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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Red Rock Canyon Circuit

Steve is frequently the blog author for Happy Trails (I do lurk in the background adding my two cents, however) but insisted on relinquishing control of the keyboard to me today.  We woke to another beautiful, bluebird day in Colorado this Memorial Day weekend and had a hard time deciding where to run.   I am SO thankful to have Steve back and that he is seemingly on the road to recovery from his little "issue" - we still needed to choose a location where he could cut the run short if need be and I could continue onward.  Red Rock Canyon, one of our nearby, favorite areas fulfilled the requirements.
A most lovely cloudless sky greeted us today.
Red Rock Canyon can act as a spring board for almost limitless trail access and exploration in our local mountains.  I just wish we had the legs and lungs to cover the endless miles available!
Ahhhh, finally a Steve sighting!  Poor guy was left out of the weekend photo ops.  He's back now!
I was contemplating doing repeats up and down and back and forth in the shade of the Contemplative Trail.  I was thanking God for every blessed rock outcropping, tree, and scrub oak bush that provided intermittent sections of shade and petitioning Him to please sprout a few more (trees, that is) in the open areas along our favorite routes.  :-)
Spiderman was spotted climbing the Whale.
Yes, Steve is happy (Kathleen is happy, too, to have him back!).  He is running, feeling good, and I took his picture.
We were also remiss in Group Photo Taking this weekend.  Now we are back on track!

What can we say?  It was a picture perfect day - bluebird skies, 75ish degrees, gorgeous eye candy scenery, and we both felt pretty decent.
We were content with about 12 miles and 2000ish feet of climbing.  It was all good in Happy Trails Land. 

Happy trails and lots of  FUN running this week!
S - La Sportiva Wildcat
K - Asics 2150 Trail

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Baked in the Garden" Run!

First things first - I got to run yesterday!  Quite the good news after 2 weeks of not a single running step.  (Infected unmentionable part not healed, but getting there)  Our good friend Tim had another friend in from back East, who in turn had friends in the Springs that he wanted to visit.  So, being the good host that he is, Tim made the trip down and got in a run with us while his guest got to catch up with friends here.  We decided to hit the Garden of the Gods on limited time.  There was one catch for Mr Steve - two weeks off running AND - surprise - it was 85 degrees when we hit the trail.  Combine that with 14 days on antibiotics already and it was big time dehydration festival for me.  No pain, though, so I survived...
Bluebird skies bathing Pikes Peak!

So we hit the trails with hopes of getting in about 10 miles.  Tim had never been to GOG, so we figured on hitting the basic outer loop first - Dakota, Palmer, Siamese Twins, Cabin Creek, then over to Scotsman, Niobrara, and hit the front loops a second time.  Good Stuff.  We were making good pace until the Cabin Creek climb - then the sun got the best of me.  From that point, Tim and Kathleen had to wait at the top of each climb for me - like a newbie :-(  Oh well, at least I was on trails, upright, and running - at least mostly running.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the Garden has sprung to life - we went from a long, cold "spring" straight into heat zone this week.  Nothing like a long string of singletrack set against a stunning backdrop to get a trail runner's pulse going!
Tim running through an open meadow
Tim and Kathleen heading through the trees
Unfortunately, this was the only "shade" we had all day - a couple feet at a time.  Kathleen is all smiles leading through the Gamble Oaks on the front side trails.  Shortly after this pic, I dropped off to finish my run at 7.5 miles and I was baked.  Heat immersion training, I guess.  And what is up with no pictures of Steve, anyway?!?!  Conspiracy of the fast runners, I guess...  :-)
Different angle on Pikes Peak - awesome mountain!

Kathleen and Tim did the extra loops on the front and finished strong with 10 miles and 1450' of climb - lots of constant up and down in GOG.  It was fun touring Tim through on his first trip too.  It was a good visit and we got Tim back in time to catch his ride back to Boulder.  Definitely good times and Happy (to be back on) Trails!

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

Today, we got out to ~20 degree cooler temps - high 66.  I decided to not tempt fate and do a ride instead of running.  So Kathleen opted for a Brick - Run then ride.  I got to work on the road bikes, which have needed a little TLC while Kathleen did her run.  When she finished up, we took off on the bikes for some local loops where we would not have to deal with crazy holiday traffic.  We started off with our Flying W loop and on the big climb, found out quickly that Kathleen had my legs from yesterday - crap.  So she ended up cutting her ride to ~15 miles and I headed out through Rockrimmon for some extra mileage.  I altered my route when I popped out on old Woodmen road and saw a group of 10 or so "carrots" (a.k.a. - riders I wanted to catch) heading up into Pergerine.  So I did the big hill and passed all of them by the top - I buried my legs doing it though - gotta love male-ego-competitive-stupidity sometimes!!!  Ended up with 26 miles and 2600' climb - nice round numbers.  (Almost all of our west-side rides average about 1000' climb per 10 miles - interesting)  Interesting side note - my feet prefer 15mm of soft EVA foam under them rather than the 5mm solid thermoplastic sole in the "fine Italian love for your biking feet" Sidi's that we wore today.  Good day and hoping for a run again tomorrow....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hittin' the Stairmaster

I love Mondays!  The office is closed so Monday is my play day.  It is also a day I try to "mix" it up with some variety in terms of workouts.  My intention, over the summer, is to get some Monday bricks in - a run followed by a ride.  The "mix" today started with one of my "quick" faves - a climb up the Manitou Incline. 
Smiling and ready to get the climb "on"!
There was a steady line of people all the way up.  I think it was the largest crowd I have ever seen on a Monday.  It was interesting - there were people in all shapes, sizes, ages, varying levels of fitness (and non-fitness!), and a number of different languages being spoken along the way.  Everyone seemed to be reveling in the beautiful day.  The Incline seems to be its own tourist attraction!
After weaving my way through the "sea of humanity" to the top, I paused to enjoy the expansive view looking down and east over the city.  It was fun to see several groups of people cheering their friends when they hit that last step and the satisfied looks of accomplishment on their faces.  I love watching people and I love seeing them smile.  It makes me smile.
I decided to forgo the "normal" way down to Barr Trail (a steep, washed out trail that everyone uses) and found the preferred and little used trail that drops out a little farther up Barr.  It continues climbing straight ahead from the top of the Incline for a quarter of a mile or so and then starts a gentle drop to Barr.  The wind had really whipped up and parts of this connector are a bit exposed.  The harsh wind unsettles me a bit, anyways, and combined with the very secluded feeling on the trail,  was feeling a little "creeped" out.  I was more comfortable once I hit Barr and started the descent.  If I would have had some company, I would have loved to continue up to Barr Camp.
The gravel seemed to be extra slippery today - like running on marbles - so I exercised a little extra caution running down - didn't really care to do a face plant.  Thankfully, the descent was uneventful.  The above photo is one of the many switchbacks that make up the section called "the W's".  At the conclusion of the run, I was happy to note that my legs hadn't turned to jello.  Got my 2000 feet of stairclimbing in a mile, climbed a little more, then descended about 2250ish in 3 miles and felt good!  I "wimped out" on the bike ride - I just didn't have the fortitude that Steve had last Saturday to venture out into the nasty wind.  So I called it all good for the day.
Happy Trails to everyone this week!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kathleen "Runs With Jill"

...But First, Where Have You Been?....

Haven't posted in a bit??  I know, not because of a lack of desire.  Just have not been up for it.  Back up a few weeks and I'll give a brief explanation.  Coming out of the Greenland race, we both felt pretty good.  Had a decent showing there and headed off to sunny New Mexico to try and get spring jump started.  By mid-week, I thought I had a slight groin strain from the race, so tried to keep an eye on it and do some stretches, etc.  However, not a strain.  Let's just say strong antibiotics and very painful and we'll leave it there.  It has left me on the non-impact, unable to run list.  So, ...
 Sidi Dominator - worth buying for the name alone!
At the end of this week, I got out the trusty mountain bike and figured I would find out if I could at least tolerate some rides.  Ride 1 short but good on Friday evening.  Saturday morning, Kathleen ran by herself before heading off to work.  She got in a nice 9 mile run, incorporating some of our local hills.  Good run and all seems to be clicking for her - awesome!  After she left for work, I headed over to Santa Fe trail to try some mileage on the bike.
North Gate - USAFA
Nice  view of Blodgett Peak, with the tip of Pikes Peak behind, and the B-52 display in the foreground.
10 miles out and feeling good
Headed out 10 miles to the north boundary of the Academy and then had headwind the whole way back - yeah...  I am talking the nice, sustained 35 mph with 50 mph gusts - awesome!!  Just what you live for on the bike - or NOT.  But, it's Colorado in the spring and you learn to suck it up, bury your head, and go.  I ended up with 20 miles in relative pain-free fashion - good news.  

NOW, Run with Jill!
 Kathleen and Jill
Kathleen had been chatting with Jill post-Boston about doing a trail run with us.  So a run was coordinated this week to take place at Waterton Canyon outside of Littleton, CO.  The trail is a wide dirt road that follows the South Platte up to the Strontia Springs Dam.  It is a very scenic canyon and there were many trail users already out early this morning.  The plan was for Kathleen and Jill to run and I was going to ride the bike - better than staying home, right?  Jill also had a friend, Dennis, that showed up and ran with them most of the way.
Plenty of wildlife - mama and goslings

Tried my hand at video while riding
Most of the ride up was shaded, as the sun had yet to clear the canyon walls - a bit cool but still pleasant out.
Strontia Springs Dam
Stopped to have a look at the dam when I reached the top.  The dam is 243 feet high and I was quite happy it held it's contents while I was below it!!!   I knew I would have a bit of extra time, so I continued on toward the start of the Colorado Trail.  
Local residents lounging
The Colorado Trail
We  have been on several segments of the Colorado Trail, which starts here and goes all the way to Durango, but have never been to either endpoint - until today.  I rode a bit up the singletrack, which was quite steep, and then turned to start back down.  We will be back to run this and get in some more of the singletrack trails!!!
View from the top
I saw Dennis on my way down and knew it was time to keep my eyes open for the gals.  Sure enough, along came Kathleen and Jill - both all smiles and enjoying their day.  Notice their synchronized running - almost like they practiced it for years!!  Once again, we had some unbelievable weather.  We went from two days snowing last week, to 80 degrees Saturday and 75 today - gotta love the mountains.  I continued on down and chilled in the sun for a bit while the gals finished up a nice run.  It was a nice day and we were glad to meet Jill (& Dennis too).  More "Kathleen Commentary" coming tomorrow.........

Back in Time...
Quick rewind to last weekend - we got out for a run at the Monument Fire Center, trying to get a preview for a big loop we want to do in the near future.  With many rides under our belts on these trails, and some local recon info from our friend Jon (whom you met several posts ago), we decided to expand our base a bit and go a little higher up on Mount Herman.  Kathleen is cruising up into the alpine section here on Trail 715.  We are looking at an option to form an 18-20 mile loop utilizing these trails.  Trail 715 will form the "spine" of our big loop, as it traverses the southern and western flanks of Mount Herman.
High up on Trail 715
Group summit photo
We thought we were taking the newer Black Pearl trail, however, my navigation was a bit off and we were on the 715 all the way up to an intersection with Mount Herman Rd.  That worked out OK, though, as we realized the potential for the circumnavigation of Mountain Herman.  We topped out around 8000 feet but will need to climb higher to complete the big loop.  With more navigation resources from Jon, we will be looking at that in the near future.
Because of the "issue" previously mentioned in this post, we decided to cut off the exploration for the day and begin our descent back to the Fire Center.  As we made our way down, we were excited about the potential loop even before we got to sit down and scour the map.
Another trip through the Memorial Groves on the way out
We finished our day with 11 miles but are hopeful to get back over soon and take a shot at the big loop.  Watch for details.... 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Something Local - Something Afar...

Red Rock Canyon / Section 16
 Looking down on Red Rock Canyon from high up on Section 16.

Friday we wanted to continue with our solid block of training for a spring boost.  We figured we would take some down time from running next week to allow the legs to process the race followed up with the block of mileage afterward.  We also wanted to continue to get in some elevation gain on the runs to prepare for some summer runs in the mountains (...if summer ever arrives...)  Docked the mothership at Red Rock Canyon Open Space with the plan to run to the top and connect with Section 16 via the Intemann Trail.
The back side of Section 16 is more power hike than run, but that happens in the mountains as well, so practice is needed.  After the steep section (1000' vert in a bit over a mile), the remainder of the climb to the top of the saddle is quite run-able.  This is the view across the canyon - the tan streaks in the center are the VERY steep switchbacks on upper High Drive.  From the summit, there is a sweet 2.5 mile descent that allows for a maintainable cadence and helps "season" the quads for some good downhill running.  On the descent, you cross Hunters Run, an intermittent brook that comes out of some rocks in the hillside - plenty coming out right now!
Hunters Run
Kathleen on one of the long runouts - Section 16.
Steve on an exposed section of Intemann Trail.
After completing the loop on Section 16, we caught Intemann Trail and started back down to Red Rock Canyon.  The views to the north were outstanding - Garden of the Gods looks tiny on the horizon from this viewpoint.  We completed the outer loop at Red Rock and finished up with 11.25 miles and some tired legs!  With temps hovering in the low 40's, it was much cooler weather than we had in New Mexico and we are really hoping for some of that to start creeping it's way up into Colorado...

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat
Stats:  11.25 miles, 3300' elevation gain

Boulder - South OSMP Trails
Took Saturday off from running in anticipation of a trip up to Boulder to run with Tim today.  He put out the "bait" a few weeks back with a description of a favorite loop of his which included lots of sweet trails and a little more mellow on the vertical than running Boulder's Skyline Traverse (see photo above), including summits of Green, Bear, and SoBo peaks - we'll save that for another day when we've got more leg!  Just a quick word - Boulder is a cool town and the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks division has one heck of a trail network.  If you can't find a trail here to suit your fancy, give up...  Our tour guide would be taking us on some fine trails in the southern part of OSMP today.
Kathleen and Tim heading out of Flatirons Vista area.

We started out from Tim's place and made our way over to the Dowdy Draw area, then traversed a hillside over to and then above Highway 93.  This was a nice way to start as the gradual climbs gave us some time to get the legs warmed up.  By the way - notice how awesome the weather was?  Finally!  70ish temps and blue skies, combined with good company and awesome trails = Shangri La.
This is looking out toward Eldorado Canyon, with a distant, snowcapped peak in the center.  Next visit to Boulder will include a voyage back into Eldo with a loop around Walker Ranch, or so our guide promised...
Tim and Steve flogging the trails...
Happy Trails!

We circled south and started west through the Flatirons Vista area on some incredible rocky singletrack trails.  We were making a big loop back up the western side of the lower foothills and then headed north toward our starting point.  The views cannot fully be captured in photos or explained in type - simply put, you need to go run here.  It is somewhat of an interesting contrast for us.  Most of our trails in Colorado Springs are open to bike and foot traffic, and are more toward the smooth side, although we have a fair amount of technical to run.   In contrast, many of the OSMP trails are foot only and are quite rocky, requiring constant attention to foot work - difficult at times with the breath-taking vistas!!
Finishing up - one last view out to the west...
We had a fantastic time today and are very grateful to our accommodating tour guide.  Our run ended up being 14.5 miles and was filled with jawdropping scenery and some high quality trails!   It is always great to run with friends, and we followed it up with some great grub at one of Tim's favorite haunts in downtown Boulder.  Great Day and hope everyone has an awesome week - Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat
Stats:  14.5 miles, 2080' elevation gain
We had intended to somewhat overload the legs this week, in spite of our race last weekend.  With a nice block of 51 trail miles since the Greenland race, and logging nearly 11,000' feet of vertical, we will see how the legs respond as we approach summer season.  Hopefully after a few days of complete rest and repair this week, our fitness will climb up to the next rung on the ladder!  We'll see how it goes...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Southwest Sortie

We were ready for a bit of down time and decided to catch a little getaway to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We have not been down there in quite a few years and figured it was a good place to relax a bit and catch a few trail runs.  (Actually stole borrowed the blog post title from Trail Runner mag's article on Santa Fe trail running a few years back...)  So we found a little casita (VRBO comes through again!) to rent away from the Plaza and it's busyness and headed out Sunday morning.  We did not have high running expectations coming off of Saturday's race, just grab a few runs and some down time - oh, and as it turned out, some sweet weather.
Sage loves these adobe homes with the cement floors - she was in heaven.

Run One - Dale Ball Trail system
Monday AM, headed over to the northern end of the Dale Ball Trail system - a real Santa Fe gem.  This network of twisty singletrack trails rolls in and out of wooded arroyos, up onto hilltops with pristine views (see above), and down into lush creek bottoms all in the middle of suburbia.  Aside from some hilltop vistas overlooking million dollar adobe homes, most often the feeling out on trail was more remote.  As we were getting our bearings and preparing for launch, an older gentlemen strolled into the trailhead at the finish of his morning run.  Turns out, Mr. G is preparing for the Pikes Peak Ascent, his 19th running, at age 80. I hope I look that good at 80 - holy cow! 
Kathleen rolls the northern end of Dale Ball trails.
It was sunny and moderately warm as we made our way through this exquisite labyrinth of trails.  As would be the case each day (except Sunday when it snowed several times on the 5 hour drive...) sunny, cloudless skies would greet us each day - nice.
Kathleen is dropping into one of the arroyos in the photo above.  It was amazing that within 500 - 600 feet net elevation change, there was so much variance in ecosystem - the desert has some cool stuff going on! 
Climbing away - either up or down in the desert - no flat.
Topped out and ready for the final descent to the trailhead.  It was a great day on trails and the Dale Ball has about 17 miles of singletrack trails, along with connections to the Atalaya trail, another popular Santa Fe route.  We put in 10 miles on race-recovering legs and were pretty satisfied with our effort.

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat
Stats:  10 miles, 1850' elevation gain

Run Two - Jemez Mountain Trails
We have always been somewhat intrigued by the Jemez Mountain Trail races held in May each year in Los Alamos, a short jaunt to the northwest from Santa Fe.  We figured we could swing over and check out the main loop used in the half marathon to get a taste for the trails.  What we did not realize is that most of the race photos we had seen were from the 50k or 50M course, which venture out into the Valles Caldera National Preserve - it appears to have been spared from much of the fire damage.  The HM course, unfortunately, is smack-dab in the middle of the massive burn area from the Cerro Grande fire of 2000.  It would not take long to figure that part out.  We headed into town and started from the Mitchell trailhead. 
Once on the Mitchell trail, the climbing gets serious in a hurry.  As you can see in the photos, the carnage from the forest fires is everywhere.  This had to have been some beautiful forest previously - sad.
Lots of climbing through the downed Lincoln-Logs.
Bottom-center, you can see some of the switchbacks snaking the hillside.  We were gaining altitude in gobs!
Some typical tread on the climb - looking up trail toward one of many switchbacks.
Kathleen climbing toward the top of Mitchell trail, not far from summit - whew! 
Summit at last - 1540' ascent in 2.2 miles - ouch.  That's about 13% average grade and serious climbing for our standards.  This photo is at the junction with the Guaje Ridge Trail, which we would use to traverse the hillsides across several ravines.  We would be dropping to the right on the photo.  (For a reference point, the longer races head off the saddle to the left corner of the photo.)
Looking back across the Guaje Ridge Trail to Pajarito Ski area - you cannot even pick out the trail amongst all the downed trees!  Lots of log hopping on the day - glad we were not on mountain bikes for this one...
We finally dropped onto the Upper Guaje Road trail, which was an abandoned two-track that was at times singletrack but mostly road width as seen above.  The nice thing was that we finally got down into a mostly non-burned area - TREES and some color in the landscape - thank you!
 Kathleen enjoying the Perimeter Trail.

We hooked up to the Perimeter Trail at the base of Upper Guaje - sweet singletrack cruise bordering the west side of Los Alamos.  This trail rolled us all the way back over to the Mitchell trailhead.  This run packs a big punch in a short distance, mostly due to that slog up the first stout climb.  It is all premium singletrack aside from the Upper Guaje, however, be prepared for the sad sight of charred landscape if you go.  (As a side note, I would not recommend  this on a hot day - mid 60's sun felt awful warm in some places as you are seriously exposed here.)  All in all, a good run of 10 miles, as we skipped the in town start/finish piece of the HM course.  Los Alamos definitely warrants another visit - tons of trails and a very nice community.
For a quick history/geography lesson to go with our trail story, here are a few photos from the aftermath of the Cerro Grande Fire - sordid details of this massive failure in oversight at Bandelier NM can be read here.   48,000 acres burned and 235 homes burned to the ground in Los Alamos.
Circled area is the trailhead where we parked - first photo from Run Two.
 Arizona Street with destroyed homesites - purple line is where Perimeter Trail now traverses.
Charred mountainside west of Los Alamos, most of which encompassed the top half of our run.


FYI - We would also suggest running the Frijoles Canyon Loop in Bandelier National Monument if you are in the Los Alamos area.  It is a 13+ mile loop that we ran part of before we were real runners - spectacular trails that we were on and is on the To-Do list for the full loop.  The Frijoles canyon had been flooding badly from late snow melt, so it was suggested to steer clear of the area.  Next time...

Shoes - K Asics Gel Trabuco
S - LaSportiva Wildcat
Stats:  10 miles, 2300' elevation gain

Run Three - Winsor Trail
We wanted a shorter, recovery type run on Wednesday, so we headed over to the Winsor Trail near the village of Tesuque, a bit west of town.  This is a long trail that runs all the way up into the alpine areas around Santa Fe Ski Basin.  We were hoping to just run a short section along Tesuque Creek to spin out a bit and stay cool along the water.  It was forecast for upper 70's - not something we have had any chance to acclimate for in Colorado yet this spring!  What we didn't realize was that the gentle climb along the creek was, um, not-as-gentle-as-hoped-for.  This would be a great trail to explore when the higher, more alpine sections are dried out - snow runoff is apparently late from the cold spring weather.
Tesuque Creek along the Winsor Trail.

We ended up running less than an hour but it was nice to run along with the sound of running water always on one side or the other.  The legs were, however, in need of some rest so we kept it short.
Shoes - Both LaSportiva Wildcat
Stats:  4.5 miles, 975' elevation gain

Another Beautiful Desert Sunset.
Related Posts with Thumbnails