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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finally Some Sun!

Headed over to the Woodmen Park-n-Ride to start a run on the Santa Fe Trail.  Seems our little bonus snow on Friday really upped the ante on our mud/ice scenario on our regular trails, so we figured we would try to at least bag some miles on the more open terrain that SF has to offer.  Plus, at 600' or more lower than our house and some of our favorite singletrack, it got much less snow from the past 2 storms.  The trains were running pretty frequently, this empty one heading back north for more coal.  Pikes Peak looks great with a full blanket of snow, doesn't it?
We started out a bit cloudy with a stout headwind, however, that worked to our favor as the wind pushed the clouds off for a while and we got to run a majority of the time in SUNSHINE - oh yeah!  We paid for that a bit in that we had a lot of mud, but with the crushed granite surface, most of it does not stick to the shoes.  Plus, we'll take the sunny runny after some of our grayness of late.  We ran north from Woodmen onto the US Air Force Academy and enjoyed some casual running today - no pace goals, nothing to worry about, just enjoy the run!  Here I am enjoying the splash of sun and glad it made it feel warmer than it was.
Happy Trails indeed!
 Ice is starting to melt on Monument Creek - maybe Spring will decide to get in gear.
Kathleen enjoying the wonderful rays that lift the spirit and warm the soul - almost makes running feel effortless at times!!!
Finishing up the run, crossing the footbridge over Monument Creek - little different scenery than some of our regular runs but a little flavor nonetheless from one of our regular haunts.  There was nothing utterly spectacular about our run today, scenery or otherwise - unless of course you figure (as we do) that every day you get to be out and running is a great day.  Life is definitely good!
Parting shot - looking back at the trail as it passes under the Mark Dabling and Woodmen interchanges, meandering along Monument Creek.  We were able to enjoy 11 miles, most of it under a sunny sky which made it that much better.  We're holding out hope that Old Man Winter is going to loosen the grip on us and let some Spring weather start to trickle in - plus it is two weeks from time change and longer evenings - bring on the midweek runs!   Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail (think she finally found her Go-To shoe)
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gray Saturday

Occasionally in February, we start to get "glimpses" of Spring time weather in the Rockies, and sometimes a downright warm day here and there.  Not this year.  Local weather morons people are saying we are on par for one of the coldest winters on record, partially because the darn thing started so early!  Add to that watching a family member struggle to live, and it has been a mental beatdown this winter. Then, just when you think that the dark night of the soul might be lifting, you wake up to another 6 inches of snow and sub-zero temps....
Happy Friday - 6" of Prime Colorado Champagne Powder! (2 feels like -14.)
Kathleen would forego a run on Friday morning and take the sweet Miss Sage for a nice walk in the snow - what a photogenic girl!
Got out early this morning for a run as Kathleen had to head to the office for a bit.  It was gray and cool, but we are so used to those conditions it seemed normal.  Strong Sunny afternoon Friday relieved us of some of our snow, which was nice.  There are two ways to climb the trail along Flying W - north to south and you get .5 mile at ~10% grade, or south to north and you get 1.5 miles at ~5% grade.  So we started north/south and ran into a group of gals out for their breakfast at the top of the hill!!  We passed within 10 feet of a couple of the fawns and they did not even flinch - fairly used to runners.
We hit the bottom of the south side at 30th street and turned around to head back over south/north.  Nice little hill work on a Saturday morning.  Kathleen cruises along Flying W trail with a cold Pikes Peak in the background.  With the earlier light, we were able to squeeze in a bit over 9 miles before the sweet half of HappyTrails had to head off to work for a bit.  

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Brooks Cascadia

After a bit of recovery (aka, sitting on my duff catching up on blog reading/olympic results/etc.), I headed out for run #2 as I got NO mid-week run in this week.   Going for the boredom route award for the day, I ran the Flying W Loop and was rewarded with a third climb of the day to the top of FW road.  It warmed up to near 40, so mud was abundant on the second time around the trail.  In fact, I must admit that I ran about one third of the loop on the road in protest of running on packed snow and mud.  Tired of it, but it is Mud Season - woohoo!  Brought the iPod along to keep somewhat motivated to run alone - some fresh tunes from Thousand Foot Krutch, Red, and Seventh Day Slumber really helped toward the end of the run.  Don't use a pod much but today it was worth having it along.  Also enjoying the fact that REI started to carry the Chocolate Mint GU gels - ummm.  It's like eating Andes Mints or Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies on the run - tasty!  Logged another 6 miles and called it a day.

Shoes -  Brooks Ravenna

In other "exciting" news - we both are signed up to do the Greenland 25K trail race on May 1.  It was getting close to capacity, so we had to go ahead and get our names in.  I want a chance to redeem my second half cramp/meltdown last year and Kathleen will be running it for the first time as she was sick last year.  Should be good fun!  Looking like snow again tomorrow - we're rooting for March to come in "like a Lion" and then, winter can take it's sorry behind elsewhere...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snowy Days.....

Saturday Snow Time in Ute Valley!
A little over a month ago, we had a surprise visitor to the blog inquiring about our snow running and whether we had used Yaktrax before.  We have seen folks use them for years, but had never tried them out.  So, wouldn't you know it, we had a little box show up at the house with a couple pairs of Yaktrax Pro traction devices to try out and review.  Sweet!  Only problem was, it quit snowing ...  and we just had cold, no snow, and probably had our secret contact wondering what the heck happened... 
We began to wonder if the Yaks jinxed our snowfall!  Not to worry, Old Man Winter came calling again this week - uninvited joker that he is!!!  Snowed some Thursday, then acted like it would let us have a break for the weekend, then BAM - have that - Saturday morning dawned with 3 - 4" of freshies on top of the crusty remnants of the mid-week snow.  Yaktrax time!
Suited up for the cold and snow Saturday morn, and headed off to Ute Valley Park to put these babies through the ultimate test - snow covered, technical singletrack - woohoo! 
Kathleen going straight up the rocks entering Ute Valley's front side.
It was to be another one of those gray, monochromatic weekends - flat light and snow, with a little "running color" thrown in!  It was soooo quiet down in Ute Valley as the fog-like air and snow covered earth muffle most outside noise and narrow your senses to the crunching underfoot and the stark scenery.
Bundled runner comin' through!
Cold but happy to be out running!
Kathleen slaloms through the boulders.  It was great to be out on such a nasty day, running through beautiful scenery like this snow covered landscape.  We finished with 10 miles and VERY tired legs.  For those of you who are not "privileged" to run regularly (or ever) on fresh snow, the additional toll on the body is somewhat hard to describe.  Of course, we generally don't deal with much above-80 degree heat and humidity, so it is not like others don't have their challenges.  But the snow runs are quite draining.

As for the Yaktrax, they earned an initial 4 thumbs up from Happy Trails.  We have run quite a bit in screw shoes for icy conditions, however, there has always been that need for something that works in fresh snow and packed snow.  These devices definitely shined in the snow and snowpack conditions in which we ran Saturday.  We look forward to some more testing, although hopefully not MUCH MORE this year - we're ready for sun and warmer weather...!

Shoes- K Asics 2150 Trail
S Brooks Cascadia
Temp - 24 feels like 16
  The Snow Continues...
A snowy front has camped out on top of Colorado and is refusing to leave. It is one of those pesky, nuisance fronts that lightly drops snow for a few hours, lets up a bit, then fires right back up. Because of this, the accumulation has not really stacked up in highly visible areas but has made a cumulative impact on our trails. I won't go on any kind of rant about this, as quite frankly, we have had an un-Colorado winter thus far in the precipitation department. It has been cold, and got that way early, but the southern Front Range has been a bit pinched on moisture. When we get the snow it does, however, put a crimp in the trail running - but since we have the gear for it (and no treadmill) we suck it up and head out. Snow fell lightly through the night Saturday night and dusted over what had packed down Saturday. Kathleen was not feeling like slogging through the snow and cold today and opted for an indoor ride on the trainer. So I bundled up and headed out for a solo run at Garden of the Gods. :-(  Photo above is the nice view looking north from the visitor center parking area.
Untracked ribbon of singletrack, just waiting for me to drop in!  It was 18 feels like 3 when I left the warm confines of Happy Trails Central - ouch.  Over the years, you build a repertoire of outerwear to enable adrenaline inspired efforts to continue under such conditions, however, it's always that first step out the door of your home (or vehicle if convening at a trailhead) that causes some loathing of the cold. 
Yucca and Yaktrax.
Top rim of the park - dropping in!
Stopped for a photo under the Giant Footprints.
I never get tired of the inspiring views around the Siamese Twins arch.
The snow traces ribbons of trail through the stark winter landscape, while the fog backdrop creates almost 3-dimensional photography.  It was eerily quiet in the park.  I saw 1 horse rider, 4 hikers, and 3 runners in an hour and a half - spooky for a weekend in this park!
Desert meets winter!  There was enough snow to bury the cactus but the Yucca were pleading for sunshine!

I was able to knock out 10.5 miles in this beautiful winter wonderland, though the legs were barking at me a bit the last couple miles.  The cumulative onset of fatigue of two days running on fresh snow was quite apparent nearing the end of the run.  I was happy with the effort although the pace on snow runs is a "learned acceptance" that better times are had on dry trails.  C'est la Vie.

Shoes - La Sportiva Wildcat
Temp 18 feels like 3

Once again today, I give two thumbs up to the Yaktrax.  I think they do great on packed snow and untracked snow.  On chunked up, heavy traffic spots they do OK but I don't know of anything else that does better.  I am a bit reserved about ice - both road crossings were sheets of ice and left me debating between these and screws.  More to come on that when there is more ice to play with...

Got home from the run, fed my tired legs, and headed out for a walk in the snow with my color coordinated girls!  Can you see Sage smiling?    
Happy Trails this week!

THIS JUST IN:  Matt Hart just posted his new Ultrarunning video for 2009 on his Coaching Endurance blog - If you have not seen his stuff, this guy puts together a presentation that makes you want to forget whatever you have going on, and just go run!  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What? Tagged?

First of all,we must be blog illiterate because this tagging thing was foreign to us until yesterday.  Then, before you know it, we get hit from all sides with it.  Holy Cow!  Problem is this, if you are going to hit us with this Sunshine award, better send some sun with it instead of .... snowing sideways!   (OK, OK, I got a little off track there...)  Thanks to Julie, Maureen, and Tara for lavishing rays of sunshine upon us!  I guess we're supposed to pass this lovely flower along to a few others who make our day sunny with their blogging, such as:
Meg Runs
Gotta Run Now (Tina)
HappyFeet 26.2 (Ginny)
Banff Trail Trash (Leslie)
Ted & Danni's Adventures

In other non-tagging, non-bloggy award related news, got a nice "chase-away-the-winter-blues" care package in the mail this week. It seems the powers that be at Drymax happened upon our blog and saw my darling Kathleen cruising the trails at Cheyenne Mountain sporting their bright red winter socks.
It seems they had interest in using Kathleen's pic (much better choice than using mine!!), we had some emails back and forth and wouldn't you know - they surprised us with a nice collection of new socks to spruce up our "foot wardrobe"!! We discovered their socks about a year ago and really enjoy the fit and feel for running. If you have not tried Drymax, give their socks a shot - they are awesome!
Watching the Olympics and checking out NEW running gear, while the snow falls gently outside our window - nice!  (Being a fellow naturally curly, Kathleen has been ooh'ing and aah'ing over Shaun White's flowing, curly locks!!!)  Even got in a headlamp-powered 5 miler last night - woohoo on weeknight runs - can't wait for the time change - 24 days and counting...    Happy Trails!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Last Minute Race ... and a PR at that!

After a couple weeks of feeling a little blah on runs, I decided to hop in at the last minute to the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series III race.  Kathleen had to work, so it was just me heading north on I-25 for this event.  The Winter Series is a progressive short/long series where each gets longer for both.  So yesterday's race was a 5 mi / 10 mi and I jumped in on the 10 miler.  Most of the series is on dirt or at least dirt roads, and this race was on the Santa Fe Trail between Monument and Palmer Lake Colorado.  The PPRR nickname for this race is the Wind Tunnel - great.  This trail is very open, and sure enough we had wind.   This is also long, flat (for Colorado), and pretty straight - a course for the Gazelles, not necessarily for a trail runner.  But I figured running with the speed demons every once and a while might help my overall leg speed, so why not?  It's not like I do many races so a little winter fitness test won't hurt anyone.  So I joined up with 533 other runners to hit the trail.
The sun was luring all the runners in the hour before race time.  Here is the view as I was walking to the staging area.  All of these races have walk-up race day registration available for last minute schlubs (like me) to hop in!  It was sunny with only a slight breeze when I arrived but that would change.  I also got to meet Ace, fellow Colorado blogger, for the first time before the race, which was very cool. 

The staging area was at the Baptist Road Trailhead on the Santa Fe Trail at about 6800'.  This is about an 8 foot wide multi-use trail that is dirt with crushed granite surface.  The race headed north to the 5 mile turn around at approximately 7200'.  With all the rollers, the Garmin calculated 834' accumulated climb - pretty flat for 10 miles of Colorado running.  Except for the last mile, there was no snow on the trail due to our non-snowy season so far.  Reports are that in past years, the northern end of the long course involved post-holing shin deep snow.  SO sorry I missed out....

So, as for the race, obviously I had not planned specifically for it, so when I decided to have at it, my goal was pretty simple - top my fastest 10 mile race time, not blow up, and hopefully not cramp (which has been a nemesis of almost every race I have run or biked.)  I ran out of S-Caps! so I was a wee bit nervous on the cramp part.  So in the hour before race time i sipped on some NUUN and it seemed to help.  I had brief thoughts of hanging with the aforementioned gazelles but that evaporated quickly after exiting the start corral. 

First Half:  As mentioned, the weather changed.  We got a stiff, cold wind from the northeast and clouds rolled in right before the start.  So I had to start somewhat sensible as we were climbing and fighting the wind for the out portion.  I felt pretty good and generally ran pretty smoothly in the 7:40 - 8 pace range on the way out.  I was glad I wore my Sporthill 3SP jersey - no wind coming through that puppy!  I found some folks who were in my capability range and tried to watch my pace.  I tend to get brain freeze on these straight/flat type runs - before you know it you are lulled into a slower pace but you perceive your effort as being the same.  At least for me it works that way.  Last mile on the out, hit some chunky packed snow sections, which blew up the pacing a bit as everyone was jockeying for the "good" line.  Hit the turn (5.05 mi) at 39:49 / 7:53 pace - Crap, I got some work to do!

Second Half:  Ah, the tailwind - every runner/cyclist's dream on the Santa Fe trail is that the festering wind in your face when heading north will not switch directions when you head back to the south (trust me it happens).  Jackpot - we got the tailwind.  So descent + tailwind = sort of happy.  I started to calculate pace/time/speed/wind shear/leg explosion combinations in my head as to what it would take to hit my goal.  My "secret" goal was to finish in the 1:15:xx area.  Had some work cut out for that.  Plus my pace buddies on the way out were really notching it down when we hit the turn.  I started to talk to myself a bit - telling myself this could take some time in the "hurt locker" to get it done.  Or the "pain cave" - whichever works for you.  Kept the second half sub-7:20's which is pretty speedy for me at this point.  The last couple miles were not fun.  First, it spit a few snow flurries - that was just an insult, but I tried to ignore it.  But I hit low 7's, high 6's for some brief periods and that was all the gas I had.  Stopped the clock at 1:15:53 - new 10 mile PR by 5:50, so that was pretty solid.  10.11 miles on the Garmin, which put me at 7:30 pace overall and I feel satisfied with that.  UPDATE: Forgot to look at the official results, but here are the numbers: 38th overall, 35th male, 6th in 40-44 age group.  For those who like to geek on the numbers, here they are:

(Photo courtesy Tom Dewane)
This just in - an action shot!  (And probably the only dork with a hydration pack.)
Steve and Ace - chillin' at the finish!
What, did someone say donuts?  Nothing like Hostess Chocolate donuts and coffee at the finish - mmmm.  I ran over to the truck and quickly got the sweaty clothing swapped out for Windstopper and a warm hat and hung out at the finish area for a while to watch some people come in.   It was a good race, probably not totally my style or speed, but that's OK.  Even got a photo with Ace at the finish, but forgot to get a Happy Trails waiver so I will post it later if he doesn't mind.  I'll also post a pic of me in the race when they come up on PPRR's website.
Post-race fueling - My sweetie brought this home to me from our favorite bakery - Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery.  A delicious fruit tart - yummy.  While I don't photograph food as well as Tina, you get the "picture".  Happy Trails everyone!

Shoes - Brooks Ravenna

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weekend's Here ... But Snow's a Comin'

We have done a little jabbering, well okay, let's just say it - WHINING - about the cold.  And it has been cold and it did start early this year.  However, we have been pretty darn dry since early December - good for trails, bad for our prospects of not having the entire state catch fire this summer.  So while we were not happy to have a snow "episode" forecast, we have to bite our tongue because we want trails available to run on this summer!  We were supposed to have one last nice day Saturday before weather arrived.  So we cruised over to Red Rock Canyon hoping to get in some good dirt before the flakes started to fly.  
We had a mixture of clouds with a few minutes here and there of the sun poking out.  As you can in the photos, there was not much snow to be found out on the trails.  Kathleen is on the climb of the Red Rock Canyon Path, with a little bit of Pikes Peak showing far off.  We were glad we stayed close to home as the legs were a bit "gray" this weekend, just like the weather!  Maybe it was the 15 & 14 on the weekend last week or a little S.A.D. settling in but they were just plain flat this weekend.
The old road across to the quarry area was one of the few places we found mud.
Steve catching some rays on the Contemplative Trail.  Looks like a good spot to run and think, eh?
The clouds were continuously repositioning themselves - sometimes you could see the Peak, and others just a cloud as in the center of this photo.
Temps started to drop during the second half of the run so we were glad that we did not trust the forecast and stayed with a good clothing base.  Climbing up the Roundup Trail, there was a nice outline of Garden of the Gods on the horizon behind Kathleen.
Stopping for a group mug shot before dropping down into the canyon on Roundup.  We did find snow and ice in the bottom of the canyon, but not too much.  The park was quite busy today - seems nobody wanted to be out in the snow Sunday ... OR maybe there was a little sporting event taking place ...
Nice view down the back canyon.
Up on the northern side of the park, peering across the valley to the Garden of the Gods.
One last break in the clouds and a nice view of Pikes!
Ready to be done and get warm!  While I would love to say it was like The Sound of Music on top of the hill here, it would be a lie.  It was just one of those weekends when the mojo was a no-show.  It is kind of nice when both of us time that weekend together - especially on a crappy weather weekend!  We got in almost 11 miles and it was plenty.   And - no cold soak after this one (or the rest of winter for that matter) - I tried it a couple weeks ago and sat around the house in a down parka trying to warm up!!!  Kathleen got a good laugh though...

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - Brooks Cascadia

The flakes started on queue Sunday morning - gray skies and light snow to start.  While not eager to go hog wild (as mentioned earlier) we at least wanted to make up for a few of the millions who were already parked in front of the pre-pre-pre-pre-game shows with the case of Dorito's, vat of queso dip, and beverages of choice!  We started out by heading up to the Foothills trail bordering Pike National Forest right above our neighborhood.  Snow was just starting to outline the trails and cover up any line of sight to the mountains.  These conditions do provide a unique canvas to highlight a runner's colorful attire on a gray day!
Doubletrack below Pikeview Quarry.  There's another couple thousand feet to that mountain (and great opportunity for hill climb practice) - where'd it go?!?!?
While we were not supremely motivated to be out running in cold and snow, we did have the trails to ourselves - peaceful and very quiet when the snow is falling!  We also had a good laugh at my expense - Shortly before this photo I hit a well disguised ice flow and immediately hit the deck, butt first!   We really don't have enough snow to have much ice laying around, so it was totally unexpected.  So I'll be sportin' the softball sized heinous bruise on the butt cheek for a while now!
Foothills Trail heading up into the national forest.
Kathleen cruising through the bare aspen and cottonwood trees.  We actually did not mind being out - got in about 7.5 and called it a day.  Kept some blood moving through the legs on an "off" weekend and that's always a plus.  Snowed off and on through today (Tuesday - I know, we're waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind) but didn't amount to a ton of snow.  We got 8 or 9 inches at our house, so trails are trashed for a while.  Been sitting around with the Prozac drip surfing cheap flights to the desert southwest or the Cali-coast - wanna get away?  Happy Trails - frosty, snow-covered ones that is!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - La Sportiva Wildcat
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