Sunday, October 31, 2010

Centennial Cone - Steady

Morning run around the 3,500-acre Centennial Cone Open Space here in Jefferson County. Great pre-run Hallowen moment at The Bagelry.  Read on...

Time: 2:28
Distance:17 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather:  Sunny and Warm

Met up with Todd G. just after 7:30 a.m. at the wonderfully-named Mayhem Gulch Trailhead in Clear Creek Canyon for a loop around JeffCo's Centennial Cone Open Space.  (Mayhem Gulch, turns out, was not named after some riotous event of the past. Mayhem is the last name of a long-time ranching family from the area. Go figure.)

The run starts with a 600-foot climb from the bottom of the canyon to the pine-covered hillsides above. The singletrack here is some of the best constructed trail I've seen in a long time. It snakes gently up, meandering across the hills and climbing via multiple switchbacks before intersecting with the Juniper Trail.

We hung a right here, continuing on the Mayhem Gulch Trail to the 7.4-mile Travois Trail, which undulates through a nice diversity of habitat types...coniferous forests, open grasslands, rocky hillsides and one modest summit. Ran into Erik Soloff somewhere in here and stopped to chat for a bit.  Following a slog up to the upper parking lot (pit stop), we jumped on the 3.2-mile Elk Range Trail for another slog, this time, though, on a dirt road (the only non-singletrack part of this run).

With the left foot aching, I was eager to wrap things up, so we hung a left just before the second upper parking lot and cruised down to the Juniper Trail. At the intersection with Mayhem Gulch, I retrieved a shirt and bottle I'd stashed and we made our way back around to the south side of the property for the final descent down to the bottom of Clear Creek Canyon.

With Todd setting the pace, we cruised at a really nice, hard pace, ranging from 5:45 to 6:30 for the last mile and a half. On such a well-built, rock-free trail (not to mention it's steady downhill grade), running at this pace is pure bliss.

I was really happy to get out for another solid run while this amazing weather pattern holds.  Will, no doubt, look back with envy at these days in a couple months when the temps drop and the snow settles in.

Note:  On weekends, JeffCo sets alternating hiker and biker days (.pdf) for this open space park. If you visit, be sure you pick the right weekend day. Fines are in effect for violating the rules. We saw a couple of rangers at one of the parking lots.

Finally, a great moment early this morning at The Bagelry (a local Evergreen joint that makes real bagels...boiled and everything). Just after I placed my order, a woman behind the counter looks over at me and says, "Are you a marathon runner?"  I replied that, yes, I was and I was up early to get in a long run. She laughed because she thought I was in costume - dressed as a "marathon runner" for Halloween. Not sure what to make of that. Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alderfer-Three Sisters - Easy

Bailed on the BBMM today to put in some quality time at home. Got out for an easy five miles late.

Time: :44
Distance: 5.12
Effort:: Easy
Body: Average
Weather:  Sunny and Warm

Spent the day hanging out on the home front. Carved pumpkins with jP and CP. Took jP to the grand opening of the new Golden Bike Park. Spent a couple hours riding the tracks, jumps and obstacles. Great facility, right on the southeastern edge of North Table Mountain. Very cool.  jP even scored a comp pair of Native sunglasses from one of the sponsored riders hanging out.

Had planned on running the Boulder Basic Mountain Marathon social run, but the desire to hang home combined with a suddenly worsening case of chronic plantar fasciitis in my left foot made the decision easier (slept in the boot last night), although I'm sure I'll second guess things as the blog write-ups start appearing.  I think I'm due for a return to the PT for a painful session or two on the foot. I gritted my way though a pair of sessions last year around this time and emerged with an 80 percent or so improvement. Not sure why it's gotten bad again. Need to noodle on that.

JV already has a post up about the BBMM. out for a very pleasurable evening run in the local Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space park today. Ran the outside loop, starting at the upper lot. Ran the Bluebird Meadow, Burberry, Mt. Muhy, Sisters and Pondersosa Trails to complete a really nice loop back to the upper lot. Perfectly still out there tonight in the waning sunlight. Felt really good just to be in the woods and moving briskly.

If the foot holds up, I will try and hit Centennial Cone first thing tomorrow a.m.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mt. Falcon - Everything

Long,hard morning run touching almost every bit of trail in Jefferson County's Mt. Falcon Open Space near Morrison.

Time: 2:08:44
Distance: 14.26
Effort: Hard
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny and cool

When I look at a GPS rendering of most of my runs I either see symmetry, as in when I run a nice long loop, or the simple, thick, squigly line of an out-and-back. Today's run provided neither familiar pattern.

Today's GPS rendering of a run in Mt. Falcon Open Space park looked more like something one would get by radio-collaring an inebriated bear and turning him loose in the foothills..

The route Scott J. and I ran today, which Scott calls "Version One," takes one to nearly every trail in the park, save for a brief equestrian bypass up top and the lower portion of the Castle Trail, which descends down the frontside of the park and is the alternative to the hiker-only Turkey Trot Trail (a more scenic and singletrack ascent/descent).

After a quick greeting in the chilly winds buffeting the lower parking lot, we set out at a steady climbing pace up through the early steeps and then onto the more gentle grades of the Turkey Trot Trail. We then merged onto the Castle Trail and climbed to the picnic shelter and hit a split of 31:19 (a PR for me by a couple of minutes...but only the third time I've run up that route).

From there, we ran up a couple of dead-end ascents (with views) before getting back on the Castle Trail and running it to it's high point. Next up were a series of loops on the Parmalee, Old Ute and Devils Elbow Trails before returning to the Castle Trail for the descent.

I was dragging on the last few ascents, feeling like I'd pretty much out-run the calories provided by the homemade fruit/greens/protein smoothie I'd had for breakfast. I was ready for some gravity-assist by the time we hit the picnic shelter and began cruising back down to the lower parking lot.

All-in-all, a good, tough run on a beautiful Thursday morning. The wind was all but gone by the time we got back to our cars.

2,903 feet of elevation gain.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Neighborhood Stuff - Easy

Easy jog around the 'hood to shake out the legs. Still too windy to be "fun," but good to get out.

Time:  :39
Distance:  4.4 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather:  Sunny, cool and windy

Late afternoon jog from the house.  Did a loop around the neighborhood open space, ran down Quarterhorse Road, into the dog park and home through the southern end of Elk Meadow Open Space. As is all too often typical...squeezed it in between work and picking up jP and CP. Off to go bowling...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bear Peak - Blowin' in the Wind

A really good run to the summit of Boulder's Bear Peak, although I could have done without the fierce wind gusts blowing from the west.

Time: 1:18
Distance: 5.08
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny, WINDY and cool

Late afternoon run from the Cragmore Cragmoor Trailhead to the summit of Bear Peak. I remember stepping out of the truck and immediately doing a quick body status check. Was this going to be a good run, or a not-so-good one? The answer was not immediate. 

I started out up the long series of step-ups from the trailhead sign feeling...OK. After 50 meters or so, the verdict was in.  I was feeling really good. I picked up the pace a bit and just went with it.  Steady.

Made a wrong turn at the first sign, corrected and climbed up to the singletrack that loops up past a huge rock slab to the mouth of Fern Canyon. I ran up Fern to the first major set of rocky stairs and started the power hiking.  Just felt great through the steep stuff. I could feel the leg muscles working and working hard, but the fatigue just never came. Hit the switchbacks below the saddle and started running. Gained the saddle with a smile.

Looked up at Bear to the left as the fierce winds from the west chilled my hands. Set out to finish the climb up the west ridge. 

Got to the summit sign and debated tagging the summit. The wind gusts were scary-strong. Got to within about 10 meters of the summit slab, paused to let a few seconds on the watch tick by, and called it a day. I already was keeping a low body profile, moving on all fours. Still felt like the wind could blow me off.

Returned down the west ridge, hit the saddle and started just cruising down Fern. Of all the rocky canyon descents around Boulder, this is my favorite. I felt in control the whole way. Step. Plant. Pivot. Go. Hit the mouth of Fern and turned it up a notch. On the gravel road sections I was running 5:40s and just feeling great. Hit the Cragmore Cragmoor turn-off and cruised down the steps, hit the pavement and immediately jumped in the truck to head home to pick up jP and CP.

Feeling it.

2,675 feet of elevation gain.

Saddle - 30 minutes
Summit - 45:19 (PR - second time on this route)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Perfect Fall Run: Pike National Forest - Roxborough and More

Explored some buffed out trails connecting the Pike National Forest, Douglas County Open Space Properties and Roxborough State Park.

Time: 3:08
Distance: 18:39
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Sunny and warm

Up early to get one in before the day started. The weatherman billed today as the "calm before the storm," so I knew I wanted to get out and explore some new ground while the weather was still cooperating.

I dug into the memory banks for ideas, finally hitting on some of the trails above Waterton Canyon (which is closed through the end of the year for maintenance on the Strontia Springs Reservoir about seven miles up the canyon). From past runs, I knew trails connected into Waterton from nearby Roxborough State Park.

I called the park hotline and heard a recording saying the park didn't open until 9 a.m. in October. Fearing there would be a closed gate, I poured over a couple maps and found the Indian Creek area in the Pike National Forest, a number of miles southwest of Roxborough.

The maps showed a network of trails accessible off the Indian Creek Trail, which starts at the closed-for-the-season campground. Perfect.

I got to the trailhead, located up Highway 67 about 10 miles west of Sedalia, a little after 7:30 a.m. and was soon headed into the woods on the Indian Creek Trail.  I carried with me a 10-year-old Trails Illustrated map of the area, which quickly proved useless. Virtually none of the trails in the area appeared to be on the map. And, the map showed none of the Douglas County-owed open space parcels that form a ring around much of the southern part of Roxborough, linking that area to the trails in the Pike National Forest.

After about 1.6 miles, the trail dumped out on a closed dirt road at a trail junction. None of these trails were on the map, so I made a guess...a good one, turns out. 

I started cruising east on the Ringtail Trail and ended up in a Douglas County Open Space property.  The trail undulated a bit, following a ridge line. The trail was virtually rock-free...just fast singletrack dirt. Glorious. Ran a couple miles at a sub-7 pace and it felt easy. From the ridge, I had great fews down onto the stunning red rock formations of Roxborough. Soon the trail was dropping down a north ridge through a forest of gambel oak, still holding some of their red fall colors. The trail dropped down into the grasslands below and headed toward a single, large red rock standing like a sentinel over the grassy hills and dales. 

Right about here, I entered Roxborough and ran down a red dirt road through a bit of private land towards the park's visitors center. About .6 miles from the visitors center, I picked up the Carpenter Peak Trail and started climbing the ridge east of the park's well-known rock formations. 

Roxborough State Park - Photo by Bo Insogna
Just past Carpenter Peak, I hit a trail junction with marked trails to the right (where I didn't want to go) and unmarked trails to the left (where my decade-old map indicated I should go). I conferred with a couple of hikers and went left. I was looking for a trail my map said was the Bear Creek Trail. I never found it, but I did come across an unmarked, but well-tracked right which the hikers said was the northern end of the Indian Creek Trail.

I found the intersection, hung a right and started climbing again up a heavily forested ridge. I was flying blind...unmarked trail, dense forest...and so on. Fortuitously, about a half-mile up, I came across an equestrian trailing a pair of horses - a guy I had seen at the trailhead when I started.

I asked him if this was the Indian Creek Trail. Sure enough, I was where I needed to be. The trail climbed another mile and ended a a dirt cul-de-sac near a big powerline tower.  I hung a left and ran three miles up a steady grade to the first trail junction of the day - the place where I had made the right onto the Ringtail Trail. I hung a right off the dirt road onto the singletrack Indian Creek Trail and made quick work of the mile and a half of mostly downhill back to the parking area and the truck.

I was pretty psyched to have put together this loop basically following my nose (and getting a good bit of beta in one spot from a pair of hikers). This is a great loop. The surface is mostly buffed-out dirt single track, save for the three miles of soft dirt road. There's some really fun switch-backing descents and a couple of solid climbs. And, there's lots of options to extend the run with loops in the Sharptail Ridge (there's a .pdf map at that link) area, connections with the Colorado Trail and a couple other trails that looked like they would be fun to explore.

As I was running, I kept thinking what a great area this would be to stage an extended trail race. It would, no doubt, be difficult to get permits from all the land-owning entities in the area, but, man, there is some sweet trails back in there. 

A darn fine day on the trails.

3,068 feet of elevation gain.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Neighborhood - Dedisse Park - Hiwan Hills Loop

Wasn't in the mood for yet another run around Elk Meadow Open Space, so I strung together a mix of bike paths, singletrack and neighborhood side streets.

Time: 1:14
Distance: 8.55 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Cloudy & Cool

Mid-day loop run from the house using the People's Path (How did our fair town manage to name a bike path something so progressive-sounding?), Troutdale neighborhood streets and access in Dedisse Park, Dedisse trails, the trails around Evergreen Lake, the bike path through part of downtown and a collection of neighborhood side streets through the Hiwan HIlls 'hood.

A pleasant outing...nothing special, just some miles to clear the mind and work the body a bit. Didn't care much for all the pavement, but with winter on the way it's a sign of things to come.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View - Again...

Easy, and despite the drizzle, a very enjoyable run through Elk Meadow this morning.

Time: 57 minutes
Distance: 6.55 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Cool and drizzling

I had a feeling yesterday that a better run was due, and it came today. Thankfully. Met Steve F. at the lower lot at Elk Meadow. We ran an extended version of the standard Meadow View loop, adding on a social trail half-loop on the north end of the open space. Our conversation today ran the gamut from Montana conservation to the the Colorado governor's race. Good stuff.  Time flew by, which made neither of us even notice the steady drizzle.

The aspens in the drainages coming off Bergen Peak are still bright yellow. They might survive until Halloween. Let's hope there's no major snow below 10,000 feet between now and then! Tonight will be a true test.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View - Easy

Having a tough time getting motivated these days. Two days off, then yet another easy day on the home loop.

Time: 50 minutes
Distance: 6 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Poor
Weather: Sunny and Kinda Warm

Just an easy late afternoon run around the Meadow View loop at Elk Meadow Open Space. Even after two days off, I just didn't feel like doing much. No doubt the lingering effects of hosting a party at our house last night for the teachers from jP and CP's school had something to do with it. 

Pushed the pace here and there, but the perceived effort was way up. Better runs ahead...I can feel it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fowler - Eldorado Canyon - Walker Ranch

Great late afternoon run complete with vibrant fall colors and a bit of drizzle...all on some of the best trails in the area.

Time: 1:57
Distance: 11 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Cloudy and Cool

Originally planned to do this run first thing in the morning -- even went so far as to drive to the trailhead -- but realized at the last second that I had work commitments early enough that a morning run of this length wasn't in the cards. A little adaptive management resulted in a late afternoon return to the Fowler Trailhead, just east of Eldorado Springs.

Set off jogging up a dirt road, gazing at the beautiful colors of the grasslands to the east and the forests to the west. After a mile-and-a-half, the road joins up with an old narrow gauge railroad grade, the remnants of a two-mile effort in the early 1880s by the Denver, Utah and Pacific Railroad to link South Boulder Creek, presumably, to the rail lines serving the mines and towns to the west. The trail goes through a couple of deep, narrow cuts through rock before emerging at two miles on the road road through Eldorado Springs State Park. 

I ran up the park road and hopped onto the Eldorado Springs Trail and started climbing. After a day off yesterday to give my achin' toe some time to heal up, I was feeling solid. I ran a modest, but steady pace up to the overlook above South Boulder Creek and Walker Ranch. I paused here a while to soak in the views and revel in the stillness.

WIth the low cloud cover, even the expansive views to the west felt compressed, as if everything were within reach. As I stood there, the only sounds I heard were the steady roar of South Boulder Creek making its way down the canyon and a lone sparrow calling from a patch of nearby brush. One of those moments...

With a bit more time for fun and plenty of energy yet to expend, I bounded down the switchbacks into the eastern edge of Boulder County's Walker Ranch Open Space.  I made a quick stop at the creek's edge before turning tail and  retracing my steps back to the truck.

Really felt good this whole run...physically and mentally. Eldorado Canyon is one of those majestic places, and the trail leading over to Walker Ranch is superb...just pure singletrack bliss. Even the light drizzle the last four miles or so was welcome, a sign that something was just clicking today.

Elevation gain: 2,292 feet.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mt. Falcon Open Space - Solid

A pressed, but solid early morning run complete with mucho climbing, a sunrise and remnant fall colors.

Time: 1:46
Distance: 12 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and Cool

Met up with Scott J. and Patrick G. at dark o'clock in the chilled lower parking lot at Mt. Falcon Open Space. Given the early morning wind and darkness, I figured both guys were cursing my out-of-nowhere request that they reschedule their planned 7 a.m. run for 6:30 a.m. (Thanks, guys.)

Things warmed up almost immediately as we started the the steepest climb of the day, which is the early section of the Turkey Trot trail. We climbed steadily, hitting the picnic shelter in something like 33:50 (my watch battery was dead). From there, we climbed up a couple of dead-end trails to pick up some additional vert, then ran up to just below the upper lot.  Here, we hung a left and ran the Parmalee trail.  Due to a day-long Mountain Area Land Trust board retreat, I had to split, leaving Scott and Patrick who still hand another 2.5 hours of running planned.

As I ran hard back down the frontside trails, I was constantly looking at my watch doing the usual mental calculations trying to figure out if I could make it to the retreat on time, given I still had to get home and shower.

I mis-calculated by about three minutes, but at least I showed up in clean clothes and sweet smelling.

Great way to start the day.

The one hang-up, though, is that yesterday I caught the second toe on my right foot on a trampoline net. Hurt like heck. Post-run, the toe was really╦ćhurting and it's now swollen and an ugly shade of purple. Wonder if I broke it...  Damn.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flagstaff Mountain - Plus Some Other Stuff

Got out a bit early to get in some miles before hooking up with the Boulder Trail Runners group for a pack run.

Time: 1:42
Distance: 8.83 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny & Cool

Heard via the Boulder Trail Runners listserv that Andrew Skurka was going to share some stories and pics from his six-month, 4,700-mile Alaska-Yukon Expedition at Sherpa's Restaurant this evening.  So, I cleared the decks and planned to stick around Boulder post-work in order to catch the presentation and get in a few miles.

I got over to Chautauqua around 4:30 p.m. with plans to run for a while and then meet up with the BTR Thursday Happy Hour running group at 5:30 p.m.  Standing in front of the Chautauqua meadow with so many trail options before me I tried to guess what would be the least likely option for a fairly large running group of people with mixed abilities. I was keen on not running the same route twice this evening.  So, I guessed the group was not likely to run up the Flagstaff Trail, so I headed off solo in that direction.

I was feeling pretty good and ran an easy pace up the Flagstaff Trail to its intersection with the Ute Trail near the apex of Flagstaff Mountain.  Hit a spit here in 28:23 and turned around and retraced my steps back to Chautauqua.

The BTR group was already gathering as I ran up. After a quick pit stop for some water, the group of 15 or so runners set off running toward, you guessed it, Gregory Canyon, where the start of the Flagstaff Trail is. I still held out hope that the group would opt for a cruise up the Gregory Canyon Trail, but twas not to be. Up the Flagstaff Trail we went. 

The group quickly split up with three of us well off the front running a steady, but easy pace. The group didn't seem to have a pre-arranged route, so at the first trail junction we stopped to regroup. This would be the theme for the rest of the, stop, run. 

We ran up Flagstaff to Crown Rock (regrouped) and descended down to Gregory Canyon (regrouped). From there, we ran down to the parking lot (regrouped) and headed up the Bluebell Trail and ran a series of trails over to the Mesa Trail (regrouping twice), then three of us ran up Mesa a bit and picked up an extra mile or so on a few trails I'd never run on that eventually led us back to Chautauqua.

It was a lot of fun running with the group, but all the stopping to regroup was a bit much for me. I thought about bailing a few times, but was enjoying running with some new folks just enough to stick with it. Glad I did.

After the run, I headed over to Sherpa's for some Nepalese food (fair) and some $2 pints of local beer (very good).  A crowd of about 40 people turned out to hear about Skurka's adventure. This was the first time he'd given a presentation about his expedition, which he returned from about five weeks ago. He had some great stories and good pics and video. He still has a lot of work to do on the presentation, but he's got a great experience to share.

One video he showed stuck out in my mind. He shot himself sitting under his tarp during a hard rainstorm. He was at the tail-end of the trip, enduring a long stretch of difficult bushwhacking through pure wilderness - a 3 and a half week stretch of no towns, no roads...just wilderness. You could tell from his voice and his thousand-yard-stare that he was walking a razor's edge of emotion. In the video, he was opining on what wilderness in Alaska is compared to what we have here in the lower 48, but his eyes and just-on-the-verge-of-cracking voice told us more about Alaska wilderness than the words. You could tell he was mentally going through a lot of difficulty. Very telling.  Very poignant. If you get a chance, be sure to catch his presentation.

Boulder Daily Camera article on Skurka and his expedition, here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bergen Peak - Upper Loop

A moderately-paced run on the upper loop at Bergen Peak on a perfect fall evening.

Time: 1:20
Distance: 8.65 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny & Cool

From the lower lot at Elk Meadow Open Space, I ran up Painter's Pause to Meadow View, then did the upper loop running up Too Long and down the Bergen Peak Trail. Completed the circle via Meadow View and Sleepy S.

Didn't feet too whippy today...just plugging along with no zip.  Got a weird muscle pull thing going in the area where my right leg meets the pelvis. Been feeling it for several weeks. Not going away. Doesn't affect my running, or much else, but I can feel it when I first start to run, and when I cough while running. Will be keeping an eye on it.

Been reading lots of great reviews of the new NB MT101s. Not really seen before such a buzz about a pair of shoes. Makes me wonder how much of it is good marketing and how much of it is innovation, design and performance. Reckon I'll have to try a pair sometime to know... 

1,755 feet of elevation gain.

The Shortest Run Ever

Ever have one of those days...a day when you think you can fit it all in, scramble like heck to satisfy all parts of your persona, the hard-working employee, the loving spouse, the attentive parent, the engaged community member?

Some days you dodge the crush, other days you get buried. Despite some furious digging, yesterday I got buried.

The day started with a 5:30 a.m. alarm, set that early so I could get up, get ready and head off to Boulder in time to get in a solid pre-work run (I went to bed the night before with visions of an early morning atop Bear Peak). The only problem was the steady rain that was pounding the Denver/Boulder area until mid-morning. Fine, I thought, I'll start work early and get in a run on the way home.  Perfect plan.

Whoops. Very busy day at work. Fine. I'll work later than planned and JP can pick up the kids. Hold on, JP came down with the crud and left work early to convalesce. She needs to stay in bed and rest.

Plan C. - leave work just a bit early, squeeze in a short run on the way home. Perfect plan.  There's several trailheads literally right off of Highway 93, my commuting route.

I timed things pretty well and got to the Greenbelt Plateau trailhead right around 4 p.m. I had enough time to run and pick up the kids.  So, off I went at around a 6:40 pace through the yellow grasses on the rolling High Plains Trail. Three minutes in I suddenly remember that CP had play practice after school and it ended early.

I stopped in the middle of the trail, put my hand on my chin and started thinking. After a solid minute of pondering I realized there was no way I could finish the run and pick up CP and jP on time.  So, I high-tailed it back to the truck, jumped in and raced off.  Three-quarters of a mile run.  .75. My all-time shortest run.

I did managed to pick up the kids on time, dropped jP off at home, took CP to piano lessons (grabbed a slice of pizza while she was with her teacher), dropped her off at home and then raced (late again) to a meeting of a foundation board that I'm a member of.  Ridiculous.

I am a big believer in the value of actually putting runs on one's calendar so it's reserved time. I don't always do it, but know that I should.  Yesterday was Exhibit A of why one should purposefully block off time to run...or just suck it up and run in the rain.