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

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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