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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snow, Cheyenne Mountain, Biking, and Palmer Lake

Time to get caught up on some posts here.  This will be a two week wrap up so let's get rolling.  Aside from some current busy-ness outside of running, we have done some different running of late.  I realized that I spent a good portion of late Spring and most of Summer getting in some great long trail runs at a pretty casual pace.  It dawned on me that I may have sacrificed some level of fitness doing so, so we started a few weeks before Leadville trying to get in one "tempo" (and I use that word lightly...) run per weekend in place of a gorgeous, spectacular trail run like we would normally do.  We don't geek out on numbers much, but since some of our normal handful of readers dig that stuff, we're talking in the 8-12 mile range, 7:15's to 7:35's pace for Mr HT (no details will be divulged by me for the other HT, except to say these days are mostly gone and she is getting some Mojo back...), on Santa Fe trail which is flattish as it gets around here and mostly coarse granite surface. And I did say "we" as Kathleen is certainly improving overall in the health category, for which I am most grateful!  Needless to say, this has put a serious dent in the photography files as I have no intention of carrying a camera on bust-out runs :))  So, on to the running!
Snow capped Pikes Peak

About a week and a half ago we had rain - 4.5 inches in 24 hours, an all time record  - and there was a foot of snow at the summit house of Pikes Peak - welcome Fall!  Considering we average 17.40 inches annually, that is big time for 24 hours!

Cheyenne Mountain on an awesome fall day!
Kathleen passes through the rock garden on Zook Trail

A week ago we high tailed it down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park to get in some superb trails under (once again) unbelievably blue skies.  It was downright warm for mid-September, for which there will be no complaints from these happy trail runners!  It was actually busy at the park compared to most visits, which would certainly be attributed to the fantastic day.  Of course we were in denial as to the yellows and oranges beginning to show in some trees, as that is the all-too-familiar sign that snow in these parts is "around the corner".  So, as always, we have to take full advantage of great days like these!  We followed for the most part the Xterra Half Marathon course, then threw in some extra at the end.

A little video coverage at the top of North Talon trail - very sweet trails up there! 
Kathleen cruises North Talon
Did we mention the views?  Wouldn't you like to run here...?
First taste of Fall
Rolling the Blackmer Trail - did I mention it was awesome out?

We rolled up some of the best trails in the park, mostly staying up on the hardier terrain to avoid the "don't wander far from the trailhead" types.  It was all we could do to drag ourselves down off these trails on such a great day.  So, we just kept going - soaking in as much as we could while the legs held out, banking some quality time ahead of "those months" when runs like this are a distant memory!
Kathleen on Blackmer, Cheyenne Mountain on the horizon
One of the few smooth parts of Medicine Wheel Trail
I have my eye on you ... by the way, you got any snacks????
Stopped for a group photo before heading down

After dropping down to park level, I headed out for a final small loop, not wanting the day to end.  The combo of Medicine Wheel, Zook, Turkey Trot and Talon were just enough to finish off the legs and let me call it a day.  It is hard to come up with additional superlatives to describe both the day and the run - awesome!  Kathleen finished with 14 miles and 2500' gain, and I snuck in an extra two for 16 miles and 2750' gain.  Definite good times!

Shoes - K Nike LunarFly Trail
S Brooks Cascadia

Kathleen's view from high up on a road biking loop - we live in a pretty sweet place!

Monday's have been road bike days for Kathleen - it has been helping keep the body leveled out and also helping to relieve a little of the pounding while the medication for Graves Disease gets completely dialed in.  It has been a great mix, and with views like the one above, who wouldn't want to get out on the bike???

Out today - running Santa Fe Trail in Monument, CO

Skip forward a week, and this morning we headed a short trip north to park at the Baptist Road trailhead for the Santa Fe Trail.  We were looking to get in a longer, steady run, something that is also generally lacking from our repertoire.    If you have ever run the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series, we started where Race 3 always commences.  This is going to sound like a broken record but who cares - it was flat out fantastic today - crystal-clear blue skies, with temps in the high 70's - bring it on!
 Santa Fe Trail heading toward Palmer Lake
Palmer Lake, CO

Our goal for the day was to run out to Palmer Lake - the northern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail - and see how we were feeling.  We ran the loop around the lake while we were there, then headed back down.  As almost always on this end of SF Trail, it was a headwind going out, combined with uphill.  So, you can almost always negative split your run, which is good mental training to keep it rolling and not lollygag on your return trip!  It was starting to get fairly warm, especially for late September, on the way back but we rolled it out nicely, making sure to enjoy the splendid day. 
Back at the trailhead, mission accomplished

We were able to get in an even 13 miles at a nice, steady pace, which went absolutely according to plan.  It is quite difficult to explain how great it was today and how good both of us felt on the run.  It was definitely a Happy Trails kind of day :))  It was made even better by running into our friend Jon at the trailhead, as he was rolling through at the finish of another epic mountain bike loop.  Shortly after that photo was taken at Cheyenne Mountain last year, Jon's back went out completely on a ride, so it was great to see him out getting big-time mountain rides in!!!

Shoes - K Nike LunarFly Trail
S Brooks Cascadia

We even threw in some really odd activity for this pair - this afternoon we went over to Colorado College, where I ran 2 miles on their sweet synthetic track so that I could try out some new kicks before soiling them!  So I even got in a track workout, then we topped it off by running some barefoot strides on the astroturf soccer field to relax the feet.  How's that for diversity?  All in all, it has been a great couple weeks and we are hoping for some good Fall running to continue - have an awesome week!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hangin' with the Pinkcorker

Almost four years ago, during a snowy, frigid, blizzard-y weekend, Steve and I 'discovered'  the world of running blogs, more specifically trail running blogs.  The absolutely first blog on the radar was Renee's "Pinkcorker". She and I seemed to be kindred spirits.  We have been blessed to have met and become friends with some amazing blog friends but Renee was the first.  We have cultivated a friendship via email over the past years.  Six months ago, she emailed and said she would be traveling to Colorado to visit a friend who had lived near her in Tuscon and asked if she could stop and finally meet and visit with us for a few days on the way.  You can probably figure out what we said - "Of course!  Come on up!"

Renee jumped into the world of ultra running a few years back and our original plan, six months ago, was to take her on a few of our fabulous local trail runs.  Those plans changed when she unexpectedly decided to do the splits on a trail run in the Tuscon mountains and tore a ligament near the upper area of her femor earlier this summer.  Her 'splits injury' combined with my current inability to run long caused by the Graves, required a creative change of plans.  Renee's injury rehab has progressed well and, although she is unable to run, she is able to fast hike and bicycle.  She is learning to ride and is becoming best friends with her bike.  I was a cyclist WAY before becoming a runner so a bike ride always rates high on the desirability scale.

After getting our house guest settled in at Happy Trails Central on Saturday evening, we began plotting our plan of attack over the next two days.  Sunday morning, after renting a mountain bike for Renee at a local bike shop, we headed north on our ride on the crushed granite Santa Fe Trail.  With the combo of a long drive from Tuscon and altitude adjustment, a more mellow ride was on the docket for her and the Santa Fe Trail fit the bill.  We squeaked out 25 miles that consisted of constant girl chatter, beautiful weather, and our lovely mountain scenery.  Steve escaped our non-stop chatter by slipping away earlier in the morning for a nice, peaceful 17 mile trail run at Red Rock Canyon/Section 16/Intemann Trail area.

Renee is all smiles riding through the U.S. Air Force Academy on a gorgeous day.
I love my bikes!  Despite not spending as much time on them the last few years, riding still feels so natural and a part of me.
The Santa Fe Trail is a beautiful multi-use trail.

After our ride and Steve's run, we got cleaned up and headed over to Manitou Springs for some post ride/run grub at one of the best local eateries - Adam's Mountain Cafe.
Then, after the grub, we hit up The Mate' Factor for an iced peach yerba mate' tea.
Played tourists and wandered Manitou for a bit, then drove through Garden of the Gods on the way back to the house.  Renee commented that it felt like deja vu - everything seemed so familiar because of reading about and seeing pictures of everything on our blog!  She even recognized our house before she saw the address because of seeing pictures of our xeriscape garden out in front!

Most out-of-towners seem to be intrigued by the Manitou Incline and Renee was no different.  Way-back-when, the Incline was on her list of 'must-dos'.  Although running is not an option for her right now, hiking is so we headed out for a grand hike up the Incline this morning.  We took it slow and although she questioned her sanity in undertaking such an arduous effort with her current fitness level several times during the climb, she's a tenacious ultra runner and perservered.
Finishing with a smile despite low-lander oxygen depletion

Connecting to Barr Trail.  I was thrilled to see that the Aspens on the left were NOT changing...... yet........

We fast hiked down Barr Trail.  Renee was excited to see part of Barr as she and her hubby and a group from their Tuscon trail running group are thinking about coming up next August and doing the Pikes Peak Ascent/Marathon.  If I can get completely back on track, the Ascent has been on my list of 'things to do someday'.  Hmmm, combined with a quite a few local friends who are doing the Ascent/Marathon next year, the Tuscon group coming up might provide the extra motivation to really train for it.  We'll have to see..........

We wrapped up a whirlwind day with lunch at Coquette Creperie, a repeat visit for Mate', a stop at a Chef's Catalog (kitchen store), the Dutch bakery (I needed to get a treat for Steve since he had to work and couldn't come out and play), Title Nine, The Colorado Running Company, and Criterium Bike Shop (Renee needed a jersey she had spied there yesterday).  Whew!  We had to blaze home, get her packed up and out the door so she could drive to her next destination near Denver and arrive before it was completely dark.

After hugs all around and waving good-bye, we realized again, that our interest in trail running has afforded us the opportunity to meet extraordinary people - Friends - over the past few years.

Happy Trails to everyone this week!

Monday, September 5, 2011

We seem to have misplaced our summer....

Never mind the fact that August came and went without much blog activity over here at Happy Trails Land, but where in the world did summer go???  One minute you are doing everything you possibly can to not run in searing heat (BTW, officially the hottest Summer on record for Colorado Springs, following one of the coldest Spring times...), then the next thing you know, the days are 100 hours shorter and you are shopping for deals on Icebreaker and Smartwool getting ready for cold, short winter days.  Wow.  Can we hit the rewind button?....

Well, anyway you slice it, Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  With it, we snuck in a quick trip up to Winter Park for possibly our last high country play weekend before the snow flies...  And on queue, we witnessed a snippet of just how short their summers are with Sunday's low down in the mid 30's - ouch!  It was only two months ago we visited and they were just starting to thaw from the heinously long spring freeze and now the leaves are changing.  So we had to make some hay while that sun was still shining!!
 Kathleen rolling the Creekside Trail

Saturday we headed over to Fraser to run some of our favorite singletrack out in the valley north of the ski area.  To our surprise, we saw a half dozen runners at it already, which is more than we have seen in a summer's worth of visits before.  Nice to see some folks are appreciating the trails on foot.  As we have said before, we have mountain biked just about every square inch of this valley (or somewhere near it!) and we are enjoying the freedom of seeing it in a totally different light by running the trails, just in smaller increments at a time.  So we were out in the Creekside, Flume, Chainsaw area for the day rolling up some nice trails with relatively slim traffic, especially for a holiday.
 "Buzzing" along on the Chainsaw Trail
 Stopped for a pose on the new cut of Creekside
 Kathleen on the Givelo Trail, with sweeping views of Indian Peaks Wilderness 
and the Continental Divide in the distance

As is always the case, we enjoyed a spectacular day on  premium trails, all the while savoring the bluebird skies and basking in the Colorado sun.  Oddly enough, we had similar if not slightly warmer - daytime highs than were occurring at home, which was quite a weather shift!  While we were not in the hills looking for huge runs, we did manage to run a sweet 13 mile loop at altitude, making for a satisfying day.

Shoes - K Nike LunarFly Trail (you're digging those glow in the dark accents, right?)
S Pearl Izumi Syncrofuel XC
 Horses graze, while Parry Peak (right) and James Peak (left) loom on the horizon - 
soon they will be in their familiar, snow-covered state
...And looking to the west, Byers Peak and its namesake wilderness spread out across the landscape

Sunday morning was considerably cooler, but things started to warm up reasonably so the long sleeves, arm warmers, and such all stayed packed.  The plan was to run up the Vasquez drainage and work around toward the ski mountain, then run the forest back along toward town.  We started climbing immediately, which was actually OK given the chilly start.  The run up Blue Sky trail was mostly shaded, and I must admit my arms and hands were cold when we popped out of the forest at the top of the climb - where did that come from?   We stopped for a minute to give directions to a group of mountain bikers and standing in the sun for a few helped get the temperature regulated again.  Oh, and they asked if we would be running barefooot next time.... I don't think so!
 Enjoying the sun with Vasquez Peak Wilderness in the rearview
 Upper section of Vasquez Creek, a mere trickle compared 
to when we last saw it in July

It was really a nice change of pace to run the Tunnel Hill dirt road as it rolled across the forest on its way over to the base of the ski mountain.  We were surprised at the camping activity over the weekend - exponentially more campers out in the forest areas than were out in July.  But for the most part, it was quiet and peaceful running along the mountainside - before you knew it, we were at the ski area.
 Tunnel Hill - just up from the base area of Winter Park Resort

From the road we dropped into Serenity Trail, one of the coolest forest singletracks, running from the ski area over to the Little Vasquez road area.  It is a tight, rolling trail through dense forest - I tried to video it while running, but I will spare you the nausea and continue to work on my film making skills some other time! 
 Dropping in on Lower Cherokee - nearing the end of another awesome run

Finished out the run for the day on Ice Hill and Twin Bridges trails, with another 14 miles of altitude training in the books.  While we had not intended to split the valley into halves for our runs, it worked out well as the long point to point was not feasible this trip.  Since the USFS is logging extensively for wildfire mitigation, the D2 / D4 / WTB trail matrix is closed, so the primary connecting links from ski mountain to valley are shut down and would have made the long run much LONGER than normal.  The two days we spent on the trails were splendid and will tide us over until next season for the high country.  We had lunch and then "people watched" for a while at the ski area while having a nice cup of coffee and soaking in the sweet mountain rays!

Shoes - K Nike LunarFly Trail
S Saucony Peregrine
 Parting shot at the base of Winter Park Resort -  
Flowers still in bloom, but their season is coming to an end...

 South Suburban Reservoirs and the Broadmoor Hotel from the top of Gold Camp Road
 Happy Trails at the top of the climb - Gold Camp Road

After coming down from the mountains Sunday night (miss out on that holiday traffic jam on I-70....), we had plans to get in a good road bike ride.  We have found over the last months that mixing in the riding with our runs has helped immensely with Kathleen on recovery between outings.  Since the stress of running at altitude has a bit of a magnified effect on the Graves symptoms right now, we knew that a third day straight of running up high (9000 -  10,000 elevation) was not as good of an option as a ride down low at home at 6800 feet.  We headed out on the bikes under perfect conditions (again!!!) and rolled through the Garden on our way over to Gold Camp Road.  We were surprised again that bike traffic was quite low on GC, especially since it is a favorite for tempo/time trialing hill work with local bikers.  

After pushing a steady pace for the entire ride and pushing extra hard up the 4.5 mile GC climb (and two days running in the mountains), the legs were starting to feel pretty shot on the way home - but you have to maximize your days, right???  We made our way back up the west side of town, enjoying relatively slim traffic on the city roads, and landed ourselves at a table at the neighborhood Starbucks for an attempt to resuscitate our tired bodies with some good caffeinated drinks, all the while reminiscing about another weekend of great mountain exploits.  Our 30 mile ride provided the perfect bookend for a great weekend!  My mind is wandering as a pot of homemade meatball vegetable soup is simmering on the stove and smells soooooo good - hope I can wait until tomorrow's lunch . . . . 

Happy Trails this week!

Shoes - K Sidi Catapult
S Sidi Dominator

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