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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Girls on a Joy-Run

Monday morning dawned spectacularly perfect - bluebird skies and pleasantly warm temperatures.  I picked up Tammy and we headed over to Manitou, destination: Barr Camp.  In an effort to gain some altitude right quick and in a hurry and avoid some of the crowds on the lower switchbacks, we headed up the Incline.  Along the way, we ran into a gentleman, Jerome, whom I have seen the past four times I have been up the Incline.  I don't know the man, at all, other than seeing him  here - he's a very jolly sort of fellow and seems to LOVE the Incline (I think more than us!) - it appears to be his Happy Place.  It has been fun to see his familiar, beaming face the past few climbs.
Ooey, gooey, sweaty - one mile down, 4.5 to go.  
Even though it was early and it wasn't too hot, we were dripping!  The high altitude sun is strong and this initial effort is fairly intense.
After hopping on the half mile connector trail, we joined up with Barr Trail.  It was a nice four mile climb, from here, to Barr Camp.  I really enjoyed this section because it is a realistically runnable grade for mere mortals like me.  There were a few steep pitches that we elected to hike but for the most part, we ran.

Again, I LOVED this 4 mile section of trail.  I wish my photos could do justice to the scenery.  I will try to do better next time.  It is such a beautifully magnificent yet peaceful setting - awesome.
We stopped for refueling and visited briefly with the friendly folks at Barr Camp.  Barr Camp has various forms of overnight accomodations available, albeit rustic.  There are campsites to pitch a tent, lean-to type structures (equipped with mattresses - bring your own sleeping bag!), bunkhouse, and separate cabin (again, pack your own sleeping bag!).  Could be a fun weekend outing, were it not that I would have to carry my own bed (sleeping bag) up!!!  :-)  

One of the local residents begging for a handout.
More local residents getting busy with their carbo load.
A quick look at the creek before we headed back down.

Tammy took the lead on the descent, and lead she did.  Holy cow, the girl is fast and fearless on the descent!  I tend to be a more cautious (and somewhat LAZY) descender - I like to coast - and she made me WORK.  HARD.  I LOVED it!  Thanks, Tammy, for busting on me - it was all good!  :-)  She flew down the mountain for about 3.5 miles and then eased up on me and we coasted the last few miles to the end, thank goodness!

We splashed around in the creek a few minutes, near the end, and if I would have had a change of clothes, would have gone for the leg ice bath immersion.  But, since we were  NEEDING to make a public appearance by partaking of a post-run mate' tea, I opted  to avoid the drowned rat look.  We ended with a visit to The Mate' Factor for a peach mate' - YUM!!!

For me, it most certainly was a joy-run.  A picture perfect day, a magnificent setting, wonderful trail, and good company - it can't get too much better.  We ended up with around 11 miles and about 3600 feet of climbing.  A good day, indeed.
Happy trails to everyone this week!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roundup, Bear Creek, and Section 16

With forecast temperatures in the 70's today, and a taxing day yesterday, we slept in and opted out of driving too far to run.  Instead we headed over to Bear Creek Park to check out the Summer Roundup Trail Race  course and add a bit of extras in as well. The SR is a July staple in Colorado Springs, put on by the fine folks at the Triple Crown of Running.  We did this race a couple years back and are expecting a couple of folks from out of town to be doing it this year.  It is a pretty straight forward race - up, up, and up until the turn around point, then straight back down.  :-)  Pretty standard, Colorado-race-director-sicko-stuff really.  It actually is more attractive than that, so read on...
Cheyenne Mountain from Bear Creek Park

The race starts at Bear Creek Park opposite the dog park.  The race starts in the parking lot to accommodate the herd of runners, then quickly files onto a dirt trail (about 8 feet wide, or so).  A direct left turn shortly after and the climb is on.  If you can swallow enough air to do so, you want to get up front here as the wall of humanity soon packs in at various forms of shuffle/walk/crawl and there is no way to pass.  The lower flanks were holding some humidity this morning and are quite exposed, so despite lower temps, we were dripping sweat in minutes!
A little respite from the climb
Looking up the canyon to our destination

After the initial steep climbs, there is some more rolling terrain where you need to work toward establishing a budgeted effort, keeping some in the tank with the knowledge that more climbing lies ahead.  With the late/cool spring we had, it is still quite green in the park, especially for end of June.
Rolling out of the park, down to Bear Creek Road

There is a descent into the drainage and across a foot bridge and then you spill out onto Bear Creek Road.  You climb this on asphalt up to the gate on High Drive, going against the one-way traffic (blocked on race day).  High drive is back to dirt from this point, not technical but has a few embedded rocks and off camber running.  The first section is really steep and some may well do better taking some walk breaks here.  After the sudden ramps, there is mostly runnable grade where you can again establish a nice climbing rhythm.  From the entrance to High Drive, the climb is about a mile and a quarter or so.  Make the turn, grab some water if you are not carrying any, and get the legs ready for some serious downhill running.
Stopping at the footbridge on Bear Creek Trail

Since we had no racing agenda for the run, we detoured from the race course onto lower Bear Creek Trail.  We forgot, however, how many steps there are on the trail AND how many pedestrians/hikers there would be on a Sunday.  So we hit the second stream crossing and decided to head back out and try Section 16.
... the foot bridge over Bear Creek
The view down the Canyon from Section 16

We hopped back out onto High Drive and dropped down a bit to Section 16 and headed in.  As we suspected,there was fairly low traffic so we started the 2.5 mile climb up Section 16.  We were treated to some shade, a little thunder rolling through the canyon, and lots of great views once we got up on the hill.
Almost to the high point on the saddle, atop Section 16
Kathleen rolling out - ready for a long descent

We hit the high point on the saddle and turned around for the return trip down.  The drop out of Section 16 is one of our favorite run descents in the area - a nice 2.5 mile cruiser down to High Drive.  From there, we are back on course and flying (well, as fast as we *fly*) down High Drive and Bear Creek Road.  The dirty little secret to the race, one you don't notice while on the arduous climb, is that there are three nasty little climbs on the "descent" to the finish.  You must keep some limber on deck in the quads in order to not lose your position on these pesky little buggers.  We had a nice roll into the finish area and put in a fantastic 13.5 miles.  Interesting note - early on in the run, we felt like we were really lagging out today.  We were surprised to check out our stats when we got home and find out we climbed about 3700'.  So we had to stop flogging ourselves at that point and actually felt pretty good about our run.  Hope some of the course descriptions help out those looking to check out this local race - we're always willing to offer more details if you need - just drop a comment.  We will be on the lookout, this week, for some new trail stash on the upcoming holiday weekend.......  Happy Trails!

ALSO - forgot to mention how much we appreciated all the nice comments yesterday!  Thanks for your care and support!

Shoes- K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sad trip down memory lane...

I will admit we have had our fair share of bum health lately, but part of our lack of "Joie de vivre" the last couple months has been that we have been caring for our ailing miss Sage as she fought to survive with congestive heart failure.  We have been nervous about traveling or going too far to run or ride because we felt we could not burden our awesome pet sitting neighbor with the laborious task of multiple meds daily and Sage just not wanting to eat any more.  We knew when we left Santa Fe in May that we would not make another trip with her and it was very sad for us to come to that realization.  Miss Sage was ALWAYS happy, always a "silly heart" (for those who fondly remember Uncle Buck), and always had a photogenic smile.  We adopted Sage almost 11 years ago after she had been a champion show dog.  She couldn't be used for breeding because of a conformation flaw, and so we began our wonderful journey with her.  We had to teach her to be a "dog" and just have fun.  We're biased, of course, but we feel she ended up with a full and happy life following us on our journeys and outdoor adventures!

This morning we ran early before Kathleen went to work and upon our return, Sage greeted us at the door with her big smile and vigorously wagging stub tail, as always.  Two short hours later, I heard a thud upstairs and to my dismay, she was gone before I made it to her.  Those of you who are pet lovers know that we have been dreading for months the prospect that we would have make "that" decision - to put Sage to sleep.  Although we were blessed that she went quickly and without suffering, it did not ease the pain in our hearts.  Without ever having kids, our pets have always been our "children" and this was a great loss.  We bawled like babies while I made her final resting spot in the opposite corner of the yard from our little Barney that we lost 7 years ago.  If you don't want to be sad, check in tomorrow night and we'll probably have some photos from a memorial run to relive in our minds fond memories of our girl.  For now, we are in seclusion, watching live updates at Western States 100, and drowning our sorrows with Breyers Ice Cream, Nutella, espresso, and Dark Chocolate Reese's cups.
Palmer Lake Reservoirs
Palmer Lake Reservoirs
Monarch Lake - near Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park
Halfway up Blodgett Peak on "Lunch Rock"
Winter Park
Winter Park - Ice Hill Trail
Fraser, Colorado - Givelo Trail
In front of our garden - Monday this week
Drowning our sorrows...

A few Pics from the morning run at Ute Valley Park - 9 miles - just so we don't end on a bummer note...

Happy Trails -- tomorrow...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

on the Comeback Trail...

On Monday morning, Tammy and I headed over to the Incline for a quickie climb and subsequent descent down Barr Trail.  I met Tammy through blog world around the Greenland race time.  As it turns out, we live only a few miles from each other.  How cool is that???!!!  I still wasn't feeling really stellar on Monday (but NEVER like to miss out on potential FUN) and have been hesitant about publishing anything about our outing - not wanting to jinx myself and have a relapse - LOL - until I was positive the sinus crud was gone, which I wasn't sure about until this past Thursday.  It's all good - the crud is gone so here is a short recap:
We headed out early and had been keeping our fingers crossed for a peak of sunshine, but alas, the sunshine proved elusive.  Here we are at the top of the Incline on a cool, cloudy-foggyish morning.  Tammy just completed her first 50k trail race in May and is now preparing for the Pikes Peak Ascent in August.  I am hoping to try to keep up with her on some of her training runs on the mountain between now and then!

It was a beautiful morning in spite of the cool and clouds - quiet with an aura of mystery.  I was thankful to have strapped my windbreaker on my pack at the last minute - the breeze felt a bit brisk on the way down and the jacket made things a bit more comfy.  Tammy and I each commented how lucky we are to live in this area with an endless array of beautiful trails to explore.  We finished off the morning with an obligatory stop for a mate' tea in Manitou. YUM!  We gabbed the whole morning and got to know each other a bit better.  Tammy is neat and I will look forward to future outings with her. It was a great way to kick off the new week!

Training Day at Buffalo Creek

Our friend Tim is training for the North Fork 50 Mile race that is coming up in a few weeks.  He was wanting to get some more training out on the course, and since you don't have to twist our arms to get out on the trails at Buffalo Creek, we agreed to meet him there Saturday morning for a run.  Mind you, I have not run anything abundantly strenuous in a month and Kathleen was just coming off a heinous sinus outbreak, so we weren't sure what to expect.  We were starting at the Pine valley Ranch Open Space which is the race start area and we would get to see the remaining three trails in the Buffalo Creek area that we have never been on by bike or foot - cool.  After a very brief third of a mile warmup, the course gets right to business with an 1100' or so climb on the Buck Gulch Trail.  We then headed across the Skipper Trail and ran into several mountain bikers (we would see many on the day) as we made our way across to Strawberry Jack.  There was a group of gals on bikes and, much to Tim's horror, they commented on how colorful our outfits were!!! They were the first of several comments -  LOL.  Not again...

It was also here that a tremendous camera snafu occurred, thus leaving much of the said wardrobe documentation uncaptured.  I tried to catch a series of shots of Kathleen and Tim coming out of the forest on Skipper and inadvertently had switched the camera to video mode.  Oh well, as we continued on, it would seem all three of us were at times not having one of those blissful days on trail, where all the planets align and you run as if there were no gravity...  Not today.  So we headed down the Gashouse Gulch, one of our  favorite bike trails and looped over to Baldy.  Baldy is steep and it was starting to get really hot.  If you recall from past visits to Buffalo Creek, there have been several large fires and there are mass miles of trail that are very exposed.  Several periods of "power hiking" were in order on Baldy but by the time we rounded out the loop back to Gashouse, we knew that 4.5 miles of mostly descent awaited - and we needed it!

Captured a little video descending the Strawberry Jack Trail.  Mt. Evans is on the horizon, one of Colorado's Fourteeners and home to the highest paved road in the US.  They had a "little" event going on over there the same morning!
After the last outing with no photos of ME, Kathleen made sure to catch me coming off the descent of Strawberry Jack near the finish.  You can't tell from the photo, but I was tired of running at this point.  It was probably a good day for not having lots of photos, but it still was a very good run.  We finished just past 17 miles and 3000' of accumulated vertical.  Run profile is posted below. This was the hardest effort we have run in a month, so we were happy to survive it and still feel alive!  It was 86 degrees when we finished and we were baked.  So we hopped in the river for a cold soak and that helped us cool off and calm the muscles a bit.  Good times.  Always.
Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat
T - LaSportiva Crosslite

Sunday Recovery Run
Kathleen runs past our favorite local "bar"

Legs were most definitely feeling the 17 miler from yesterday, so we did a local run today - a little more "urban" than yesterday's.  we ran the dirt paths over Flying W road and around the front of Ute Valley Park for some easier spin.
Ute Valley
Cruising the front side of Ute, taking it easy...
Kathleen with Blodgett Peak in the background

We took it easy and did a nice 8 mile run.  We slept in and by the time we got out, it was nearing 80 again.  That may seem reasonable to some of you from warmer climes, however, you must factor in the we are 6800' closer to the sun and when it gets overhead, it is relentless.  It was a good week to get back at it a bit and hopefully, start building some consistent weeks again.  Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150
S - New Balance 905

Sunday, June 13, 2010

(Sort of) Soggy Trails

It has been a WEE bit rainy/stormy here the past few days, and then a COLD front moved in.  Saturday morning, I left for my run in the rain.  On purpose. Had no choice.  It was 46, feels like 39 according to The Weather Channel - yee haw! (Don't feel too bad, it was 87 Thursday)  I knew it was not likely to get better, so I went out hoping to plug in 5 or 6 miles.  Got to the top of Flying W and got a little sleet - bonus.  But then, about 4 miles in, the rain broke for the most part.  So I ended up going for 10 miles and finished cold and soaking wet.  But, ran with no pain in certain area, so life was good.  Tried out some New Balance 905's - more to come after I have some miles in them...
Looking North at the clouds - Blodgett Peak on far right.

Today, woke to the same scenario.  Driveway wet, 48 degrees, blustery north wind.  Today, though, I had Kathleen to run with!  After 2 weeks of being "under the weather" - she was ready for a run. It had ceased raining by run time but the wind picked up as the front was on the move.   We were not sure what the run would produce for Kathleen, so we headed out from home again, toward Ute Valley Park.  We ran some of the flats along Centennial and she was still upright and breathing, so we hopped on the singletrack at the far west edge of the park.
Woo Hoo - Kathleen on trail!
Navigating the rocks on the descent.

We came back up the west edge of the park and Kathleen peeled off for home, finishing nicely with 7 miles.  Although she did not get to Run With Jill today, she was meeting her for brunch after Jill ran the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run - a huge road race that, at times, has drawn international runners. Good Times for the gals at The Peak Grill.
After K split off for home, I hopped over the ridge and down into Ute Valley.  This was looking back from the rim to Blodgett Peak (9423' summit), with the clouds now breaking up (temporarily) to the north.  I was feeling OK so I decided to shoot for around 2 hours and see how things went.  These were my first back-to-back runs since the Santa Fe trip so I did not want to blow it.  I kept the pace a little slower than normal just so I could try to get some nice running time.
A glimpse of Pikeview Quarry over the ridge.
Me with Pikes Peak over my right shoulder...well, it should be...

Headed for home after making some nice rounds in UVP.  Ended up just shy of 13 miles and 1:55 running, so I was happy with that and the fact that I ran well 2 days straight.  While not physically in the "all clear" quite yet, this was a positive step.   Good to be alive and running - Happy Trails!

Shoes - Asics Trabuco

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ridin' and Runnin'

 Saturday Bike Ride
Saturday morning I (Steve) saddled up the road bike early (to beat the heat AND traffic) and headed out for a nice ride.  I had in mind to head down through the front side of Garden of the Gods over to Gold Camp Road and ride to the end of the pavement.  From there, I would just see what the legs were up for.
Hopped on the bike path below 30th Street

The plan was to get Gold Camp out of the way and get back across Highway 24 before lunatic weekend traffic started to head up Ute Pass.  The red cement along the bike route was already radiating warmth by 8 am - good thing I started early!
Safely across Highway 24, climbing 26th street

On my right in the photo above is Red Rock Canyon, where we frequently trail run.  A couple observations from the bike:  1.  You can coast on a bike, you can't on a run.  2.  On steep hills, you can walk on a run, you must keep pedaling on a bike or you will fall over.  3.  It is pretty exhilarating to cover your first 6.5 miles in 18 minutes - wishful thinking on a run for me!!  4.  Stuff comes at you really, really fast at 36 mph compared to 7 mph.
South Suburban Reservoir and the Broadmoor Hotel
My trusty Steed, High Drive in the background

Photo above is above the Gold Camp / High Drive intersection, High Drive being the dirt road heading up canyon in the center.  This is where you come out of Bear Creek Park and start the steep climb up High Drive to the turn around during the Summer Roundup Trail Race.  Rode to the end of the pavement and turned around to haul back down Gold Camp.  Overall, from crossing Highway 24, 26th/Gold Camp is a gradual 4.5 mile climb and makes a great workout for finding a good climbing rhythm on the bike.  This section is a weekend hotspot for road cyclists and triathletes doing repeats, and yesterday was no exception.  I saw only one car (other than parked cars) but probably 40 bikes.
Back in the Garden

As suspected, Hwy 24 was rocking when I got to cross back over.  I don't mix well with 55 mph traffic!  Headed up through Pleasant Valley and back into Garden of the Gods.  Not to disappoint the trail faithful, I rode the dirt trail from the end of 31st Street all the way up to Gateway Road.  I decided to hop in and ride at least the Juniper Way loop around before making my way home. 
Back side of the Garden
Pikes Peak from the visitor's kiosk on Ridge Road

The prominent scar on the hillside below the peak is the Incline, just FYI.  I was feeling content with the volume of the ride, so just did the front loop, headed back over Flying W and made my way home.  It was a good ride, although I am itching to be back to full-time running.  But I will gladly do both as opposed to being sidelined.  30 miles on the day and feeling strong. 

Stats:  30 miles, 2500' elevation gain
Shoes - Sidi Dominator

And now some running...
View from the truck, entering US Air Force Academy

Got over to the Academy right at 8 when visitors can enter and headed for the Falcon Trail.  Forecast was for another warm day, so I wanted to start early.  We may have to check out our alternate entry point off of Blodgett to access the trail so we can get rolling earlier in the summer!
Above the BX, with a look at Pikeview Quarry

The clouds moved in early to the south, making the decision to run at the Academy even better.  Pikeview Quarry, which is on the hillside above where we live, was used quite a bit in the building that took place at the US Air Force Academy and many other building projects in the Pikes Peak region.  Not much going on there now, though, as landslides have dropped nearly 2 million tons of limestone from the face of the mine, halting reclamation efforts.  Read about it here if that sort of thing interests you.
Awesome view of Blodgett Peak
A little trail video.
From the top of the climb, looking to the water treatment plant

The legs felt really heavy by the time I hit the big climb on the back side.  As noted in the video clip, it was humid and the ridge I was climbing had effectively blocked the breeze.  I decided to stay conservative on the climb and see what I had in the tank at the summit, which is basically halfway through the run.  In the center of the photo above is the saddle from the base of Blodgett that will be our impromptu entry point to the Falcon Trail loop.  It appears to be about a 2 mile spur from the ridge, down through the horse trails to the Falcon Trail.  That would make a nice 17-ish miler, with a grunt out to the trailhead at the finish.
Hit the picnic area, feeling pretty good

I recovered nicely after the climb, got my breeze back, and even had about a 1 minute cloud pass over - just enough for a brief refreshment.  I started to get a little roll in the legs and then realized I had summited only a minute and change slower than my best ever time at Falcon.  Hmmm ... maybe I should push it a bit?
Final climb of the day, overlooking the Golf Course

I pushed pretty good rolling out toward the finish of the loop.  My legs probably felt as good as they did leading up to Greenland, so I was encouraged by this development.  I finished the 13 miles just 25 seconds over my best time from last year.  Given the events of the last few weeks, I will take that.  I am also glad to see the cycling has at least helped me maintain my fitness level.  It was a good day on the trails.  

Shoes - LaSportiva Wildcat

By the way, if you want to read about some really hardcore mountain running in our back yard, have a look at Tony Krupicka's latest blog entry - some of those trails are on the HT To-Do List, as soon as we have the legs for them!!!
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