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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fun Run After All....

Woke up today to gray and windy again.  What's new?  Did not immediately feel motivated to do much of anything, let alone get after a good run.  We had entertained the idea of running with Tim in Boulder, but didn't want to be a drag if we felt like crap, especially since he is heading into Miwok 100k so strong.  If any of our small handfull of regular readers get a minute, go over to Tim's blog and pump him up for Miwok!!
So we headed down the road to Cheyenne Mountain State Park to see what we could put together for a run.  Since we can put loops together and bail early if it just wasn't cutting it out there today, we thought this was a safe bet.  Plus it is mostly out of the wind.  We were hoping the current snow had not trashed the trails and were pleasantly surprised that, other than some ruts and lumps from muddy day usage, the trails were sweet.  Bonus - barely a mile in, sun came out - close enough to the truck for wardrobe adjustment number 1.  Kathleen is cruising the first loop on Zook as the sun was breaking out.  Nice!
These bottom loops had the most mud-use damage, as you can see the lumpiness in the photo above.  Not too bad, just had to be cautious on the foot placement.  Since these are easily accessible to those with less than stellar fitness, they get tons of traffic, even on crummy days.  Regardless, it turned out to be a perfect weather day and started to immediately lift our running enthusiasm.
These trees perfectly framed the mountain!
Wide open vista as Kathleen rolls the start of Sundance Loop.
Surprisingly, even the back side of the Sundance Trail was mostly dry - I am rounding one of the sections above.  The northwest exposure holds snow quite a while but had relinquished the moisture nicely and was in great shape.  We skipped out on the Talons today, as the steeper climbs are not anywhere near the profile of Greenland's course for next week.  Plus we would be doing a decent amount of climbing today, as it was, so we left those for next time.
Kathleen summits Sundance Trail, with Cheyenne Mountain filling the background.
Near the finish of Sundance Loop, I noticed that Kathleen was not right behind.  I was needing to ditch the long sleeve at the truck, so I was going to pull up at the trailhead for a quick switch.  Behind me I hear "These dang trail runners!" and immediately recognized the voice of our good friend Jon coming up on his mountain bike.  He had already stopped to chat with Kathleen and was coming up on my heels.  We met Jon and Kim WAY back in the day, shortly after we had seriously started mountain biking- 1992 or 1993??? - which seems like just yesterday.  (I know, we were all mere CHILDREN way back then....)  Jon is a serious mountain goat of the highest order on the bike and we have spent many hours out on epic group rides with him - lots of good memories!!  Just don't ever challenge him where uphill is involved - you'll lose!  I learned the fine art of building Frankenbikes from him as well.  To top it all off, he writes the most entertaining Christmas letters, hands down - it is one of the highlights of the holidays!!!  It was great to catch up with Jon and we were glad he and his friend Chris didn't mind stopping to chat for a bit.  They were down at Cheyenne Mtn getting some riding in because their backyard trails are under snow and running water from the storm on Friday.  Of course we had to get a group photo before they headed out for another lap.
We got rolling again and headed up onto the Blackmer Loop for a stout climb.  Kathleen is ascending the long saddle on lower Blackmer before heading up into the trees again.  We rolled across Blackmer and then doubled back on Cougar's Shadow for a little extra up on top.  I had a slight navigational mishap and turned left instead of right, then had to haul some extra backtrack to catch back up to Kathleen.  Doh!  We were still feeling good, so at the bottom of Blackmer we ascended the saddle again and then headed over to Acorn and Bobcat to catch the northern section before finishing.
That's me, heading down Soaring Kestrel.
One last look at the mountain from the upper deck before heading down!

We ended up feeling really good today - good sign for next week - and were very glad we decided not to bail.  Plus we got to catch up with a great friend!  Logging just under 14 miles and around 2500' of climb, it felt great to workout the legs really well and enjoy what turned out to be great weather just a few miles south.  Happy Trails!

Shoes - La Sportiva Wildcat 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weather Smorgasboard...and a new Tasty Treat

We had some typical Spring weather this week.  Some nice periods of sun, drastic temperature swings, rain, hail, and snow.  Everything you could ask for in one day....  Wednesday night, I headed into Ute Valley Park hoping to get 6 - 8 miles, however, rain then hail hit when I was at the bottom of the park and I had to quickly climb out of the instant quagmire created by rain and bentonite clay - SLIPPERY SLUDGE!  So I got 4 miles and was drenched/mud covered.  Oh well that is Spring.

Friday we had a big snowstorm.  Mostly thick, wet chunky stuff in the Springs, but huge accumulations north between Baptist Road and Castle Rock - we are hearing 16" on the race course at Greenland - OUCH!  Only 1 week out from race day.  Below are CDOT photos from around noon Saturday at County Line Rd - about the top of the Kipps Loop climb; and at Greenland exit - where the start of the race is.
April Showers?!?!
Up for a trail run?  Anyone? ....
FORTUNATELY, however, just 20 miles south we had cleared out from under the snowstorm and had this view of a dusted Blodgett Peak when we started out this morning.  It was chilly and SUPER windy, but we had dry trail to run on so we had to at least make an effort, right?  The unfortunate part was that we started with tail wind and had to finish all the way home into a 38 mph headwind.  9.5 miles was all we felt like mustering up.  On days like this, you pull off the reverse-negative-split ~ fast out, survival back in!!!  It was for sure a "character builder" run - whatever that nonsense means!!!  Hard effort, hoping to go a bit longer tomorrow but under better conditions, then see where the chips fall next week. 

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - Brooks Ravenna
As with almost every run I do, I wore a Nathan hydration vest today.  I wore the HPL#008 which is a 50 oz., compact and lightweight vest.  I also have an HPL#020 which is a 70 oz. and can hold more "junk - aka, Kathleen's Sherpa" - I wear it on long and/or hot days.  I have occasionally been asked why I wear these - quite simply, I go through quite a bit of water for whatever physiological reason.  I always have, even on the bike.  Early on, I got accustomed to wearing Camelbaks on the mountain bike, so it has never been an issue to carry it over to trail running.  I also do not do well at all with handhelds - I have several and I don't like the balance issues and arm fatigue.  The Nathan sits so quietly on the back that it is a perfect fit for my tastes.  I will be wearing this for my race next week, and whenever you see it in the photos, you'll know "why" I always have one on! (and you know where I always have the camera to take cool trail running photos!!!)  If you have not ever tried one, I would give it a shot.
Now for a new tasty treat we recently stumbled across - Nutella spread.  Yummalicious pretty much wraps this one up.  Spread this hazlenut/cocoa concoction on a sourdough English muffin in the morning and look out!  We had always heard about Euro MTB racers that swore by this stuff for their morning kick start but never thought much of it.  Bonus points - it is gluten free, so Kathleen can indulge (just not on regular bread...).  So if by chance we hit some sort of spectacular PR next week, you might just wonder the next time you cruise by it in the aisle at the store ....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring in the Rockies - a little Seattle, a lot of Colorado!

Spring .. or Seattle?

One of the things that you learn to live with when Spring finally arrives to the mountains - weather is, from day to day, a crap shoot.  But it is a change of seasons that does not bring aggravation like the prolonged winter does.  It is different.  Green starts to show, flowers attempt to come out, and every weather-challenged day generally brings with it a run of several days of pretty good stuff.  It is a season of transition.
So, when you wake up to days like Saturday, you roll with it.  Thick fog surrounded our house Saturday morning, so much so that I thought I had awakened too early for a weekend.  Kathleen had to work, so we had to get in a run or she would be out of luck.  So we pretended we were in Seattle and this was normal, and headed out the door.  Up and over Flying W and down to 30th street and it was a little "brighter", and then climbed up Mesa Rd - where I am approaching summit above.  Fog was thick enough, you could not even see Kissing Camels from the top of Mesa.  Pikes Peak - forgetta bout it!
As we made the return trip, the fog grew more dense.  Not really a surprise as we live about 500' elevation above 30th.  This was the view on the Flying W trail about half mile from summit - a little soupy!
We crested Flying W and headed down toward home.  Here is Kathleen dropping into the Abyss o' Fog.  It is strangely peaceful running in the fog, though I don't know that I would prefer to do it enough to get "used to" it.  There is an odd detachment from spatial and distance relation in the fog as well.  Your internal pace sensors don't work well and time seems frozen.  It is cool every once in a while.  We borrowed it for a day, now the Pac NW can have it back. To keep.  All in all, it was a nice morning out, given the soggy conditions - did I mention there was light rain coming from the fog the whole time?  We were able to get in 9.5 miles with around 1100' elevation gain - significant because this route fairly closely mimics the undulations of the Greenland 25k in two weeks.  

Shoes - Asics 2150 Trail

Colorado Came Back

As almost always is the case, fantastic weather followed up our foggy, soggy day.  It took a while as we were astounded to wake to a blanket of fog again this morning.  However, it was short lived, and the skies (and trails) were treated to the radiance of a spring Colorado sky by mid morning.
We wanted to get one more recon mission in at Greenland Open Space this week, but decided to change it up a bit.  How do I say this gently?  Greenland.Is.Boring.  At least Kipps Loop where the race is held.  One lap is plenty.  We do two laps for the 25k, the folks doing 50k get a whopping 4 - with a free sanity check at the finish!  Really, it is good for a race because it is compact enough for logistics to work on race day and it is challenging enough to keep your attention - and heart rate - up on race day.  BUT, we like to have fun on the weekends - the whole, entire, absolute reason for trail running. Soooooooooooo, the plan was to first run a loop on Spruce Mountain for "fun" and then head back over to Greenland and run a loop on the race course with tired legs, like we will do for lap 2 in the race. We started our run from Spruce Meadows horse parking area - and got to start behind these 4 horse riders.
We ran the 1.5 mile gradual climb on Spruce Meadow trail over to the base of Spruce Mountain and then started the ascending in earnest.  Two and a half miles of climb until cresting mid-way around the loop on top of Spruce will get the legs jellied up a bit.  Kathleen is climbing above on one of the "flatter" sections going up Spruce.  Some of the switchback sections are nearing 20% - ouch.
Surprisingly, the trail conditions were stellar on Spruce.  A few mud patches, some standing water from snowmelt, but mostly smooth sailing - sweet!  Here I am about a third of the way up - still a bit of snow on the north side.
View from the southern rim of Spruce Mtn.
The ranch down below might as well be named Bonanza - bordering over 1000 acres of open space, and within easy access to Pike National Forest, these folks have access to the Trail Bonanza!!!  On top of that, they have their own "open space" to play on as well.
One of our favorite group photo spots - overlooking Larkspur.
Panoramic view of Spruce Mountain, seen from Greenland Open Space.

We headed back across the prairie trail to connect over to Greenland.  We had maintained a reasonable pace for Spruce, knowing that we wanted to run a loop on Kipps with pre-fatigued legs - as much for the mental preparation as it was for the physical seasoning.   We headed out on Greenland with just a bit over 9 miles in the legs and knew it was going to be another long run.  While lap 2 is not exactly identical to lap 1, for the most part the trail is generally ascending for the first 4.5 miles of the second loop.  There is a short, steepish descent off the saddle that drops down to the Territorial Road and connects at about the 2 mile mark of the first lap.  The second ascent of Kipps is tough, as that 1.5 miles of steeper climb comes on softened legs.  Get ready to work!
Kathleen running the WIDE OPEN spaces at Greenland.
 By the finish, clouds were building to the west - almost like summer...

We made our way to the summit and knew that, for the most part, it was downhill rolling from here.  Although tired legs prevailed, we did chip away at our overall average pace on the loop around Greenland - good sign.  We ran 17.5 miles with 2100' climb and 8:40 pace.  That was, for the second week in a row, a new distance achievement for Happy Trails!  At almost 2 miles additional to the race, and with a lap on the more difficult Spruce Mtn, we are feeling pretty good for the 25k in two weeks. AND, thankfully no "issues" for Kathleen this week!  Great day out running!

Shoes - K Brooks Cascadia - Loop 1, Asics 2150 Trail - Loop 2
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

Good luck to all the Boston Marathon runners tomorrow - both Blogger friends and local PPRR members!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Perfect day at Buffalo Creek

With an awesome Colorado weather day on tap, we headed out to Buffalo Creek to introduce our friend Tim to the wonderful trails there.  He signed up for the North Fork 50 Mile there in July, so we volunteered to "tour guide" some of the trails.  Of course, there is no need to twist our arm to run Buffalo Creek - it has been one of our favorite places since we started mountain biking there 15 years ago.  Since it is almost an identical drive from Boulder and Colo. Springs, it was fairly easy to meet there for a run.  Our plan was to hit a nice loop with 14 to 16 miles for a good long trail run.
Kathleen climbing the Shinglemill Trail.

We started out on the Buffalo Creek dirt road for a warm up to the couple big climbs, then turned off onto Shinglemill for the first big effort of the run.  Shinglemill is quite exposed as much of it was burned in the '96 fire so you never, ever want to be climbing it mid day in the heat - been there, don't care to do it again.  There was a nice cool breeze but temps were already in the high 50's when we started and got near 70 by the time we finished.  You can't tell in the photo above, but it would be a rough day for the lovely Ms Kathleen.
Enough said...

Kathleen has been having some chronic GI tract issues for the last few months and it is really cutting into her recreational pursuits.  Despite having the Imodium IV on for the whole drive, it still put a bit of a damper on her day.  While the Imodium took care of the main "running" issue, the cramps and severe leg fatigue took it's toll.  She is a very good sport, so don't think I am making her the butt of the joke.  It's just gets frustrating when it acts up and we hope it is figured out soon.
My view of Tim Long most of the day.

We were able to get rolling pretty well, and despite Kathleen's struggle, she was a trooper and would not give up.  Springing off a good early season of training, Tim is definitely running quite well and pulled  away easily on most any climb.  He is preparing for the Miwok 100k in a few weeks so give him some encouragement if you stop by his blog.  We saw lots of bikes out today, which is the usual scenario at Buff Creek - we just don't see many runners there ... yet.  Hopefully the North Fork race will expose some of the Denver/CS area runners to this awesome venue.
Kathleen on the slickrock - Baldy Trail.
Now, Steve on the slickrock...
Guess what, Tim ran it too!

After the descent off the Morrison Creek trail and a short jaunt up Buffalo Creek road again, we hopped onto the Baldy Trail for the Big Climb.  The 1300' climb in 2.5 miles is not altogether abusive by Colorado  standards, however, the occasional ramps of 10 to 15 percent grade can really put a damper on the great, twisty singletrack that comprises Baldy.  Today it was manageable with the mild temps and we made pretty good time on the ascent.  After reaching the Gashouse Trail at 10.5 miles and the high point of 8075' elevation, there is quite a bit of descending on the return trip - WooHoo!  Aside from a couple rude, but short, climbs the final 6.5 miles were mostly going down, dropping 1300' and pounding on the quads a bit after a long day on the feet.  It was all good!
Group photo - Gashouse/Baldy intersection - still all smiles.

We finished up with 17 miles (Tim 19 due to a technical directional instruction malfunction - sorry!) and nearly 3000' of climbing on the day.  A new longest run on the books for Happy Trails, and coach Slavedriver Tim pushed us to run these trails more than a half minute per mile faster than our last trip!  We even "recovery" soaked our legs in the mountain stream for a bit - BRRRR!  It was a fantastic day and we finished with a nice tailgate picnic before heading home.  Good Times!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Greenland Tune-Up

Starting to get some more miles in the legs, which is always good with a race coming up.  Of course, the weather (usually) and longer days appropriate more available time, and generate more positive energy, for running.  We both got in nice runs Monday - Kathleen at the Garden and me on Santa Fe post-work. Wednesday morning started out snowing like mad for 4", then in true Colorado style for spring, the sun broke out and 90% was melted by drive time home.  Sweet.  So Thursday night, we hit the Garden for part 2 on the week and did an 8 miler on totally dry trail - nice!

We have been wanting to hit a training run at Greenland with the 25k coming up May 1, so we headed there today.  It was cool with some wind (always windy there) but the sun was mostly out and there is not snow covering the trails - hot diggety!  A little pre-run pose at the kiosk at the main trailhead.  Thought about going Johnny Cash today, but opted for the gray liner shirt at the last minute...   Oh, and I broke Kathleen's cardinal rule of photo taking #1 by cutting our feet off - sorry!!!
Awesome view of Pikes from the race start area.
 Kathleen passes an old corral on the Kipps Loop climb.

The plan for the day was to run out the Territorial Road double track, as the race starts, then do Kipps Loop, double back over Greenland Trail to the two track, and then cruise the last two miles in flat to the trailhead.  This is around 11 miles and we hoped to hit low 8's average pace three weeks out from the race and evaluate our condition with a few key training runs to go. 
Steve rolling through the prairie meets mountain landscape.
Kathleen on Greenland Trail, cruising past the pond on the climb over the saddle.
Finished ... and smiling! 

We came up just a hair short of 11 miles, but our estimate was pretty close.  The nice thing was that we ran well today and hope it is a good sign of positive and progressive spring fitness level.  We had no splits over 8:56 average on the climbs, and hit low 7's average on the descents.  So we're liking where we are for "speed" (for us! since we are not fast!), if you can call it that, and pretty positive about our conditioning this spring in spite of a few setbacks over the past few months.  Looking forward to a nice, long run tomorrow - Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - Brooks Cascadia 2
Stats: 10.7 miles, 1070' elevation gain, 8:13 avg. pace

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some shelter from the wind - a Monday romp through Garden of the Gods

Well, our customary Spring-time winds have arrived in relentless force, which, for me (Kathleen), requires earplugs in order to sleep at night and a nice protected trail running route for shelter from the wind during the day.  Garden of the Gods, although not completely sheltered, does offer a little reprieve from the windy nastiness we've been experiencing as of late so that's where I headed.

I think I used up my allotment of "words" talking at work today so few words here but several pics from my romp through the park:

I love trail pics!

Smiling and savoring wonderful trail, sun, and 60 degrees.  Lovely day!

Not much "mojo" today - more like "slo-jo" but it was all good.  Ended up with 9 miles, beat the wind (mostly!), and had a great day!  Happy Trails to everyone this week!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Falcon Trail and Friends

After a 9 month furlough to the golden gate state, our friend Tim bid farewell to San Rafael and moved back to the Promised Land.  We were glad he decided to move back and hit him up for a run this weekend.  (Of course, everyone else up in Boulder was doing the same, so hopefully this week calms down for him!!)  So we decided we would go over to the Air Force Academy and run the Falcon Trail and follow it up with some good Mexican food - sound good????
Tim and Kathleen cruising the Falcon Trail

We headed out on Falcon counterclockwise and took a nice pace so that we could chat and catch up on Tim's jet-setting, Cali-tales and mostly running related yack.  (Oh - and also Pippit, Tim's awesomely cool little dog that goes everywhere with him!)  It turned out to be a perfect day with sunny skies and temps eventually climbing to 60 degrees.  That was fantastic after yesterday's gale force winds and downright cold temps for the morning run.  As you will soon see, it appears that we all run for team lime green!!! Too weird that everyone ended up in the same color shirts...Tim and I even had the same Wildcats on - lime green also!!!
Steve coming through (photo by TL)

We had a blast running the trails at AFA and Tim gave us a bunch of tips for the running/action photos, as he is an experienced outdoor clothing model and veteran of some magazine photo shoots.  Fortunately, the fellas up in Boulder softened up Tim's legs for us, so he was comfortable cruising the Happy Trails pace.  He has to save his legs for the Miwok 100k coming up in a few weeks.  Plus - he was noticing all the ladies out on the trail today and trying to make a good showing - never know when the future Mrs Footfeathers is on the trail!!!
Steve leading the way for Tim.
Kathleen strolling through the pines.  (Photo by TL)
Tim returns the favor, leading out Steve.
Group photo with Tim feigning exhaustion...

Had to stop for a group photo at the old cabin from the 1800's.  It is seriously leaning to one side and we were wondering if we would have to lean over at an angle to make the picture look good!!  You can't tell from the photo, but it was 1.5 miles to go and we were all thinking BURRITO!  We polished off a great 13 mile run, enjoying good company and a friend who was willing to drive 80 miles to run with us.  well, and eat Mexican food too - can't forget that.  We had a nice visit at 3 Margaritas Mexican restaurant in Monument and rehashed a great day running.  How wild is this - we ran into a guy in the parking lot that has read our blog and recognized us - Thanks Luis, you helped make our day!!!  We chatted a bit about Buffalo Creek trails - I might still have to kick around the idea of hitting the 50K there ... Hmmmm - not sure if I can safely train up to that mileage in 3 months, but alluring as the trails are awesome.  Maybe if some others joined the fun (TZ & Dana, Tim, anyone ....)

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S (&T) LaSportiva Wildcat

Sporting my new Diablo Trail race shirt that Tim smuggled in from Cali - Thanks TL!!
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