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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Can't beat the weather...

...At least for today!  After a 2 week span where we have had everything from sub-zero weather to fairly mild temps, we hit 62 degrees for the high today by the time we finished our run in Cheyenne Mountain State Park.   We will take that 8 days a week in January if we can get it - especially with single digit highs and snow headed back on Tuesday!!!  We were down at CMSP to have a little preview of a new event headed our way for late April - the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race - with 25k or 50k distances offered.  Not like we need an "excuse" to hit the trails there, but might as well sniff out some of the race routing while we're at it!
 Coyote Run on a sunny day

Although we have run all the trails here many times, there are some directions on the route that are opposite of our "preferred" way to run them.  This is great because it forces us to see old trails in a new light - freshen things up a bit.  The run out Coyote Run and up Soaring Kestrel is a nice way to start the race, as it is a bit more of a gradual runout to get warmed up.  We were a bit nervous about thick mud with the mild conditions and heavy clay content at the park - and there was definitely some shoe-sucking mud - but for the most part, it was quite pleasant conditions for a mild winter day.
 Kathleen climbs on Coyote Run
 Startled some ladies at the "salad bar" on Soaring Kestrel!
 Catching a breather on Blackmer

All the trails up to the junction with Blackmer we had never run counterclockwise before.  It was all climb, but more manageable on the breathing than the route we typically start with.  Bodes well for a hot start to the race, especially for the elites at the front.  Blackmer gets a bit more technical on the footing and was also our first spot of bother with the thick, slimy mud that the clay top layer produces.
 Can't beat the views...
 Some ice on the upper reaches of Blackmer
 Medicine Wheel - the ankle gobbler

After completing a counterclockwise lap on Blackmer, the route drops down Medicine Wheel - the most continuously technical stretch in the parkIf you fall asleep mentally through here, ankle sprains or premature dentures await - there is not a boulder-free stretch on the trail.  It is a great run down when you are "on" as the mind is engaged and endorphins are cranking!  Due to the long, steep stretches of exposed clay on the upper Talon loops, we bypassed this today in order to spare the trail conditions.  This lollipop adds about 4.7 miles.  We finished out the bottom part of the course, and it appears to come up about a mile shy of being a true 25k - will be interesting to see if the RD actually measures and corrects this by race day...
Kathleen cruising Sundance Trail

After running the part of the race course we were scouting, we added an extra loop around the base of the park.  After all, how could you reel it in on a day like this???  Finished with 13.5 miles and ~2000' vertical, muddy legs, and sheepish grins from pulling off a run like this mid-winter!   This could be the replacement "event" we were looking for instead of running Greenland again - we'll see!  Today (we hope) was the beginning of our climb out of the base-maintenance phase we have been in for a couple of months now.  Time to start rebuilding the fitness!!!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC

***Must give some props to Pearl Izumi while I am at it:  My first pair of SyncroFuels started to come apart at the bridge under the arch.  I shipped them up to their HQ in Louisville, CO and a week later the spiffy new pair I wore today was on our door step - Fantastic customer service for a "smaller" player in the shoe market!!!***

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pirate Trails???

It seems some road trips have been "interfering" with our running schedule the past few weeks.  Not that we have minded, really.  After six months of quiet in the house, we finally came to the realization that we were not yet meant to be a dog-less family.  We were so afraid we would never find another Sage, and then realized that we weren't in need of a replacement.  It was time for a new, different friend who did not have to "measure up" to any previous friends.  So we have made some trips here and there looking at some dogs that were being kept by various rescue organizations in Colorado.  We at first were looking for another Australian Shepherd however there are not many available for adoption right now in Colorado.  But after seeing some Australian Cattle Dogs out for runs with their humans lately, we decided to look at that breed as well.  (For those not familiar with the name - think Blue or Red Heeler) 

It just so happened that some fine folks at the Second Chance Animal Rescue from Lamar, CO, were fostering two ACD's and would have them at an adoption fair on Saturday in Colorado Springs.  So after a bit of a distracted run on Saturday morning, I headed over to the Wag'N'Wash to meet the pooches while Kathleen was at work.  I had a pretty good idea we were going home with a new friend, and after Kathleen showed up, it was confirmed - a little guy they had named Captain Hook was getting a new home. 
 The Captain

He was named as such because of the patch over his eye and the gimpy leg he had from a barbed wire gash when he was picked up as a stray.  We didn't know if a new name was in order, but after a couple days, we almost think we're leaning toward calling him Hook.  Estimated to be 10 months old, this little guy is quite a lot of fun to be around.   And, no more silence when we come home - jingly collar and pitter-patter of paws fill the house once again.  Bonus side note - he was fostered by a couple who are runners and had been running a few miles at a time with him!
 Finally some nice blue skies

So, Sunday morning we headed over to Ute Valley Park for some good trails.  It was an awesome sunny morning after a few weeks of more than average gray skies in Colorado.  Don't know if it was the emotional drain of looking for a new family member (yes, we take our pet decisions VERY seriously), or just some winter fatigue, but even the blue skies did not have us feeling super peppy for the run.  Do you ever have one of those runs where you feel like you could curl up on the side of the trail and take a nap...?
 Looking across Ute Valley to Pikes Peak
 Kathleen coming through the trees 
Look at that face...
We ran about 7 miles and then looped back by the house to get in the first run with "The New Guy".  This little guy is going to be quite the trail runner - he's a natural!  He did not trip me, step on my heels, or make any weird movements that caused me to stumble - just a good straight runner.  Well done Hook!  Needless to say that after his weekend of traveling, moving to his new home, and hitting the trails with us, this is what he looked like after running 3 miles with us:
Who could resist him???

It was a good weekend for us as you can see.  Nice 10 mile run, including the finishing loop with our new baby boy!  Happy Trails this week!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ponderous Posterior 50k....

...BUTT BEFORE you get too excited, we did not do the 50k!  We did, however, jump in for a taste of the fun and to rub elbows with some ultra running royalty!  The Ponderous Posterior 50k was conceived by Anton Krupicka as the third and final installment of the Front Range FatAss race series - a low key, no entry, no whining, no t shirt type of event.  It was planned to showcase some of the awesome variety of trails we have here aside from the Barr Trail, which everyone knows from the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.  Organization and staging for the event were handled masterfully by JT, as he and Katie opened the house to a swarm of runners early Saturday morning.  There was a full 50k, a "JV" event that was approximately 26 miles, and a cutoff (or baby) event that ended up being about 14 miles - that was the slot we fit in!!!  There were also 3 waves of starts - 7, 8, and 9 am in order to stage the runners to finish around the same times for post "race" festivities to commence at JT's pad.  We chose the 7 am wave for several reasons, one being an impending drive to Greeley as soon as we finished.  However, the main reason we chose the 7 was so we could meet up with our good friend Tim, who was scheduled to crash at HT Central Friday night but was fighting off some crud from earlier in the week.  So he rode down Saturday morning with George, who we got to meet for the first time which was very cool!  We wish we could have run more with them, but only got to spend a small amount of time during the run before they turned off for the marathon course.

Also, a big thanks to Tim Bergsten and Brian McCarrie from Pikes Peak Sports for providing a lot of local coverage for the event!  Of course,with so much Ultrarunning talent on hand, it was a stacked line up for a low key event!  They posted a couple of cool videos and HT people make an appearance in both - woohoo!

http://pikespeaksports.ning.com/video/fat-ass-50k  - see us about a minute or so in, and Tim and George about 2:15 in

http://pikespeaksports.ning.com/video/the-ponderous-posterior-50k-no  in here too!
 Chillin before Wave 1 as Tim signs in on the "Body Count" sheet

It was still not-quite light when we rolled down the sidewalk from JT's place and headed through Pleasant Valley to the Garden of the Gods.  While forecast highs were for 50 degrees, it was crisp and low 30's for the 7 am start.  We were hoping for some sun to hit once we climbed up into the Garden...
 ... and - Sunrise was awesome as Wave 1 hits the Garden of the Gods
 Orange splash across the foothills
 (Photo credit:  Brian McCarrie - pikespeaksports.us)
 Brilliant Sun on the red rocks was almost too much for the lens...

It was fun for us to get in on the event and "wet our toes" a bit with the local mountain running crowd.  Since we're not lifetime runners, we are not necessarily plugged in to the running community so events like this will help out a bit and also uncover a lot of trails we've never tried.  Case in point, once we left the Palmer Trail at around 2 miles in, we found ourselves in largely uncharted waters - and it was sweet. 
 Climbing up toward RRR

We headed up out of the Garden on some sweet singletrack trails, climbing steeply at times to a ridgeline above Rampart Range Road - a high-clearance dirt road that weaves from Garden of the Gods up toward Woodland Park and then north along the Front Range to Sedalia.  After running the ridge for a bit, we dropped down by a water tank to the road and followed it for three or so miles to the Williams Canyon trail.
 Kathleen runs RRR with the Majesty of Pikes Peak looming large

Along RRR, just before the photo above was taken, we had a bit of a "spooky" occurrence.  We stopped a couple times as we were hearing a noise off the hillside that sounded like someone crying.  And loud.  After scoping out the hillside, listening for a bit, and chatting with others who also heard it, we came to the conclusion that it was probably a mountain lion somewhere in the trees on the hillside - yikes!!!  Glad we did not get a chance to meet and greet...

From RRR, we dropped in to Williams Canyon, a steep and densely forested singletrack passage that would take us all the way in to Manitou Springs.  We hooked up with Tim and George at the top of the canyon and Tim ran with us all the way to the cutoff trail up to Waldo Canyon, where the longer races turned diverged.  We also were fortunate to hook up with John Gardner, 2010 president of Pikes Peak Road Runners and a really great guy.  We also tagged on with a couple guys we met on the trail - Bill and Corey - all three of them were doing the short version like us.  The top of the canyon had a lot of chewed up soft snow but the bottom half was SUPER ICY!  Because so much of the eastern half of the run was dry, we had gambled and gone without traction aids.  They would have helped in Williams but we made it all right.
 Williams Canyon
 L to R - Bill, Corey, John in Williams Canyon

The trail continues down canyon until it drops out onto the old road for the Cave of the Winds, a local natural cave attraction above Manitou Springs.  The road drops steeply and passes under US Hwy 24.
 Can you hit the overpass???

We took a bit of a trip down memory lane with John, talking about crazy caving adventures from his younger days and also were introduced to one of their boyhood challenges:  try to hit the girders under the highway overpass with a rock - easy huh?  Well, easier said than done - see the close up below.
A highway worker had a sense of humor

Corey finally hit the beam with a rock, so we hopped out onto El Paso blvd and headed back towards JT's place.  We had a really great time, got to see some new terrain (and opened up a whole new area to explore...), and were able to hang out with some terrific folks who love trail running.  The route was around 14 miles with 2600' vertical gain and was plenty for us at this point in time.  It was a great run to shake off some cobwebs from a month of mostly ho-hum running and that is always a good thing!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Pealr Izumi SyncroFuel XC

So how do we follow that up??
 Oh those stairs...

After an awesome run on Saturday morning and a five hour round trip to Greeley and back in the afternoon, we were hoping to get in a shorter outing and have a little time to rest today (and watch some NFL playoffs...).  What better way to get in a stellar workout, mash the quads thoroughly, and do so in a short period of time than to head back over to Manitou Springs and hit the Incline!  If you have watched our posts for any period of time, you most likely have seen it by now.  If not, come visit and we will drag you take you over for a guided tour.  No matter how many times we do this, it.still.hurts.  One mile.  2000 vertical feet gained. 3000 plus railroad-tie step ups.  You get the picture - or you can look at ours...  It was extra-special-fun today as there is packed snow and fantastic ice on about two-thirds of the steps, making the climb so much more enjoyable.  Follow the white line cut in the trees in the photo above - the top is just the "false" summit, there is about a third more to climb after that!!!
 Looking down from the steepest section - 68% through here!!!
 Summit photo - ready for some Barr Trail
 Running the connector over to Barr
 Capturing our "couple minutes" of sunshine for the day...

 Barr Trail - One of the non-icy sections

Due to the last couple days of warmer temperatures and frigid nights, Barr Trail was a mix of treacherous ice flows, packed snow, and muddy granite.  While we had screw shoes on, some of the ice today seemed impervious to even the sheet metal screws embedded underfoot.  So we had some very cautious tempo down Barr but it was still all good!
Made it down - does it look cold?

The Incline was a great way to cap off a fantastic weekend on the trails.  How often do you get to do a 4.5 mile "run" with 2200' vertical gain in a bit over an hour - and think it was a "good" time???  Come join us some time...   Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Nike Terra Ridge - w/screws
S La Sportiva Wildcat - w/screws

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Maintenance

Aside from Kathleen's race last week, we have had a pretty low key month for running.  That was mostly by design - a little mental and physical break.  I logged 1340 miles (wow...I know, staggering) for 2010, not bad for the third year of being a runner, and basically a 2 (sometimes 3) day per week runner at that.  I really would like to remain healthy, so a little ease up was a good plan.  Plus, been doing some runs with no Nathan pack/no camera/no frills/no blog....what?

My folks were here and stayed with us for 2 weeks during the Christmas break, after enduring extreme amounts of travel crap from (in my opinion) an inept Delta Airlines.  I mean, canceling 500+ flights in one day for an inch of snow in Atlanta?  Pansies.  Then sending them through Salt Lake City to come to Colorado and missing the last flight of the day? ... Don't get me started!

Anyhoo, the couple diversions like snowshoe and ski outings really help during the cold months.  It is tough to maintain really consistent training on the trails at this time of year with our weather being back in the standard El Colorado pattern.  For those residing in normal, predictable weather climates, El Colorado is a trend of unseasonably warm days (usually during one's work week) followed by a dramatic plummet in temperatures and the coinciding unstable weather such mercurial plunges produce.  It is not uncommon to have 50+ degree temperature changes in a daylight period when said disturbance rears its head.  And it just so happens, we're in the middle of one of those fine meteorological wonders today.  Saturday we ran early before Kathleen went to work but it was already a balmy 26 degrees with no wind and sunny skies.  Six miles and a nice run.  Take my word for it - no pics.   It got all the way to 56 degrees and after an afternoon errand, I got a wild hair, donned shorts and headed over to Ute Valley for run #2 ahead of Sunday's predicted arctic plunge.  Another 6 miles of sweet, muddy/icy, slimy trails - it was great!  Everyone else had the same bug as the trails were packed - bikes, runners, hikers, dogs - calm before the storm!
El Colorado moving in...Notice the crow hovering overhead,
hoping for a runner's carcass that stayed out too long in the cold!!!

So this morning, on cue, we had clouds smothering down on the front range, with the early temp of 33 degrees quickly dropping to 26 feels like 14 at run start.  Gotta get moving!  From the start, it was spitting the fine snow crystals which are easy to ignore while running.  We headed over to Ute Valley Park in order to stay out of the wind and, for the most part, it was quite comfortable.
Heading up from the arch
 Cold and gray - and empty park trails...
 Snowy singletrack

Unlike yesterday's freeway traffic on the trails, it was quiet and peaceful in Ute today.  It is enjoyable to run with the lightly falling snow - sounds are muffled and the crunch of your footsteps allow an almost metronomic trance to fall over your run.  About half way through the run, the snow started to pick up a bit and a noticeable temperature drop ensued.  With the change came some new slickness to the already re-frozen mud from Saturday and a layer of white to hide the ice.  It was time to enter the winter run mantra zone - soft footfalls, close attention to feedback from the trail, watch for the light sandstone caps to skip across, avoid the ice flows....  This is a good zone as it recaptures the mental attention and brings a close connection to the trail.
 Watch that ice!!!
Peaceful run

We had a great day on the trails and are starting to have a bit of renewed energy for the runs.  We will continue to keep it a bit calm for the next few weeks, including a potential ski or two and another snowshoe outing.  It is good to mix it up for the winter months.  We finished with 11 miles and a satisfying cold run in the snow.  Hope your winter training is going well - Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rescue Run 2011

After we intentionally eased back on the running through the month of December (and probably through January), I planned on spicing things up for the start of 2011 by doing the Rescue Run 10k. A race that benefits El Paso County Search and Rescue, it is a fun and challenging course that winds through the hills of Palmer Park.  It utilizes a combination of paved  and dirt roads, providing sweeping views of the Front Range.  Unable to coerce convince Steve that he would enjoy running it too, I was on my own (although he came as my cheerleader).  The primary goal of running the race was to use it as a hard tempo workout - to shock my semi-hibernating, slow body awake.  Other than that, there was no objective - work hard for a few minutes and have FUN!

We ran into our friend, CW, before the start.  She is one of our local elite women and I knew she would win today.  We have known she and her hubby for 13 years or so, originally meeting through a Young Marrieds class at church.  Funny thing - she used to 'taunt' Steve and I, daring us to come over to the 'dark side' (ie: become runners) when we were exclusively cyclists.  That 'taunting' went on for years and years.  Then one winter, tired of going out in the cold on our bikes, we decided to try some cross-training - that's where our running took root, more specifically, trail running.  We did a few years of winter cross-training and Spring of 2011 will mark 3 years of 'full-time' running, now using cycling as our occasional cross-training.  I guess we have crossed over to the dark side........
 Me and CW before the start....See how close I am standing to her???  I am hoping that some of her 'strong and fast' will rub off on me!  I was also eyeing and scheming on that pink down jacket. Hmmm, we are about the same size......
 The stampeding thundering hooves at the start......

Temps were quite brisk at the start - low single digits with below zero windchill.  The race officials were encouraging folks to wear either screwshoes or some sort of traction device on our shoes as the paved portion of the course was quite icy and treacherous.  It is a very hilly course, with some short sharp pitches in the shade - those sections would prove to be the most tricky.  I chose to wear Screwshoe Lite (7 screws in each shoe) as opposed to Screwshoe Deluxe (13 screws in each shoe) and the Lite was JUST RIGHT!  Thanks Honey, for drilling them up for me this morning!
 Can you find Mrs. Happy Trails?

My mantra for the day rotated between 'stay steady' and 'stay tempo'.

After making the right hand turn, above, we climbed some pretty good hills and the herd thinned out quickly after a mile or so.  It was funny hearing  the 'clickity-click' sound of screws and traction devices on the ice heading up the hills.  I fell in behind a couple of guys who seemed to be going my tempo so I just paced off of them for the next few miles.  I must make mention of the nice gentleman I was directly behind during that time - he was thoughtful enough to check behind him  (for me) and then move off to the side a bit to spit or blow.  I was highly appreciative of his conscienciousness - nary a drop reached me - thankyou Mr. Runnerman!

After running the dirt loop on top of the mesa, we headed over to the Grandview Overlook - a rolling out and back portion of road.  Halfway or so up the road,  the lead men came storming back toward me, heading toward the finish.  I kept my eyes peeled for CW, and sure enough, she was the first woman.  Then I started to count.  One woman, two woman, three woman, etc.  Why was I counting?  My only objective was to tempo, right? so who cares how many women are in front of me???  Oh yes, but I do care, in shape or NOT, unfortunately I do care.  I was 6th woman.  Since the realization hit that 'I do care' where I stood in the race's pecking order, I took a quick look on my way back and started counting again.  Two gals about 20 seconds behind and two more about 10 seconds behind them.  Uh-oh.  I was fairly confident I could 'hold them off' over the rolling hills that connected to the main road but my confidence ended there.  Because I am a more cautious descender, I fully expected the two closer girls to pass me on the way down toward the finish, about a mile or so away.  Halfway down the descent, part of my prediction came true as one  girl passed me, not blazing, just a little faster.  I just stayed steady, and being a realistic and somewhat logical person, expected the second girl to come by BUT hallelujah, she didn't!
A couple of guys came by, but that was it.  I made it to the finish, 7th woman.
(above photo from pikespeaksports.us)
Heading back from Grandview, getting ready to turn onto the descent and await the inevitable passes.
Happy to be finished with a good, hard tempo run.  And the bonus surprise:  1st place Woman 40-44.  Woo-hoo!

I did have a few silent moments of disappointment and despondent despair when I saw my finish time, though, as it was 3.5+ minutes slower than when I ran it in 2009 ( 40-44 age group win then, too).  The frigid cold, a few stretches of deep, chunked up snow, and icy conditions affected almost everyone today compared to the nearly perfect winter conditions in 2009 (which was a skirt day!).  I quickly put it out of my mind and tried to focus on the completed objective of a hard tempo run made even better by a decent finish, regardless of slow time.  I have to be mindful of our intentional cut-back on miles and intensity.  Final score:

1st 40 - 44 Age Group  - 15 women
7th overall woman - 79 women
54th overall - 279 finishers for the 10k

The Rescue Run certainly was a fun change to the normal routine.  I love the course and plan to do it whenever possible every year.  A BIG thanks to Pikes Peak Road Runners as they put on THE most well organized races, ALWAYS!  They are a well oiled machine - the best.  Because of the cold conditions and wanting to get people on their way, they did the raffles early and posted a list of those prizes for folks to check after they finished the race.  They did awards about 15 minutes after I finished and had printed results posted immediately and then just kept updating as runners finished.  I think full results were posted online by 1:00. Awesome!

Ok Jill - are you happy???!!!  I actually did a RACE!
Thanks to my dear Mr. Happy Trails Man for standing out in the cold cheering and freezing your fanny off.  You are the best!  :-)
Happy and blessed 2011 to everyone and may you spend good miles on many happy trails this week!

The gear that made me comfy in spite of the cold:

Screwed-up Asics 2150 Trail shoes
Icebreaker merino wool undershirt - heavyweight
Sporthill 3sp pants (I LOVE 3sp!)
Sporthill Symmetry jacket
Drymax Winter Socks
Smartwool headband (I LOVE all things merino wool!)   
Ibex wool gloves 
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