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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas and some trail RIDING

What, you say, TWO biking posts in a row???  Well, the day after the week after the last post, Kathleen was riding in Ute Valley Park and descending a series of root steps that we have ridden and run down a thousand times over the years.  For whatever reason, at that moment, Ole Bessie snapped a chainstay - see below (probably had something to do with that "thousand times" thing):
 R.I.P. - 12 years of good service from that frame!!

Now, we had been itching to get back to some off-road riding, so the plan was to start perusing new bikes in the spring.  However, this incident left us in a quandary and had us looking a little sooner.  Lo and behold, we found a sweet deal on a couple of gently  used 2011 Santa Cruz Superlight's and snatched them up.  Merry Christmas to us :))  Back.In.Business.  Now we haven't had much winter yet, so we were hoping to get some riding in this weekend.  Thanks to a nice little storm mid-week, we had just enough snow to be a nuisance but decided to head out anyway.  We took off on Santa Fe from Woodmen Road, cut over from Ice Lake to the Falcon Trail, and rode that awesome loop before heading back.
 Breaking in the new machines
Cruising out one of the dry sections

While the snow on the north side was pretty chunky and made a mess, the ride was awesome and we ended up with a nice 25 miles of trail for the day.  For Steve, it was the first significant off-road ride in years, but the feel for the bike was back within the first hour.  All in all, a great day and lots of fun.  And if you're in to bikes at all, we have a couple super sweet sets of Stan's tubeless wheels on the way to lighten up the ride - nice!  Rest easy, though, we are now off to do a nice trail RUN.  Happy Trails!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Yup, we are still alive!!!

The Happy Trails duo is still alive and kicking despite a serious absence from blog activity.    Steve has settled into and is enjoying his new job.  We are both settling into the short, colder days of winter although we certainly have been happy with the overall mild weather Mother Nature has delivered thus far.  Everyone, locally, knows we need moisture in a BIG way but not having to wear our heavy duty cold weather gear sure is NICE!!!

Even though we have been on a blog hiatus, we have continued to run our local trails which is always a wonderful thing.  The not-as-wonderful-thing is that I am still not physically back up to speed.  For reasons unknown, it is taking me longer to "come back" than what we had hoped.  I am not able to rebuild much in the way of strength, speed, or endurance.  The body is just not able to build and accept much in terms of training adaptation yet.  Many runs feel a bit like a slog/sufferfest - the body just doesn't work quite right and won't "go".  Occasionally, I have been able to pop off a run where I feel pretty good - not normal - but pretty good and feel encouraged of what "could be".  There have been brief glimpses of promising potential but have been unable to make those brief glimpses last.  But, it is what it is and we are trying to roll with it.  The doc said, in some cases, it can take at least a year to get back to normal.  I am 7 months in - only 5 more to go.......

Nevertheless, I am still trying to do what the body allows.  I am thankful that I can still do "stuff" - I count my blessings - it certainly could be much worse.  I am also thankful for my most wonderful, patient, and long suffering husband.  Steve has been the model of love, support, and encouragement. He comforts me when all I want to do is curl up and cry.  He is my cheerleader and priceless treasure and I am grateful beyond measure for him.

So, here are a few pics from the last few months, a little proof that we are still getting out and getting after it:  
 Beautiful fall day at Red Rock Canyon
 Another beautiful autumn day up the Incline and down Barr Trail.  Magnificent Pikes Peak in the background.
I was graced with a visit from dearest Jillery.  We hit the Incline, Barr, and The Mate' Factor for lunch.  ALWAYS a FUN time together.
 Another stellar day, this time at Palmer Park
 Doesn't get much better than this - food and family on Thanksgiving.  Getting ready to eat at Steve's sis's house - his mom and sis - see how food makes everyone smile???!!!
 The work center trails in Monument the day after Thanksgiving......  notice the continued fine weather theme???

We encountered many mountain bikers while running in our beloved Ute Valley Park on Thanksgiving morning.  Steve and I remarked to each other that it sure looked like tons of fun which led us to ask why in the world hadn't we done it in oh, say, 4 years or so???  We don't know why.  We just haven't.  It caused us to wonder whether or not we could still RIDE our mountain bikes on anything bumpier or more technical than a paved street and not kill or permanently maim ourselves.  We decided to find out.  

Steve hauled the bikes off the garage wall, wiped off the inches of dust that enshrouded them, and proceeded to give them a quick "once over tune-up".  The final verdict:  Kathleen's bike, other than a couple of the pivots which need to be adjusted, a little air in the tires and front and rear shocks and lube on the chain, was in good working order and ready to roll.
Steve's bike, on the other hand, was not so lucky.  It seems that the seals on his rear shock were shot rendering the machine unrideable.  Boo-hoo.

We decided to head down to Cheyenne Mountain State Park yesterday.  I planned to run a 6 or 7 mile loop and then hop on the mountain bike and see if I had ANY technical skills left in me.  Steve planned on running long.  I figured CMSP was a good starting point for a first, semi-technical trail ride in 4 years - the trails are mostly flowy, smooth, albeit off-camber decomposed granite, punctuated by rocky and rooty sections.  Just enough challenge to help regain some feel for the bike but not too much so where a person could hurt herself.
 Group photo halfway up the Talons

The primary goal was to NOT kill or seriously injure myself.  Secondly, to not ride stiff as board after not being on dirt for so long.
I kept telling myself to keep the elbows soft and shoulders relaxed.  It's really funny how the body remembers the flow and feel - after a couple of miles it felt natural, familiar, and instinctual - just a little more tentative and stiff than years past but good.  Very good.  I even made it up and around a few of the tighter switchbacks near the top of the Talons where there are quite a few embedded rocks and loose scree which can cause some balance and traction issues.  I was ecstatic on how the feel for the technical aspect came back.  The thing that was a glaring weakness, though, and a reminder of some physical limitation, was my lack of strength.  I just don't have the torque strength to power up, over, and around rocks, roots, etc.  I made it over everything, but sometimes barely, and it HURT A LOT doing it. No amount of "try or train harder" can remedy it - it's just not an available option to the body yet.  It's frustrating to have absolutely zero control over the situation.  I just keep reminding myself that it will get better, eventually, and to continue to be thankful that I am able to get out to run AND ride.  That counts for much. 
 Finally made it to the top of the Talons and getting ready to start down.....
Grimacing while looking toward the rocky switchback that starts a sweet descent

Long story short - I had a BLAST on the mountain bike.  I don't think I have had as big of a grin on my face on any of our trail outings as of late as I did yesterday.  Probably because I wasn't in continuous slog/sufferfest mode - just was at play and having good old fun.  The Geico commercial with Maxwell the pig came to mind many times during the ride, particularly on the faster, flowing descents.  All I was thinking was "Weeee, weeee, weeeeeeeeee!"  I love Maxwell - he embodies what life should be -  such fun!  

Because I was moving fairly slowly, Steve wasn't ever too far behind on the climbs.  It was nice to have him nearby - not only because I adore his fine form and company, but also he was close by to scrape me off the rocks if I had a magnificent wipe-out on my maiden mountain bike voyage.  Thankfully, no scraping was needed.  Once he gets his shock re-built, I will look forward to us getting out together on the bikes again.  It is just too much fun!!!  How did we stray away for so long???

Steve ended the day with a great 18 mile run - a nice accomplishment since CMSP is more of a challenging effort.  I ended up with a 7 mile run and a little over 15 mile ride and a big grin on my face - a grin because I didn't kill or hurt myself and for the overall fun factor of the day.

As a follow-up, I saddled up the bike and headed over to UVP this morning despite the windchill registering at 18 degrees - that's cold on a bike.  But I HAD to give it a whirl at Ute.  It's where we learned to ride trails 20+ years ago and I figured if I could make it around the very rocky, rooty, sandy, and technical nature of trails there, there was hope.  I made it around the basic loop unscathed and finished feeling super excited.  Again, I was reminded of how weak I am physically.  But I made it over everything so it's a starting point and the mountain bike will serve as another tool to help rebuild and keep the fun factor high and fresh.

Hopefully you will all be able to find some FUN FACTOR over these coming winter weeks and months and do like Maxwell the Geico pig - be a little silly and exult in the ride whether it's humming along perfectly or not so much.  Enjoy the ride!  

Happy Trails!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good times in Aspen/Snowmass!

It was time for a little vacation and boy did we have a great week!  What better way to kick off a vacation than to have some great friends visit all the way from South Carolina.  A & J used to live within walking distance to us, but followed their roots back to SC more than a decade ago.  Dang we miss having them around!  So day one of vacation was a "staycation" day.  We did some tourist stuff, showed them around the Waldo Burn area, did a bunch of shopping, ate at Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou, and just had an all-around great day!  Mr A had a seminar in Denver all week, so they headed off to D-town Sunday evening and we packed up the wagon for a little trip to the mountains.
 Good times with awesome friends!

We have been chomping at the bit to get out to the mountains for a bit of new scenery.  Hope the intercooler is tuned up on your PC or Mac, as the photo dump is on!  Seems like with the fires and all, summer was really hacked up for us, at least schedule-wise.  So we booked some time in Snowmass Village and hit the road.  Monday it rained all day in the mountains driving up, and pretty much rained until late night in Snowmass (much needed rain).  Tuesday we woke to "sort-of sunny" skies and thick humidity.  It seems that a bunch of hazy smoke from wildfires in CA, WY, and MT all converged on the Rocky Mountains and sat there for days on end.  It never really smelled smoky, but boy did it put a dent in the scenery photos...
 Kathleen climbing the Rim Trail out of Snowmass Village
 Snowmass Divide and Mt Daly from the Yin-Yang Terrace on Rim
 Sweet singletrack through aspen forests - could it be much better?
 Kathleen climbing up on the exposed ridge - we are well above Snowmass at this point
Aspens anyone? Making the descent toward Lower Snowmass

Day one on the trails was perfect to wet the appetite - 11 miles of perfect singletrack and a great way to get rolling!

 The Bells on a hazy day

We missed out on riding the road bikes last time we were in Aspen, so we knew we had to ride the Maroon Creek road up to Maroon Lake and the base of the Maroon Bells.  The road is mostly closed to passenger vehicles during the day in the summer, so traffic is limited to tour buses every half hour and the occasional early-bird that got up to the Bells before the road closes.  The Maroon Creek road is just over 9 miles and climbs gradually to around 9600', where the expansive view above greets you.
 Sievers Mountain rises to the north of Maroon Lake
 HT decked out in bike gear for a change
 This little guy got a piece of our Snickers Bar that fell to the ground - 
then he followed us around the sidewalk as we were leaving!

We had a great day on the bikes, riding around downtown Aspen for a bit to grab lunch after descending Maroon Creek.  The ride ended up around 30 miles and was plenty of saddle time since I have not been riding much!

 Starting out on the Sleigh Ride Trail

Thursday we wanted to get in some quality time on the Government Trail, one of the premiere trails in the area.  It starts out on the Snowmass Divide and continues south, crossing Snowmass Ski Area and Buttermilk Ski Area before dumping out near Maroon Creek Rd.  We had plans for a loop starting out at the top of the village and then finishing in Lower Snowmass, catching the transit back up to the village for a sweet point-to-point run.  We used the Sleigh Ride Trail and Ditch Trail to get over to the Campground Connector, which would take is up many switchbacks to the Government Trail.
 Kathleen way below, under the Campground lift
 Finally on the Government Trail
 One of MANY stream crossings
 Coming up would certainly be anaerobic frenzy, but going down
was more like a footwork nightmare!
 Kathleen drops in from Government Trail

We took Government Trail all the way across Snowmass Ski Area, left the park boundaries, and finally connected to Anaerobic Nightmare Trail.  This trail is, coming from below, basically straight up and covered in gnarled roots.  We, however, were going down the trail and it was a foot placement puzzle at high speed, dropping 600 feet elevation in .6 miles!  And of course I biffed on it and skinned up the right knee.
 New trail - The Iron Curtain
 These bucks were so large, I first thought they were elk when I startled them at the "salad bar"

We finished off the descent on the lower Tom Blake Trail, where Kathleen peeled off to catch the shuttle after 11 miles and I took the Blake Trails back across to the Village to end up at 14 - another fantastic day!

 Kathleen in the wildflowers
 Oh, and more aspens - loved this stand of trees on Tom Blake trail
 Good Times!

Took the Snowmass tour via the Tom Blake Trails on Friday for a shorter 8 mile outing.  The run was 100% sweet twisty singletrack and the scenery, as always, was priceless!
 Oh, and we had to stop by and see how work on the new house was coming along.  As if....

 Mt Daly, with it's signature granite stripe

 While not peak season, there were still plenty of wildflowers
 Kathleen runs out the Ditch Trail along the Snowmass Divide
 Time for a group photo
Running the divide, with a nice view of the Snowmass Creek road heading out the valley

As is always the case, we didn't want to pass up one last opportunity to grab some trails before leaving.  We ran out the divide to the intersection with the Snowmass Creek drainage before loading up and heading for home.  A nice little 5 mile jaunt to help ease the boredom of the 3.5 hour drive!
 Views from Independence Pass
 That first switchback off the east side takes your breath away - no guardrails
All downhill from here - Happy Trails!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coming Soon...

 The Maroon Bells
Rim Trail - Snowmass

We had an awesome time last week in the Aspen/Snowmass area, running some spectacular trails and doing a little road biking.  We are busy going through scads of photos getting ready to do a big post, so keep an eye out.
We also had a blast last Sunday watching the finish of the Pikes Peak Marathon, watching a lot of friends and local folks finish a big run on America's Mountain, as well as "star-gazing" - Pikes drew some national and international running talent this year.  Good times - be back soon with details on a great week.

Happy Trails!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Long Run: Doubling up on Falcon

Here's the Cliffs Notes report - Craig tried to run me to death.

If you want to know more about the run, keep reading. 
 From the Falcon Trail, looking southwest to Blodgett Peak

I met up with Craig over at the US Air Force Academy Saturday morning for his long run leading up to Pikes Peak Marathon.  Quite a few weeks back he showed me his top-secret training plan for shaking things up at PPM.  When I saw the Long Run - 2 laps at Falcon for time on feet, I was intrigued to say the least.  While I have no interest per se in marathons, or for a large part racing in general, I have often thought about a double loop of Falcon.  Number 1, I really like the loop - great terrain, lots of variety, good climbs, etc.  Second, it is one of few places locally where you can do a long, continuous loop - 13 miles to be exact.  The only problem I saw was doing it solo.  I guess now I had that part checked off the list also.  So I told Craig I would at least hang for the first loop and see where everything shook out for a second.
 The Knuckledragging Runner himself - still sporting "battle bandages" from the last time we ran

Now there was a secondary issue, which I did not share until we were already running.  I had only run up to 21 miles previous, and my longest run this calendar year was 19.  It did not seem to phase my running comrade, so we were off and running - clockwise on lap 1.  While it was warming quickly, there was a strong breeze that really saved our bacon throughout the day.  It was, however, a bit of a Catch-22 - when we were in the trees and shaded from the sun, there was no breeze.  When we were in the breeze, we were fully exposed to the overhead sun.  We managed pretty well though and the first lap rolled very well.  OK, maybe too well.  We were hitting some time checks a fair amount earlier than Craig's goal pace.  Now that is good in one sense if it was a "one and done" event, but there was that whole second lap conundrum looming on the horizon. I let Craig lead out, so it was his fault...
 The Chapel overlook - beautiful day to be on the trails

We didn't get too concerned about making decent time, figuring it never hurts to bank some time for the next lap.  It was a great day to be chatting about trails, races, family stuff, life in general, etc., although we never got around to solving the problems of the world.  Maybe next run.  We did get in a great first lap - I logged 2:13 moving time for lap 1, about 45 seconds per mile under goal splits.  With the loop nature of the trail, finishing the lap put us back at our vehicles for an unmanned aid station, which is quite convenient.   We got a bit of solid food, loaded up some more water in the packs, and started lap 2 counter-clockwise for a fresh look at the trail.  I am not certain Craig really knew if I was "all in" for a second loop, but I took the look of relief on his face as a sign that he was happy to not head out for #2 alone.  The guy has business to get done on the mountain in three weeks - gotta "man up" and show some support, right? :)
 Top of the last big climb - looking due south at Blodgett and the AFA water treatment plant

Where do I start with lap 2??  About a mile and a half in, after some gradual up around the golf course and through some forest, there is a grunt of a climb on a spine above the northern part of the Academy.  It is not that it is steep, rather it is long and very very very exposed.  It was already in the 80's by now and the sun was directly overhead.  Conversation waned, to say the least, and for about 3 miles was reduced to two or three word sentences.  Several times the guy who tricked me into this death march Craig asked if this ever ended.  While it did eventually crest, the slog took its toll.  I had gone quite a ways without a glimpse at the Garmin, and I think we were so anxious to get that sucker done, we had climbed it a little fast for what was already in the legs.  Oops.  On the descent off the ridgeline, it was apparent I had put a dent in my reserves as Craig quickly put a gap on me, although I think some of that is his overall descending edge on me.  We had to regroup quickly though as the next climb was soon upon us.

We put our heads down and ground out the next climb, first through the deep sand along Interior Drive below the Chapel, then up the long switchbacks to the Chapel Overlook.  From there, it was a nice reprieve winding through the forest, before crossing Academy Drive and pushing the tough little climb up to Stanley Canyon trailhead.  We took a breather in the shade, knowing we were 75% of the way done.  Now it was time for the steepest descent off the backside of the canyon - on tired legs no less. 
 Unfamiliar Territory

I was reminded to get a photo of the display once we were past the longest-run-ever point.  Too bad my running glasses don't have my bifocal rx in them - I totally blew the focal point on that shot!!!  

So near the bottom of the long hill, before crossing the Monument Creek Trail, Craig sounds the first alarm - he got his first draw of "air" from the hydration pack.  With 4.5 miles to go.  "So, Steve, how far off the trail is it to that Burger King you showed us?"  "Oh, just across the road, through the BX parking lot, after the grunt hill past the fire station."  "Ok, maybe we better check the fire station."   About 5 minutes later, I had my first bubbles.  We hadn't totally realized how warm it was getting but both of us had burned through some H2O - and we had a long stretch of exposed meadow to run through between us and the vehicles.

You can imagine the relief when we rolled up out of the creek drainage and saw people swarming around the fire station.  There was some sort of community event going on, with barbecue - OK, that part was rude having to smell bbq 22.5 miles in to a run - they even had a Big-Air Jumper for the kids shaped like a fire truck.  Frankly, we didn't care about any of that.  When the fireman said past the kitchen and refrigerator, cold drinking fountain, blah blah blah, we were all over it.  Plus it was air conditioned inside the fire station.  So we lingered a bit, filled the packs, drank a little more from the fountain, then eventually had to get out before we decided to climb into the fridge and take a nap....
Not too far to the finish - luckily most of the rest of the trail was not too technical

Coming out of the fire station, there is a steep trail that climbs up to the community center/BX area.  Not sure, but I have a feeling we I looked less than amazing climbing that. It was hot, and I was getting pretty tired.  I think the stop at the fire station had given Craig a fifth wind, as he was starting to push me a bit.  We hit the descent from the BX with a "rabbit" out in front - a lanky guy had hopped on the trail and was pushing a decent pace out ahead of us.  I was struggling a bit for the first time to hold an even gap and I think the lure of finishing off strong was taking hold of Craig.  Somewhere in that foggy zone of tiredness, I am on my face.  It is weird how when you are tired, you hit the dirt before you are even aware that you hooked your toe and are falling.  There is none of that slow motion business where it takes 5 seconds to hit the ground - that only happens when you are alert!  Luckily, I was in the deep sand so there wasn't much in the way of damage assessment.  It did wake me up a bit, though, which was apparent by my first thought - "Crap, I never restarted the Garmin at the fire station..." - like that mattered at this point!  So, I dusted myself off, got my senses, and took off.  Craig had enough gap that he didn't hear me hit the ground, so I was a ways back now.  At the bottom of the meadow, he yelled that he was taking a shot at sub-4:30 and I was all for it.  

I reeled it in a bit, knowing that I could easily faceplant again if I tried to push the pace with my feet barely leaving terra firma with each step.  I was already well into the bonus round and had been fueling off reserves for a bit of time so that strategy was just fine.  I finally rolled in for 26 miles at 4:32:45 moving time, for a second lap split of 2:19:45 - not too shabby to drop only 1/2 minute per mile pace on the second go round.  The gain for the double loop is about 3100', which is by no means huge but does add up.  Oh yeah, and the whole longest run ever thing comes in to play as well.  I thought about running out to the golf course and back, just to say I was an ultrarunner and so forth -  however, I didn't really care.  I was more interested in having a seat in the shade and "not running" for a while...  BTW, five gels, 2 S-Caps, 130 oz. water and one Strawberry Yogurt granola bar fueled the effort if you wonder about such things.

I have to say, in all seriousness, this was a great run.  I was glad Craig threw it out there because it was on the list for a while.  I think, although he will have to confirm, that this was a good confidence boost  for some overall pre-race fitness.  But all that fitness, goal oriented jazz aside, it was just a fun day on the trails.  Definitely good times.

Shoes - Brooks Pure Grit

On a side note, you may be asking where Mrs HT has been.  Good question, and you'll soon be seeing more photo evidence of her on these pages.  As has been the case (too often to count) in the past 18 months, we had a couple setbacks related to the Graves Disease recovery.  Things that were unpredictable but happen and are common issues related to fall-out from the disease.  I am biased, but I am also in control of the keyboard, so I have to say Kathleen has been absolutely rock-star at dealing with all these crazy roadblocks - her grit and determination are astounding to me.  That being said, we are rolling with it all, and are most thankful that we still have biking legs as she (we) has had to do more biking this summer than we really wanted to have on the schedule.  However, good progress is being made on the running front and along with it, we have a couple scenic long rides on tap, and maybe a few runs, to report on in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned...
                                                             happy trails
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