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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fun Filled Weekend

After 5 weeks of long run weekends, including 3 with back to back long runs, it was time for a cut back week.  This was timed perfectly to coincide with a visit from Kathleen's brother and his family from Iowa for the Easter weekend.  It also timed out well for a couple shorter runs during a crappy weather spell!  After an awesome Friday evening forage on Boriello Brothers Pizza (I highly recommend the Clemente), we were up early in the cold on Saturday to sneak in some trails at Ute Valley Park.
 Kathleen climbing the west rim
 Keeping it moving on a cold gray morning
 Kathleen drops into the trees
 Posing by the favorite arch

We had a nice 8 mile run, got in some great trails, and did not have to pound out any long miles in this latest bout of cold weather.  That makes for a good run, and it was only the start of our day...

Shoes - Montrail Mountain Masochist

 Mmmm ... Boonzaaijers....

Post-run, it was time to get the tour guide hats on and get rolling.  Of course, Starbucks was up first, closely followed by a trip to Boonzaaijers Dutch Bakery.  Nothing says recovery fuel like a Black Forest Roulade...
Fresh Tart, Tiramisu, and Black Forest Roulade - good stuff!
In the "tourist" section of the Garden

After taking the kids up to see the Adventures in Odyssey and doing a little shopping, the sun broke out for a bit and we made good use of the time by hitting Garden of the Gods for a little sight seeing.  While it was certainly not warm, the sun helped out and we were able to get the Iowans out to see the Siamese Twins, then got over to the Gateway/Cathedral Spires area to see some of the nice rock formations.  Since these are not optimal run routes, we are rarely down in this section and it was nice to reacquaint with the area. 
 Good day for climbing once the sun popped out

 White Rock catching late rays
 Looking out from the darkness behind North Gateway

Had a great trip (as always) to the Garden, hit up Salsa Brava for some high quality Mexican grub, and settled in for a movie with the fam at home ... just as it started to SNOW?????

A run ... and then the "Safari"

It did indeed drop some snow Saturday night and we woke to colder temps with some fresh snow, so we ran the neighborhood trails over Flying W and got in a quick and cold 7 miler this morning.  We needed to get rolling as we were not sure what the weather would hold and we had promised the kiddos a trip to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  Now, we do not have the largest zoo with the most animals, but with a spectacular setting right on the side of the mountain, this one is pretty tough to beat for atmosphere. It is a wonderfully scenic and awesome little zoo.  So we bundled up the crew and headed out for some more fun!
 Feeding the giraffes - CM Zoo has a great, very accomplished giraffe program
 Meerkats huddled under the heat lamp - it was a bit of a funny sight
 Mountain Tapir - they make very interesting noises and have intriguing feet
 Amur Tiger - 500 lbs of magnificent, carnivorous beast
 Mountain Lion - a bit unnerving being three feet from one of these - he wasn't intimidated by us at all.  He was probably thinking, "Hmmm, I've seen them running down the trail before......".  Very beautiful but also a little scary as they are prolific in our area.
 The Big Fellas - just got let out into their enclosure.  CMZ is getting ready to build an enormous new elephant display which includes a wide open, 2 acre natural area for them to roam and a variety of new buildings and enclosures.
More skilled hunters
 Albino Burmese Python - 10 foot of creepiness there
 Primate with "bad manners".  He was a funny and sneaky guy.  He was hoarding all of the lettuce feed by hiding piles of it in the hay and carrying it to this spot where he would uncover his treasured lettuce and begin his feast.  We watched him do it over and over.  As you can tell, he was not too amused by our presence, evidenced by his well rehearsed use of sign language.  Ahem.  It was a comedy.
 Always a ham in the bunch
Hit up the Garden Trading Post on the way home

We had a blast at the zoo and then did some extra shopping time at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, aka Tourist Trap Central!!!  Had a great time with the family and were sad to see them head off late this afternoon in order to avoid the marathon drive home tomorrow.  Good times and we are reminded, once again, how incredibly blessed and thankful we are for our wonderfully beloved families and dear friends.  We need to never take any for granted, which is easy to do.  Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Happy Trails this week!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Red Rocks and Falcons and Trails

Kathleen had to work Saturday, so she ran early before work and was able to get in a great 8 mile morning run.  I waited until she got home, had an iced mocha waiting for her recovery fuel, and then set out for my long run.  In anticipation that Kathleen was going to attempt Falcon on Sunday, I decided to run from home and incorporate some sort of loop in/around the Garden of the Gods.
 Nice View
 North Gateway and Tower of Babel

After completing the "urban" portion of the run, I dropped in on the Navigators side and onto the north Garden trails.  After a cool start, I had already ditched the arm warmers and the sun was fantastic.  I was trying not to think too hard about it - but it was NOT windy.  Big deal of late, for sure.  Although I encountered little to no traffic on the entrance trails, there seemed to be an oddly high amount of car traffic for 9 am - more on that later...  After looping up onto Palmer trail, I took the hard switchback up and started out of the Garden onto the National Forest trails.  I wanted to try another route this time, so instead of taking the goat path up and over the rim to Rampart Range Road, I circled south and around a few false summits, and then dropped onto a singletrack that appeared to head down to RRR.  The singletrack turned to a "halftrack" to a barely-there-track and before I knew it, I was scrambling down some 30% plus slopes trying not to plummet face first down the side of the hill!!!  Safely down, I dropped out onto RRR quite a bit below where I jumped on last time
 Making sure it didn't tip over...
 Almost off RRR - looking through an old tree to the Garden

After the cruise down RRR, I dropped back in on the Garden trails and headed up Cabin Canyon, then up the backside of Siamese Twins.  I kept thinking to myself, where are all these people coming from.  I mean. you NEVER see anyone on Cabin Canyon other than oddball trail runners people like usAnd having to pass people on the backside of Siamese - what???
 Siamese Twins

There was a horse train going through the normal route around Siamese Twins when I go to the top, so I had to come in the top side.  It then dawned on me that it was D-Day - the grossly overdone Earth Day extravaganza at the Garden.  Some of our worst trail experiences with rude, moronic people on trails have been on this very day.  Funny, as it is supposed to be a day for people who actually like being on trails... OK, where was I??  Oh yes, running along now... Climbing over, this was my view.  Aside from the little guy picking his nose, the other 4 people were lined up for the photo I wanted to take and they were not interested in moving any time soon.  Since I was 12 miles into a run, I got rather pushy, and popped in front to snag this photo, which you may have spotted yesterday:
 What a frame for Pikes Peak!

Although this is a ubiquitous photo around these parts, I still like to stop by every now and again to snag the shot.  I particularly enjoyed the lighting this time as the slightly shadowed keyhole allowed for a nice focus lock on the Peak.  It is also nice to see that prominent diagonal scar of the Manitou Incline - one of the better 35 minute workouts in our arsenal....
 Reservoir Trail...and the tree is hiding something:
 Climbers at the top of Cathedral Rock - I'll pass on that activity!
The whole enchilada - Cathedral Rock set against a wonderful sky!
I made the outer loop as quickly as my dwindling legs would allow, utilizing the most difficult trails in order to avoid the hoardes.  Made the quick jaunt out through the Navs and then up and over Flying W back to the casa.  Felt great all day and finished at just under 19 miles with 2900' climbing.  I am really starting to enjoy these longer runs - might just become habitual...  In fact, I may just start hauling off on some long runs like these and not even bother with races - we'll see.

Shoes - K Montrail Mountain Masochist
S - Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC
  and once again, sported the McDavid Compression sleeves which take nice care of the calves!

More Sun and more Wind on the Falcon Trail
 Kathleen enjoying the sunshine

Today we headed over to the US Air Force Academy to run the Falcon Trail.  Kathleen has been itching to see just how long she can run these days.  We know this trail well, so it is always a good testing ground.  The sun was out strong and we got out pretty early to "attempt" to beat the wind.  There were a bunch of people who had the same idea as the Stadium trailhead was packed with lots of empty bike racks on the backs of vehicles.  Despite the number of folks out, it really never seemed busy on the trail which was nice!
 Backside climb complete - looking across to the water facilities and Blodgett Peak
 Lots of bikes out - trails and road alike

We couldn't help but notice the swarms of road bikes on the drive in.  It turns out that USA Cycling had a little shindig going on at the USAFA - The Front Range Cycling Classic. They were utilizing a loop that is one of our favorite road loops and was also the site for the 1986 Road Worlds. The AFA is an awesome place to ride and it is a  great loop. We usually do 2 for 30 miles.  The Pro men were treated to 5 laps - in 2000mph wind - OUCH!
 The backside of USAFA - beautiful facility if you get a chance to visit
Sweet day on Falcon Trail

Even though the 2000 mph winds made their appearance yet again, the temperatures in the low 70's helped ease the sting of their rude interruption of our trail bliss!  It was an awesome day out there and as always, we enjoyed Falcon.  Bonus highlight of the day - We saw a couple on a SWEEET full suspension tandem clean the gnarly switchbacks down from the Chapel overlook - big time skills on that one!!!  Toward the end of the route, Kathleen simply ran out of gas, which is to be expected while we get her meds dialed in for Graves Disease.  This is OK - we knew it was a "test" run of sorts.  She stopped just past the 12 mile point and walked it in from there, which was fantastic.   It was a great day and we sat in the sun for a while enjoying fresh-baked-this-morning coconut oatmeal cookies and a protein shake, soaking up another wonderful day!!!

13 miles, 1800' climb
Shoes - Montrail Mountain Masochist

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good evening runs...and Stinking Wind...

Been getting in some good evening runs (and good morning runs for Kathleen!!).  Until this week, no Nathan pack on the evening runs, as most have been shortish and keeping the throttle down.  Not yet anywhere near the point where I feel the need to push hard on the weekend long runs, so the evening outings have been an attempt at getting some tempo workouts (so traveling light...)  Thursday night, however, we had unexpected sunny skies in the afternoon (and the first afternoon with no wind), so immediately after arriving home, I headed for Ute Valley Park with the camera on board.  Here are some pics of the trip:
 Typical evening run - shade to the west, sun to the east
 Catching good rays on Pikes Peak - not a bad view for an evening run...
 Back around for a second glimpse and fading daylight
 Nice textures along the trail in the low light of evening

Rustic and suburban collide - heading out of the park for home

Both evening runs this week were over 7 miles, which will start helping with the endurance training.  (BTW, 3 runs in the mornings for Kathleen!)  I really pushed this one at Ute on Thursday, hitting very nice times for technical running and was hoping it would not backfire for the Saturday long run.  Good times!

Spruce Mountain ... and the WIND

Saturday, we headed up to Spruce Mountain Open Space for some good singletrack with a bit more mellow grades than the past couple weekend outings.  As has been the norm for longer than I want to remember, it was once again WINDY as all get out when we arrived.  You can only find so many sheltered areas to run good trails until you just have to suck it up and run in it.  So we glued a smile on the face and headed out on the trails.
 Kathleen enjoying the sun (but not the wind) on Spruce Meadows trail
 Nice view from the top of Spruce Mountain

The first portion of the run was on part of Spruce Meadows, which is quite exposed and therefore quite windy.  We looped back and headed up onto Spruce Mountain, enjoying some relative shelter on the climb and the first half of the loop on top.  It really was a pretty good day with sunny skies and low 60's temps.  The wind really dries you out, so water consumption was up quite a bit.  Rounding the south side of the mountain top loop, you hit Windy Point - and with the S to SW winds hitting 35+ mph, you can see the effect in this photo:
 Gritting our teeth (and hanging on to our shirts!!) while being pelted with sand...

Finished out the loop on top and dropped back down the front side in shelter, enjoying the break from the relentless wind.  I ran into the trailhead and grabbed more water from the truck.  Kathleen finished here with 10.5 miles and quite a solid run for her!!!  It is really looking like she is on the comeback trail!  I had that short moment when I could have thrown the Nathan in the back and been done, but against my better judgment, I actually made the decision to head out for another loop.  As it turned out, I made a bit of a blunder in route arrangement by heading out on the Spruce Meadows big loop in the clockwise direction.  In hindsight, counter-clockwise would have given me about 50% less headwind, but that sort of thing happens.  The next 8.5 miles would prove to be one of those loops that fall under one of those nonsensical categories such as "character building", among other things.  For the most part it just sucked.  The rolling hills and plentiful sand on the Spruce Meadows loop, combined with the wind and subsequent sandblasting, made the end of the run more drudgery than I cared to enjoy.  Will it be one of those runs that I look back on when in a tough spot on a future long run and say, "Hey - I pulled through that one" ?  Not if I can erase it from my memory before then....
Long into my day - Kathleen got this pic of me from above at the trailhead

Got in 19 miles for the day.  Thought about calling it 23 for the sustained wind resistance, but it is what it is.  I do know that I will be back to this area for a couple more long runs as the "out there" exposure to the elements is quite similar to an area I may visit for a really long run in the near future.  No photos from today - sorry.  Went for a short recovery run in Ute Valley Park to get out of the wind...again.  25 degrees cooler today and 40 mph winds = no stopping for photos - just get'r done!!!  Have a great week and Happy Trails!

Shoes - Montrail Mountain Masochist
The numbers - 19 miles, 2240' elevation gain, 4 stops to clear sand from the shoes....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weather Madness!

Saturday morning Kathleen got out early and hit 5 miles before work - Yes!  This is a good development.  Meanwhile, I was salivating over the weather forecast, which was predicting upper 70's!  (I checked first, and it was NOT April Fools)  Jumping around with these temps of late can be a little tricky on the body, however, I was definitely getting out for some heat for this one!  So I headed over to Red Rock Canyon, where we have not been in a while, and decided to do a little Red Rock and add on the Section 16 loop.
 Blue skies and WARM!
Looking over Red Rock from Lion Trail

I got the last parking spot at the main trailhead at about 9 - I guess everyone watched the weather forecast!!!  I headed out around the east side and up the Codell trail, then continued climbing until I was up to the Section 16 connector.  
In between RRC and Section 16 - gonna be a good day!
Intemann/Waterfall trail up to Section 16

Early on I had that strange feeling that I would have no legs - what's the deal with that on a high 70's day?  Add to that the fact that there is a boatload of climb, and I was adequately nervous.  So when I hit the steep waterfall connection up to Sec 16, I kept it scaled back and did some power hiking.  Between here and the high point of the climb, there are some ramps in excess of 30% and several extended clips of 20% grade.  Now, I am not a good walker.  In fact, if you asked Kathleen, she would probably say it makes me grumpy.  But on this day, it was necessary.  Already pouring sweat by the bucket, I will say that the trees on the climb and the wind on the ridge were a welcome relief - cannot believe I was needing to cool off???
Way above Red Rock but plenty more to climb!!!
Nice views

When I finally reached the saddle where the climb eases up a bit, my legs started to turn over for me a little better.  I was glad that I did not bag this one early.  Had some great views up there - just a couple canyons north of where I was the previous Saturday!  Downed some globs of caloric goop as I rolled across the remainder of this climb and was anxiously awaiting the long rolling descent down to Gold Camp.  I was about a minute into the plunge when I saw someone climbing toward me WAY overdressed - I thought, That poor sap missed the news.  However, it turns out it was JT out training for his outing to the Grand Canyon - getting some heat blasts in ahead of the R2R2R run.  (But, man, it still looked way too hot!!!)  It was a drag to find out this morning that the brutal winds overnight brought the neighbor's massive pine tree crashing through his roof - not good!
High Drive - it looks so flat in pictures...

The descent down the back side of Section 16 was great and the legs came around a bit - not one of those glorious, all is right in the running realm kind of days, but still felt good.  The steep drop on High Drive was a bit of  pounding as usual but I was really concentrating on my descending form and I think it helped.  Rolled out of the descent and started the climb back up onto the loop so that I could reconnect to Red Rock.  Once out of the tree lined canyon, the heat was really becoming apparent.  So it felt good to drop down into Red Rock again, knowing that the remainder of the run would be mostly downhill!
Looking out to the Garden

I stopped for a minute to check out the sights as I was descending through RRC.  On the right side of the photo, you see Ridge Road climbing into the Garden of the Gods - the first ramp is 13%, then it "backs off" to 7%.  Many times at the end of a long road bike outing I have cursed that road - it stings just to look at it!
Always better AFTER you climb it....

Finished up with an even half marathon - 13.1 miles and 3320' climbing.  After several longer runs of late, this is one of those shorter runs that remind you just how humbling running in the mountains can be.  Considering that I nearly pulled the plug early on this one, it was a good day to push through the cement legs in the early stages and let the recovery creep up on me.

Shoes - Montrail Mountain Masochist - Getting kind of attached to this shoe - only wish I could get it at our favorite Candy Store....

Could the weather continue??
Kathleen navigates some "small" stones....

Got up Sunday and found that the Chinook winds that howled overnight had kept the temperatures in the high 50's.  However, the weather alarmist forecaster was warning that the weather was changing and it was rolling in fast!  So at 8:30 we were out the door for Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  When we arrived there, it was 68 degrees, but as you can see in the photo below, the gray clouds were creeping up behind the mountains...
Nice ... for now
Grabbing some rays early on the run
The Lone "Evergreen"

This tree growing from a rock on the Blackmer trail always makes my mind wander to the Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive - could a trip to Monterey be in the near future???
Stopped for a photo-op on Blackmer

The sun came and went during the run as was anticipated.  It was holding on pretty good as we dropped down to the base nearing the end of Kathleen's run.  We were completely stoked that she pulled off 8.5 miles. It was nice to see a glimmer of life coming back to her body.  Granted, she was tired, but we'll take it at this point!  
Picking my way through the rock garden
Just before the rain hit...

I headed out for another loop after Kathleen was finished, rolling out onto the Sundance trail and keeping an eye on the skies.  It was getting darker and the temp was falling off pretty quickly, so I didn't head up too high.  I looped the bottom of Talon over to Turkey trot, and then the rain started.  I was still warm, so it wasn't too bad until the wind kicked up.  I took Zook over to Medicine Wheel, ran the ankle twisters down to the base, and called it a day at 14 miles.  It was quite a good time and we were so lucky we got out EARLY today.  When we pulled out of the parking area, the temp was reading 53 degrees - a 15 degree drop from the start.  AND, by 1 PM, we had our first snow flakes hit the air.  Right now as I type it is 30, feels like 16 - what a day!!!  But hey, we got our run in, so bring it on!  Hope everyone has an outstanding week - Happy Trails!
Shoes - Montrail Mountain Masochist
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