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

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!
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