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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peak Bagging - Green Mountain

Decided to head up to Boulder on Sunday for a run with Tim - run some of his "slow" miles while he is recovering from last week's 50 miler.  Here was a brief overview of the emails concerning the run:
Steve: what are you thinking about tomorrow?
Tim: got an adventure planned for you guys  {red flag}
Steve: ?
Tim: 3 hours easy pace with amazing trails and views
 ~ an hour later
Tim: uh, by the way, the run has about 4000 feet of climb, just so you know {red flag confirmed}

We knew what we were getting into, so we were up at the crack of dawn and headed for Boulder! 
Kathleen and Tim - Mesa Trail

Headed out from Tim's place for some miles before the day's main attraction - Green Mountain.  Rolled out on some nice connector trails until catching Mesa Trail for the cruise over to Chatauqua Park.  It was an awesome, sunny morning, especially considering the low clouds, cool temps, and drizzle we left behind in Colorado Springs - what a difference 90 miles makes!
Steve rolls across Mesa Trail

Mesa Trail is some very nice running, including sections to the South that we had run previously.  There is great scenery with lots of high meadows full of wildflowers and a stunning  skyline to the west as you roll along the base of the Boulder mountains.
Surveying the Flatirons

Once we arrived at Chatauqua, it was time to survey the real work ahead.  With around 5 miles of climbing/rolling terrain to soften up the muscles, the serious business of the day loomed ahead.  From the scenic view of the Flatirons above, we would connect through the upper meadow over to the base of Green Mountain.
Looking north past Flagstaff to Mt Sanitas
Ground Zero - The Official start to Green Mountain

Starting up Green, the "uh, by the way.." portion of the email hit full on.  The route we took up Green was just over two miles with 2400' climb - stout no matter how you stack it up.  Time to get to work!!
Some of the early "trail" ascending Green Mtn
Looking out across Boulder from part of the way up

While we are accustomed to climbing steep terrain, there is always something "extra special" when climbing new trails and not knowing when the pain climb is going to end.  This climb is no exception - you do not baby your heart rate up this kind of climb!  So we put our heads down and plugged away - the next thing you know, we're at summit - sweet!
Looking West - top of Green
At the summit post - Green Mountain
Panorama from Green Summit

We spent a little time taking in all the views from the summit of Green.  It was an awesome day, but a wee bit hazy making some of the distant skyline a little fuzzy in the pics.  About one third in from the right on the photo above, partially shaded by a cloud, is Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.  After soaking up some jaw-dropping vistas, it was time to drop in for a big time descent off the saddle of Green Mtn into Bear Canyon.
Steve running a meadow in Bear Canyon
Kathleen high on a ridge in Bear Canyon

While the descent was quite steep at first, the run down through Bear Canyon has very manageable grades and fantastic footing for the terrain we were on.  There were some nice new trails cut in Bear Canyon since we were last there a couple years back.  The new switchbacks made the runouts a little nicer and the overall descending experience much better.  
From Bear Canyon - looking back at the start of our climb

As we ran out the last of Bear Canyon, we had a great overlook to the start of the climb from earlier in the day.  After about 3 miles descending, we dropped out on the service road and had a steep pitch back up to catch Mesa Trail.  After another short climb on Mesa, it was a nice descent all the way to the finish.  No questions, this was a tough outing for a run of its length.  However, there were some killer views and lots of nice trail to go along with the hard work.

Stats: 14 miles, 4400' elevation gain
Shoes - K Saucony Guide Trail
S - Asics Trabuco
After we finished, we got cleaned up quick and headed over to Beaujo's Pizza, a Colorado tradition known for its Mountain Pies and a pizza place that is Gluten-Free friendly.  We inhaled some high quality replacement calories and enjoyed our time chatting about future trail exploits - good times!
Happy Trails to everyone this week!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Peek Inside the Ultra World

Breakfast is served

Kathleen was up early Saturday morning to get in a run before we headed out to Buffalo Creek for the North Fork 50.  She was able to get a nice 7 mile run in, while I took my time getting up and getting ready for the day.  She got chased by a doe on the trail, adding adventure to her run with graphic images of being trampled by her hooves!!  When she got back to the house, these guys were having a buffet in our Xeric garden.  We have been having more deer activity lately after several months of them not being around much.
Strawberry Jack Trail

After a nice drive up to the Pine Valley Ranch Open Space, it was time to get focused for pacing our friend Tim at the NF50.  He was able to pick up a pacer at mile 30.5 where the 50k runners split off for the finish and we would head out for a second loop of 19.5 miles.  Kathleen and I tried to stay in the shade at the trail junction as much as possible as it was already getting hot.
Preparing for the run
Game On!

Kathleen captured a great shot here!  Tim was just the second runner through the split - both 50 mile runners.  Uh-oh, the heat is on.  Literally.  It had already reached the low 80's by the time we headed out.  For some of you that is not much, but above 7000' with the overhead sun beating on you, it is a UV beat down.  The start of the second loop is also a repeat of the worst climb of the day where the race started.
Up, up, up they go...First set of switchbacks

In the photo above, Tim was giving me the run down:  "I have just spent 30 miles in a solid second place and I don't want to lose it."  As he was saying this, I was "force feeding" him the first round of mandatory food/salt intake.  He has some good stories about how I was nagging him and they are probably true - gotta keep him running, right?

At some point, about 4 miles into the second loop, I started to have some red flags.  Answers had changed to grunts and Tim was having some discomfort in his hips when we tried to start running after hiking the steeps.  Not good.  It is strange how your body can feel great one minute, and then things incrementally go haywire.  That is unfortunately what started to happen to Tim.  I felt bad because it was nothing I could help with. On top of physical issues, it was now in the low 90's.  By the time we hit mile 36 - 37, the goal changed to finishing the race.  The next 4 hours would be about making sure Tim stayed nourished (you can read all about that routine on his blog) and continued to move toward the finish.  As time ticked away, Kathleen was doing her own "pacing" - back and forth at the finish, worrying that one of us was on Flight for Life headed for Denver....

At the last aid stop, we ran into Ace, who had unfortunately missed the time cut.  I felt really bad for him as he headed down the trail back toward the finish.  At this point, I asked Tim if he could run the 2.8 mile descent to the finish and he was up for a try.  I let him run in front now so he could see what was left in the tank.   For everything that went wrong, for as bad as the conditions were, and for being in a really dark spot for quite a few miles, Tim really dug deep and drug himself to the finish.  He finished 6th and I was so proud when he ran through the chute to the applause of all the folks hanging out for post race festivities.  And it was a darn good thing we ran the descent - 7th place was 7 minutes behind us - whew!
I'll never run a 50 miler again!

That is a direct quote, repeated several times.  Two days removed, and some reflective time later, I had a nice chat with Tim.  "Maybe I'll look at Run Rabbit Run 50 mile in Steamboat in September - what do you think Steve?"  I don't know quite what the Ultra-bug is, but he has it.  I have not yet been infected, but I will say this:  there was a nice vibe hanging out with all the folks at the finish pavilion - lots of camaraderie and genuine good people enjoying their "scene".  It was great to be part of it for a day - Thanks Tim!

19.5 miles, 3500' climb, La Sportiva Wildcats and Drymax socks kept the feet happy.
Good Times!
Driving home through Woodland Park - Nice Pikes Peak view from the back side!

Sunday Recovery Run
More takers at the salad bar

After almost 5 hours in the baking sun on Saturday, we decided to get up early Sunday and run before the heat.  Not knowing what the legs would have after Saturday, we stayed close to home and ran at Ute Valley Park.  Mama and her playful little fawn were already making short work of our newest blooms....
Stopped by the arch
Group photo with that "Hill" in the background

It was a pretty non-spectacular run other than the fact that we both actually felt good, albeit a bit tired.  So we kept a little slower tempo and got a nice 10 miles in.  While we were out running UVP, there were a bunch of folks on "The Hill" - Pikes Peak that is, running the Barr Trail Mountain Race.  Lots of good stuff on their page and they have cool results with splits that show just how SLOW you are trudging up the mountain!  

Shoes - K Saucony Guide Trail
S - Asics Trabuco

Monday Ride
Ride day with HILLS for Kathleen on Monday

Happy Trails!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trail with a View

After a quiet week with some rest for the legs, we had quite the social running weekend on tap.  Saturday morning, Kathleen went for a nice trail run at Ute Valley Park early before spending some time at work.  While she was running in Colorado Springs, I made the hour jaunt up to Morrison, in the foothills west of Denver, to meet Tim at Mt. Falcon Open Space.  It would be my first visit there and it is an(other) area with awesome views.  Lots of history surrounding Mt Falcon and early-1900's gazillionaire John Walker - read up on JeffCo's park page link if interested.  Below is the windshield view - heading for the hills.
Continental Divide frames Denver's western skyline along C-470
Red Rocks Amphitheater from Mt Falcon trailhead

Just over the hogbacks that line C-470 to the west, the little town of Morrison sits nestled against the foothills.  Its most famous landmark by far is Red Rocks Amphitheater - a natural marvel and acoustic masterpiece.  When not in use for its commercial intentions, Red Rocks is also a hangout for workout junkies with surrounding trails and running the steps.
View across the hogback to Denver in the distance (far left, in the smog)
This trail system gets down to brass tacks right from the first step out of the parking lot - hope you did not eat a heavy breakfast!  From Castle trail we quickly diverted to the Turkey Trot, which is foot travel only - nice on the steeps because LOTS of mtn. bikes use this park.  The initial ramps had to be 10 - 15% easy, which means there was a good dose of power hiking mixed in with the running.  Add to that an intense eastern sun exposure and we were sweating buckets on the climb.  Eventually, Turkey Trot gets some shade and it was much needed as the grade just does not let up.  When we rejoined Castle trail at 1.7 miles, the grade eased for a bit until we hit another exposed and rocky section of steep climb.  As we climbed through some more forest, we eased out into a saddle and took the spur out on Walker's Dream trail - with the awesome overlook in the above photo.  This was the point where Walker had hoped to build a summer White House for the Presidents to utilize.  After his personal castle across the ridge to the west burned, the dream never materialized and the acreage is now a phenomenal open space park.
Monument on Walker's Dream
US-285 winds it's way into the mountains

The trail system is a lollipop with multiple loop options at the top.  We took the outer part of Castle to the Parmalee trail and dropped in for a wicked steep descent.  This was a nice gulch, with lots of shade, so we lost track of the descending a bit.  When we bottomed out, the drop was almost 600' vertical loss - guess what?  Climb back out.  So up we went - had some great southern vistas, including the photo above looking at the path through the foothills of US-285.  Tim will be driving this route next Saturday morning early to the start of the North Fork 50 mile trail race.  I hope to have a good debut as a pacer, jumping in with him at the 30.5 mile mark where the 50k runners peel off to the finish.  Back on track here, we jumped back on the Castle trail and started the trip down.  Like really, really down.  This was quite possibly the steepest continuous descent I have ever run and my feet and quads were barking after shedding 2000 feet in short order.  It was quite the workout and the views were spectacular.  11.25 miles, 3000'+ on the vertical gain.

Shoes - Asics Trabuco

Sunday Social Day

We got up at first light Sunday in order to squeeze in a quick run.  It was great to be out early in the cooler air as we ran a good 5 miles on the neighborhood trails.  Kathleen was on schedule to see some folks finish the Summer Roundup Trail Race at Bear Creek Park.  Jill was coming down from Denver for the race and AJH was in town from Vermont and was doing the race as well.  Both did great and Kathleen was able to see them finish the race.  She also got to see our friend J set an age group course record which was awesome!  
Smiling Gals on a sunny Sunday

While Kathleen was off to the race, I switched gear and headed out for a hill climb day on the road bike.  This was to pay homage of the first mountain-top stage in the Tour de France to the thin air atop Morzine-Avoriaz.  I was able to ride 23 miles with 2200' climb, nothing near what those guys rode up in the tour but good enough for a nice brick workout.  I then met up with the gals for brunch and we had a good time.  After brunch, Kathleen joined the brick club and went out for a nice road ride as well - quite a morning!  Happy Trails!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Head for the Mountains

With nothing pressing keeping us home for the weekend, we made a last minute call up to Winter Park for a room and headed up Friday evening for a little altitude time.  We have not spent nearly enough time up high the last couple summers and it shows in our ability to perform in the super-thin mountain air.  No better place to remedy that situation than Winter Park - a place that has provided many a happy adventure for us over the years.  So we threw a quick bag together after work and headed off to the hills...
Miniature Townsite

A local resident along Vasquez Road has built a miniature townsite in their yard, highlighting some of the landmarks.  It even has a working train line, showcasing Winter Park's prominence at the western exit of the Moffat Tunnel, which bores 6 miles through/under James Peak.  Google it if you are a train/history buff...
Twin Bridges Trail

Who would not want to start their day like this?  After a short trip up Arapahoe Rd and Little Vasquez, we jumped on the Twin Bridges trail and started up into the hills.  Partly cloudy skies, mid 60's temps and thin mountain air - perfect recipe for a good trail run.
Kathleen cruises the old D4 logging road
Starting down the WTB Trail - watch your step!

After climbing a good ways on D4, an abandoned logging road, we headed onto WTB Trail - a gnarled, twisting, steep path full of wonderful foot snares - rocks, roots, logs, stumps,.... you get the picture.  Aside from being a blast to run (or ride), this trail is named for three local mountain bike trail building gurus - Wade, Ted, and Bill, with Wade W. being the owner/genius/maestro of mountain roasted coffee beans at Rocky Mountain Roastery.  Mmmmm, high altitude coffee.... 
WTB with thoughts of coffee brewing...
Pine Tree slalom on WTB
Forest solitude

Over the years, there have been several re-routes on WTB thanks to Denver Water Board political wranglings (much of Denver's water supply ships over the Continental Divide from this basin) and, more recently, due to forest cutting to thin out mountain pine beetle kills.  Nevertheless, it is a sweet little piece of singletrack heaven if you really like to hit the trails.  WTB dumps out onto D2, another abandoned logging road which is sometimes singletrack and sometimes double.  We climbed out D2 to FS road 159 and made a quick duck into the forest on pristine "unmarked" singletrack.  We used to refer to this as the Ho Chi Minh Trail but, after climbing a ways up through the forest, found this unique signage on the Trail, creatively crafted with spent .357 magnum casings - I like it:
Marker for the Pinball Trail

A lot of work has been done on this trail over the years, but it's entrance remains unmarked.  Much of the trail building has been done by freeride mountain bikers and the lack of publicity is in part due to the advanced skills that are required to bike it.  Definitely NOT a trail to lure novice riders onto lest they be combining their mountain bike ride with a little helicopter jaunt to the little mountain hospital in Granby!  
Typical tread on Pinball

Pinball is actually a most appropriate name for this trail, as your feet (or wheels) are bounced around between boulders, stumps, logs, roots, and any other thinkable natural trail obstacle.  Even though HCM had the stealthy, underground, secretive vibe to it, the trail has found a terrain-appropriate moniker!
Running one of the freeride catwalks 

Pinball also provided us an opportunity to spend some time huffing and puffing above 10,000 feet elevation - getting really lean on oxygen up there!  This is a fairly steep trail, too, with the average gradient being above 8%, so we had our work cut out.  Started to get some nice lactic acid buildup in the legs here, just in time to start winding our way down toward town again.
Prepare for final descent onto Vasquez Road....
Vasquez Creek winding up toward the wilderness area

We dumped out onto Vasquez Road, another old 4WD road that leads to the Vasquez Wilderness trailhead. From there, we climbed around to Tunnel Hill and continued on until the switchbacks above the Blue Sky Trail.  We dropped down there and cruised the awesome singletrack Blue Sky trail down into town where we started our run.  The legs were getting sketchy after some fantastic trail exploration but it was definitely a great day!
Waiting for the train to pass - Continental Divide in the distance

As we waited for the train to pass through, we had time to survey the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness off in the distance, ponder our immediate re-fueling plans (FOOOOOD!), and begin to think about some savory ribbons of trail for the 4th of July run.  Of course, we had to hit Hernando's Pizza for a tasty Simone Style pie with ham and green chiles - one of our all time favorites and a must stop when in Winter Park.  Their tag line says it all - "Life's too short to eat bad pizza."  Visit their site, watch the video, and then let us know when you plan your road trip - we might meet you there!

15 miles
3000' vertical
More smiles than could be counted :-)
Shoes - K Saucony Xodus
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

Play it Again!
Byers Peak - 12,803'

Woke up again to bluebird skies on the 4th and started our run at the High Country Stampede Rodeo grounds in Fraser, the trailhead for the Givelo Trail.  We decided to run one of our favorite trail loops, combining Givelo, Northwest Passage, Creekside, and Flume - just a lot of fun singletrack.  I must admit, the legs were a tad bit toasty from Saturday's outing and these trails, while fun, are quite a bit more tame than the previous days quad squashers.
Parry Peak (13,391') and the Continental Divide
Wildflowers along Givelo Trail

Givelo follows St Louis Creek road out to the NW Passage trail intersection, where we would head north.  NW Passage is another trail that has been a hotbed for feuding between DWB and local trail advocacy groups.  Both parties lost out big time to the tiny mountain pine beetle.  Previously a frolicking trail through a densely wooded area, NWP is now almost entirely exposed through a barren clear cut - stupid beetles!
Heading onto Creekside
St Louis Creek and the Creekside Trail

Creekside Trail is just plain fun to run or ride as it gently climbs along/above the north side of St Louis Creek. This is a slightly more technical trail with embedded river rock and many exposed roots.  Definitely a need to be a bit attentive with foot placement but still just gobs of fun to run.
Off-camber and rocky ... and a blast!
More Creekside Trail
FS159 with Byers Peak in the background
Start of the Flume Trail

Creekside dumps out onto FS159 briefly and then it's back to trail - the Flume Trail starts here.  Quite possibly the seeds of our "addiction" to trails started many years ago when we first mountain biked the Flume Trail and others in this area.  This is quite possibly on of the most enjoyable sections of trail we know.  While there is nothing enormously challenging, and no unbelievable landmarks, this is just.plain.fun.
Overlook to Byers Peak
Group photo overlooking St Louis Creek

We traded group photo duties with a gathering of bikers at the Byers Peak overlook on Flume trail and then headed down to cross the bridge back over to Creekside.  We had to stop for a moment of silence at Sage's all-time favorite spot to splash in the creek... :-( 
Kathleen coming out of Creekside in bright sunshine
Finishing off another great day of trails!

We had another bodacious day on the trails, topping off a nice little two-day jaunt in the mountains.  With two days and 28+ miles spent above 8900' elevation, it was a nice little getaway from the city and a good block of trail time.  Definitely Happy Trails!

13.5 miles
1500' elevation gain
Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

In other trail news - Chris from Seriousrunning.com sent this over - check into this in your area to see if there are events to jump in on the 21st of August!  Check out his website and support trail running in your neck of the woods.
2nd Annual National Trail Running Day set for August 21st, 2010
Atlanta, GA - June 28th, 2010 – Trail runners across the country participated in National Trail Running Day last year, having over 5,000 participants run Trail Races, plan Group Trail Runs, and perform Trail Maintenance. 
Trail Running is a relatively new sport that involves runners running on hiking trails, mountain bike trails, deserts, forests, creek beds, rocky terrain, heavily rooted terrain, and everything else that isn’t road.  A recent study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association reported in 2009 4.8 million Trail Runners in the United States, with 13.1% of them trying it for the first time!  That is why the Trail Running Industry has announced it is coming together to celebrate the Second Annual National Trail Running Day to promote the awesome sport of Trail Running! 
National Trail Running Day will be used to celebrate the benefits of Trail Running with runners taking to the trails of varying difficulties and distances, connecting with nature and the environment, slowing down their lives and getting back to the basics.  For more experienced runners, Trail Running offers a more technical version of road running that allows runners to challenge themselves.  The fact is, everyone can enjoy Trail Running and National Trail Running Day is a great way to increase awareness of the sport!  
National Trail Running Day began in 2009 by a former Army Officer, Chris Barber, who began Trail Running soon after re-deploying and separating from the United States Army.  Chris had trouble dealing with the new decisions he faced in his rapidly changing life and found clarity in Trail Running.  Trail Running provided Chris a way to slow-down and fully comprehend the life decisions that laid ahead of him. These decisions were very different from the ones he faced leading a Platoon of 30 men during combat missions in Iraq.  Those were quick decisions where he considered his soldiers’ well-being first. Now he had to make long-term decisions that only affected him.  Trail Running was familiar and comfortable to Chris; while in the Army he ran on trails every morning with his entire unit.  So Chris decided to start his civilian days with a Trail Run to help ease the transition to a civilian life.  That is why Chris developed the first ever National Trail Running Day and SeriousRunning.com.
Go to the official National Trail Running Day website, www.trailrunningday.org to register your event and see what it’s all about. 
For more information contact, Chris Barber at chris@seriousrunning.com or 404.877.8781.
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