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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Putting in the Work

Feeling like we needed some good, hard work today, we headed down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  Since it was not supposed to creep out of the 30's much before afternoon, we knew we could get in some decent mileage there without much threat for the mud bog to form.  Add to that the fact that the sun never really crept from behind the cloud filter and we were able to nearly finish our run before encountering any substantial mud.
Since our access to anything nearing "mountainous" has been limited aside from running continuous snowpack/ice, we wanted an opportunity to test the mid-winter fitness on a tough track.  CMSP fits the bill for that, and was continuously runnable with the snow/ice sections short and manageable.  With our chosen start to the route, we were treated to a bit more than 4 miles of fairly constant climb.  It has been a while since we've had sustained climbing of that length, so it was good to knock a little carbon off the climbing cylinders and run the RPM's pretty high by the time we topped out on North Talon.  The mountain was looming large as I round the corner at the summit and let out a little "woohoo!" for the arduous climb.
Kathleen drops off the North Talon summit and slaloms through the pines, choosing her footing wisely on the rocky slope.  This is another great thing at CMSP - with a mix of technical and smooth trails, you can never go to sleep on the footing - part of what makes trail running so engaging.
A little darker (and quite cool) in the forest where North and South Talon intersect.  Even looks chilly!
Nearing the bottom of the long descent off of the Talons and heading out on Sundance.  We wanted to get off Sundance early as the lower trails were sure to soften too much as the temp was creeping into the upper 30's.  So we looped around Zook to Blackmer and headed up high again for the other top loop.  While we picked up some clay on the south side of Blackmer, we reached the intersection with Cougar's Shadow in good shape and, being the second highest trail in the park, this trail was still pretty firm from a cold night.
We really enjoy picking our way through the boulders on Cougar's Shadow.  While this is no place to set a PR for a given mileage, the effort and concentration required are immensely constructive for a trail runner's skill building.  It is also great strength building for well rounded legs and core - an all-inclusive workout.  Who needs a gym, right?
Running through a couple huge boulders on Cougar's Shadow.
Stop for a group mug shot - I almost had my feet slide out from under me!!
Kathleen heads off of Blackmer, headed out onto Raccoon Ridge.  We were starting to tire a bit, but figured we would catch the lower north loop of Raccoon/Soaring Kestrel/Coyote Run before dropping out at the trailhead.  These longer runs on the weekend are helping us gauge our winter fitness, while keeping a strong base for some good spring buildup. 
Finishing up the run and heading down Coyote Run after a satisfying day out on the trails. We never take for granted how much we have available in our area and the great variety of trails at our disposal. We are very fortunate to live in a part of the country where trails and wide open spaces are still treasured and made available for recreational use. With a bit over 14 miles and just shy of 3000' climb, this was a great run for any time of year but especially nice to squeeze in during the middle of winter! 

Shoes - K Brooks Cascadia
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

In other news, depending on a possible prior engagement in July, Steve might be challenged to attempt a 50k at the inaugural North Fork 50/50 in and around the Buffalo Creek recreation area. We have mountain biked there for years and were able to get in a couple long runs there last year. We have always thought it to be a fantastic site for an ultra - now it is. Could change my mind but it is alluring...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Best Laid Plans....

...Sometimes don't pan out PERFECTLY, but close enough!!!

We had been "scheming" all week about catching the forecast warmer temperatures and sunny skies in Pueblo today for our long run.  The bonus is that there has been no snow laying on their trails, meaning DRY trails was the word for the day.  As usual, the weatherman mis-led us.  You think we would learn, but alas, the lure of dry, sinowy trails fog the senses and allow us to believe "this time" could be the day he is accurate.  However, the trails were dry and the south shore of the reservoir has QUITE NICE trails, so we took off on our run under gray skies with a brisk wind.

We also made a new route today, as our last couple runs at Pueblo Reservoir have been basically the same route.  There are certainly more miles of trail here than our long run capacity, so try some new stuff, right?  We figure just the main clover-leaf of 3 loops to be about 30 miles, not including all the intertwined freeride mountain biking trails on the east side.  We headed out on Rodeo Ridge and then dropped down The Duke, which Kathleen is running above - we like all the Cholla cactus.  We ran into our first of several groups of mountain bikers on The Duke, as they all fell for the same weather report!
Out on the eastern loop, it was quite cold as the wind was whipping straight up off the lake and blowing in our face.  "We are on dry trails, we are on dry trails... and they are great trails!"  Repeat as often as necessary to tolerate said wind chill!!  We passed a huge group of bikes near the marina and then dropped onto the South Shore trail.  Kathleen waited as I dropped in - winding ribbons of singletrack trails - beautiful!  Now some people may think the desert scenery is, well, not scenic.  To an extent, it is not.  But these are some of the best built trails in our section of Colorado, hands-down.  Yes it is a bit of a bleak and colorless landscape, but when you develop a taste for the desert, it grows on you.  This area is much like the Fruita area on the western slope of Colorado - home to more extremely well built desert singletrack.
Kathleen nearing the summit of South Shore, getting ready to connect over to Pedro's Point.
We headed out to the VooDoo Loop, which we have not previously explored past the very first overlook.  There are two ways to loop the beginning, but today only one was available - the closest option had a minor issue - it is under water.  After the summer usage surge, the reservoir actually rises in winter, even before the snow melts in the mountains.  So we followed another group of riders out onto the loop to do a little snooping around.  We had a nice view of the backside of Pikes Peak (center) from the first overlook.
Here is the trail along the eastern side of the main inlet that VooDoo heads out to.  The wind was howling out on the point but we were determined to at least see the start of the BIG loop before heading in for the day.  Once you make the detour around and get to the main loop, the map shows an additional 8 or 9 miles on VooDoo - more to explore on future visits - woohoo.  Also a good spot to expand the reaches of our distance running...
Start of the loop - fuel time and a quick group photo, then start the trip back to the trailhead. 
Back on top, overlooking the trails we had just navigated.  At bottom center, you can faintly see the trail coming out of the inlet - this is the usual crossing, but not today.
Kathleen cruising under some dark skies.  It was starting to get a wee bit colder, but we were enjoying the run too much to notice!
Making the turn and heading off the VooDoo loop. 
Kathleen making tracks on the Waterfall Trail.  These little canyons we dropped in and out of provided welcome respite from the howling wind.  Nice!
Bottom of Waterfall and headed for the climb out Cuatro Cinco - warm clothes and food await...aaaah!  We ran just under 16 miles - great desert 25k I guess.  It was a great run and we were already planning some further explorations.  We also learned that a new loop west of VooDoo is in the possible draft stages - awesome news.   It is supposed to be cold, gray, and windy tomorrow - if so, may not be any new pics.  The Colorado State Tourism board forbids us from posting cloudy pictures on consecutive days  :)   Happy Trails!

Shoes- K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

 This Just In ... Sunny (but not warm) Sunday Update!

It ended up being sunny, so we have clearance from the tower (or at least Colorado's Tourism folks!!) to post a few quick pix.  While it was QUITE BRISK, we got out for a recovery trail run at Ute Valley with sun and 25 to 35 mph north wind ... BRRRRRR! 
Nice view of the snow-capped Peak.
While it appears we stopped for a group photo, we were "actually" huddling against the warm sandstone arch for some HEAT!!!  6.5 miles and then got out of the wind.  Happy Trails and have a great week!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mid-Winter's Run at Greenland

We are in that bleak period of gray running weather where it is not so much a question of "Will I Run?" but more "Where can I run that is not icy skating-rink-of-season-ending-doom or ankle swallowing mud bog?"  With surprisingly warm temps the last few days and some single digit night temps, we are in constant flux between the two extremes.  One thing is for certain though, we were not missing out on a chance to run some trails with 50 degree warmth in January!!!

After deciding we did not feel like the hour drive to Pueblo Reservoir, we headed off to Greenland Open Space.  They have had more a lot more snow right there on the divide between Co Springs and Denver, but we were hoping for some decent running.  Getting ready to head out, looking south to Pikes Peak from the trailhead.
We started out running the Spruce Meadows Prairie Loop, hoping that the open areas would be dry.  While there were some dry spots, as in the photo above, we did a fair amount of prairie grass running today.  (By the way, if you are reading this, Sunshine Girl, that is Kathleen, in a SKIRT, in the middle of winter!! hehe!  No worries, though, we'll get paid back and have to don our eskimo suits before long.)
We started the run in full sun, but were racing the clouds all day as they rolled in over the Front Range.  This is looking north toward Larkspur.
More than half of the trail was in this state today - under water and snot-slick muddy!  So we ran a lot of lumpy grass on either side - good foot and ankle strengthening day!
When we finally got to the base of Spruce Mountain, we were greeted by quite a bit of snow in the trees.  So we made the frontside loop and decided to head over to Greenland and run a loop there.  No sense going up top, and then having to descend on ice with no traction control in place!!!
It was cool running through the forest on the north side of Spruce.
We did the bottom loop at Greenland and headed in from there - 14 miles on the day.  Felt longer with the lumpy-grass trekking but that's what trail running gives you some days.  Beats a treadmill!!!  Still had a nice view of the Peak, however, it would be socked in with clouds by the time we got home.  It was a great day and we truly can't beat getting these warm-up days mid-winter.  Some folks had big races this weekend - hope they went well and we're looking forward to your reports.  Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Blissful Running

Woohoo - we hit 40's today with sunshine.  There had been thoughts of making the road trip to Pueblo Reservoir for some dry, snow-free singletrack, especially since their forecast was for low 50's.  However, at the last minute we decided to stick close to home and give the Falcon Trail a try at the US Air Force Academy.  We were hoping for a long run, and if the trails were clear, this 13 mile loop would be a perfect fit.

Kathleen, about a mile and a half into the run - smile says it all!
On the north side of the loop, we had a perfect overlook on the cadet common area, with the Rampart Range stretched out behind.  Pretty limited access down in there since 9/11 changed the world, but it is a beautiful campus.
So we had about 60% snowpacked trail and 40% clear trail - not bad here, as the high mountain bike traffic assures that there is at least a center strip packed down on the trail.  The surface was very good for running today, with but a few very slick spots and a couple good sized ice flows.  Following the narrow way through the snow!
I never tire of seeing the awesome chapel at the Academy.  If you are lucky enough to stop by when they are allowing guests at the visitor center, you are still able to have a look inside - it is an architectural marvel of crafted aluminum panels and stained glass inserts.  If you are here visiting, check it out, then go for a run - bonus!
Ascending the steep switchbacks up from Interior Drive - Kathleen is grinding out the climb!
After dropping off the backside, we came to the creek crossing to find the foot plank completely embedded in ice!  You can see the outline of it just to Kathleen's right.  It was like a hockey rink - Zamboni-glazed ice!
Steve enjoying the trails on an awesome sunny day - hard to beat for a winter run!

Kathleen cruising through the trees, winding up with a strong finish to the run.  After these past couple cold spells, the 40's today felt almost like a summer day!  It was great to be out and have very runnable conditions on the trails.  Consistent running on uneven snow and ice is a bit draining mentally and physically, so it felt nice out there today.  13 miles, good sun exposure, and no screw shoes - sweeeeeeet!  Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - Nike Triax ESC

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday musings . . . . . .

Ok, I've been reading everyone's plans/goals/race schedules for 2010. It seems to be "tis the season" to dream so I thought I would do my own musing in terms of this year's events. First of all let me admit something - I am a lazy athlete. Always have been, always will be. There, I said it. I like to do the absolute least amount of work and cross my fingers for maximum gain. Too much training structure has me rebelling and digging my heels in. So too, with too much "race" calendar structure. I am generally happy as a lark to skip merrily down the trail for as short or as long of mileage or intensity as I please. I like to make the choice to flog myself on a run on a particular day or choose to do a twinkie workout. No hardcore training schedules, please!

That being said (somewhat tongue in cheek), more seriously, I have to work hard to be a decent runner. Steve is a more natural runner, I am not. Cycling came much more easily for me (years ago, now) so I have to apply MUCH more effort and focus to be able to run with Steve.

Here it goes with the potential event schedule (subject to change on a whim!):

1. April 19 - Desert RATS 25 mile trail race in Fruita, CO

Steve's going to come home tonight and take my temperature on this one as it is a HUGE stretch. It must be the mate' tea I am drinking that has me feeling frisky. Not only am I not a natural runner, I have runner A.D.D.    LOL! We have kidded with a few of our local running friends that I have running-induced A.D.D. I pretty much lose my focus after about 16 miles. Bored. Big time. This is a good course to remedy that problem - a BIG 25 mile loop, no back tracking, lots of top notch desert singletrack, good scenery, but still a big mental challenge. It's on the list because SOMEDAY I want to run it!

2. May 1 - Greenland Trail 25k

This one is practically in our backyard. It's fast and would be good training. It's not an especially scenic course (two loops through rolling prairie) so not particularly good for my running A.D.D. It would be very helpful to me if Spruce Mountain was part of the course. It would add to the scenic value.

3. May 29 - Sageburner Trail 25k - Gunnison, CO

This is a great course. It will keep my attention. We've mountain biked Hartmans and now want to run it. Bonus: meeting up with Renee! (http://pinkcorker.blogspot.com/)

4. September 25 - Golden Leaf Trail Half Marathon - Aspen, CO

This is another course that will keep my attention. Beautiful scenery and fabulous singletrack.  Awesome - I am excited about this one!

5. October 9 - Xterra 21k Trail Race - Colorado Springs, CO

Right here in town, the trails are some of our favorites and I need to not cramp and redeem my time this year. I ran it faster in training than I did in the actual race due to the calf cramps. Grrrr . . .

Honorable mentions:

July 18 - Barr Trail Mountain Race - Colorado Springs, CO

Again, this is one on my "someday" list. It's right here in town, a great race, I've got a few potential training partners but am picky about courses and not sure I really have the desire to train for it yet. It's 6 miles and 3000 feet of elevation gain, turning around for the 6 mile return trip and descending back down that 3000 feet. Ouch.  The practical, common sense part of me will be thinking "What if I trash my knees" all the way down.  Hmmmm . . . .

July 3 - Leadville Heavy-Half - Leadville, CO

This is another "someday" event.  It could happen.  Or maybe not!  :-)

So there you have it, my short list of events. They all could magically happen or zero could realistically happen. We'll see. Like mentioned before, I am happy to skip merrily down the trail, pause to smell the flowers, without any pressure to perform. Also, LIFE tends to happen. It is fun to muse, though, and be a little silly, too. Please feel free to share any training secrets. Happy Trails and dreaming this week!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday Smorgasboard...

It's been a while since there has been a running post here, so we'll catch up a bit on the past couple weeks.  It has also continued to be unusually cold for us, so it has been a bit less than "Happy" on the trails for those of us who would prefer more moderate temps. :)  We had family staying with us for a week, so bloggy-time has been limited.  So here we go - a quick rehash since Christmas Day:

Christmas Day was crispy cold with 15 degrees and a stout breeze.  We bundled up, laced up the screw shoes, and hit the trails at Garden of the Gods.  If you are going to freeze, why not have great scenery?!?!?  We had little traffic on the trails, so it was wide open for running - just a bit slow with the snow and ice.  Here is Kathleen cruising up the Ute Trail.
Looking north to the Gateway Rocks.
Kathleen cruises down the rocks in front of the Siamese Twins.
Is it Steve??  Not sure with 100 layers of clothes, but it was good to be out running in such an awesome spot on Christmas.
It looked REALLY cold on Pikes Peak with the wind swirling snow around!  We got in a nice 8.5 mile run and then headed home to prep the house for guests.
Shoes - Asics Trabuco w/screws

Family Christmas Dinner
Steve's mom and dad flew in from NY late Christmas night, so we actually celebrated Christmas as a family on the 27th.  We had a lot of fun, had our family tradition of Lasagna (mom's Italian background!!!), exchanged gifts, and even got to meet "The Boy" - our niece has a serious boyfriend, who until recently, has been known only as "the Boy".  He's nice, has a real name, does not seem to have a criminal past, and is on scholarship for baseball.  We always take a family photo, and we got creative this year since we had an extra set of hands to take pics for us.  Photo credit: The Boy.

Happy New Year
So New Years Day, we got out for a combo run.  We hit the trails in Ute Valley Park for a bit, then ran the multi use trail around Flying W.  Steve, dashing through the pines.  It was sunny and 30's and the shorts were a wee bit of a stretch, but I am sick of being balled up in a pile of clothes!!!
Kathleen is cruising through some nice boulders at UVP.
We stopped for family photo - maybe even an anniversary photo, since we didn't bring the camera on our date Thursday!!
Every year this little Charlie Brown looking tree gets decorated by local neighbors at Ute Valley - right in the middle of the trail.  Kind of cool to have the trailside Christmas Tree!  We got to run 11 miles and had a pretty relaxed day by ourselves - sometimes that is nice.  OH YES - my Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl too - SWEEET!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Nike Triax ESC

Deja Vu
It was supposed to be windy and cloudy Saturday, so we decided to run Ute Valley again as it stays pretty sheltered from the wind.  About 15 minutes into the run, the clouds peeled off and we had sun for the duration - nice.  The evergreens always provide a nice frame against the sandstone at Ute Valley - then Kathleen's vibrant colors stand out even more!
Cruising the top rim of the park with cloud-capped Pikes Peak towering in the distance.
Coming off the top of the ridge and revved up for the descent!
It is awesome to have this great park so close to home.  There is enough variety that it never gets old and always provides a strong work-over on the legs.  We were able to get 10 miles of trail running in under sunny skies - then within half hour of finishing, it snowed!  Colorado is funny that way. 

Shoes -  Asics Trabuco

Today - no pics.  Just a pretty boring 7 mile "tempo" run on Santa Fe trail.  Still a lot of snowpack on Santa Fe, so footing is tricky.  Sunny, windy, and cold - therefore the camera stayed put!!!  It was all good though and the legs felt fresh.  Hope that everyone had a great time the last couple weeks - Happy Trails!
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