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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some Sun, Some Clouds - Harbinger of Fall???

Sunny and cool at Ute Valley Park

Kathleen hits the trail before the sun.

Saturday dawned sunny and clear, with a crisp 49 degree starting temp for a nice trail run at Ute Valley Park. We had to hit the dirt early so Kathleen could put in a half day at work (blah!) and we always get the most of our morning runs at UVP. We have been biting our tongue on uttering the two words we dread - early fall, yet we have certainly been having some cool mornings and the air has a different snap to it. We like fall - it is, in fact, one of the best seasons in Colorado. We just don't want an early winter.
Sun was welcome this morning as Kathleen emerges from the trees.
Running the ridge with Pikes Peak bathing in morning sun - that sight never gets old!
There were some folks out marking the trails for Komen Walk for the Cure and they were kind enough to snap a photo for us near our favorite arch.
Lose the sleeves and enjoy the sun!
Heading out of the park on the still shady side - UVP is a gem and we love having it so close to home! 8.5 early miles with nearly 1500' of climb.

Shoes K- La Sportiva Wildcat
S- Asics Trabuco



Something is missing ... Pikes Peak should be on the left-hand skyline in the photo!

Fog, drizzle, wind, and 54 fantastic degrees greeted us Sunday morning. Interesting, because just over the Rockies on the western slope of Colorado, the day topped 96 degrees in Fruita. Welcome to the mountains!!! We had been planning a long run at Spruce Mountain Open Space and figured we would just go ahead with that regardless of weather. We headed out from Spruce Meadows trailhead and up onto Spruce Mountain. It's August and we had lightweight wool on - wrong . . .
Kathleen slaloms through the pines on the ascent of Spruce Mtn.
Steve rounding the bend through the rocks, almost to the top.
Group photo-op on Windy Point - aptly named today!! It felt like we were overlooking the ocean on a foggy day, being pelted by the moist wind. Almost had us wishing for a run in Carmel or Monterey . . .
Looking out toward Greenland Open Space from Windy Point.
It still was not raining when we finished Spruce, so we headed over to Greenland for a little extra mileage. This is the view of Greenland's "population center" from the exit of Spruce Meadows trailhead!
View from Greenland looking toward Spruce Mountain.

I love hearing the trains sound off when the fog and low clouds are overhead. They were very busy today hustling coal down to Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
Kathleen prepares to make the left hand turn onto the singletrack Greenland Trail. To the north (toward Denver), it was bright and the clouds were breaking a bit.
On the descent back toward Greenland trailhead - ready for some Starbucks?
After finishing our run, we had to wait for another train in order to get back to where we parked. Here are some of the bison grazing at Endless Frontier Ranch. There is a bison to human population imbalance in Greenland!!!
Looking south on our way out, it was getting really socked in on the mountains.

It warmed up to a balmy 55 degrees by the time we finished! We were able to run a little over 15 miles in just over two hours. It is a bit more mellow on climbing here also - 1750' gain for the run. All in all, a couple nice runs for the weekend and we are blessed to be healthy and running well. Happy Trails to all this week!

Shoes - Asics Trabuco


Something a bit different - art on Happy Trails???

We had the unique opportunity to have a special guest last evening during our worship services at Woodmen Valley Chapel - we had an evening of dialogue with world-renowned "Nihonga" artist Makoto Fujimura regarding a reintroduction to the arts a message of hope and healing - something missing from the works of many, if not most, modern artists. It was an inspirational treat - if you enjoy different types of art, you might enjoy his.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nice weekend in Winter Park

It is that inevitable time of year where a certain, all-too-familiar panic sets in: We want to cram as much trail activity into our late summer/early fall as there is no guarantee when it hits the fan (aka, the snow starts to fly!!!) The season is especially short in Colorado's high country and we had yet to visit Winter Park this year, so we loaded up Sage and took off after work Friday night for WP. We hit the weather jackpot for the weekend - clear blue sky and upper 70's in the mountains - wow!
Saturday, we dropped Sage at Mountain Dawg daycare in Fraser since she no longer likes to run with us and took off on some of the popular mountain biking trails for a nice run. Kathleen is enjoying the Twin Bridges trail in the morning shade. With starting elevation at just shy of 9000' we would be in for a warm day - high 70's at altitude gets to you quickly (along with the lack of oxygen). We ran a lot of our favorite MTB trails on the valley side last summer on vacation, so we hit some of the trails closer to the ski area today.
We climbed up D4 toward the WTB trail, one of my personal favorites because of the naming significance: It is named for Wade, Todd, and Bill - the guys who developed the trail. It just so happens that Wade Wilderman is also the KING of mountain coffee, founder of the Rocky Mountain Roastery, which is home to some of my favorite beans. A cup of Singletrack, brewed really strong, would be good for this trail because it is rocks, roots, and quite technical, requiring some hyperactive footwork!!!
Kathleen poses with the marker for WTB. One of the great things about WP is that the trails are well marked and generally kept in good shape. (The ski mountain is another story, now that the knuckle draggers ~ downhillers ~ have taken over - all rutted and brake scarred trails from long travel MTB folk who have never climbed to earn their descent, which is pitiful!) I digress. Back to sweet trails.
Generally we don't often stop on technical sections for photos because: A - It takes a lot of concentration and camera is second thought. and B - It would be a drag to fall and smash yourself up while trying to get pics. However, we wanted to at least show a bit of the terrain - this is the "tame" section at the top. WTB is a quad masher descent, all techy stuff, into a drainage followed by a steep climb right back out the other side. It is much easier to ride the descent and much easier to run the ascent, if that makes sense. But overall, we agreed that the run was more fun :-) We made a large loop and made our way back around to the Vasquez Creek drainage and down the fabulous Blue Sky Trail.

It was here that I made a disturbing discovery - and prematurely finished my running for the weekend: My new Saucony Progrid Xodus have proven to be my "achilles" ~ I rolled my left ankle again on the descent of Blue Sky. Third time, same shoe, done running. Many miles in Montrail, Brooks, and Asics with no ankle issues - so retirement is imminent for this shoe. C'est La Vie!

We ended up with 12 miles and ~2500' vertical. Nice day out in the high country and awesome weather. No need to mention shoes . . . .


Sunday morning Kathleen got ready to run and I got Sage ready to go for a hike, or as she sees it, a Deluxe Walk. We dropped the mother off at the Northwest Passage trailhead to start her run. This used to be a heavily forested trail that was always cool, even with overhead sun. We have a problem in Colorado, though, in the form of the Mountain Pine Beetle. (Read about it here or there if you want some insight.) The bottom line is this, by the early stages of next decade, we will have lost about 80% of our Lodgepole and Ponderosa forest to this bug and our forests will be undergoing a huge transformation.
Here is the result - once a shady, tree-lined trail that is now eerily open. Kathleen meets us at the far end of Northwest Passage before heading onto the Creekside trail. We think eventually it will look nice as the smaller trees and lower growth rises - it just isn't that time yet.
While Kathleen ran the loop on Creekside and Flume, I took Sage over to the Fraser River for a little dip to cool off. I tried to convince her the black fur coat was a bad choice, but did she listen?!?! She then found a spot in the shade, right in the middle of the trail, and plopped down to wait for the mother.
A refreshing piece of the Fraser River.
Sage - all smiles and loving the trail!
. . . And finally, emerging from the woods, Kathleen navigates the roots on the descent to the creek from the Chainsaw Trail.
Byers Peak stands tall on the horizon - four years ago, you would never have seen far enough to know the mountain was there from this spot. The residents in this area are to be commended for their proactive approach to clearing the beetle kill. There is a mill in the area that is manufacturing lumber from beetle-kill pines for use in "green" construction. There is a limited time in which the wood is useful, so they are trying to use it so it is not wasted.
After hiking back a ways Sage finally caught sight of the mother on the trail and took off running with her - nice grin, eh? Kathleen logged a nice 8.5 miler before we headed out for home. It was a nice little getaway in the mountains and we enjoyed our time!

Rocky Mountain StairMaster
Looking up the Incline to the false summit.

Deb and I headed over to the Manitou Incline Monday morning for our "stairmaster" workout. Typically, Monday is a designated "ride" day but I wasn't in the mood for a ride - a good climb was calling my name! For those who are not familiar with The Incline, it is an abandoned cog railbed that climbs 2000 vertical feet in one mile. It has just under 3000 railroad tie "steps". The average grade is 40%, with the steepest middle third hitting 68%. We don't run it. In fact, I have seen very few people run up it over the years (maybe 3?). For us mere mortals, it is a steady march to the top. The fastest I have ever done it was 32 minutes, which is quite respectable. Today I was not as quick, but still decent at 34 minutes. Wow, a 34 minute mile!!!! Yahooooooo!!!! And that will certainly get your heart rate up!!!
I put a little time on Deb and was able to snap this photo of her cresting the top. I think she is smiling because it's all downhill from here (and because I told her to smile!)! You can get a sense of the steepness looking down behind her.
Snapped our customary group photo and then connected over to Barr Trail for the run to the bottom. I had wanted to do a little exploring on a different Barr Trail connector from the top of the Incline that would have dropped us out a little higher on Barr consequently resulting in a longer run down (good!). But the weather was looking a bit threatening and mountain lightening scares the crud out of me so we headed down instead of looking for the unknown. We will explore when the weather is sunny and smiling down on us. It was a great way to spend a morning - with a good friend and a good workout!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to the Scene of the Crime . . .

I can admit it now - I have been in a bit of a funk for the past five weeks since spraining my ankle at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Previous to that, I had been enjoying arguably my best block of fitness in my entire adult life. So to have a set back because of one poor foot plant has had me in a fog. I decided on our vacation to just run with it (pun intended) and enjoy the fact that I can run, am otherwise healthy, and have so many awesome trails so close to home. Life is still good!!!!
When we decided to hit the trails Sunday at Cheyenne Mountain, however, I knew there was one thing I had to do. I needed a little face time with the snag that snatched my foot and here he is - a nice little hook-shaped foot grabber. In lieu of being arrested, I had to forego my plan to extricate him from the trail - so his mug shot on the blog will have to do. Now, breathe . . .
. . . With that out of the way, it was time for some running! We headed out on some of our favorite trails - the Talons, Sundance, Blackmer, and Zook. It just so happens that these trails, and others, will be part of the Xterrra Marathon and Half Marathon here in October. Since the Vasque Golden Leaf is now just a very slim possibility due to schedule issues, and the Blue Sky Races only having 50k or marathon spots left, this may be the fall half marathon we were looking for. It's also right in our backyard, so home course knowledge will hopefully help! This is me running on Talon, with Cheyenne Mountain behind.
Kathleen is coming up to the top of North Talon, with the plains stretching out in the distance. We were rather negligent in our photography today - apology extended in advance. Considering that the Nikon almost overheated on vacation, it probably needed a rest of it's own! The trails were great and we had almost no traffic which still amazes us at this awesome park. Aside from being a pay to play (we have an annual pass) we can't figure out why it is not used more. And we have not done much advertising to help increase the traffic :-)
It was good to be back on familiar trails after a week of all new tread. We had fun this weekend also watching the web updates for the Leadville 100 MTB race and the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. We missed seeing our friend CW contend for top woman in the Ascent this year - hopefully she'll be back next year, speedier than ever. Also, our friend JM (at 64 yrs young!) continues to amaze us with a great run in the marathon - 2nd in her class - wow!

Happy Trails!

the stats: 13 miles, 2300' elevation gain
shoes: Saucony Progrid Xodus

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Snowmass - the Curtain Call (finally!!)

We received the Official Aspen-Snowmass Vacation Guide in March and I (K) immediately became intrigued by the trail on the cover photo. When I see inspiring pictures of trails, they go on to my very long "must run or ride someday" list. The trail pictured is the Rim Trail, and yes, I got to cross it off my list as "completed". But I'll be back . . .
The Rim Trail lived up to my hopeful expectations. We started our morning with a refreshing and brisk 35 degrees (a new record low, just for us!) in Snowmass Village, and, as its name implies, the Rim Trail climbed up to and followed a sharp rim along the hills above the Village. The first picture in our previous post shows the multiple layers of ridges the trail follows. In case anyone is in need of a good laugh, we have included several new yoga poses we "invented" at the Ying and Yang Terrace that is along the trail.
Kathleen in a pseudo Exalted Warrior Pose
Unidentified man in a pseudo Warrior II Pose???

Yep, we don't do much yoga (we need to) and need some serious help! In case you didn't know, laughing is good for the soul!
We were reveling in our very fun trail discovery. It was complete with diverse sections of trail and awesome views.
Still smiling . . .
Heading up one of the ridge sections.

Steve topping out and getting ready to descend to the run terminus at the eastern end of the rim, near the Snowmass Rec Center and our free bus ride back to the top of the Village. We finished our quick trip through the mountains with a four thumbs up 8.5 mile run. Now it was time to load up the Pilot and head home!
Up and over the Divide . . .
. . . and down the narrow road with steep drop-offs and no guard rails!!! I was driving, Steve was pretending to be asleep.

One of the reasons we started blogging was to chronicle some of our outdoor recreational pursuits which basically are trail running and a little cycling. We have enjoyed re-visiting our whirlwind week of vacation and hope our couple of viewers have enjoyed seeing the pics. Maybe you will be "inspired" by a photo and add it to your own "must run someday" list! We are certainly very blessed. Happy Trails to all this week!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snowmass Appeal

Act Three - Aspen/Snowmass

Friday we left Steamboat Springs and rolled down into Aspen. We cruised town for a bit, hitting all the important "shopping" spots like the Ute Mountaineer, Aspen Sports, Aspen Velo, and the Hub - all the other stuff is just foo-foo! Then we headed over to Snowmass Village where we would set up base for a couple days. Our plan was to get a good night's rest and then go out for a preview of the Vasque Golden Leaf course. We have been eyeballing this route for several years (even before we could attempt a half-marathon)! We had a bit of a glitch though: Saturday was Blast the Mass, the Colorado State Mountain bike championships, and part of what we wanted to run was on the bike course and would be closed by race marshalls. So we had to suck it up and make the decision to get up at 6 am on a vacation day - that is wrong! The racers were to start up the mountain at 8, so we were out on course by 7:15 to try and beat the bikes to the course closure. Oh, and by the way, it was 39 degrees at the start!
Up, up, and up is the theme for the first mile and a quarter. We started up one of the mountain service roads, then caught the Village Bound Trail until it intersected the Government Trail. This trail makes up a a majority of the course. At 1.3 miles, this was the view down onto Snowmass Village - already 1020' ascent. So you are out of breath and then you have this breath-taking scenery, a double whammy! Note to self: Keep an eye on that rim above Snowmass - there might be a trail along there ....
Once on the Governement Trail, the singletrack traverses Snowmass Mountain, with numerous stream crossings, narrow trails through shoulder high overgrowth, and lots of rocky, technical terrain.
We were out so early, a lot of the dense forested areas were almost still dark!
We made it!!! The course marshalls let us through the closure as we were 15 minutes ahead of the front racers. And Kathleen is cruising past the turn off where the bikes left the Gov't Trail and turned onto the Anaerobic Nightmare Trail - sounds like fun!!! The stands of aspen trees we ran through were unbelievable. There is a reason this was voted one of the most scenic trail races in America.
The sun is finally starting to warm us up a bit by the halfway point. The course rolls in and out of dense forest and wide open meadows - what a great mix of terrain!
Kathleen rolls through the aspen, with most of the climbing done for the day. Another good reason to smile.
umm .. no caption needed here
More aspen, more singletrack, and endless fun. If you finish this run without a permanent grin on your face, you have no pulse!
Aaah, starting the descent across Buttermilk Mountain and preparing to drop all the way down to Maroon Creek on the outside of Aspen.
We deviated from the race course which takes part of the bike path into Aspen (which we have ridden and know). Instead, we took the advice of a local that we met who was out mountain biking and ran the Maroon Creek Trail. This was a great trail down in the gorge and was cool and dark for most of the length.
We popped out into the open on this bridge over Maroon Creek to views of Aspen Highlands ski slopes. From here it was up the canyon and out onto the bike path for the roll out into town. This is definitely one that is worth the price of admission!!! We made a quick visit to Paradise Bakery for post-run "nutritional" needs and a stop at Starbucks for a little recovery rocket fuel before hopping on the free transit back to Snowmass Village. One thing that is nice here - you can park where you are staying and never drive while in town - the transit buses run every half hour and go just about everywhere up or down valley from Aspen. With parking at a premium in town, it makes sense for them to have an active transit. It was super easy, too!

The stats: 14 miles, 3600' elevation gain
Shoes - Saucony Progrid Xodus (awesome shoes, maybe a review coming)

Apres Run

We had a reason to get wrapped up and back over to Snowmass. The pro MTB races started at 10 and would be finishing soon. Rumor had it that a little known racer from Texas would be mixing it up with the other pro mountain bikers in the cross country event ....
Yep, you guessed it . . .
. . . none other than Mr LiveStrong himself, Lance Armstrong, won the men's pro event and we made it in time to have front row views! It was fun to watch him finish since we are big Lance fans. Of course watching all the pro bikers, Kathleen had to reassert her theory that cyclists have the BEST legs. Blasphemy!
We also got to hobknob with Bill Ritter, governor of Colorado, who is an avid cyclist. He was hanging out at the expo area, so we introduced ourselves and got a photo op with him. (of course, we failed to tell him we did not vote for him!!!!) oops.

Coming soon: Act Three, part deux Stay Tuned!!!
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