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

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It has already been a good week of running and the weekend, the source of the majority of my quality runs, is only half done.  With the DST bringing wonderful daylight to my post-work hours, two nice runs were already in the bank before the weekend hit, including a good outing Wednesday where Kathleen and I enjoyed 64 degree running temps after 6 PM.   After that run, we were talking at dinner and I said - I think I'll shoot for 20 Saturday.  Now, for most of you, that is no big deal.  However, for quite some time "20" has been one of those mental blocks.  You must remember, most of our mileage is exclusively on dirt and there is nothing flat in Colorado, so this is not your average long run number.  Anyhoo, I had it in mind all week to break through that ceiling and the weatherman was really helping my cause with the weekend forecast, now I just had to decide where I wanted to run.  Kathleen had to work and so it was going to be a solo outing, so non-boring had to be a part of the equation.  Originally I had eyeballed Spruce Mtn / Greenland area because the big loops provide an easy outlet for long training runs.  However, I decided to run from our front door, through the Garden and up into Pike Nat'l Forest, then catch Rampart Range Road, back through the Garden and home.  I was hoping my calculations would work out, and was glad we hopped in on this run back in January as it provided beta on some extra goods above the Garden that we never knew about.
New singletrack in Blair Bridge Open Space
Above the beaten path

So the run starts out a bit on the urban side, following the trail along Flying W road up and over, then catching the bike path along 30th street to get over to the Garden.  For whatever reason, I always dislike running the blacktop bike path, so I hopped off onto some fresh singletrack we have seen in passing which headed up to the trail connector for the Blair Bridge Open Space.  There was a nice view from the ridge and it helped cut out 1/2 mile of pavement so that was cool.  I was wearing the pod early on for a little distraction, but when I crossed under 30th and dropped onto the trails in the Garden, that got stashed in the pack. 
Weathered remnant
Looks like the Peak is just over the crest...

After exiting the Garden above the Palmer trail, I continued on the trudge up to gain the ridge above Queen's Canyon.  Certainly the most taxing climb of the day, I was reluctant to push hard because I was only 5 miles in.  So I hiked a coupled of the game trails that go straight up the ridges.  It wasn't long before I turned back to these views:
Far above the Garden on the ridge
And to the north, Queen's Canyon and Glen Eyrie - 
the Castle is almost dead center of the photo if you can pick it out!
Over the hill, and there is snowcapped majesty

Made my way up the ridge and over to the lookout for Queen's.  Then it was a steep drop down past the water tank (off the right edge of the photo above), and I rolled out onto Rampart Range Road.  This is an old dirt road that starts in the Garden and travels along the spine of the Rampart Range all the way to Sedalia, just southwest of Denver.  It is of variable surface, but generally is not a regular car road.  It is mostly frequented by:  A - Recreational users headed for various rec use areas.  B - Those members of society looking for a place to hang out and get drunk, stoned, or otherwise abuse their bodies.  C - Worthless punks looking for natural scenic wonders to deface with graffiti, whose hands I would most likely cut off if caught in the act, but that's another story for a different post.   Since B & C are generally out under cover of dusk, mostly was watching out for A as those folks are sometimes distracted by destination rather than focused on other people on the road (ie, me!)   It is about a 3 mile descent on RRR and then you are back in the Garden.
The first balanced rocks you see on RRR - not many tourists 
here because you have to walk more than 20 feet from your car.
Then the Balanced Rock that everyone visits!
Sorry Renee, but this is the best Saguaro I could come up with :-) Kathleen was impressed!
Ah, the Garden!

It was good to be back down in the Garden.  I had a pretzel shaped loop in mind to run in order to snag some of the favorite trails.  It was also quite warm.  I started at 38 degrees and had ditched the light wool long sleeve up on RRR.  (When I finished, it was 65 at the house - sweet!)  It was surprisingly light for traffic on the trails considering the awesome conditions.  Rumor has it around 15 miles, I hit a low spot.  However, since I was by myself, this cannot be confirmed....
View from the Vistor's Center front door - good office view, eh???

I stopped by the visitor's center to fill my pack as I had gone dry about a mile back.  Ran into a mountain biker filling his bottles and we chatted up about the unfreakingbelievable weather.  Ate a gel, plugged back in to some tunes, and headed out of the Garden and back toward home.  I was growing a bit tired, and still had a bit of climb before hitting HT central, so I still had some work left.  The mile and a quarter grind up Flying W was certainly rough.  However, the haunting riffs from Mark Knopfler's frets on Dire Strait's "Brothers in Arms" soothed my mind on the climb and pulled me over the top.  Then some serious blistering tunes (including something from the Scorpions I haven't listened to in 20+ yrs...) drug me the rest of the way home. 
Home at last - these puppies carried me 21.03 miles
 Profile of the run
50,000 foot perspective

Made it home and stopped the Garmin at 21.03 miles - longest ever by far.  It was a great run and, while tired, nothing hurt and I was in relatively good shape!  I really enjoyed this, and it probably helped cement in my mind that I'll try out a 50k trail race this summer.  Seems kind of odd to skip a marathon in the progression, but since I'm not a pavement afficianado, such is life.  There is a possibility that this guy might even tackle the formidably frustrating task of attempting to coach a  non-structured runner such as myself through just such an event....we'll see ;-)  It was a great day - nothing spectacular for a lot of you I realize, but I had a blast and jumped that "hurdle"!!  Hopefully the next one will include my lovely bride!!!  Not sure what the legs will have today, but it's all icing after yesterday...
Speaking of icing, Kathleen stopped at Boonzaaijer's on the way home.... A little
Black Forest Roulade to congratulate and help "recovery" efforts

Shoes - Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC
Wore the McDavid Sleeves again - very nice
Stats: 21.03 Miles, 3479' elevation gain
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