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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Activities

Saturday was a picture-less run day. Got up early to accommodate work scheduling and hit Ute Valley for some morning trails - about 6 miles. It was 50 and cloudy early with warm winds again. After I spent a couple hours at the office, I came home to sunny skies and decided to get a double in - another 7 miles at UVP. Good day!

Sunday was another story. Spitting snow flurries and low 30's when we hit the trail at the Garden of the Gods. No mountain vistas on this morning! The flurries let up and gave way to a biting north wind - fun. Needless to say, we had many of the trails all to ourselves. Saw one big group of horseback riders on the park tour.
Kathleen ascending the ridge on Palmer Trail - bundled up!
Backside view of the Siamese Twins - the trails were nice and tacky after the intermittent snow showers. Don't often see this side of the arch photographed, but there was not much to see through the keyhole side today!
After the wind had cleared out some of the snow showers, the low clouds started to roll back down into the park. The textures and layers of the hills are always more evident when the clouds tuck in against them. It never really got nasty out - as long as you can dress for the temps, the running is quite comfortable even in the wintery conditions.
Kathleen's new girly Camelbak - the SnoAngel.

We had a nice run, with about 10.5 miles for the day. It was good to have a little shelter in the Garden with the blustery conditions - definitely Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Montrail Odyssey
S - Nike Structure Triax

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Steve mentioned my new girly Camelbak (early BD gift, pictured above!) and I wanted to elaborate. I've been on the lookout for a larger capacity hydration pack than my 50 oz Camelbak Charm I have been using. I have run out of water on several longer runs of late - not good! Although I like the larger capacity Nathan pack that Steve uses - it is comfortable, rides well, and has convenient, easily accessible pockets in the front to carry stuff (I love to carry "stuff"! ie: gels, camera, etc.), I tend to feel a bit " smothered" by the wide straps. I have liked the more minimalist feel of the Charm but haven't been able to find a low profile, larger water capacity pack I like - until now. The Snoangel is just what I was looking for. 72 oz insulated bladder and hose (plus, Camelbak has the BEST bladders), low profile, and pockets!!! How I love pockets to carry stuff! There is a smaller pocket on the bottom that will hold lots of gels, bars, keys, phone, camera, etc. A larger pocket behind it can hold a light jacket and gloves. Even though it has a good deal of "sherpa" qualities, it is a compact package. It rides really comfortably and quiet. Steve even commented yesterday that it doesn't move at all when I'm running. And a bonus - the pink floral pattern!

After receiving about 3 inches of snow overnight, this morning smiled upon me with bright blue skies. The intense sun melted the snow quickly (a nice thing about living at altitude - the sun makes it feel warmer than it actually is!). Mondays are usually a designated "ride" day so I decided to dig out the winter riding apparel, in spite of the coolness, and hit the trail on the mountain bike. It was 36 degrees when I left the house.

I headed over to the Santa Fe Trail for some steady aerobic spin activity. Mostly flattish, the trail is punctuated by a few little hills that require a bit of force and torque - good to keep the legs alert and stimulated in the midst of the steady spin.
Above is a section of the trail we call the "Time Trial". It is 2.25 miles of a straight (very rare) false flat where we like to put it in a bigger gear and time trial. It was all good! It felt so great to be out on the bike!
Snow remained in the shady areas of the trail.
Back at the trailhead, with 25 miles in, I caught this train chugging past. Our church's green roof is in the background! Although crisp, it ended up being a wonderful day - I was so thankful for the bluebird skies and wonderful sun! Aaaaahh, life is good! Happy trails this week . . . . . .

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aaaah, Sunshine!

No, not today though. It has snowed off and on for most of the day today, though not much is accumulating. Just gray, wet, and cold. However, this past weekend, we had some awesome fall Colorado weather and tonight was a perfect evening to look back...

Red Rock Canyon trails

We put some dirt under foot at Red Rock Canyon Saturday morning under brilliant blue sky and high 50's warming our bodies - especially after our spell of 20's last week!!! From high atop Lion Trail on the eastern rim, we had spectacular views of Garden of the Gods to the north.
Stopped on the trip down the canyon on the Red Rock Canyon path to watch climbers tackling what we believe is called the Whale Tail. It was perfect weather and the climbers were staking claim to their walls early!
Kathleen enjoying the sunny day as she cruises the Contemplative Trail.
There is still a bit of fall color holding out in the canyon. The view from high on the rim looking out to Section 16 and getting ready to drop in on the Roundup Trail.
How could you not smile - out on a run together under beautiful Colorado sunshine?!?!
Roundup dropping out onto Red Rock Canyon Trail - awesome day!
Ascending Red Rock's east ridge and preparing to drop down the long descent to the trailhead - gotta love downhill finishes, right? We were soaking up as much of the incredible day as we possibly could - as crazy as our weather gets, may not have a lot of these for a while! Got to put 10 miles of fantastic trail under foot on a splendid, bluebird day - sweet!

Shoes - K Nike Structure Triax ESC
S - Asics Trabuco

Hitting the trail - Falcon Style

Steve gathering rays on the Falcon Trail.

Sunday came through with the weather bonanza - Chinook winds over night had drawn warm air up against the mountains and temps soared into the upper 60's by the time we headed over to the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy. With the unpredictable mountain weather, you must capitalize on days like these!
Supreme day for running combined with awesome trails - Indian Summer rules!
Kathleen rounding a switchback above the visitor's center.
There was still some water in the stream on the back side - more than usual for this late in the year. It was warm enough to splash through, but wet shoes are no fun less than half way through a run!
Kathleen catching rays while cruising the ridge above the golf course.
Blodgett Peak bathing in brilliant sun! We did not want to finish our run on such a great day. We finished our run in mid 70's and were wishing we could hold on to the moment much longer than our legs desired! We finished a solid 13 mile run and had big, silly smiles on our faces. What a great day! Hope all are having a great week - Happy Trails!

Shoes K- Nike Structure Triax ESC
S - Nike Structure Triax ESC

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thursday night - Don't miss it!

Playing one night only - October 22. Watch the trailer - WE'RE THERE!!!! Big Mountains, Big Lungs, Big Legs = Big Fun at IMAX!!!
Click for a location near you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spies Like Us ...


... Oh, you're morbidly curious? THE WEATHERMAN LIES - There, I got that off my chest. Here is the trail leading in to Ute Valley Park at around noon. Notice the mostly sunny sky, 51 degrees, and no snow? You don't see it? That's because it snowed some more, made more ice on the trail, and was topping out around 19 with a 9 wind chill at startup!!! But I'm not bitter or anything....
As for the post title, one of my friends commented last year when he saw pix of us running bundled up that we looked like spies - cool. 007 runners! Stopped for a pic at the favorite arch in UVP - not Moab sized, but hey it's only 3 miles from home.
James Bond style running - secret mission in the Alps maybe? We even required the use of our "secret weapon" against ice today - the screw shoe. Earliest appearance for us with those beasts as they usually are not out until December/January. If you are not familiar with the species, basically you strategically place sheet metal screws in the sole of the shoe in order to avoid falling and breaking: elbows, hips, clavicles, wrists, etc....) For some odd reason, the sandstone in Ute was slicker than greased glass today - good thing we suited up!!!
It was peaceful down in the valley - the ice covered grasses were drooping under the weight and the frosted conifers were cool looking. It was also quiet because most were not courageous (or too smart...) enough to run :-0
Kathleen makes her way up a steep hill. Once we got "warmed up", it actually was tolerable to run. We settled into a nice snow pace and churned out 9 miles of trail and then got inside to warm up! We are really hoping this front is a blip on the radar, as it is far, far too early for these temps to be coming around. If winter is this early, start me a drip of double strength Prozac please! Most likely you'll see us running in brilliant Colorado sunshine again soon (unless you get frostbite and quit visiting our blog...) Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Nike Terra Ridge w/screws
S Asics Trabuco w/screws
(Clothing Note - If you are required to run frequently in sub-20 degree wind chills, I would highly recommend trying out Sporthill 3SP products - it's a spun polypropylene fabric that is windproof to 35 mph, still breathes, and is awesome.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009


20 Degrees F, Wind Chill 9 Degrees F

To say that we're not ready for that on October 10 is quite an understatement. Got up early because Kathleen had to work, and went right back to bed ~ 16 with 8 wind chill. I thought I would wait it out and the temps might sniff the wonderful 35 forecast for the high today. Not a chance - weather dude blew it again. My mileage has been short with the early nightfall now, so I sucked it up at about noon and headed out in the above noted weather conditions. Believe it or not, it was slicker than snot on the trails. We had freezing "rain" that turned to snow, so it was snow over previously wet.
This is the part that's wrong: Tights, lightweight shell over winter jersey, thin balaclava because the skin is not acclimatized yet, and winter gloves. Sweat a little on the climbs, freeze it off on the descent. Can I find the rewind button? Summer reruns airing somewhere? Please?
My recent series of photos from this rock has culminated in this - Pikes Peak was hijacked and is nowhere to be found. It was replaced by a vague, gray sky that spits chunks of white ice crystals at you while you run. I ended up running 7 miles - could.not.take.more. Weather dude is claiming we'll hit 52 with sun tomorrow for a long run. If not, I'll be on the news for other reasons ....

Shoes - Asics Trabuco
Huge Pile of other gear that I had to dig out way too early: Polypro balaclava, SmartWool featherweight shirt, Brooks running jersey, Salomon FAST II wind shell, Sporthill 3SP tights, Drymax Cold Weather sock . . .

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Xterra Race Report

CAUTION: This is going to be a long-winded puppy of a post!

Xterra rolled into town yesterday with their inaugural trail half and full marathon races for our area. We had a number of other races planned during 2009 but, for a variety of reasons, couldn't make happen. I had started eyeing this event as soon as it was announced. I love running the trails at CMSP and love Xterra. If I knew how to swim, I would be doing Xterra triathlons!

I was kind of hem-hawing about actually going ahead and running it this past week. Due to the "issues" I have had with my hip and knee this past month, I have managed to get in only 3 runs a week for the past 4 weeks and didn't have much confidence in my fitness. To top it off, on Thursday, I felt a bit out of sorts and thought I might be coming down with a cold. Bummer! Finally decided to just go with it, regardless of speed (or lack of, in my case!), have some fun, meet some nice people, and enjoy a great run on great trails. Encouragement from Steve helped, too! I had no expectations - my goal was to survive and have fun!

The race started at 8:00am so we scooted out the door around 6:45 and headed down the road a piece to pick up our dear friend and local runner extraordinaire, Connilee, who was on a mission to snap a few photos for Colorado Runner Magazine. She graciously offered to "escort" me on part of the course and I agreed to be her "tour guide" as she has never explored the trails at CMSP. Bonus for both of us! BTW, she is 21 weeks pregnant and my pace was W-A-Y slower than what she coulda, shoulda run!!!

We arrived at the park with gloriously sunny, blue skies and a crisp 32 degrees. C set out to scout her photo op area at the top of the Talons. Steve and I headed out for a short warm-up on the little starter loop. He then headed to his first photo op area near the base of the Talons. I enjoyed the minutes before the race start chit-chatting with our neighbor, Marvin, and a couple other gals. The announcer called everyone to the starting area and I realized that Marvin and I had been doing our chit-chat near the front of the gathering crowd. I almost went into a panic - what in the world was I doing starting at the front??? I would be trampled as soon as the gun went off!!! But there was a different vibe to this race. Everyone seemed calm, mellow, smiling. It was the most relaxed race start I've ever been at - mountain biking or running. After the start gun went off, there was no pushing, elbowing, or trampling of slower runners. I LOVED it! Of course, people were ready to race - we were off!

We had little start loop, to get folks separated out, that was just under a mile long before we connected with the main loop.

Looking up the trail on the starter loop.
A view back toward the start/finish area from partway up the starter loop.

People spread out fairly quickly. I just concentrated on running my own pace and metering my effort. After the first 1.5 miles or so, I was running with a string of 5 or 6 guys. Oddly, I didn't really notice any other women at this point.
Above is the eventual Half-Marathon winner. He is a pro Xterra triathlete. His winning time was 1:42. I know people will scratch their heads at the time - although not an expert analyst - I suspected this had the potential to be a slow course. There is a lot of off-camber trail with frequent twists and turns and constant undulations on the climbs as well as the descents. There's not much of a chance to get a steady rhythm going. Throw in some very technical sections and you've got yourself a fun trail race!
Three miles in - having fun and enjoying the gorgeous morning!
Our neighbor, Marvin, waving at Steve and having some fun too!
I made it to the top of the Talons and picked up my All Star Escort. You can just see her blue shoulder peaking out behind me. She asked how I was feeling - unexpectedly, I was feeling good, just carefully trying to meter the effort, although I mentioned that my legs felt a little "jello-y". Hmmm. Other than that, good. Interestingly enough, I still have not seen any other female racers at this point, 6.5 miles in. Weird.
Me and the Escort cruising a smooth level section, above. We are getting ready to head over to the Medicine Wheel trail - very technical - twisty, rocky, boulders, a slight uphill - about 9 miles in. The most technical parts of the course were in the last 4.5 miles. Tired bodies = course carnage!

We tiptoed carefully through Medicine Wheel and caught Blackmer for the push up the final climb to the top of Cougar's Shadow. Halfway up Blackmer, the wheels started to fall off. I was climbing so slowly. Then, for the first time in miles, I saw a couple of other female racers - pass me. I lost C, as she caught her toe and fell but told me she was ok, to keep going. Near the top of Blackmer, it hit. A twinge. In the calf. Then twinges in both calves. I chose to hike up the short, rocky climb at the entrance to Cougar. When I started to run, the twinges turned into knots - my calves were cramping. Oh no, how could this be happening??? I NEVER cramp. Poor Steve cramps. I don't cramp. My body retains water, for crying out loud, and at times, lots of it! :-) When Steve talks about his calves or hamstrings cramping, I listen to him with sympathetic ears but have a blank look in my eyes because I don't relate to or fully "appreciate" his condition. I do now.

They were wadding up. I began pleading with my calves to please be kind and not give up yet. I stopped briefly several times to massage the knots. I hobbled up to the high point of Cougar and then continued hobbling down what should have been a nice, quick, enjoyable 2 mile descent to the finish. C caught back on and had to listen to my lunacy - pleading with the old calves to please behave one moment and then sweet talking them another. I normally love this curvy, somewhat rocky section of trail but all the undulations, twists and turns had me wishing it were over as it required too much calf flexing! It was worse when having to step and flex upward.

But, thankfully, the calves mercifully held themselves together. Here we are (Escort and I) coming into the finish, smiling, and happy to have survived.
Grateful to have finished in one piece and happy to be with my wonderful hubby and dear friend - a big THANK YOU for your enthusiasm, support, and encouragement - it was awesome!

I finished in 2:12 (I know, a time to make all the speedsters cry), 5th woman overall out of 66, 31st overall out of 156 finishers(men and women). I figure to have lost about 5 minutes in the last few miles due to the cramping incident but am totally pleased to have finished as well as I did as the original expectation for the day was to just survive. And most importantly, aside from a decent finish - it was just plain FUN. I am thankful for so many blessings in my life! The ability to be able to just run is something never to take for granted.

Xterra did a fantastic job with this inaugural event. Like mentioned earlier, the vibe was very friendly and relaxed but well organized. The course was taped and marked perfectly - there really wasn't a way for anyone to take a wrong turn or get lost. The volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful. Well done, Xterra!

As an FYI end note to this terribly long and rambling post - it turns out that I have some sort of, ahem, intestinal/stomach bug. It had been coming on a few days prior to the race and hit full on soon afterward. Yikes! Thankfully it "mostly" waited until afterward. It explains the jello leg feeling and then the uncharacteristic cramping.

Happy Trails to all this week!

Shoes: Asics Gel Trabuco

Route stats: 13.45 miles, 2400 feet climbing

I did it!

Ran the Xterra Trail Half Marathon at Cheyenne Mountain State Park yesterday. Finished 5th overall woman. Completely surprised and very happy! More to come later . . .
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