Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday, October 31st - Hiwan Loop

Run: Hiwan Loop
Time: 48:50
Distance: 6.51 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Clear and cool

Took some effort to get my butt out of the house this afternoon. I had a difficult time shaking off a few too many Avery Jubilation Ales consumed at a Halloween party last night. We spent the day running a few errands and hiking around Evergreen Lake with the kids. I figured that activity would helped with the headache, but no dice. Time to pull out the best hangover cure known to man... a run. Around 4 p.m., with the trick-or-treating hour looming, I finally slipped on the Sauconys and hauled myself out of the house. I headed over to the Hiwan 'hood and ran the Fourth of July 5K route and returned home. And, what do you know...the headache was gone. Great night trick-or-treating with the was a hotdog...the other was an ice princess, a la the Chronicles of Narnia.

Friday, October 30 - Evergreen Streets

Run: El Pinal Neighborhood
Time: 57:58
Distance: 7.25 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Fair
Weather: Clear and cool

Late afternoon run through the hills in several of the local 'hoods, all on paved roads. We ended up with about two feet of snow here in Evergreen, so all the trails will be covered for a while. Ran through the Trails 'hood, then across Evergreen Parkway and ran a haphazard route through El Pinal and dropped down from the ridge into Hiwan and returned home. Glad to be back from the East Coast. Was definitely feeling the light running schedule these past two weeks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday, October 23 - Potomac River Paved Trail

Run: Potomac River Paved Trail
Time: 1:36
Distance: 13.5 miles
Effort: Hard
Body: Good
Weather: Clear and cool

Got into D.C. around 5 p.m. with two things on my mind...getting a bit of work done and making up for skipping out on yesterday's run. The weather in D.C. was a balmy 60 degrees, quite a change from the cold and rainy weather in Evergreen yesterday.

After taking care of a bit o' bidness, I laced up the Crosslites and headed out from my hotel, located near the Pentagon. After a quick jaunt through Crystal City, I found a tunnel under some railroad tracks that led me to the paved path that runs along the Potomac River from Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon. I picked up the path right at National Airport (I still have a hard time calling it Reagan National Airport) and ran it to and through Alexandria to the 7-mile mark, within about a quarter mile of the new Beltway bridge over the Potomac.

My goal on this run was to run steady, but hard. As noted, I missed my long run on Sunday and likely will skip the tempo run tomorrow due to some planned post-work socializing. The first 7 miles went like this: 7:28, 7:12, 6:53, 6:40, 6:43, 7:04, 7:34. These miles felt pretty good.

When the watch beeped at the seven mile mark, I turned around and did something I am loathe to do...return the way I came. I rarely do out-and-backs, preferring instead to do pretty much anything to avoid retracing my steps. Still, since my only alternative would have been running along busy city streets, a return on the paved path would have to do.

The return 7 miles also felt pretty good, but my energy was flagging the last couple of miles. The return 7 miles looked like this: 7:33, 8:05, 7:04, 6:32, 6:25, 6:37, 9:02 (cool down).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24th, 2009 - Elk Meadow Open Space

Run: Bergen Peak Summit
Time: 1:50
Distance: 11.5 miles
Effort: Hard
Body: Fair
Weather: Partly cloudy...chilly

Headed out from the house around 3:30 p.m. for a jaunt up to the 9,800-foot summit of Bergen Peak, the looming peak that rises above the grass-filled meadows of JeffCo's Elk Meadow Open Space.

I opted to run a different route than my usual today, running the upper loop clockwise, heading up the Bergen Peak trail to the one-mile summit trail. Saw a surprising number of folks on the trail today, especially given the relatively late hour and the growing chill in the air. The highlight was a pair of women hiking down from the summit expressing their awe at someone running up the trail. These types of comments are always appreciated. It's a welcome reminder that running up a mountain is something most people never consider. The lowlight was a guy near the summit chatting on his cell phone while smoking a cigarette. Not a welcome smell to someone that just ran six miles and 2,000 feet uphill. Smoking in the mountains is right up there with smoking at the beach. Hard to believe people still smoke. (By the way, after spending 10 days in Italy, it's clear that the Italians have not yet received the "smoking-is-bad-for-you" memo. The habit is ubiquitous.)

On the return, I came down the Too Long trail and took Meadow View and Sleepy S back home.

I was definitely feeling the lack of running these past 10-12 days. The last two miles today were hard...just wanted to be done. Still, it was good to be back at 7,800 feet and enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 13-22, 2009 - Tuscany, Italy

Run: Three Runs

Time: 3 hours
Distance: 18 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and a bit chilly

Just back from a 10-day trip, sans kids, to the Tuscany region of Italy. My wife and I spent those days driving around the region (one of 20 regions in Italy) in a little blue diesel car called an Eco. We stayed overnight in five different towns/cities (Montalcino, San Gimignano, Florence, Cortona, Montepulciano and Siena) and drove through a couple dozen others and stopped and explored a few more (Pienza and Castellini in Chianti). This was her first trip to Europe, and my second - the first being a group trip in high school.

Our days were filled with great food, liters of fine red wine, remarkable scenery, a crash course in Renaissance history and art and more walking than I think I've done in years. I'd say we walked an average of six miles a day, with a couple of higher mileage days in Florence that skewed the average. I only managed to get out for three runs during the trip, but each was memorable for the sublime experience of running while surrounded by complex arrays of walls, buildings and streets conceived, designed and constructed 800 or more years ago.

A few highlights from the runs:

San Gimignano - 6.2 mies: Ran from our hotel, located in the heart of this small, well-preserved hill-top town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I ran through one of the gates in the wall that surrounds the town, looking for a gravel trail I had seen earlier that I assumed would encircle the town. I found the trail easily and followed it around the town. Via a combination of trails and sidewalks I quickly circumnavigated the town in, maybe, two miles. On the second lap I spied a dirt road heading downhill from near the town's main entrance. One of the things I found most

amazing about these towns was that they weren't surrounded by anything much more than farms, with their olive groves and vineyards. And, since the towns were always on hilltops, everything was always up or down. I ran down the dirt road a couple of miles to where it intersected with a paved road. The road offered amazing views of San Gimignano on the hillside above and led me past numerous farms. The GarminConnect map of the run is pretty cool. See it here.

Cortona - 4.4 miles: Cortona was the biggest of the "towns" we visited, with about 23,000 residents. It is perched on a hillside, with commanding views of Lake Trasimeno and across the Val di Chiana, a huge, fertile valley. I ran here around 5 p.m. on a perfect fall day. From our hotel, I headed uphill and quickly found a large park-like promenade that ran about a mile before connecting with a little-used paved road that provided residents outside the town's walls access to their houses. It was on this road I saw the first runners I'd seen all week. I passed two guys, one headed downhill and another, later, making steady progress uphill. I exchanged with each a quick "Buona sera," and continued my steady 7:50 uphill pace. I quickly topped out at the apex of the mountain Cortona was perched on. Here I found the beautiful Church of Santa Margherita and the Fortezza Medicea, a 15th century fort. From the top, I ran down cobbled paths and streets trying to keep my navigational bearings in the labyrinth-like layout of the town. This was my favorite run of the three. The early evening lighting was picture-perfect. The scent of burning leaves was in the air. And, the thrill of finding a new architectural treasure around every corner kept my enthusiasm high and the legs moving quickly. GarminConnect info here.

Montepulciano - 8 miles: This town is located across the Val di Chiana from Cortona, perhaps 20 kilometers or so. We stayed here two nights. I squeezed in a run the second night. Running again from our hotel, I searched for a path that I hoped would follow the town's walls, but struck out. Instead, I followed a series of cobbled roads and made my way about two-thirds of the way around the town. At an intersection just beyond the walls, I followed a paved road for about a mile-and-a-half until I found a promising road heading off toward farm country. After running past a small industrial area, I quickly found myself running by farm fields and the ubiquitous vineyards and olive groves. The paved road soon turned into a wide gravel road. After a couple of miles, the road narrowed to about the width of a driveway. I continued on past a small dairy and decided to turn back when the road passed uncomfortably close to a pair of tiny white houses. I retraced my steps back to town and completed the circumnavigation of the town. I ended with a few uphill strides on a 15-degree incline near a convent and the impressive Madonna di San Biagio, which was one of my favorite churches we saw the whole trip.

Having the chance to travel with my wife and visit this remarkable area, one so steeped in human history, was truly a gift. The runs added nice capstones to great days, and provided me opportunities to experience places I never imagined I'd ever get to see, let alone run in.

Now back home in the foothills of the Rockies, I'm eager to get back into a regular running routine and take advantage of the last remaining relatively snow-free trail days left this year.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11 - Elk Meadow Open Space

Run: Meadow View Super Loop
Time: 1:10
Distance: 8.84 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and chilly

The sun finally came out around 4 p.m....and so did I. The long-sought appearance of the great yellow-orange orb in the sky spiked my motivation just before we were to sit down for a chicken curry crock pot special. The fine-smelling dish, cooking since 1 p.m., would have to wait. A run was in the offing...

Ran up Tanoa Road and into Elk Meadow Open Space, near the upper parking lot. Wound around Meadow View to the social trail extension to County Road 65. Looped around here along Evergreen Parkway on Painter's Pause Trail. Took that up the slog on Sleepy S back to the upper parking lot. Retraced my steps home from here.

Decide after a mile or two into the run to see if I could go just hard enough to keep my average per mile pace below 8 minutes. Managed a 7:56 average pace with 1,200 feet of total elevation gain.

A good final run before the trip tomorrow to Italy. Eager to get in a few miles around the hill towns of Tuscany. The inner geek in me is looking forward to seeing those runs on GarminConnect.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday, October 10 - Troublesome Gulch - Elk Meadow

Run: Troublesome Gulch - Meadow View Loop
Time: 1:15
Distance: 8+ miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Cold and foggy

After two unplanned days off (weather, work and family), I couldn't let another day pass without a bit of time on the trails. The snowy, cold and foggy weather up here was grim, but somehow motivating. The thought of running amidst the snow-covered trees and bent-over grasses was seductive enough to outweigh the expected chill.

I set off around 4 p.m. for a eight-or-so-mile loop (Garmin watch went dead mid-run) from home, down Lewis Ridge Road, up Troublesome Gulch trail and into Elk Meadow Open Space. In the park, I followed the Painter's Pause, Meadow View and Sleepy-S trails before cutting through a neighborhood and back to my house.

With the dense fog, everything was eerily quiet. The freezing rain and snow had left beautiful icy patterns on the trees and bent over grasses. All the trails were virtually snow-free, save for a slight dusting here and there.

Bergen Peak was hidden behind a think veil of fog that began at about 8,000 feet. Everything was socked in...and no one but me was out and about on the trails of this 1,600-acre park. It was nice to have the place to myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday, October 7 - Elk Meadow Open Space

Run: Wednesday, October 7th - Meadow View Trail
Time: 1:00
Distance: 7.53 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Partly cloudy and cool

Early evening run on the trails of Elk Meadow Open Space.

Started on the roads, running up Quarterhorse Road to its apex, with fabulous views to the west. Followed the dirt road and connected into the off-leash dog park part of Elk Meadow.

Interestingly, JeffCo Open Space is making a valiant attempt to close a bunch of social trails in this area, including one of the trails I regularly use for this run. I glanced at the posted proposed trail map (which was complete with all the social trails marked in red). Some of the trails they are proposing closing will leave big parts of this area without trail access. I am a big proponent of building sustainable trails and closing networks of redundant social trails...especially those that are likely to cause erosion, put people into sensitive areas (i.e. wetlands, raptor nesting areas, rare plant sites, etc...) or cross private property.

I fear what JeffCo plans for this area, though, will be largely ignored, especially since there has been minimal, if any, attempts at gathering public input. Our local weekly paper covered the story here.

From the dog park area, I crossed Stagecoach and did most of the usual Elk Meadow - Painters Pause - Sleepy S Loop. I stopped about half-mile from the end at my kids' school and picked them up for the 1/2 mile walk home.

All-in-all, 7.53 miles in one hour with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain.

Bonus: Cool study by Nature Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva and others on the correlation between being a hiker/backpacker and later-in-life giving to conservation organizations.

Their finding:

Specifically: Each hiker or backpacker translates to $200-300 of future
annual giving to conservation, typically 10+ years after their hiking and backpacking experiences.

Kareiva points out in a Nature Conservancy blog post that conservation groups could one day be in for a day of reckoning because fewer and fewer kids today are getting out into nature, visiting national parks, etc... Nature deficit disorder due, studies show, to the rising use of computers, video games and the like. Where will all the future conservation donors come from?

In his post, Karieva writes:

The reason our analyses should be followed up by better studies is simple: If our conclusions are right, then conservation could be in big trouble. Why? Because after one accounts for growing population levels, the current generation of children is simply not getting the nature recreation that previous generations did. How can you love nature if you do not know nature?

Read the paper here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 6th - Bergen Peak

Run: Tuesday, October 6th - Bergen Peak
Time: 1:49
Distance: 10.26 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and cool

Great run today up Bergen Peak in JeffCo's Elk Meadow Open Space. The sun was out again. The air was crisp. The legs were ready after two days off. Met Steve F. at the lower lot, and we quickly were off.

We decided to run what I call the JM Route, up Sleepy S to Elkridge to Meadow View to Too Long to Summit and back down via Bergen Peak, Meadow View, Elkridge and Sleepy S. JM is a foothills-area runner whose blog I regularly follow.

He's been running that route and posting his times for a couple years. I routinely use his times as motivation to run the route harder.

Climbed a bit over 2,000 feet and hit the summit sign in 58:56, which is about four minutes and change off my PR for this route. The pace was moderate w/ Steve F. and I chatting the whole way up.

Another beautiful fall day.

Monday, October 5 - Off

Had running gear with me at work today, but just wasn't motivated to run in the cold rain. Thought about it...but that's as far as it went. Legs still a little heavy from Saturday. I think the pavement running beat me up a bit. Definitely need to get back to the long weekend runs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4 - Off

Was feeling pretty worked from the hard run Saturday morning. Legs felt heavy...calves ached. Thought about a late p.m. easy run in Elk Meadow, but decided to listen to the body and take the day off. I'm a little anxious about pushing the body too hard right now. Numerous reports of swine flu (sorry...H1N1 flu) at the kids' school. Don't want to be sick during next week's trip to Italy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday, October 3 - Upper Bear Creek Road

Run: Saturday, October 3nd - Upper Bear Creek Road
Time: 2:22
Distance: 18.14 miles
Effort: Moderate on way out; hard on way back
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and cool

Met Steve F., Steve G. and Caroline S. bright and early this morning for an 18-mile run from the Evergreen Lake House to the caretaker house in the Mount Evans State Wildlife Management Area and back. It was brisk at the start and I was under-dressed. Guess I'm a little out of practice in dressing for chilly morning weather.

We set off just after 7 a.m. and ran the 6+ miles up the paved and relatively flat Upper Bear Creek Road. Beautiful views of Mt. Evans and Mt. Rosalie greeted us as we emerged from the canyon into the wide-open meadows around Tallgrass Spa. With the mountain looming before us, I started thinking about running next summer from the lakehouse to the summit of Mt. Evans. I figure this run would be in the 30-35 mile range, with a combination of pavement, dirt roads and trails (through the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area). Epic.

We hung a right on the welcome dirt and gravel of Yankee Creek Road at 6 miles, ran 2 miles up to the turn-off to the Elk Management Area. After a mile of steady climbing, we turned around the the caretaker's house. We gained about 1,000 feet over the first 9 miles. In the first 9 miles, we averaged an 8:30 - 8:45 pace. Steve and Steve had other plans for the return. Both are training for the NYC Marathon, 4 weeks from now. So, a "progression run" was in the offing.

For our return 9 miles, the plan was to get -- you guessed it -- progressively faster. We ran the first 3 miles averaging about 7:15. Their plan was to run the next five miles at around a 6:20 pace. Since this was to be my longest run since...oh...June, I set my sights a little lower. I ran the next five in 6:41, 7:19, 6:57; 6:47 and 6:36. I caught back upto the the Steves (Caroline had turned back a bit earlier.) with about a mile and half to go and we jogged it in together.

It was great getting out early on a Saturday and getting the weekend's long run in early. A full weekend of family and great weather awaits!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday, October 2 - Doudy Draw, Boulder

Run: Friday, October 2nd - Doudy Draw and Spring Brook Loop
Time: 56:39
Distance: 7.14 miles
Effort: Tempo on the ups, easy on the rest
Body: Very Good
Weather: Sunny and warm

Hit the Doudy Draw trailhead after work today on an absolutely gorgeous fall day. I'd never run on this bit of City of Boulder open space. Was hoping to catch GZ returning from a planned mid-afternoon run (missed him).

There's some nice variety on these trails, with sections that meander along a now-dry creek bed, some steady climbs, a bit of flat through a ponderosa forest and a few rollers.

Was feeling good today, so I ran tempo on the ups and took it easy on the descents. I started on the Doudy Draw trail and ran it up to the gate that marks the boundary of the Flatirons Vista Open Space parcel.

I returned back down the Doudy Draw trail and picked up the Spring Brook Loop, starting on the south trail and ending on the north trail. Ran a real strong pace up the north Spring Brook trail in pursuit of a mountain biker I saw about a quarter mile ahead. Caught him about 100 yards from the top. It always feels good passing bikers on climbs. Reminds me of the freedom of little gear (and weight) required.

A fabulous 7+ miles in a little less than an hour. A truly great day to be out on the trails. The lighting was perfect.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday, October 1 - Elk Meadow Open Space

Run: Thursday, October 1st - Meadow View Trail
Time: 1:00
Distance: 7 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Cool - breezy

An easy, relaxed seven miles on the Sleepy S - Painter's Pause - Social trail - Meadow View loop. Beautiful,sunny day, but with a bit of a chill in the air. Felt under-dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Hands actually got cold...first time this fall. A sure sign of things to come.

The meadow was looking beautiful in the late afternoon sun. The grass is now all brown and splashes of fall colors dotted the flanks of Bergen Peak. In places where the upper part of Meadow View dips down into draws, golden aspen leaves covered the trail. Only saw one person the entire seven miles.

Wednesday, September 30 - Eldorado Canyon State Park

Run: Wednesday, September 30th - Eldorado Canyon
Time: 1:23
Distance: 7.14 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Average
Weather: Cool - windy

A cold front was moving in and the winds were really kicking up when I left work this evening. In hopes of finding a little shelter from the gusts and seeking some new trails, I opted for a run in Eldorado Canyon State Park, just south of Boulder.

A sign at the unstaffed park entrance indicated walk-in fees were $3. And here I was with no money. I parked outside the park and ran past the entrance, just as a park ranger appeared to do a little maintenance at the entrance booth. I stopped and explained I was running in, but had no money. He looked at me a little skeptically, but waved me in after extracting a promise from
me to make a double payment next time.

I've never been to Eldorado Canyon before. This park is a climbers' mecca, with sheer canyon walls, boulders and over 500 climbing routes. South Boulder Creek cascades down the canyon floor.

I ran up the dirt road through the canyon to the Eldorado Canyon Trail, which climbs about 3.5 miles and 1,000 feet up and out of the canyon, into City of Boulder Open Space and then connects to Boulder County's Walk Ranch Open Space. I climbed for about three miles to a ridge overlooking Walker Ranch. I turned around here and retraced my steps back down the trail and the road and returned to my car.

I'd really like to return here and continue this run up into Walker Ranch, perhaps making a big loop from Eldorado to Walker and return via Bear Peak and Shadow Canyon to the South Mesa trailhead. Wonder how long that would be....?