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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Epiphany Moment

A few weeks ago, I had decided to not talk about my head-on collision with Graves Disease because I figured most people don't really want to read about it.  Well, I changed my mind.  After scouring the Internet for information on endurance athletes with Graves, I discovered that there isn't ANY information out there connecting the two.  I surmise that this could be good and bad - good, in that not too many people who enjoy endurance related activities have it; bad, in that endurance athletes who develop it are no longer endurance athletes.  That is my fear.  Hopefully we can contribute a little info to aid someone who may eventually be in search of it like we've been.

I had a few weeks where I felt exceptionally good, around the last of April and the first week of May, where I thought that perhaps I was starting to see a true improvement in my physical well-being, i.e. beginning to regain some of the strength and endurance that I had lost, beginning last fall.  Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been a slow slide backwards, whereby I've been scratching and clawing to hold onto my 'feeling good' gains to no avail.  Doc lowered my anti-thyroid med dose over Easter by half, based upon my improving blood results.  There is still a lot of extra thyroid hormone poison coursing through my body (the thyroid stores up tons of extra) so Doc told me to 'hang tight' and assured me that the ride on the roller coaster will level out.  I have been moping around in the doldrums the past few weeks, following the weeks where I had a wonderful glimpse of what COULD be, physically speaking.  It almost felt like a cruel joke.  I am slow, weak, and tired.  I have no capability, right now, of anything endurance related. Bummed big time.

But all that changed this past Wednesday when something 'clicked' in my mind and heart and I have done an about-face in terms of my attitude.  Steve and I were at the monthly newsletter stuffing for Pikes Peak Roadrunners and afterward, chatted briefly with John from The Colorado Running Company.  It seems that John happened upon our blog a while back and had learned about my Graves diagnosis.  Unbeknownst to him, our brief conversation resulted in a pep talk and also a swift kick in the pants.  He shared stories about a couple of our local running speedsters who were sidelined with debilitating conditions for several years.  He then said it was OK to only do what I can do.  If all I can do is hike, right now, then hike and be satisfied with it.  If I can only run 5 miles without collapsing in exhaustion, then be happy with it.  If it's 10 miles, well, then good.  Just don't be so unhappy and so dissatisfied if the body isn't able to do more.  Be happy with where I am and whatever I am able to do for the moment. Don't push for 'that little bit more'.  He probably didn't realize what he was doing for me but it was what I needed to hear, so thanks John!  I guess I needed PERMISSION to go easy on my body.  It has been beat-up and abused by Graves for 6 months and I all I have been trying to do is push and PUNISH it even more, for being 'BAD'.  It was one of those true Epiphany Moments.

The fact of the matter is:  I can run.  Not fast and not as far I would prefer, but I can run.  I can ride my bike.  Again, not as fast and not as far as I would like but I can do it.  I rode 25 miles this past Monday and 22 miles today.  I ran 10 miles and hiked 7 miles yesterday (Steve ran 19 miles) - it was too much, just call me a bone-head - so I will be making sure to cut back on my running routes for a few weeks or a month - whatever it takes - because it's OK and I'm good with it (at least momentarily).  I truly am thankful for what I am able to do right now - and that's not just blowing 'feel good smoke' at you - it's true!  :-)

So yes, you will be hearing more about the Graves thing because, reality is, it is a part of our lives forevermore.  It is woven into the fabric of my being, like it or not.  I happened across Michaela's site this past week.  Michaela just graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was diagnosed with Graves Disease last fall.  She and a couple of friends are getting ready to embark on a 3000 mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for Graves.  We exchanged a few quick emails this past week and it's nice to be able to talk with someone who is in the same situation and understands the challenges of dealing with and healing from this disease.

Some of the challenge, too, is the fact that Steve and I have always enjoyed doing our riding and running together - it's who we are.  So we both have had to adjust to this - we are still doing these things together but in a little different capacity.  I want him to keep going and keep pursuing but sometimes he wants to wait for me.  I don't want him to wait for me.  It is what it is.  Hopefully, soon, I will catch up.  Just some time and lots of patience............

Fingers crossed, pictures tomorrow!

Happy Trails for the rest of the weekend!

Here's some fun, feel-good music that revs me up!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A little new scenery (and some familiar!)

Been a bit since a post here but we're still running!  When we got back from the desert a couple weeks back, we took a mountain bike ride one day and then headed out to Limbaugh Canyon for a sweet loop we have done a couple times.  Only we forgot how brutally steep the climb was on Trail 715 - especially on tired legs from those fantastic runs in Fruita!!!  Not really sure what to think of Limbaugh - anyone know what the "secret" is there, feel free to fill us in.  Those two runs from the fall are the MOST SEARCHED posts ever since we started blogging.  What's up with that?  Must be the Bermuda Triangle of the mountains or something...

Anyhoo, the last two weeks have been the part of Spring that everyone savors in Colorado - RainSnowFogSleetHailWind - a very annoying weather pattern.  Last weekend we had two long runs in rain/drizzle conditions and cold, so we were not in the "sharing" mode.  You can thank us.  Had some life stuff thrown in with it too and cleared that, so it was time for some good weather in time for the weekend and back to good runs. 
Out early enough to run with the moon!

Kathleen had to work today, so we were out pretty early to get some good miles for her pre-work.  Since we had nice weather and an early jump, we decided to get in some exploration.  For a while the "Scar" has been on our docket for a little exploring.  You have seen it in our pics before - the long, flat scar that was formerly Queen's Canyon Quarry and is now reclaimed.  Technically, the road up onto the scar belongs to The Navigators.  However, it is used a great deal by local hikers and runners.  There is a nice flock of bighorns that live up there - steep canyons are their deal, you know.
Heading into the canyon - Scar is in the distance still
Up onto the mining road now - Tiny Kathleen in a Big Canyon!!!
Fascinating rocks and meadows on the way up
Just a little farther...
Looking down on Glen Eyrie
Posing with the Canyon's mascot

We climbed for a while to the bighorn statue and had to head back down so Kathleen could get to work.  We will certainly be back to check out the rest of the Scar in the near future.  The climb is manageable and the scenery is certainly not what we expected once we got back in there.  There is supposed to be a trail off the far end of the scar that heads all the way over to the old plane wreckage that sits behind Blodgett Peak, as well as a trail that heads up to Palmer Reservoir.  Exploration awaits...
Cruising the descent
Down through the canyon
Some great scenery

After dropping out of Queen's, Kathleen headed off for the climb back over Flying W to home, and I rolled into the Garden of the Gods to continue the run.  It was starting to warm nicely by now, a welcome change from the last couple weeks!  Soon after hitting the Dakota trail on the front of the Garden, I ran into Jonathan & Tammy running their "backyard" trails - funny we don't bump into them more often.  Chatted a bit and was surprised to find out that they have not been running the scar as Jonathan was almost ticketed last time up because they are in the midst of a study on the bighorns - Ooops...  Might explain our solitude up there!  Good to see them again - they are racing on some sweet trails down at the Sage Burner in Gunnison next weekend - good luck!!
Still one of my faves - Siamese Twins
  Pikes Peak - crowned with clouds most of the day

I rolled through the Garden with my intent to run some things reverse of normal route - heading UP Rampart Range Road to the water tank, then descending the singletrack that is usually a laborious grunt from the Garden side.  This was the first run up RRR and, while quite manageable, it is still a task and requires some concentration on the pacing.  It is just under three miles to the tank, where you leave RRR, climb a goat path past one of the city water tanks, and gain the ridge high above the Garden and south of Queen's Canyon.
Top of the Scar, just past the hill in the forground

It was interesting to look out from this vantage point to the scar, seemingly forever away, when I had just been on it 90 minutes earlier.  It was not until on the ridgeline that I noticed that distinct singletrack across the hillside - need to find out about that too!
On the ridge, looking out at Cedar Heights - those poor folk have horrible views, eh???
Took this video while running across the ridge to the drop in for the Garden.  Hope it is not too shaky -the wind was gusty up there, so no commentary during the vid either.  This is about 800' feet or so above the Garden, so you get some pretty nice views.  Rolled out through the middle of the park, which was by now packed with people on such a great day.  Made my way up and over Flying W and home, rolling into the casa with just shy of 21 miles and 3800' of climbing.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.  Kathleen had rolled in a while back with 11 miles, which is also great for a morning run before heading off to work.  Hope all is well and might be back tomorrow with some more fun stuff.  Happy Trails!

Shoes - Saucony ProGrid Mirage

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Desert Escape, part two

After devouring some decent Mexican food on Monday evening, following our most wonderful desert trail odyssey, we hit the hay with big ole grins on our faces.  We woke with those same silly grins and began plotting our day - actually our next two days.  Steve and I decided we wanted to try Monday's fun trail route in the reverse direction on Wednesday.  Since, to me, that was the more important day, my aim was to keep today's run (Tuesday) short and sweet.  I urged Steve to feel free to stay out and explore as long as he wanted as I had brought a stack of books that I hoped to consume over this week and would be perfectly happy to hang out at the truck and read while he extended his run.  His response was, "We'll see".   We loaded up and headed out to the very popular 18 Road/Bookcliffs trail area on a most lovely morning.
 Almost to the trailhead parking lot with the spare Bookcliffs in the background.
 Prime indeed!  At the start, heading up Prime Cut Trail - a "lush" oasis in the midst of the dry desert landscape.
 Gratuitous Group Photo
 Turning onto more sinuous ribbons of singletrack - Frontside connecting to Joe's Ridge, Zippity Doo Da, and the BIG Edge Loop.
 Steve on Joe's Ridge.  The pictures don't tell the whole story - there are short parts of the ridge where the trail is perched on a knife edge - maybe 20 or so inches wide and then falls away steeply on either side.
We met a poor guy and his wife on mountain bikes coming toward us - he told us he was hyperventilating because he has a fear of heights and gets vertigo.  His wife was gently trying to nurture him through it.  Luckily, Joe's isn't really scary and is relatively short.  Zippity Doo Da - well, that's another story.  Miles of constantly rolling knife edge trail.  I hope that poor guy stayed away from there!
 Nice view of Joe's. LOTS. OF. FUN!!!
 Came off of Joe's and headed up Kessel Run and connected back over to Prime Cut.  I intended to head back down to the truck and encouraged Steve to keep running, figuring I would have about 8 miles by the truck and happy to save my legs for a potentially second long run tomorrow (fingers crossed).  Steve decided 8 was good for him, so we headed down Prime Cut together, satisfied with 8 miles for the day.

If you want to see some good video of Joe's Ridge and some of the trail exposure, watch this video

If you would like to see just how much more "spine" tingling Zippity Do Da is, watch this video from Ted over at Stuck in The Rockies.  Enjoy!
   Above - the map of 18 Road/Bookcliffs area.  We are eyeing the epic Edge Loop for a future outing - it is in yellow on the map.  It will be about 28 miles and includes a short rappel down "the waterfall".  Doesn't that sound fresh and exciting???!!!

Worthy of mention:  we refueled at Pablo's Pizza, in Fruita, that afternoon.  Mmmmm good!
Most excellent pizza, especially in a small town.  And great appreciation for their very scrumptious, homemade gluten-free crust.  I'm getting hungry typing about it!  More Please!
We got up bright and early Wednesday morning and headed over to the main Kokopelli Trailhead, planning on doing Monday's fun run in the reverse direction.  Trails always look different when done in the opposite direction.  Steve was feeling great and ready to kick up his heels.  I was feeling good but wasn't completely sure what to expect from the body once we got the legs moving.  Time would soon tell............
We headed up the rolling gravel frontage road for a little over 2 miles before connecting to Mary's which then connected us to Steve's Loop (cool name for a trail, eh?  And yes, it REALLY is called Steve's).
 A perfect  bluebird day in the mid-60's.  Perfect weather.  Perfect trails.  Perfect company.
 Up off of Steve's, now connecting to Mary's above the Colorado River.
 Beautimus cactus
 Soaking up our Vitamin D, expansive views, and lovely trails.  Ahhhhh.............
 This group started not too far behind us at the beginning of Steve's Loop where we saw them on a bench above us.  We had just completed the 4 mile Horsethief Bench Loop when they were coming down the cattle chute, surprised they hadn't caught us yet.
As Steve mentioned from yesterday's post, we saw 3 guys RIDE this section - we had heard of it, but had never actually witnessed such a feat.  WOW.  There was a well deserved raucous round of applause and cheering when the last of the 3 made it.  A fourth guy almost got the glory, but face-planted off of one of the last boulder sections.  We still cheered for him, though, as he had earned it.
 Nearing the end.....  Getting ready to turn on to a new trail - Wrangler - that would take us back to the start of Mary's, not too far from the truck.  At this turn-off, we are about 13.5 miles in.  I am getting tired but still feeling pretty good.  Two thumbs up.
 Happy Trails Duo feeling pretty happy on Wrangler
Smelling the barn..............

We made it back down and over the last hill to the truck, ending the day with a marvelous 16.25 miles.  Now, 16 miles has become "no big deal" for Steve as he's been putting in longer miles than that these past few months but it felt monumental to me.  I got a little teary eyed at the trailhead when the realization hit of what my body had just accomplished.  Starting the end of January, beginning of February, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other to shuffle 3 or 4 miles, so I was literally soaring on Cloud 9 to be able to do what we did in the four days here.  Ecstatic.  I am not setting any speed records, for sure, but am encouraged to be able to do what we did.  It will just take time to get my strength back.  Also, I don't intend to talk much more about Graves after this (but if you or someone you know has questions, please feel free to ask as I am happy to help and share) - but when a person has climbed over the hurdle we have, it deserves positive and exuberant acknowledgment (and a big thank you to a wonderful, caring husband!).  It's all good.  Next up:  a 20 miler in the mountains the end of May........another good test........

Another worthy mention:  We re-fueled at Rib City, in Fruita, where they serve up some AWESOME smoked meats - the pulled pork and turkey were outstanding!

Another worthy mention #2:  We both wore Montrail Masochists on our 4 runs, each alternating between two pairs.  Our feet and bodies ended the trip in a completely happy state despite the rough and rocky conditions.  Very awesome trail shoes.
Happy Trails this week!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

We Desert(-ed) the Mountains... Part One

 Vail Pass - our weekend weather last Sunday - we're outta here!
 I-70 through Glenwood Canyon - a highway masterpiece

We generally take our "Spring" getaway a little earlier than this, but with the rude interruption of Grave's Disease, we had been stalling to let the meds get Kathleen back on track.  We were itching to get out for some time on new trails and Kathleen was wanting to "draw a line in the sand" for a fresh start on rebuilding her fitness. This week was that line.  With some good labs under her belt, we took off for some desert relief from the fussy weather we had been having, driving through a snow storm to get to the western slope of Colorado.  We were waffling on going to Moab, but perched ourselves in Fruita, Colorado simply for the fact that it has far better trails than Moab.  Don't tell anyone, but it's true ;-)
 Arrived in Fruita and "stretched our legs" with a nice 5 mile loop on Rustler's.  The Line is Drawn...
 The storm pushed through to the east, just where we wanted it to go.  The Colorado River is running high, stealing all our water sending water downstream to Vegas, Phoenix, and other places that can't get their own...
 Kathleen enjoying the desert trails and knocking off the cobwebs from 5 hours in the car
 Enjoying the last stretches of sweet singletrack - got to save some legs for Monday...

 The Promised Land - Overlooking trail nirvana from the Kokopelli Trailhead on Monday morning
 Getting it rolling on Mary's Loop - the start of Monday's long run.
 Climbing Mary's Loop, overlooking Rustler's, which we ran Sunday.  Mary's Loop is the "official" start of the Kokopelli Trail - 142 miles of desert rambling from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah.
 Heading up the double-track climb on Mary's - caution needed as the jaw dropping scenery does not lend well to the technical trails ahead!!!  The views are so big that photos struggle to capture the landscapes.  We took boatloads of pix, so follow along!
 Dropped off of Mary's onto Horsethief Bench - one of our favorites.  We have biked and run this trail numerous times.
 Stopped for a group shot on Lunch Rock.  You can sit on the front of the rock, dangle your legs over into free space, and watch the Colorado River flow far below your shoes while you eat your snacks!
 Climbing well above the river on Horsethief Bench.  The distant canyons are part of Black Canyons Wilderness which flanks the other bank of the Colorado.  The water looks calm from up high, but it is really moving with the late snow melt in the high country.
 Kathleen enjoying the trail - and her health.  This day was a big test.
 This is the "cattle chute" that you go down to enter Horsethief Bench, and then climb out to return to Mary's Loop.  For perspective, Kathleen is about 40% of the way up.  We have heard of mountain bikers cleaning this but never witnessed it ... until Wednesday when we would see 3 clean it and one faceplant on the very last drop!   Can you pick a good line through that???
 One of many canyon rims that you run along on Mary's Loop
 A lot of cliffside exposure on these trails - probably less jello leg running it than biking it!!
 Kathleen climbs away from the river on Mary's, nearing the junction of Steve's Loop - what a cool name for a trail...
 Trail marker for my namesake loop - Steve's Loop is a sweet singletrack that follows the rim around two large canyons and then winds its way up toward the major intersection with Lion's Loop, Mary's Loop, Mack Ridge, and the Moore Fun trail.
 Running on the ledge - watching your step is advised.
 Such awesome trails - really hard to not run these multiple times in a row
 Dropping in through some large boulders - remember the part about not watching the scenery???
 Eagle's view of one of the benches on Steve's Loop - love seeing those ribbons of trail
 The desert was in full bloom - good timing because the scorching heat that is coming to this area leaves the landscape fairly parched by summer.
 We don't often run with cows but all the area we would run while in Fruita is open range - good thing they are vegetarians!!!  This intersection connects traffic for 5 trails going off in different directions.  Kathleen chose to drop down to the doubletrack off of Mack Ridge and run back in to the trail head, finishing with 15 miles - more on that in a minute...
 From Mack Ridge, I headed up the Moore Fun trail - we had never been on it.  It was good but not fun, if you know what I mean!  Up many rocky switchbacks and ledges I climbed, with about 5 false summits, until I reached this perch looking over Mary's and Horsethief - sweet!  Moore Fun is extremely technical and I would guess that I would be lucky to ride 25% of it if I had been on my bike.  Some of it was even difficult to run but I enjoyed the views and the new experience.
 Descending now on Moore Fun, looking east over the trails to the start of the loop, with the massive Grand Mesa in the distance, partially cloud covered.
Finally reached the end of Moore Fun - a fitting sign post to mark the end of an unbelievable run.  Desert runs are different, as there are not many extended climbs with large gains like there are in the mountains.  This 18 mile run had just under 2800' of elevation gain, fairly tame by mountain standards.  However, the constant undulations of the trail, exposure, and pesky technical footwork required leave you in a similar state of overall fatigue.  As for Kathleen's run, this was the first 15 miler she has done in many months and she was very excited to finish well.  We were anxiously awaiting what the following days would allow.  More to come...
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