the big screens, at the finish, as AD and AS entered the last mile or so together, that would wind through the quaint streets of Vail Village. As the two women charged into the twisty streets of the Village, their images disappeared from the screens. The announcer reported that the two women were neck and neck. I remember the literal collective inhalation and breath-holding of 15,000 fans at the finish, waiting to see who would emerge from the Village the victor. The crowd was completely silent. The announcer was silent. The blaring, festive music stopped. Everyone was holding their breath. Then, the silence erupted into thunderous cheering. There she was, Alison Dunlap, rounding the corner and pedaling toward the finish line, grabbing a U.S. flag, crossing the finish, and falling into a heap, overcome by emotion. It was awesome. But what was even more awesome, to me, was seeing the great Alison Sydor cross the line, close behind, for second, throwing her bike to the ground, running up to AD and wrapping her up in a big bear hug. AS grabbed AD by the shoulders and shook her and we could read AS's lips, "I am so happy for you!". To see such genuine joy and exuberance for a fellow competitor was extremely moving. It is one of those great moments of Sport I will never forget.

The second great moment of Sport I will never forget is an image from the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Steve and I enjoy watching cross-country skiing - it is a hard but beautiful sport. At that time, Bjorn Daehlie from Norway, was the king of cross-country ski racing. He was awesome to watch - so much raw power combined with efficient, graceful movement. We had just watched the television coverage of Daehlie win the 10k Classic race in 26 minutes. Instead of removing his skiis and getting warmed up for the medal ceremony, he stood and waited in the cold at the finish. Racer after racer crossed the line. 90 racers crossed the line after Daehlie. The medal ceremony was delayed. Daehlie continued to stand at the finish and wait. Spectators started to leave. Twenty minutes passed. All of the racers had come into the finish except one.
Daehlie was waiting for that one racer, a Kenyan named Phillip Boit. Boit had never seen snow until two years previous. To see the mighty figure of Daehlie waiting alone at the finish for Boit was another one of those great moments of Sport. Seeing him embrace and congratulate the exhausted and awkward Kenyan when he finally crossed the line was unforgettable. It was a "goose bump and tear in the eye" kind of moment - a mental picture that will forever be embedded in my mind. I LOVE those kinds of moments! Inspiration at its finest.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Palmer - Section 16 - Intemann Trail Loop

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! We dug out all of our local trail books and came up with some new routes we are pretty excited to try. Today's was one of those routes and it's a keeper! We started up High Drive following a group of 10 hearty mountain bikers. Part of that group was 2001 Women's Mountain Bike World Champion, Alison Dunlap, one of our locals. We ended up passing the mountain bikers as we entered the Palmer - Section 16 singletrack (they were waiting for a couple of stragglers).
Steve heading up and up. This side of the loop starts with a long but very runnable (albeit somewhat slowly) climb.

The snow provided really good traction today.

The vistas were really pretty. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't too great for showing the beauty in the pics.

Now we get some reward for the climb - a little descending is in order! Most of the descent is quite steep, though, and more technical, with lots of rocks and roots, than the climb we came up. We figured we descended about 1100 feet in 1.25 miles.

We found the trail that connects with Red Rock Canyon. There are so many trails that can be linked together in this area! And close to home . . . Bonus!

The sun started to peek out periodically late in the run . The red rocks of Garden of the Gods rise up in the distance.

Down some steps on the Intemann Trail with some glorious sun peeking through!

Back at the trailhead, with the sun still smiling. So are we! Lots of fun. The Garmin recorded 10 miles and 3130 feet of climbing. We should get stronger with regular runs like this - that's our goal! It was an awesome loop with the potential to link it with many other trails nearby - we are eyeing connecting most of this route with Jones Park/Bear Creek for a 15 mile very high quality run. Much longer routes are possible. With some good effort, the possibilities are almost endless. We've got some work to do to get stronger so we can see and savor everything available! Living and loving life . . .

Shoes: S - Asics Gel Trabuco
K - Asics Gel Trabuco

Thursday, November 27, 2008

High Quality Thanksgiving

Took a drive this morning to Boulder, Colorado to meet up with Tim to share a Thanksgiving trail run and dinner. It was gray and cool but we were upbeat about getting in a run in a new area and also spending some time with a fellow trail runner!
We're climbing what?!?! We had a very gracious and patient trail guide today as we headed out (and UP) on the Mesa and Bear Canyon trails. Thanks Tim!
Nearing the top of one of the steep climbs.
This was a familiar view of Tim today - he's a speed goat!!! Yes, really! Not only is he super speedy, he's a member of the Wasatch Speed Goat Mountain Racing Team.
Candid trail moment!
We were climbing above the famed, and very beautiful, Flatirons on the west side of Boulder.
COLD group photo at the turn around point at the top of Bear Canyon - we did not stand around long here!
Tim had a chance to take a breather coming down out of the canyon...
... finally we caught up to him. We really had a great time today, getting in almost 10 miles on some awesome and rugged trails with nearly 3000' of elevation gain. We have much to be thankful for today - so many blessings - our health, our families, old friends, and some new friends!!! Happy Trails!
Shoes K Asics Gel Trabuco
S Asics Gel Trabuco

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fabulous fall mountain biking

Today was a glorious crisp, sunny, bluebird fall day! Becky and I headed out on our mountain bikes to the U.S. Air Force Academy to hit one of our favorite close-by trails, the Falcon Trail. Mondays are usually pretty quiet on the local trails but today we saw about 8 other mountain bikers, 6 of them women. Kinda wierd to see more ladies out riding than men.

The Falcon Trail is a 13 mile loop. It does have a rather remote feel to it most of the ride even though you are not far from civilization at any point.

We managed to eek out a 33 mile ride. Each week we wonder if it might be the last long mountain bike ride for awhile - so far so good - we'll keep hitting the trails as long as the weather permits. We generally can ride here along the Front Range all winter - we try to avoid muddy trails, snowpack, and ICE!!! I've had a few nasty falls on the bike on ice over the years where I was SURE I had broken a hip (but didn't, thankfully!) - those falls HURT A.L.O.T. so we try to avoid those conditions.

My post-ride recovery fuel involved a Non-fat Iced Mocha, extra chocolate!!! I am not a coffee drinker but Steve coaxed me into trying one on a more recent road trip (chocolate being the lure) and I AM HOOKED!!! He created an Iced Mocha Monster! Keeping our fingers crossed for more rideable winter Mondays . . . . . . Happy trails this week!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Rock Canyon

We had a nice day today to head over to Red Rock Canyon Open Space for some good running. It was pleasant - mid 40's - with a strong wind developing that made it feel a little on the cooler side. But with brilliant sunshine and nice trails, it was another day for happy trails! We started out running up the Red Rock Rim and then down through Red Rock Canyon to get warmed up before tackling the outer loop. There sure were a lot of people out on the trails today - maybe they were out getting some 'guilt' exercise so they could load up on poultry and pie on Thursday!!!
It sure felt like it took a long time to get the legs and lungs rolling today. Here Kathleen is climbing the Red Rock Rim trail with just the tip of Pikes Peak visible in the background. It has been a while since we've run here, and with all the singletrack running we have been doing, we forgot how much dirt road there was to run here. But it is great scenery and sure beats asphalt, so we're OK with that.
Steve runs the Red Rock Rim with one of the many walls of red granite in the background that made this prime area for the quarry years ago, and now serve as the popular playground for many local rock climbers. We were surprised that with the abundant sunshine today, we saw very few climbers on our descent through the Red Rock Canyon trail.
Kathleen runs the narrow singletrack on the Contemplative trail. This area is usually tunnel-like when the foliage is on the trees, but is a little barren right now.
Steve is climbing the Roundup trail here with several of Garden of the Gods signature rock formations seen in the distance.
As you can see from the profile the Garmin captured, there is nothing really flat at Red Rock. You go up one canyon and descend the other side, then start again! That is part of the reason this run always seems so taxing - at least to us. We finished our day with 10 miles and 2300 feet of climbing, so it was a great workout (even greater when it is the end of November and we are running in shorts - or skirt!!) We are thankful as always for our health, family and friends, and our incredible access to so many awesome trails so close to home - no need to wait until Thursday to count our many blessings. Get out and enjoy the trails if you can this week, and for sure, find the many things around you to be thankful for!
Shoes K Asics Gel Trabuco
S Asics Gel Trabuco

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A cold start ... then a nice spin in the Garden

Kathleen needed to head to work this morning, so she headed out early for a quick run in Ute Valley Park with her friend, C. It was quite cold when they headed out - 20 degrees but felt like 14 with the wind chill - I let them go by themselves - I wanted to hold out for the forecasted 50 degreees! We have been friends with C and her husband P for about 13 years. They are an awesome couple. C is one of our local elite female runners. She has had a number of top 3 finishes in the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon over the years, mixing it up with "big" girls like Anita Ortiz, Lisa Goldsmith, and others of that running caliber. Now that Kathleen has accumulated a few more running miles in her legs, she is hoping to get some training runs in with C this year (trying to keep her in sight will be a good start!) and glean some knowledge (a little more strength and speed wouldn't be bad, either) from her years of running and racing experience. And FUN, it's mostly about having FUN!!! We live only about 2 miles apart so, hopefully, they will be able to hook up periodically, when schedules allow (they have 4 young kids!!!). Anyway, the girls seemed to have had a fun and good run this morning, in spite of the cold.
I have been having trouble finding some replacement shoes as my 2 pairs of Cacsadia 2's are nearing retirement, and I generally do not run 2 days in a row in the same pair of shoes. I took a tip from the Trail Zombie and checked out the Asics Gel Trabuco at one of the local shops this morning. They fit great right out of the box, and I decided to head out to Garden of the Gods and put them to the test. This was odd as I usually wear new shoes around the house a few days first to make sure everything is 'perfect'. I don't know why I have never tried these, as Kathleen has been a diehard Asics fan for a while now. The Garden was awesome as always with plenty of blue sky and crisp mid-40's air - pretty good for late November (and certainly better than the 14 degrees the girls had this morning!).
Cruising the Palmer trail here, with one of the many cool rock formations in the background. While we have enjoyed the non-seasonal weather, it is quite dry and our trails could use a little moisture. So we'll enjoy the good trail running weather while we can, as we know the moisture that will inevitably come will be snow and with that comes the periodic snowpacked/icy trails for 3 months or so. That will be another post where we can teach you how to make 'screw' shoes'!!! Lots of fun!
Coming out of the trees at the top of Palmer trail, overlooking South Gateway Rock.

Running the lower portion of the Niobrara trail, with Pikes Peak looming large on the horizon. (You don't realize how hard it is to capture photographic moments on the trail without a second person to take the pictues.)

From the top of Niobrara, it is cool to see the 'layers' of the park unfold to the north. It was a great day on the trails! The initial run in the Trabuco was good - no blisters, no feet falling off - very positive - thanks for the tip, TZ! Got in a nice 8 miler and although I don't normally do so, I will probably run in them again tomorrow. Good times!
Shoes K Asics Trail Attack
S Asics Gel Trabuco

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Well, we had another fabulous fall day here in the Rockies. Mild temps have been very welcome - the past couple of winters have been extra cold so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the mild weather continues. Another bonus for today: I (K) think I "escaped" getting really sick which I am totally thankful for. I am usually one, at this time of year, who doesn't just settle for a simple cold. Oh no, I usually go right into full-blown bronchitis. It has been my nemesis. So no bronchitis = good!
We headed to the south end of town to one of our favorite areas, Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Although the park consists mostly of non-technical trails with a few rocks and roots to keep it interesting, the scenery and the flow of the trails is very enjoyable. We are pretty easy to please - just give us a gorgeous day and the ability to "just get out" and we are happy!
Although mostly smooth, the park does have a few rocky sections to keep it interesting. We were shooting for 10 to 12 miles at a S.L.O.W. mellow pace (there are 20 miles of developed, marked trail in the park right now with more to come) since I was trying to make sure to escape getting bronchitis and Steve is coming back from his bout of pneumonia, we ended up with only 9 S.L.O.W. miles. Oh well. We were out and it was all good!
We saw more people out on the trails today than we ever have in this park but it was by no means crowded. Everyone was out savoring the sunny 63 degree day.
You can see the trail behind Steve, heading up into the trees. Did I mention it was a gorgeous, bluebird day?
Colorado Springs is in the background, above.
This is high in the trees on the Blackmer Trail.
This is the Rock Garden at the intersection of the Zook and Blackmer trails. Even though I wasn't able to do the trail race I had hoped to do today and we cut our run a little short, it still was a good time. Always. We try to count and appreciate our blessings every day, which are many - big and small - and the run today was one. We should both be back on track by next weekend and be able to get a longer run in. Happy trails to all this week . . .
Shoes: S - Brooks Cascadia 2
K - Asics Trailsensor 2

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Easy Running Day ... and a brief rant

It was a crisp morning and we decided to run the Santa Fe Trail today for some easier miles. This is our "road running" - as close as we get to it at least - Santa Fe is fairly wide and smooth with a crushed granite surface. We have not been here to run in quite a while because it becomes a staple of our winter running diet once the snow and ice are packed on our favorite trails.
One of the reasons we needed some easy miles is that Kathleen is fighting off some sort of crud, which we are pretty sure originated with the children of our friends, neither of which exercise or read our blog, so we can rant about them! ;-) What is up with people who have children needing to parade them around their friends when the kids are sick - why can't you JUST.STAY.HOME.? Please. We don't get it but we are not allowed to ask that question for real because we don't have any kids. So if anyone would like to let us know why it is necessary, we would appreciate the wisdom. :-) Back to the run, although it was crisp and cool, it was a very nice and sunny day and there was NO wind.

It was a good change of pace day for the legs, getting some faster turnover and a steady, consistent cadence.

As you can see, the trail is pretty wide open in most places and has a very rural feel even though it runs along Interstate 25 for most of it's length. It also runs through the Air Force Academy and we got to see some skydivers warming up before the pre-game air show.

As always, the scenery factor is quite high when you have Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop!!

A little snow lingers along the banks of the creek from yesterday's brief storm...

...and also on shady areas of the trail. Not a terribly exciting day and these runs can be a bit monotonous for us, but any day we can get out and enjoy any type of trail is a good day indeed. We are hoping that Kathleen can outlast the crud and can run tomorrow, although her planned race is most certainly not happening thanks to those charming little germ carriers - God bless 'em, we still love them! Get out and enjoy the last of Fall!

Shoes K - Asics Gel Nimbus
S - Asics Gel Landreth
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