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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Where's the Flat Part?

 Tour guide for the climb suffering

Yesterday, I did something most sane, sedentary folks would find unreasonable: I set the alarm for 5 am on a Saturday - what?  I was meeting Craig over at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs to run up Barr Trail as part of his Pikes Peak Marathon training.  The plan for the day was A-Frame and back from the PPM start line, about a 20 mile round trip.  Craig invited me along for all or any part of the trip so I figured why not?  (BTW, I was the sherpa as Craig decided to travel light for race simulation reasons, therefore, the only photos of human suffering were taken by, not "of", the guy who carried his camera - ha!)
Early morning sun on the infamous "W's"

I would like to wax eloquent about how effortlessly we breezed up Ruxton Ave, sailing smoothly onto the lower sections of the Barr Trail with the cool morning air invigorating our running efforts.  Of course, many of you have been on or heard of Barr Trail and you would know I was lying like a politician in an election year.  The fact is, this run eats at your soul from the first steps onto Ruxton, bringing to life things like "barking calves", "flaming lungs", and all other manner of exercise induced suffering.  And we call this recreation.  Fun even.  Aside from one measly effort long since pushed to the dusty corners of my memory bank, all other trips up Barr have included an entrance via The Incline.  So when people warn about ruining your run on the W's, I don't always relate.  I have a better appreciation for it now.  In order to keep myself from blowing up, I let Craig set the pace.  

The W's are indeed hard, but the issue is more the accumulated effect of constant climb and lowering oxygen.  At lower elevations, you can "redline", realize the trouble you are in and cut back your effort.  Generally speaking, at that point, you can recover within a run and carry on to finish your workout.  However, at altitude, it seems that when you blow up, there is too much stacked against you to recover "during" your exercise.  We have seen it time and again, whether on the bike or running, and that is why people like Matt Carpenter try to warn newbies on Pikes Peak to notch it back at the start...  Anyway, back to the run.

Barking calves aside, we settled in to a nice run.  There was a LOT of traffic on Barr already, which we expected as Ruxton was packed with cars as we ran up.  We chatted about PPM, the recent fires, life in general and pretty much settled into a nice flow up the mountain.  It was funny as several folks commented about things such as "Look, they are running and can still talk", or "Why hurry, it will still be there when you get there?" - normal trail chatter.  One thing is for sure, it was good to see folks out enjoying the trails and happy to be alive.  The city was in a bit of a fire-induced coma for a few weeks, but in general life is getting back to a "new normal".  Above about 9000' feet or so, my recent nemesis breathing issues started howling at me and my ribcage suddenly felt like it had the capacity of an infant.  Not sure what's up with that, but have been bending some ears to help me get it figured out.  I will need the big-boy lungs for some outings I would like to squeeze in before summer's end :)
Barr Camp is Hoppin'!

We hit Barr Camp (7.5 miles in and 10,200 feet above sea level) in about 1:54, which is good for me since I really haven't ever done this exact route.  I guess it is a PR - woohoo....  And Barr Camp was jamming with folks - I had to wait for about a dozen people to clear out to get the photo above.  This at 8 am.  We hung out for a while, did some stretching, and then I decided to head back down.  I felt bad to leave Craig on his own to A-Frame, but at the same time, I knew my lungs were stressing pretty good and another 1800' up wasn't going to help them out.  So Craig headed up, and I started the descent back to Manitou - all 4300' of it!
Great Views

I paused at a couple favorite spots on the way down to look at the beauty of all that surrounds Pikes Peak.  Given that three weeks ago the harsh reality was that all this could burn if the fire jumped Highway 24, it was all the more reason to pause for the awe of where we live and what we get to do on any given Saturday.  We are quite thankful for that and not a day passes that we take it for granted.  Return trip down was 1:14, certainly not speedy but I felt good the whole way down.  The round trip ended up just over 15 miles for me on the day, with 4300' accumulated gain.  Oh, and by the way, there is NO flat part, just in case you were wondering.  And I got in some "weight training" at the end of the run.  I needed to stop at Coquette's in Manitou for gluten-free flour, so I finished the last .3 miles of the run carrying a 4lb bag of flour under each arm ;-)

Shoes - Brooks Pure Grit
Snyder Quarry and Cave of the Winds

There is not really an overlook to the north where you can see Waldo Canyon, so this was about as close as I could photograph, looking a little northeast.  The visible scar on the far hillside is Snyder Quarry, and right below it is the Cave of the Winds.  The burn area to the west is Williams Canyon, which is being rated extreme on the burn severity index, along with Waldo Canyon just a bit further west.  Waldo will most likely re-open eventually, but will look totally different than what we have ever seen, which is sad but is also the cycle of life and nature.

Back a few weeks...
June 26: Pre-Evacuation notice went out about 2:15pm - this is at 3:15pm from our driveway
June 26: At 3:30pm, it became mandatory for good reason
June 26: 6:15pm - From the eastern edges of Colorado Springs -
We stood in my sister's driveway and cried for our neighborhood

We have thought quite a few times over the last weeks about a post to gather all our thoughts concerning the Waldo Canyon Fire but still not sure at this point we have totally wrapped our minds around that.  We are extremely grateful to all our friends and running peeps who were so supportive during that time.  It is a bizarre and surreal occurrence to go through, and one we hope to never repeat in our lifetimes.  Kathleen was at home when the firestorm broke containment over the Front Range and down into Mountain Shadows.  The images she saw leaving home will forever be etched into her memory.  The wall of fire was so large and moving so fast, she could only describe it as being special effects from a movie, yet it was not.  The fact is, we are fortunate and blessed that we are not sitting in a strange environment today planning to rebuild our lives from scratch.  We know people who are, and it is a dark spot to be in, yet those we have had contact with are handling it with such grace ... and that is inspiring.  Sometimes the depths of tragedy exposes the  strength of human character. 

We have a lot of photos we took on our first visit through the "war zone" - those handful of areas where it seems entire streets and blocks vaporized.  It takes your breath away to see it, and the images on TV had done nothing to prepare us for the gut punch that it is to stand in front of an ash pile that is the memories of several hundred families.  We took the pictures more as a reminder of our blessings, rather than something to post on the blog.  But processing through those images has helped us a lot with processing what has happened to our community in this corner of town.  We have lived in this neighborhood nearly 20 years, and can picture in our mind's eye many if not most of those homes and streets as they were before June 26.  Yet every day now we drive out of our neighborhood with the new reality of charred sticks dotting the Front Range, and chimneys left as the sole reminder of the memories of many familiesThey say routine has a centering or healing effect after trauma - starting to get back to normal has been good in a cleansing sort of way.  

Might not ever get around to that "thought gathering" post but getting back to normal, even if it is the "new normal", feels good for now...
                                            Happy Trails
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