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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring in the Mountains - A Few Days in Pagosa Springs

Skip back a week and we took a little time to run away from home, heading down to Pagosa Springs.  We were nearing the end of the life-cycle for Kathleen's nuked thyroid gland, so timing was sketchy but we figured we would just make lemonade if the lemons got hurled our way!  We have lived in Colorado for going on 22 years, and, aside from a marathon drive one time from Moab to Cortez, through Durango and over to Gunnison in one day, we have not spent any time in the southwest part of the state.  While spring is maybe not the ultimate time to visit this area given that some of the iconic trails are in the high country and they get TONS of snow, we decided to do a little snooping around anyway.  With the requisite 5 hour drive one way, it isn't somewhere we would pop over to on any given weekend, since 10 hours of driving cuts into play time.  So off we went...

One thing we ALWAYS do before heading new places is to get the "dirt" on trails.  There is a well organized group of races in the Pagosa Springs area that are put on by Morgan Murri under the umbrella of Gecko, which raises funds to help children get reconnected with the outdoors.  Morgan was super helpful with emailing us details about the area, giving us some advanced notice on trail conditions, and providing great maps to download on the Gecko website.  Timing was unfortunate as we caught him in a busy week between out of town races - we would have liked to get in a run with him.  Next time for sure!  Read about the children's program, as well as the race series, by clicking on the logo below.  Oh, and then sign up for some races while you are at it!

 Tuesday Run 
Enough trails within that "little" map to run several days out here

We wanted to hit up the trails that make up the Turkey Track Trail Half Marathon, so we headed out to the race start in the Turkey Springs recreation area north of town on Tuesday.  We knew that there may be some mud in spots since there had been a decent little snow on Sunday right in the middle of spring drying on the trails.  It really was not bad at all given the fact that most of our time was spent between 7600' and 8200' on mostly forested trails.
Launch point - Fourmile Stock Trail - a mulit-use/ATV trail

Kathleen climbing Fourmile Stock Trail

Finally on the sweet singletrack

After climbing Fourmile trail, we took a left down a dirt road, watching for the trail to take off to the left that is used in the race.  The trails are distinct, but not marked, so paying attention to the the map helps.  And the singletrack was worth the wait - pristine and primitive may best describe it.  It is refreshing to run narrow trails that are not trampled by 100,000 of your "closest friends" every weekend.  Sometimes being far away from the Front Range is NOT such a bad thing! 
Nicely thinned and neat forests - they do it right down here

One of many sweet trails - we could have posted hundreds of photos, 
however, running them was more fun!

Beautiful meadow, but we weren't supposed to see it...

We were blissfully cruising along, clicking off the miles of awesome trails when we arrived at this huge meadow.  Unfortunately this was not part of the half marathon course.  But when you are digging the trails and enjoying the scenery, sometimes things go unnoticed!
Ignorance is bliss on trails like this!

So on we went, cruising through some neat forest that had recently seen a huge amount of elk traffic, although we saw no elk this day.  Having briefly calculated what some of the turn points should be on the course, at a certain point we started to realize we ... were ... lost.  Now, on a day when you are feeling great and running unbelievable trails, this is a minor issue.  However, when you are keenly aware that any time in the near future your running partner could completely run out of thyroid hormone and crash,  "lost" becomes an unnerving event.  So I turned on the nifty little "Return to Start" function on the Garmin and compared it to the map.  The images didn't jive ... hmmmm?  Fortunately, we had a phone conversation with Morgan on the way out to the trails that morning and he had mentioned that the Turkey Springs Road was as far west as we wanted to ever go on the trails.  Second fortunate event was that I had printed both the Half and Full maps from the website.  We ended up on a road, heading approximately NW according to the GPS.  I made a couple out and back trips on some trails and had Kathleen wait at intersections to save some mileage on her legs.  Finally off in the distance I could see a T intersection and picked it up a bit.  Luckily it was signed "Brockover Road" - part of the Marathon course - woohoo!!! 
We were at the intersection with Turkey Springs Road, which we knew would take us all the way back around to the car.  The downside was that my rough calculation had us at 4+ miles out and well over 13 miles into the run, already past Kathleen's longest since her RAI treatment, and her energy was flagging.  So I told her to continue at whatever pace was comfortable and I was going to hammer to the car, then head up the road and pick her up.  So I had an unplanned tempo session and made a courtesy taxi trip to catch her on the road.  It turned out to be a great run, with just a little sketchy period thrown in!  Given some more time to explore and familiarize with the trails on the marathon map this could become a great place to hang out!   Ended up with around 18 miles and 16 miles on the day - a bit more than we were looking for but well worth the extra effort.

Shoes - Saucony Pergerine

Thursday Run

Given the big effort Tuesday, we decided to take a break Wednesday, instead driving over to Durango to do some shopping and snooping around.  It was a nice day to have some down time and Durango will require another trip down to this part of the state at some point in the near future.  Plenty of trails there too, yet some of their stellar ones require a summer time visit when the winter stash has cleared out.  One thing we knew for sure, if Kathleen had legs we would be back out in Turkey Springs on Thursday morning.
The "other side" of Fourmile Stock Trail

Thursday we woke to rain, which at home means "don't worry about a run today".  However, away from home it often means "watch for a good window and go for it".  So the rain stopped and we took off for the trailhead.  Given the sketchy weather scenario and the chance of rain and/or snow, we decided to do some trails very close to Turkey Springs road in case a quick getaway was needed!  We noticed on Tuesday that Fourmile continued across the road where we turned as a singletrack, so we took off that way, which is also a cross country ski trail in the winter months and is marked at junctions with the blue posts.
Sweet forest trail - plenty of water over in this area

Notice how tall the blue ski trail posts are - a "little" snow falls over in these parts!

Loamy forest trails emerging from winter's slumber - some wet...

...and some already dry.
Awesome singletrack - mile after mile

About forty minutes in, it started to snow.  It was kind of that graupel, or corn snow, and so we headed back just in case.  We were about out to the Piedra Stock Trail, west of Turkey Springs Road when we turned around.  We thought we would throw our shell jackets on and see what happened.  We made it all the way back to Newt Jack Road, which was the turn for the race, and the sun emerged.  We ditched the jackets and decided to catch Turkey Springs Rd and loop all the way back around to the west and hop on the Fourmile Stock trail again - it was that good! 
This appeared to be some sort of lava-type flow that cut through this meadow

Kathleen cruises through the pines

Think twice about running over these - not as easy as it looks!

Not quite the yoga circle from the Rim Trail in Aspen, but someone spent a little time on this!

We ran most of the remainder of the route just ahead of the next round of the storm.  We had about a mile descent to the car on the Fourmile, the same stretch the races finish on.  The rain started slowly, then picked up in intensity and we ultimately finished wet but smiling.  We eeked out another 13 mile run on excellent trails.  Another awesome day!
Shoes - Saucony Peregrine

Quick Jaunt before heading Home
Early morning over the San Juan River

Overlook on Reservoir Hill

Friday morning before heading home, we decided to try out some trails on Reservoir Hill, which is right in town across the highway from where we stayed.  The trails are steep to get up on top, then wind their way around the hilltop, eventually dropping back down one of the sides.  It is used for Nordic skiing in the winter, but you wouldn't catch me on these trails on skinny skis!!!
Continental Divide overlook, San Juan River below

Cool looking benches along the disc golf course

We made the outer loop of about 3 miles and hopped across the highway to get ready for the trip home.  We had some early signs that we may have squeezed everything out of Kathleen's thyroid  that we could have - of course, you probably already read earlier in the week that this was indeed the case.  But we had a pretty good time burning that little organ up on this trip and we most certainly need a return trip at full steam!  While we may not have timing on our side, health-wise, to make it down for Turkey Track races this year, it is now in the proverbial bucket.
Highway 160, heading east to Wolf Creek Pass

Bye, Bye snow - Wolf Creek Ski Area on the way home

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Training Day

It was a great day for my last obsessing training run at Greenland ahead of next Saturday's race.  I had intended to head up and do a "hot" lap to see what I could push, and then maybe run a second cutoff lap at a more reasonable pace.  However, when Kathleen woke up this morning, she wanted to at least try a run before she went to work.  This was the most awesome news I heard all week.  So I suited up and headed out with her for a 3.5 mile loop.  Now 3.5 miles certainly beats ZERO and I was stoked for her to run - Kathleen is quite a trooper and is going to come back to running with a vengeance once the hormones get leveled out.  Time to "take names", so to speak, after a year and a half of limbo ;-)

So I  fueled up with a little breakfast, threw some extra clothes in the truck, and hit the road.  As we have mentioned in the past, ad nauseum, no matter what time of day or what day of the week, there is usually wind at Greenland.  No different today, and it was a cold wind.  And I forgot liner gloves.  So as is the routine, roll off at the traditional race start at the gate for the Territorial Road and bore down straight into the teeth of the wind.  For 3.5 miles.  It was good today though.  I have been a bit nervous because I have basically a "non-plan" plan for getting ready for a race.  Having no background in "real" running, we know nothing of periodization, track workouts, Arthur Lydiard, blah blah blah blah....  Basically we run to have fun, do some hard tempo runs, some of which are on similar terrain to the race course, and see where the chips fall.  Scoff if you want, but when it is a bluebird sky day and we're out running delicious ribbons of singletrack and you can't because it is your 12x400x600x3000 or whatever, who is happier :))

Anyhoo, back to running.  I felt good on the doubletrack out, almost too good.  I hit Kipp's at 7:37 avg, the saddle at 7:50 avg, Greenland cutoff at 7:31 avg, then in to the finish - 8 miles, 59:00  and 7:22 avg.  Then I wet myself, err I mean, thought "What if I could hold that for 15.5???"  Now the week of nervous stomach starts!!!  Seriously, though, I don't know if most people need this sort of run but it will actually help my mind rest this week with comfort that I have put in the requisite training for my goal.  We'll find out in a week!  I ran a 2.5 mile cool down after swapping out shoes and sloshing down some Blueberry Pomegranate Gu Brew, putting the day's work at 14 miles, and the last long effort for the training cycle.

BTW, I wore the Saucony Kinvara for the hot loop.  Not sure if it has adequate tread for the sand, but man it sure flowed nicely as far as I could tell.  My plan all along was to race in the Peregrine, but now I am waffling.  At 2.5 ounces less per shoe, it may not be such a bad idea.  Any suggestions pro or con???
Done!  And feeling pretty good too!
Greenland OPEN Space, with Pikes Peak in the distance
Spruce Mountain on the left with Noe Road rolling away
So there is the profile for the full lap...
...and my splits

Working on the Pagosa Springs post - it should be up tonight or tomorrow with some sweet pics of Springtime in the Rockies!  Also wanted to get an early "Good Luck" out there for next week at Greenland - Ace and Brad running the 50k, and Craig running the 8 miler - should be good times out on course!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hooray for a performance enhancing drug!!!

Yep, you read right - adulation for a performance enhancing drug use on Happy Trails.....  I received my results from blood work on Monday which signaled I have hit rock bottom and the thyroid is essentially non-functioning.  R.I.P. little fella.  I have been given my first prescription for synthetic thyroid replacement  and we are ecstatic!!!  This means that the worst part of the Graves Disease process should be behind us.  Doc said I should feel noticeably better within 3 to 4 weeks and heading in the normal direction within 6 to 8 weeks.  There may be some dosing adjustments along the way but overall things should be so much better.  People have told me I will feel almost super human once I hit "normal" just because I have felt overall so poorly for the last 1.5 to 2 years.  We can't wait!!!  Because my levels have dipped so low, intentionally from the RAI procedure, I've not been able to do much in terms of running the last few weeks.  That's ok.   Good things are on the horizon......

We spent a few days in Pagosa Springs last week, for some R & R, and even though I was fairly gutter crawling, was able to wring a few last trails runs out of the body while we were there.  It is an incredibly beautiful area with some really great trail running and trail race series.  The full report and pics will be coming soon!

Steve is on fire.  He is as fit as I have seen him in many years and is anxious for a good race at Greenland 25k in two weeks.  I am so excited for him and can't wait to cheer him on and, of course, get some good photos of him blazing to a PR.  He has worked so hard, not only keeping up with his training and other "life" responsibilities, but has kept me propped up and perking along through the last long while.  I am so proud of and thankful for him!

Happy Trails, indeed!!!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chugging Along

Oops... it appears we missed the month of March.  Well, not really, but apparently we missed the urge to put up a post in the month of March :)  We are still getting out on the trails, albeit less mileage for Kathleen, but we are still out chugging along.  And it certainly helps that the weather has been unseasonably phenomenal in Colorado for this time of year.  Before we get to the weekend's activities, here are a few images from the prior month:
Group photo from a great run at Cheyenne Mtn State Park -
65 degrees on March 4!
 It has been nice enough that we have been out on the bikes too
 Since Daylight Savings Time, I have been chasing "daylight" quite a few nights post-work
Sunset on the Grandview Mesa - Palmer Park

Greenland Trail - Saturday

Now for current events, we headed out to Greenland Open Space on Saturday morning.  I have still been hitting some tempo training, and some harder trail outings, and have been thinking about taking another crack at the Greenland 25k race.  Twice previous, I have crashed and burned on lap 2 after going out over my head here.  So I have been training in an attempt to go out hot, and then hold it for both laps.  I have been encouraged by the fitness I carried over the winter months, and had a couple recent runs last weekend that had me salivating for a little redemption up north: - a first ever sub-7 pace tempo run and a 3 1/2 minute PR on the Falcon Trail at the US Air Force Academy.  So one of my goals for the day was to test the legs on Greenland and decide if I was in.  The weather forecast was for calm Saturday and WINDY Sunday - they lied.  We arrived at the parking area with some nice wind already pasting the hillsides, but there is a good chance for that on race day too, so it was put up or shut up.
Climbing the Kipps Loop switchbacks, overlooking Spruce Mountain Road - 
Kathleen in the center of the photo

Kathleen had no idea when I took the above photo that from my vantage point, I could see 2 runners on the climb below her.  Even in her post-RAI-dying-thyroid-slower state, they never caught her on the climb (or at all for that matter).  She was stoked later when I pointed it out! ;-)
Spruce Mountain from Kipps

Lap one for the course starts out an old doubletrack road that is quite sandy.  It is a gradual climb to the base of Kipps Loop (mile 3.5), which then switchbacks to the high point on course (mile 5).  Off the back saddle of Kipps, it is mostly descent to the finish, if you are on the 8 M course.  The 25k and 50k go most of the way back to the start, before doubling back over the Greenland trail to the dirt road and repeating the Kipps Loop.  So lap 2 of the 25k (and 3 & 4 of the 50k) are slightly different than lap 1.  Both previous attempts at this race, I have cramped badly on lap 2, especially coming off the saddle on the descent, which is where you make up time from the climbs.  Saturday I guessed at the turn point (off a little) and hit it at 59:40. 
Great to see Kathleen running!

At the trail junction going back out, I waited for Kathleen coming off the hill as she was finishing the loop out to the trailhead for a nice 8.1 mile jaunt.  She was running great and enjoying the day - 75 degrees in March at Greenland is pretty sweet!  After seeing her off, I headed off for lap 2.  I was pushing pretty hard into the headwind heading out and I was curious to see how I would hold up.  I hoped to simulate the race to see where the fitness was at, of course always hoping for race day to show with NO STINKING WIND.  I was pretty excited to hit the saddle at the top of Kipps on round two at low 8 average pace, and dropped off the back ready to let it roll in to the finish.  Much to my surprise, the legs held out really well until the flat straight heading in to the start.  About half mile out, I had the first alarm go off for calf cramp, shortly followed by more of the same.  However, I was close enough at this point that it didn't matter.  I was short of race distance at 15.12 (race is 15.54) but my time of 2:00:25 put me at a 7:58 pace, cutting 25 seconds per mile off my best race pace there.  Sweet!  So there was only one thing left to do - drive home, log on , and enter.  (Well, that is after BBQ at Broken Bones BBQ in Monument -pulled pork and sweet potato fries - and a Starbucks stop!!!)  So I guess that means I'm in ;-)

Shoes - K Nike LunarGlide
S Saucony Peregrine

Sunday - Red Rock Canyon
 Kathleen running sweet ridgeline singletrack - Codell Trail

Today we got a late start (again) and headed over to Red Rock Canyon Open Space.  It was already mid 70's when we rolled in, so the gusty winds were actually helpful in keeping us cooled off - which is weird to mention on April 1...?   Both of us were fairly tired and had lead in the legs, so it was a day to enjoy the scenery, kick up a little dirt, and be glad to have sweet trails to run.
 Climbing the Quarry Pass Trail
 Nice view of Red Rock Canyon, and the Garden off to the north
Kathleen hits the top of Roundup Trail
 It is funny how light angles change perspective - the water looks like Gatorade from here...
... but just brown from here!  One of the old mining ponds.

We enjoyed our run today - 8 miles and we were done!  And with the carryover from yesterday, we were also quite hungry - and what better way to cure that than to hit Rudy's BBQ which is only a block away.  We could smell the smoker when we were on Codell Trail and I thought about it the whole run!!!  Smoked turkey, green chile stew, and potato salad hit the spot.

Shoes - K Brooks Pure Flow
S Brooks Pure Grit
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