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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Unbelievable November Running!

Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Remnants of the old quarry

Saturday we were expected to have near record highs as our stretch of unseasonable warmth has extended into November, giving trail enthusiasts an extension of prime season.  We are well aware that we live in the mountains and that, eventually, winter's harsh grip will be upon us with a vengeance.  And while the ski jockeys have already given up trail pursuits for early season crowded tracks on a small handful of runs, those who eschew the long boards are having a hey day!  However long it lasts, we will be extracting every bit of trail delicious-ness we can as the sun continues to shine.  With that in mind, I found myself in a bit of a quandary Saturday morning.  Ms K had to work, meaning early (a.k.a. cold) run for her.  Now generally, I would run along regardless of climatological circumstance - however, the chance to run in high 70's temps in November had me leaning toward a later run... She ran 7 miles, including the hills on Flying W (which she has avoided the past two months) and had nary a twinge in the legs.  Nice!  As for me, it was off to Red Rock Canyon a bit later, where I have not been in months.
Looking north across to the Garden - awesome day!
New trail finally has a name

Shortly after arriving at the trailhead, it was becoming apparent that I would be sharing the trails with half of the local population.  Not opposed to sharing, just opposed to an overwhelming lack of trail savvy :)  So my plan was to climb right away, thereby reducing the potential trail "hazards" exponentially because of the effort required.  I ascended along the Canyon Path where climbing gear was already stacked deep and there was some serious business being done in the climbing district - they had the same "maximize the weather" idea that I had!  I then cruised across the Red Rock Rim on some new singletrack that appeared over the summer - very nice, with some technical nature as the trail has not yet been buffed out from use.  Then I hopped onto what we have been calling the "Fruita" trail, as it reminds us of the sinuous ribbons of desert singletrack around Fruita, Colorado, and had yet to be named.  To my surprise, it is now signed at the top where you dump out onto the Hogback Valley trail.
Endless red rock walls
Dropping down into Red Rock Canyon
Narrow passage on Contemplative Trail - contemplate NOT hitting your head!

Spent a little time up on the eastern rim of the park, then dropped down through the main parking area on my way to ascend the western edge.  Took note of the packed parking lot which resulted from a simple equation:  November 6 + 75 Degrees = everyone and their brother on the trails!  Surprisingly, the west half of the park was only slightly populated - bonus for running as the trails can be a bit narrow (as seen above) and the etiquette can be somewhat nonexistent, if you know what I mean!
Drop down the valley then way back up onto the cutout in the far hillside

At the top of the climb out of the valley on the Roundup trail, I had an interesting question posed to me from one of a group of "hiking" ladies:  How could you possibly run this crap?  First of all, peruse the previous photography lesson and let me know where "Crap" was - I missed it, I guess.  Neanderthal Trail Runner Dude - duh????  Soon after that unfortunate interaction, I was surprised when running up the trail toward me was Ms Tammy.  She and Kathleen did a few trail runs together this summer after we met Tammy and Jonathan prior to the Greenland races this spring.  Considering we live only a handful of miles apart, it is odd we don't see each other on the trails more frequently.  So that was nice to bump into her - she also was maximizing the meteorological madness and enjoying the day at Red Rock!
Trail from Lion over to Section 16 - two tiny runners in the valley
Parting shot - and what a beauty it is - Pikes Peak cloaked in Blue Skies!!!

I made my way to the top of the eastern rim again, this time on Lion Trail, and dropped in for another pass on the Codell Trail in the opposite direction in order to extend the run.  I ascended the Lower Hogback once more on the way to the parking area, only to barely miss a bite from an out of control terrier on a 10 mile long retractable leash.  Sort of feel sorry for the dog that it had to find a brainless owner...   It was an unbelievable day on some fantastic trails although it was hard to stop - kind of wish we could "bank" a few hours of this for mid-January :)  I ended up running 12 miles and about 2000 feet of vertical gain.

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC

Head to the Mountain

Initially, we were expecting about a 10 degree drop on Sunday, which would still be a huge bonus for November.  However, Saturday evening weather showed a bump up into the low 70's - can you believe this jackpot???  I mean, we live in the Rocky Mountains, with elevation above 6000 feet, and it IS November.  We'll take every minute of this we can and not even apologize!!!  So we were left with no choice but to head down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park for some sweet trails.  We had some early cloud cover, but it was already 60 degrees so that did not deter us from heading south on I-25.
Kathleen testing the G-forces on the fixed-up legs!

With a couple confidence building weekends in the books, the plan was to push the envelope a bit and see how Kathleen's "new" legs responded.  While the runs have been pain free, there is always that nagging "what if?" hanging around after a bout like she had.  So aside from cutting out the Talons because of the extended, off-camber descent, it was game on for trail selection.  We headed out the Zook trail to catch Blackmer and climb our way up onto the top shelf of the park.  Within twenty minutes of starting, we were treated to full sun as a slightly increasing southern wind pushed out the high level clouds that had overshot their welcome. 
Clearing out and moving north!
Enjoying the Blackmer trail

We took the backside ascent of Blackmer to start and took it across the center of the loop.  We decided to double back on the Cougar's Shadow trail for a little extra time on the topside technical trails.  These are classic twisty ribbons of singletrack spotted with boulders and a variety of foot snares for the attention deficit crowd - definitely want to be awake across here!  We then looped back across the center of Blackmer and out onto the Boulder Run.
Dropping out of Cougar's Shadow
What a fantastic day!
Acorn Alley trail exiting the campgrounds

We connected across the northern trail system, traversing the Raccoon Ridge, Acorn Alley, and Bobcat Way trails before dropping onto Soaring Kestrel for a descent back to the lower levels of the park.  It is amazing over on this side, however, it is also a bit more sparse on tree cover so we frequently indulge in more trails on the southern side.  As the Talons were temporarily off limits, we were more than happy to take in these lesser used trails and enjoy some time out in the sun splashed terrain.
Heading down - Coyote Run Trail drops down to the base

She's back and running well!!! WooHoo!
Enjoying the sun on the Sundance trail

After dropping back to the base, Kathleen still had more in the legs.  So we headed around Zook and caught the Sundance Loop for some extended mileage.  Our temporary chum, Mr Windy, who had so pleasantly dispersed Mr Cloudy, paid us a few unkind visits on Sundance.  We had some temporary bouts of "sand dermbrasion" on the exposed sections of Sundance.  We were once again confronted with the algebraic lesson for the day - you know,  November xx + More than 40 degrees = who cares about a little wind!!  We crossed paths with some friendly mountain bikers who were revelling in the afterglow of the same mathematical epiphany, as well as some gophers that were in their glory running wildly across the prairie!  Kathleen decided to be patient, not tempt fate, and called it a day at the end of Sundance with 12 miles - absolutely awesome, and NO PAIN.
Frontside of Blackmer ... couldn't get much better

After grabbing some extra water and clearing some gravel from the shoes, I decided to extend the day a bit and head back up onto Blackmer, this time ascending the frontside.  While tired, my legs seemed to respond to the inner knowledge that this was one of those days that are not supposed to be - certainly a climactic anomaly at minimum - and with that knowledge, they responded to the urging at hand to put in a few more miles.  After all, how could they be "wasteful" of this treat?  So climb they did up onto Blackmer to the intersection with Boulder Run, a mile long plummet, losing every bit of altitude that was just gained through such effort.  Such is trail running and it was particularly good today, as the descent was fluid and fresh - just like our days have been.  Rolled out onto the bottom side of Coyote Run and out onto the base, running Zook back in to the parking area.  I squeezed out 15 miles and could not help but think that these are the days that fuel the urge to continue running through the dark night of winter.  As you can see from the graph below, "flat" trails are extinct at this gem of a state park - up and down is the name of the game, so bring your "A" legs!!!
Shoes - K Asics Trabuco
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC
On a little side note, we have been searching for an alternative to Nutella as it has been deemed to have some undesirable content for those who watch their health closely.  So we tried some sample packs of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.  It is quite good, all natural, gluten-free and dairy-free, although I would not deem it health food for sure.  However, these 95 cent packets are the size of a good energy gel and could serve up a nice, dense calorie boost at the end of a tough effort.  Just sayin.....     Happy Trails!

Also, wanted to give a shout to our friend Tim, who just ran his second ultra in two weeks. After winning Deadmans Peaks 50 mile two weeks back, he finished second at the inaugural Antelope Island 100k yesterday outside Salt Lake City - running on a bum ankle!  Awesome - congratulations!
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