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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Week in review

Tuesday Run - Palmer Park

Tuesday after work, I put some trail under foot at one of my my favorite post-work spots, Palmer Park. While some might get bored with the same trails, the fact is that when a park like this is convenient and easy to access within minutes of leaving work, you are more likely to stay motivated to run after being at the grind all day. Above is a shot peering through the rock formations on the top of the Yucca Trail, overlooking one of the busier intersections in town - quite a contrast. I prefer the trails myself!
There were hordes of trail users out, and especially a lot of traffic on the mesas as everyone was making the most of the available daylight. With waves of pillow-like clouds rolling over, there were intermittent periods of blazing evening sunlight and deep gray shadows as the day's light was fading away.
Nothing like the last rays of a beautiful day streaming through the cloud cover to show off the silhouette of Pikes Peak! I was able to get a nice run in and enjoy the last of the days' sunshine on some fine trails - hard to beat!

Deja Vu at Palmer Park

It seems as though I was just here running...
... I was able to make it out again for a quick run at Palmer Park on Thursday night. I was planning my runs around two schedules - 1. My folks were here visiting/watching my nephew, so I was able to get some time in while they were driving to baseball games and practices. (on an unrelated note, I don't see why 13 year old kids need to have 3 nights of practice and 2 nights of games - when does that leave time to be a kid?) 2. At the same time, I was trying to keep an eye on my lovely wife and (usually) running partner who is having a whale of a time getting over this round of bronchitis.
It felt great to be out on the trails again - two weeknight runs certainly helps put down some base miles. The trails were even more crowded tonight - mostly bikes though. It is odd how few trail runners we see at Palmer Park as it is an outstanding place to run.
I was able to capture the Peak at sunset driving out of the park - I especially enjoy the night skyline with the sun going down behind the mountains.

Ahh .. The Weekend

It was an interesting contrast of weather this weekend and Spring is definitely still here! Saturday morning we were greeted with thick fog and drizzle. I waited for it to break and it did not. So I took a run in the drizzle with no camera, got a little damp trail under foot, and called it a day.
Sunday, the sun was back out and we headed up to Greenland Open Space, about 40 minutes north of home. These are the trails that will play host to the 25k race I am signed up for in 2 weeks. Instead of staying home (which is driving her out of her mind), Kathleen came along and was at least able to get out for a nice long walk with Sage. My goal was to study the course and plan a little for the race. It will be my longest run to date and I wanted to have a little preparation under my belt. Pikes Peak was just sneaking it's head above the hills as seen from the trailhead.
The view out from the Greenland Trail as an engine awaits a passing train.
The sights of Spring - 20" of snow mixed with winter's dormant prairie and two weeks of sunshine yields signs of life! These flowers were popping out everywhere along the trails.
This is definitely "Open" space!!
It appears as though the singletrack will lead you right to the tip of Pikes Peak - except for the 50 miles that lies between the top of the hill and the BIG mountain! It really is a great area to run, with the wide open vistas lined with rolling trails. One thing is for sure, there are going to be some people drag racing on this course. The trails are in good condition and the climbs are a nice gradient making for some very fast track for the gazelles at the front!
I was able to run 14.5 miles - my longest run ever - and my legs felt really good after the run. It was a nice day, with great trails and sunshine, which is always a recipe for a long-lasting grin!
We got in a family photo at the trailhead. I am really anxious for Kathleen to get back on the trails with me soon. She is extremely frustrated with this bout of crud she has had and is itching to get back to running. I am glad my girls made the trip with me today and were patient while I did my long run! Happy Trails and have a great week!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sun Returns!

It is fantastic to get a view of Pikes peak in the morning with a blanket of fresh snow ... in January! When it is almost May, not as much excitement but when it comes with bluebird skies and sunshine, we'll still take it. Our snow tapered off yesterday afternoon and the rain ended late last night, so it was sunny day and time to get some miles. I had considered getting some good miles on Gold Camp Road - the old mining road from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. Kathleen was going to hang out at the truck and knit so she could at least get out of the house for a while. So we drove up Cheyenne Canyon and started to get a bit nervous at the amount of snow we were seeing, especially since most of town was melting out so fast from the wet snow. We arrived at the trailhead to find shin deep snow - no thanks for a 10 to 12 mile run! So I brought her home and decided to run a couple laps of the Flying W Loop that we use near home - you'll get pictures of Gold Camp at a later date, though ;-)
I figured the double loop on Flying W might not be a bad idea since the Greenland race course will also be two nearly identical loops. This is me at the base of the first climb up Flying W - about the only spot I had a good shot of the Peak from this loop. So my theory was to get in a run with two laps and two distinct climbs to somewhat model the 25k course and then test my pacing. It worked really well although my route today was shorter at just over 11 miles but it had almost 200' more climb, so it was a pretty good dummy route. I was quite comfortable with the pace, staying conservative on the first ascent and pushing a bit more on the second. I ended up with 8:23 average, faster than I have ever done the single loop of FW, so I was pleased.
Here's the Greenland course map and elevation profile from USATF.
Here is what I did today.

Actually turned out to be a nice day and a good run. My biggest concerns for the races are always starting too fast with all the adrenaline at the gun and/or hitting a lull somewhere in the middle that sucks the wind out of your pace. If I can fight those two off, I think it will be a good run for me.

Asics Gel Trabuco

Just in case you're wondering, the other half of Happy Trails, my lovely Kathleen, has been attempting to use up her anxious energy from not running by doing a lot of knitting. It is not working well, but she may get to venture out on a small outing next weekend - we'll see. The mocha colored Alpaca on the right is Mr Logan and he was kind enough to "donate" some fur last summer that was spun into the wool that Kathleen used to make this:
The Logan Bag
She likes to find things when we are out of town that help commemorate different places we have visited - so this is now one of our Taos memories. Thanks Logan!

Happy Trails everyone and have a great week!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Running, LOTS more Spring, and a race

I was able to get in a run after work on Wednesday night at Palmer Park. The weatherman was forecasting a huge storm system for Colorado starting Thursday night, so I figured I should try to get some miles in for a "worst case scenario" weekend. It was sunny and 65 when I left the parking lot at work and drove 3 blocks to Palmer Park. It was a great evening with the sun flooding the mesa on top of the park with it's radiant beams. However, 20 minutes into the run, the sun gave way to some fast moving clouds coming in over Pikes Peak...
... and by the time I got in a quick 7 miles, there was no Peak and barely any foothills still showing through. Before I could even drive down out of the park, it was pouring rain. WOW! Weather moves fast in the mountains, there is no doubt about that! But I got my run in, which was a good thing because ----
Wednesday I signed up for the Greenland 25k race on May 9! I figured since we would not be going over to Gunnison for the Sage Burner, I might as well just get signed up for this one. 15.5 miles - I have never raced that far but we know the course from running and biking it, so I think it will be fine. I am actually looking forward to it. I'm not big on goals for racing (someone else is the competitive one!!!) but I would like to hit somewhere in the 8:30 - 8:40 per mile pace. I was going to set my goal pace as Just Don't Suck, but figured that was setting the bar a little low!!! LOL!
So the weatherman was right. It started hailing Thursday evening, then rain, then snow. And it did not stop, except for a few brief rest periods, until tonight (Saturday). Lots of heavy wet spring snow. There were a couple areas in our mountains that received 50"+ of the white stuff. I think the April Showers thingy has worn out it's welcome in Colorado this year!
I knew that regular trails were so far out of the question that I did not even attempt that option. So I headed off to the Santa Fe trail to at least get some leg turnover. Here is the view across our neighborhood park on the way over.
The wind was blowing hard from the north, so the start of the run was directly into it. There was sleet at first, which then turned to snow and it stung on the face at times. Here I am at about mile 2 - already soaked but not doing too bad.
Almost the entire length of what I ran was either standing water or slushy. So I hit the three mile turn around and headed back. This is what was left of the snow on Santa Fe after having rain this morning. There was much less than we had at home - amazing what 600' difference in elevation does!
All the wet snow and rain had Sand Creek well beyond it's normal trickle - alpine desert + water = GOOD!
I was completely satisfied to get in 6 miles at a nice pace under these weather conditions. I am hoping to find something decent tomorrow to get in a long run without knee deep mud. I am hoping for a couple weeks of warm and sun - the Greenland area (where the race will be held) reportedly received 20" or more of snow from this storm. That is a lot of melting to get done in the coming weeks. Happy Trails and we're hoping maybe next weekend Kathleen will be up to at least some activity!

Shoes - Asics Gel Trabuco

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Running Solo ... and Spring in Colorado

No Kathleen on the runs for a couple weeks with the Bronchitis episode, so I headed out Friday with me, myself and i(Pod). It was a weird, grayish morning with almost fog-like haze hanging out and keeping the temp pretty cool. I landed on the trails at Garden of the Gods, hoping to get in some singletrack before the next round of weather hit the Rockies.
The haziness made for some good highlights on the layers of the hills that are usually flattened by our bright sunshine. The lighting gave a nice view of the layers at Red Rock Canyon, seen here from the Ute Trail. The scenery actually was quite nice today, and I'm always at a toss-up over using the iPod, especially on trail runs. I really hate to pass up the sounds and sights if I am wrapped up in a tune. At the same time, I so rarely run alone that the silence can be a bit disconcerting.
The haze finally started to burn off about 20 minutes or so into the run and gave the sun a little permission to start warming up the bones. I had to get some help from the fence posts and rocks in the park to get an action pic or two thrown in.
I loved this view heading down the Niobrara trail - I was under a cloud, but the big rock formations were poking out in the sunlight. It was a nicely textured landscape, I thought.
Taking a breather on the Scotsman Trail, with a nice overlook to Pikes Peak...
... and another look at the mountain from the "lovely" sand steps.
Running the Niobrara Trail along the southern wall of the old reservoir. It was nice to get out today and enjoy the dirt underfoot. I eneded up squeezing out about 11 miles and felt really good after the run. I miss my running partner and definitely cannot be accomodated by the iPod, but it was a good day and a fun run. Happy Trails!

Shoe - Asics Gel Trabuco

Spring time??
As predicted, we had snow falling Saturday morning. It was wet stuff and was soaking in as fast as it fell - at 33 degrees it was just enough to keep from sticking. That is a bad combination for our trails, and sure enough, the trail into Ute Valley Park was ankle deep mud. So instead of the beautiful singletrack on the right, I was left with the multi-use trail. I waited for most of the snow to stop but still had some snow and sleet on the run. It was very quiet and I saw no one running, riding, or walking.
I was pretty soggy by the time I made my way to the start of the climb up and over Flying W Ranch. This view is lined with the foothills as a backdrop, but not today. I could not even see the quarry close to our house as the clouds were so low. This is a good thing, though, because we need the water so desparately. We just wish we had a handful of trails that could handle the wet conditions better. We're certainly not ones to leave 3" deep pock-marks all down the trail just because we could not stay off them for a day or two.
Not far now - wet runner spotted at the top of Flying W! I was content with a 6 mile run today and also satisfied with a week of good training. I ran 5 days this week, the most since early last fall, so that will be a nice step up in the training block. Since I am normally a weekend only runner, that is good for me.
Kathleen and I had hoped to be using the week off as a spring into some good training for a few events coming up, but her bad luck with the health lottery is going to dampen that enthusiasm. I may take a shot at the Greenland 25K in May, since we certainly will not be going over to Gunnison for the Sage Burner at this point. I'm not complaining though, so don't take it that way. My mom is one year out from thyroid cancer and 5 years surviving breast cancer. And Kathleen's mom just had her second major cancer surgery in 6 months. We are SO VERY THANKFUL to have our health, regardless of blips on the fitness radar. We never take our days for granted - Happy Trails everyone, (even if they're soggy!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Southwestern Desert Getaway

The Journey

After a first quarter to the year that was a bit tumultuous, we decided to take a bit of down time and wanted somewhere that would not be cold and would not be far from home. With Kathleen having some nagging issues with her neck after her January accident, we knew we were not going to be doing any long runs on the trip. So we decided to head to Taos, New Mexico where we could get some sun, some running, and some good relaxation. Turned out, that was a good plan.
We started our drive in wet and spitting snow but by the time we hit the turn at Walsenburg, CO, we had some blue skies breaking out - sweet! Those are the Spanish Peaks - East on the left at 12,683' and West on the right at 13,625'.
Mount Mestas showing off some fresh dusting of snow from the morning cloud cover as we start over La Veta Pass.
We are not much for junk food, however, I have had a weakness for Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies from a very young age - they make great "traveling fuel" !!!
We arrived in Taos to blue sky with some fluffy clouds, much better than the snow that was falling at home! This is the view off the porch of the casita we were renting for the week. Miles and miles of sagebrush and mountains - awesome!
After tooling around the plaza for a bit and making a run to Cid's Natural Food Market for supplies, we put our feet up and started planning our activities (or lack of...) for the next few days. We had a fantastic sunset, as we would each evening.
Sunday's Fun Day
We took a run on Sunday from our base camp on the Taos Mesa, down into the Rio Grande Gorge to the John Dunn Bridge - a local landmark. Kathleen is running high up on the rim above the river, with the Taos mountains in the background.

There it is folks - The John Dunn Bridge, with the Rio Grande River flowing beneath.

Posing for the group photo at the bottom of the Gorge.
Steve starting back up out of the Gorge, with the soothing sounds of the running water to help with the relaxation.

Kathleen makes her way up - notice the switchbacks cut into the western wall of the Gorge.
More great views of the mountains from atop the eastern rim.
Our neighbors for the week - Morningstar Alpaca Ranch. The alpacas were always curious when we went by their pastures and would line up to watch us. We finished with a nice 8 mile run and then kicked back for the afternoon.
Monday on the West Rim
Monday we headed out to the West Rim Trail, which starts at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos. The bridge is a 1200' span across the gorge formed by the Rio Grande River and sits 650' up from the waters below. The trail roughly follows the western rim of the gorge and travels through mostly sagebrush desert but has incredible mountain vistas for the entire length of the trail. Kathleen runs here with Taos mountain in the distance.
You can see the mouth of the gorge opening on the left of this photo. It was once again a bluebird day - not a single cloud in the sky. Kathleen peeled off a bit early as she was feeling like keeping the runs short to help with her neck discomfort.
This tree seemed like a good spot to turn around. Hard to beat views like that - makes it difficult to concentrate on the run...
... however, this is not the spot to have a lapse of judgement and step off the trail!!! There is the bridge in all it's glory, with the Rio Grande far below.
Kathleen grabbed Sage and headed back out to meet me as I finished the run. It was a nice 8 miler, with a faster than normal pace as the trail is relatively level around 7100' elevation.
We took a little time to visit our curious neighbors in the afternoon.
The chocolate colored gent in the rear is Logan - Kathleen purchased several skeins of yarn from his coat and is knitting a small bag with it. We'll put up a pic when it is finished. Alpaca yarn is highly prized in the knitting world and makes very durable and warm clothing.
My girls catching the afternoon sun on the deck - Kathleen is knitting, but not yet with Logan's coat!
What the heck ???

Kathleen has had some issues with chronic bronchitis but has not had it for 15 months - the longest span in many years - until TODAY. Right in the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing trip. This is crap. But, alas, under protest, it is here to stay.

So I decided to head out from base camp again and do the R2R2R ...
...but not THAT R2R2R. :-0 This was Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Taos-style. I ran from the east rim of the gorge, down and over the Dunn bridge, and up the switchbacks onto the west rim. The view of the Rio Grande looking south from the third switchback.
On top of the west rim ... in Awe!
Coming back down from the west rim, I had a good view up river to the bridge. Once again it was a fabulous weather day, but I would have preferred to NOT be running alone.
A helpful rock took a photo for me!
Looking down from 3/4 of the way up the eastern wall - you can see the third and fourth switchbacks cut into the western side. It was another great day to run and I got in a nice 10 miler with a couple sharp climbs thrown in.
The girls were basking in the sun when I returned. You can see the start of Logan's wool being crafted into a bag - Kathleen was busy while I was gone! She is hiding the disappointment of not running well - she is not happy with the turn of events for sure!
Lemonade Anyone???

If you get lemons, you just need to make lemonade, right? We knew that, for the most part, Kathleen would just have to "ride out" the bronchitis. Though she did not sleep much Tuesday night, she felt OK Wednesday, so we decided to do at least a couple more tourist type activities.
We cruised down to Ranchos de Taos to visit San Francisco de Asis Chapel, one of the most photographed churches in the southwest.
The thick adobe walls do stand out nicely against the azure blue desert sky - quite a visual combination. Murphy's Law was at work today - there was work being done on the inside of the chapel, so it was an exterior-only visit.
Had to get a family photo at the Taos sign!
If you are in Taos, you need to go to 5 Star Burgers - no questions asked! They serve antibiotic free Angus Beef burgers and tasty sweet potato fries - mmmmm! I personally recommend the Taos Burger - battered green chile, barbecue sauce, and cheddar - just earn it on your run! We finished off the day with some shopping at the plaza, and a vist to Rooster's Coffee - Java Time!
After a sunset like this it is hard to leave, but we headed out Thursday morning to head back to Colorado. It was not the relaxation we had envisioned, but if you are going to have "forced" down time, there are probably not many better places than this. It was off to the doc for neck checkup and antibiotics for Kathleen - yeehaw... But we're not letting it spoil a good time and good memories from the desert!!!
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