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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunshine and Trails!!!

US Air Force Academy - Falcon Trail

Woke up Saturday morning to sunny skies and thought maybe it was not the weekend, given our string of marginal weather weekends! It appears La Nina is off schedule this week - too bad for her! Kathleen had to work but she did get a nice 5 mile run in beforehand. I decided to head over to the Air Force Academy and run the Falcon Trail.
"Follow the Falcon" is right - he will take you on a sweet singletrack run!
Ever have one of those runs where early on you think you might have to just call it a day and try again tomorrow? I started out with the legs feeling like lead and was not sure if they would come around. Early on I passed a group of four very fit looking trail runners, which is odd because we hardly ever see many runners on Falcon. I found out later they were part of Team CRUD's Saturday long run group - cool! After about 2 miles, I started getting a little turnover going in the legs and I was also really enjoying the SUN! It can get pretty hot on Falcon but after our E X T E N D E D Spring, I was not concerned. This is the spot where you can always cool off on the bike with a splash in the creek. I don't like to run with wet feet, so I ran the plank!
Out on the back side, approaching the big climb to the Stanley Canyon trailhead, I had this "carrot" pass me. Now I am by no means a fast runner, especially on long climbs, but I know the climbs when I can most certainly pass a flailing mountain biker and this is one of those hills. The sheer physics of the route play in favor of a decent runner. There are two steep ramps of about 15%, followed by a hard right turn and a couple of long switchbacks before the climb lets up. On the second steep, I made my move. I thought at first it would be temporary because he was recovering after the steep part, but then I never saw him until halfway down the front side - sweeeet!
In fact, I even stopped to take a couple photos on the climb... Here is the view of Blodgett Peak and one of the water treatment sites on the Academy. Over the ridge and down a couple miles is home, but it will be a bit before we make that as a complete run. Some day...
It was great being out on the trail - I was really glad the legs came around because I started to get into a nice running groove after the climb. Good thing I didn't pull the plug earlier!
The cadet commons with the beautiful chapel - if you ever get the chance to visit Colorado Springs, this is a worthwhile stop. The chapel is an architectural masterpiece.
Summiting the second to last climb - feeling good!
Tee Time?
Feeling good at the finish (OK, a little wiped out but good nonetheless!) I was glad that I continued my run - I set a new PR by over 4 minutes. I never used to believe the chatter that racing and race preparation make you faster - I always thought that was racer-talk to stroke the ego. However, I have definitely noticed a level of improvement after training for Greenland and concentrating on running a bit more "uncomfortable", rather than always running in the comfort zone. Now I guess I need to shoot for another race - and this time Kathleen will be ready...

Spruce Meadows/ Spruce Mountain...
...and a bit of Greenland

Sun again - Weather Jackpot!!! Kathleen and I headed out to Spruce Meadows trailhead Sunday morning to get in some nice sun-soaked miles. Spruce Meadows, Spruce Mountain, and Greenland Open Space are mostly interconnected and have a nice variety of trails. We were starting out across Spruce Meadows (more like prairie than meadow) and then heading up onto Spruce Mountain.
Nice shot of Pikes Peak from the start - yes, that IS a fresh layer of snow!!!
We hit the base of Spruce Mountain and it was already warming up - we won't complain about that! If her form held up, this would be the first long test for Kathleen in 8 weeks - looking really strong here, I'd say!
Looking south from the lower flank of Spruce Mountain toward Pikes Peak.
There were a lot of people out on Spruce Mountain today - we were surprised. Plus we saw at least 20 horses on trail - this is a popular horse area, they are usually just 1 or 2 at a time. Steve is cruising along near the top of the climb and enjoying the rays again today.
Looking down on the Larkspur area, north of Greenland, home of the Colorado Renaissance Festival held every summer. Still a lot of wide open spaces in Colorado, one of the things we love about our state.
On top of Spruce, Kathleen is enjoying her run on the Mountain Top Loop. We really enjoy the little loop on top - it is just a cool place to run! Kathleen's friend B was accosted by a wild turkey on this loop recently while mountain biking and also spooked a bear - we were happy to encounter no such beasts on our run!
Group photo, running style, thanks to an evenly cut stump!
We stopped for a pose on top of Spruce before heading down. With such great views, it is hard to leave! We cruised back to the Spruce trailhead and I decided to get in a few more miles over at Greenland. Kathleen finished with a bit over 10 miles, her longest run in 9 weeks, and had as many miles this week as she had the previous two combined - promising development I would say! Tomorrow she plans to get out for some road biking, so things are moving forward and I am thankful.
Looking back up the Greenland Trail as I was finishing, with the all too familiar afternoon clouds building behind the mountains - We did not care because we had sun the entire time we were out! I was able to push a little past 15 miles and had a solid training block this week thanks to an extra full day on Monday and two evening runs. Happy Trails and enjoy your week!

Shoes - K Montrail Odyssey (Sat) Asics Trabuco (Sun)
S - Asics Trabuco

Monday, May 25, 2009

Some NEW Stash

So for quite some time, we have been scoping out some trails higher up the Gold Camp/Cheyenne Canon area to add to our running repertoire and we started exploring today. Believe it or not, some of this area has only recently come out from the snow and from what we hear, up on top of Jones Park and Frosty Park, there is still some snow running to be had. I'll pass on that...
So the plan was to drive up Gold Camp Road to the Cap'n Jacks trailhead and start our run with a mellow climb on Gold Camp to the Buckhorn trail. Gold Camp Road is part of the old mining corridor from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs. There are several tunnels on Gold Camp and we would be using two of them to complete our route today. Tunnel #1, with two cyclists coming through, was just a few hundred feet from the trailhead.
Standing at the top of Cheyenne Canon right past the first tunnel. Our run started a bit over 7200' elevation, so it was a fair amount higher than many of our frequent routes. If you run the Columbine trail up from the Cheyenne Canon visitor's center, you can pop out here after already climbing 1200' - we skipped that today.
Coming out of Tunnel #2, we had a bit of sunshine. It was short lived though, as the monsoon pattern rolled in by mid-morning.
Spoon Falls, right above Helen Hunt Falls, has a nice trickle going over it right now.
Hope the legs are loose now - the start of the Buckhorn Trail and the climbing begins in earnest. From here there is a push of over 800' vertical in a bit over a mile - get the lactic acid moving through those muscles!!!
Kathleen takes a deep breath as she gets ready for the climb.
After the Buckhorn trail tops out, there are a bunch of rolling hills and quite a few whoop-de-doo sections from the mountain bikes and motorcycles - forgot to mention these are full multi-use trails, so keep the ears peeled for motos!
From the top of Buckhorn, Gold Camp road is seen cutting through the hillside as it continues south and west.
There are fantastic panoramic views from atop these trails - Gold Camp continues to climb into the mountains far off in the distance as Kathleen prepares for the roller coaster ride off of Buckhorn to the junction with Cap'n Jacks.
Looking down from Cap'n Jacks to one of the tunnels far below.
Steve climbing out one of the last grunts on Cap'n Jacks trail before the descent to the trailhead. This trail is a series of rollers, more down than up, but still has a few steep punches that really drag on the legs. (They are MUCH easier to roll on a mountain bike, or moto if you're so inclined...) There are also some really cool 10 - 15' high bermed chutes that are almost like a decomposed granite bobsled run - lots of fun, especially when we have had the rains we had this week. Usually the granite is somewhat like running on ball bearings marinated in 10w40 but after a rain, the traction is sweet!
Kathleen is flying down the trail headed for the finish. It was a good day for her to test the recovery and it seems to be good so far - Yeah! The Gold Camp - Buckhorn - Cap'n Jacks loop is about 7.5 miles with 2400' vertical gain - a nice hard workout and we already have some ideas to add to the length (and climb!) That was a good, hard run to get the gunk pushed out of Kathleen's lungs.
I went out for an extra, mellower loop after we hit the trailhead in order to extend the mileage a bit. On the way back to the trailhead, I stopped inside the tunnel for a photo - the flash created a weird glow that was kind of cool. I finished up with about 11 miles and 2800' climbing. It was a great run and opened some expansive new area for us to explore - right on! Hope everyone is well - Happy Trails this week!

Shoes - K Montrail Odyssey
S - Asics Gel Trabuco

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How Kathleen got her groove back ...

. . . . . well, I am trying to get my running groove back - this weekend has been a promising start! We are under a tropical weather pattern which equals lots of clouds and rain the past few days so Steve and I went in search of local trails that handle a fair amount of moisture without turning into a muddy shoe sucking quagmire. We made a list of trail areas that have an abundance of water friendly Pikes Peak granite and decided on the Cheyenne Canon area. As we drew near the Canon - sprinkles and low, dark foreboding clouds guarded the entrance - we noticed the sun peaking through the clouds a few miles south near Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Change of plans - CMSP here we come!
Ahhh, glorious sunshine and I am THRILLED to finally be back out on the trails! As you can see, I was in full-on celebration mode - celebratory pink head to toe!
Steve and I ran together for the first 5 miles or so and then split up. I stayed on the lower trails and he went up high. I've got some work to do to catch back up in terms of speed and endurance with Steve. The trail network here provided me the opportunity to do a shorter, easier loop while still giving Steve the chance to head up into the hills for his longer more strenuous run. It was all good!
This is a panorama looking across to Cheyenne Mt. from the Sundance Trail. The start of Sundance is visible contouring the hillside in the distance (click and look real close!). Everything is so beautifully green. The dark clouds in the distance are near Cheyenne Canon. The lightening was huge!

Steve enjoying his cruise along Sundance.

Not caring that I am a little slower than usual - cruising along Sundance.

A curious little lizard trying to catch a few rays.

A beautiful trail on a beautiful day. Dark, menacing clouds in the distance.

Finally, a "group photo" after a real run!

The rain cut loose soon after we hopped in the truck to head home. This scene is about ten minutes after leaving the park. Yikes! It was pouring!

It ended up being a great day to be out on the trails. Comfortably warm and we managed to chase down a bit of sunshine. Steve is running really well - I don't want to slow him down or have him wait for me so it's nice that we have many trail areas to choose from where he can go longer and harder and I can cut it a little shorter (for a only a few weeks, hopefully!). I am not near 100% yet but was pleasantly surprised at the run today and am confident to be nipping at his heels again before too long. After being sick for so long, it doesn't really matter. I was just relishing being able to be out with my wonderful husband and enjoying God's awesome Creation. Life in its simplest form is all good! Happy Trails this week!

Shoes: S - Asics Trabuco
K- Montrail Odyssey

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Warm w/ a Relapse...But a good ending!

Thursday Night Sneak
With temperatures in the 70's this week and a wee bit more daylight, I ventured over to Garden of the Gods Thursday evening after work. Kathleen was in the midst of a relapse of her crud, so it was solo again :-( It isn't quite light long enough for a run of any length after driving across town, but I don't want to burn out my stash at Palmer Park. A nice view from just west of the "big" rocks, with the sun starting to trim behind Pikes Peak.
I was not out long but got to push a little "carbon" off the legs from last weekend's racing. The onset of cramping toward the end of the race left a bit of lactic sludge hanging out in the muscles, so it was good to push a bit through before the weekend. This is a shot coming off the Niobrara trail with some good rays still to be caught!
Surprise - it's green! It seems that it was just cold and snowing (probably because it was) and we went straight to warm and green - nice. Heading back to the trailhead and slim on daylight.
With the sun setting behind the Sleeping Giant, it was time to call it a day. It was nice to get a little blood going and squeeze in a sweet evening at the Garden!

Who exactly invited La Nina?

Speaking of relapse, what's up with the weather??? So, for the past 9 weekends, we have had - 1) a cold front move through, and 2) some form of precipitation. Saturday would hold true to that pattern. They claim it to be a La Nina (who invited the little girl anyway???!!!) pattern that is repeating after each 5 day block - those 5 day blocks have conveniently been M - F! Saturday dawned with fog, drizzle, and a cold wind. Though the clouds temporarily broke a few times, they did not exit noticeably until about 6 PM. It seemed to be a bit better south, so I took off for Red Rock Open Space. I have not run there in a while anyway, so it was a good fit. There was a bit of sun when I arrived - here is the view to the north looking over Garden of the Gods.
I started out by climbing up to the top ridge to access the Section 16 connector and make my way over to the Intemann Trail. There was a nice break in the clouds over the city and there appeared to be fog continuing farther east.
From Intemann trail, there are great views down into Red Rock Canyon.
As I headed out onto Intemann trail toward Manitou, I was running just below a cloud formation and it got somewhat cold for a bit. The 50 degree temp was not very comforting with the strong upslope winds. I am going to have to do some time with this section of trail because it always kicks my butt. It is a string of sharp ups and downs with some technical running thrown in and, for some reason, I have trouble pacing it well.
As I was heading back down into Red Rock, I had a great view of the old quarry, and the swanky Cedar Heights area in the distance, high above town. The wind was kicking a bit more and I was looking to wind down and start heading in for the day.
Before I finished though, I got my first "rubber-leg" treatment of the year - you know the feeling as the adrenaline hits everything EXCEPT your legs?!?! While not poisonous, this bull snake is still intimidating enough to startle you and has obviously had some good meals early season. I'm guessing he was a good 4 to 4.5 feet long and nearly 3" diameter in that section under his head. So I let him have his space and cruised in to the trailhead to finish a nice day on the trail. I was able to get in about 10 miles and enjoy the gray day!

Back to the Garden...and the SUN!
Sunday was one of those days - crisp, blue, cloudless skies and low 70's made for a great morning to hit the trails back at the Garden of the Gods. Good Morning Pikes Peak! And guess what...
... recognize this person??? After several MIA reports were filed and Dr's fiddled with a plethora of crap, er medicine, that hasn't worked, Kathleen hit the trails with me today for a while. It was only her second "meaningful" run in six weeks. What an awesome day to get back at it! This photo is just as we're getting started on the Dakota trail, with Cathedral Rock poking out in the background.
More action on the Dakota Trail - didn't even have to find a post to prop the camera for this one - woohoo!
Still running! I was sooooooo glad Kathleen got to run today. She was able to get in about 5.5 miles, and although she coughed a bit, she actually had a real nice run.
The BIG ONES - as seen from the north: l-r, North Gateway, South Gateway, Cathedral Rock, and Sleeping Giant. The Garden was basking in the sun today and the park was packed!
Out on the backside of the Sleeping Giant, I paused to allow a fence post to take my picture - how kind! (Plus I was a bit hot on the climb and needed a breather - going from 50 to 75 takes an adjustment!)
What a view - it is no wonder this is the most visited attraction in the Pikes Peak region - approximately 1.7 million per year. (Glad they weren't all on the trail today!!!)
Some of the local "residents" were out on the trails today - this group of desert bighorns was not too concerned about me running by. I stopped to watch for a minute and saw about 15 sheep on the hillside. Only one bothered to look up the whole time I was standing there.
Out on my last loop of the day atop the Ute Trail, I had a much clearer view of Red Rock Canyon than was available yesterday. Perfect day for a run, with a bit over 10 miles of fantastic trail - it was warm enough that I even took my first ice bath of the year to chase off the remainder of the kinks from Greenland - brrrrr! Happy Trails and have a great week!

Shoes, as always for Steve, Asics Gel Trabuco
K- Montrail Odyssey
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