Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mt. Falcon - Ups

Solid run up the big climb from the lower lot, then sort of dragged myself around a big loop up top.

Time: 1:45
Distance: 10.3 miles
Body: Good
Effort: Hard
Weather: Warm and sunny

Heading over to Mt. Falcon in Morrison from an appointment in Englewood, I had that feeling indicating a good run was in the cards.

After lacing up the shoes, and setting off up the Castle Trail, it was confirmed...I was feeling pretty good. I hung a right on the Turkey Trot Trail and wound my way up through the early steep stuff. Still feeling good. I cruised up Turkey Trot to the intersection with the Castle Trail. Hit a split here - 19:20. Maybe I could PR the climb from the lower lot to the picnic structure.

I was focused on quick turn-over and a short stride, whizzing right by a half-dozen mountain bikers on the way up. Ran hard up the last switchback to the picnic shelter and looked down at the watch - 32:32. Not a PR.  I was 1:13 off of my best, which is 31:19, set a while back when I was chasing Scott Jaime up that climb. Still, given the last couple of months of modest-at-best running, I was happy to feel good up that long (actually, just three miles - and 1,400 o' elevation gain) climb.

From the picnic shelter, I ran a bit more up the Castle Trail, took a left on the Meadow Trail and ran a big loop via the Parmalee and Castle Trails (counter-clockwise).  I definitely mis-judged the length of the Parmalee Trail and ended up being out there far longer than planned. The last 1.5 miles (or so) down Turkey Trot were tough (and slow) in the fading light, especially since I was still wearing prescription sunglasses.

I'm still shooting for a sub-30 to the picnic shelter. I'm going to get that by the time the snow flies.

2,172 feet o' elevation gain.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge and the Week That Was

Great time today watching the pro cycling parade of color whoosh by up on Lookout Mountain in Golden. A nice capstone to a solid week of running.

It wasn't until about 10 a.m. this morning when I decided to head over to the Lookout Mountain area to catch a bit of the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge race. I've been watching each stage on Versus (thanks to whomever invented the DVR!). Time to see some of the action up close.

I parked over at the Mt. Vernon Country Club, about 3/4 of a mile from the junction of Lookout Mountain Road and Highway 40, both on the race's route today. I ran pretty hard about 3.5 miles to the King of the Mountains arch, then another half-mile to get down into the crowds. I figured if I was going to watch the race, I should do so among the rabid throngs that line the climbs.

I wasn't disappointed. The vibe was great, the crowd seemingly vibrating with anticipation. As the racers appeared below (great view of the switchbacks below from our vantage point), the spectators limbered up. There was the guy in the gorilla suit and viking helmet, a couple of guys in the now-ubiquitous Speedos, a few guys with their chests painted, a Gumby, a banana and a whole bunch of regular folks out on a beautiful morning watching a first-rate athletic event. Good stuff.

Proof that evolution continues.
I had to tell this guy that the racers were coming from the other direction.
Much waiting for a few seconds of excitement as racers whiz by.
King of the Mountains arch, post-race.
Here's a couple of videos. The first is the leaders blowing by. The second is what was left of the main peloton.

The week that was:

Monday:  Matthew Winters/Red Rocks/Hogback - 1:19, 6.75 miles, 1,182 feet o' elevation gain. Tough day in the heat. Bonked hard.

Tuesday:  Apex Open Space - 1:20, 8.3 miles, 1,210 feet o' elevation gain. Still hot, but was fueled and carrying water. Solid climbing. Good day in the heat.

Wednesday:  Evergreen Mountain - 54 minutes, 5.68 miles, 1,052 feet o' elevation gain. Nice evening dog run. Had to use headlamp for last mile or two. Maya led the way on the climb. Perfect running temps.

Thursday:  Elk Meadow Open Space - 42 minutes 5.18 miles, 579 feet o' elevation gain. Squeezed this one in post-land trust board meeting and dinner.  Nice jog.  Followed it up with short dog park jog with Maya and Cisco.

Friday:  Off

Saturday:  Eccles Pass Loop - 3:51, 15.07 miles, 4,049 feet o' elevation gain. So great to be back in the high country running. Eager to get out into the hills again soon.

Sunday:  Lookout Mountain Road - 1:03, 7.31 miles, 671 feet o' elevation gain. Road run in the heat. Ran solid in both directions. On the out, I was driven by the desire to make sure I found a good vantage point before the riders appeared. Turned out I had plenty of time. Run back was harder (and hotter...thermometer in the truck said 87 degrees...and that's at 7,200 feet!

Totals:  49.23 miles in 9:29 with 8,854 feet o' elevation gain.

A solid re-building week. Very glad to feel like I'm getting back into things.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Eccles Pass Loop - Eagles Nest Wilderness

This run had it all...gorgeous high country scenery, acres of colorful wildflowers, a hornets nest and a blood-covered mountain man. What else could one want in a 15-mile wilderness trail run?

Time: 3:51
Distance: 15.07 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Mostly sunny

A week or so I go, I saw a message on the Boulder Trail Runners listserv from Charles Danforth about a run he did in the Eagles Nest Wilderness in the Gore Range.  The route, at a relatively modest 15 miles, promised spectacular high country scenery, some wilderness solitude and was only 40 minutes from home.

All that came as advertised, however I got a few bonus items, including a trailside hornets nest and the a blood-covered mountain man.

The route was the Eccles Pass Loop. After a bit more research, I found a post from Woody about his run around the same route. He too sang the loop's praises. I have been itching to get into them thar hills for some adventure, so with Woody and Charles' descriptions flitting about in my head, I decided to get up early and head to the Gores.

These signs always make my heart go pitter-patter!

I hit the trailhead around 6:40 a.m. and was soon off running up the Meadow Creek Trail. The plan was to run the loop counter-clockwise, so I took a right at the Lily Pad Lake Trail junction and made my way though much beetle-killed lodgepole to the namesake lake.  It wasn't much to look at, but it certainly was an appropriately named body of water.

Lily Pad Lake - Eagles Nest Wilderness

After passing the lake, the trail continues on through dense forest, leaving the wilderness area, and dumps one out on a water storage tank service road. After a few minutes of head-scratching, trying to figure out how I could be on the edge of a residential neighborhood, I headed downhill onto a short stretch of asphalt and quickly found the Buffalo Cabin Trail trailhead.  Soon, I came upon a sign gave me pause. After a quick map check, I hung a left and started climbing an old mining road. Before long, the singletrack began and the real climbing started as the rocky trail switchbacked steeply upwards. After five minutes or so, I came across a pair of hikers who politely informed me that I was climbing Buffalo Mountain, not cruising over to the Gore Range Trail.  Glad I stumbled across those astute map readers or I would have added far more than just a couple hundred extra feet of elevation gain to my day. I realized that while I looked at my map at the last trail junction, I didn't actuallyread the darn thing.

Back down I went, headed to the last trail junction where I hung a left onto the Willow Creek Trail, which was very rocky and dropped very steeply down to Willow Creek.  Soon, I was at the Gore Range Trail junction, where I started climbing up along Willow Creek.

First stop:  Willow Creek Falls (just 50 yards off the trail - worth a quick stop!).

Willow Creek Falls

From the falls, the trail climbs steeply for a bit, then eases some and winds its way in and out of forest before things finally start to open up. As the meadows begin to get bigger, one can see a ridge looming above that promises something special. But wait, there's much to distract the runner before the ridge...the wildflowers! The place was a palette of color, with yellows, purples and reds everywhere.

The wildflowers were exploding with color.


After one final stretch of climbing, I crested a small ridge and was treated to the perfect alpine basin...bursting, yet again, with wildflowers, ringed by rugged peaks and embracing a number of small tarns. Spectacular.

Heading west toward Eccles Pass.

The first unnamed (at least on my map) lake I came to. Red Mountain (?) in the background.

Same lake from above. Buffalo Pass is that low spot in the center left of the pic.

A second unnamed lake just below Eccles Pass - the low spot in the pic's center.

Looking east to Buffalo Mountain.

Buffalo Mountain and Willow Creek Valley, the route I came up.

The final stretch up to Eccles Pass.

Once at the top of Eccles Pass, the views to the west were just as dramatic, with the rugged Gore Range to the north and west, Copper Mountain Resort to the west and range after range visible in the distance.  Here's a video panorama from the top of the pass:

Looking west from Eccles Pass

Looking back up toward Eccles Pass from the west side after descending.

Trail sign down in the west side meadows.

As I came around a bend approaching a copse of trees, I was surprised to run into this guy. Turns out, today was the first day of bow hunting season and he'd already dropped a bull elk.  I ran into him just as he was returning to camp with a trophy "for the barn." He'd butchered the elk up in the trees, hung about 300 pounds of meat and was headed back to camp to get his horse to haul it out.

The fruits of a day's hunt.

I spent about 15 minutes chatting with the guy and learning a bit about elk bow hunting. Turns out he had a couple of look-out spots where he'd caught glimpses of several moose, some mountain goats, a herd of deer and a small group of bull elk, including the unlucky one that met his fate today. The guy was fascinating to talk to, very friendly and a font of outdoors wisdom. 

Butchering an elk is bloody business.
After the surprise conversation, I continued on downhill, winding my way through trees, over small streams and, finally, down a long old mining road back toward Frisco and the trail's end. For some reason, I couldn't get the movie Jeremiah Johnson - one of my all time favorite flicks - out of my head.

There was one more surprise, though, left. This time in the form of a basketball-sized hornets nest, literally, right next to the trail. I stopped for a couple of pics before running (fast) on down the trail.

These things just give me the chills.

A solid day in the hills. This is a great loop. The early slogs through the dense lodgepole forests are a bit uninspiring, but knowing that the gorgeous alpine meadows up high await is more than enough to propel one forward. Also, there are several options to add some mileage, if one desires, such as cruising up and checking the views from Buffalo Pass before heading onto to Eccles Pass.

4,049 feet o' elevation gain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Building Back

I've definitely been feeling better of late as the effects of the out-of-nowhere brachial plexus neuropathy continues receding and the body does its repair work. My muscle strength is slowly returning (such that it was) and my endurance is showing signs of revival.

The best runs of the last few weeks definitely were a pair of runs done in the Big Ivy area of Western North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. There is a Forest Service road, located about four miles from my father-in-law's place (Pop-pop's Farm), that climbs from the valley bottom up through a dense forest to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The road is the perfect grade...steep enough to guarantee a very solid workout, but very runnable.  The two times I set foot on the road, I felt the best I've felt since late June.

Of the two runs there, the best was an early morning 12-mile jaunt with Rick M., who calls Asheville home.  It was great meeting Rick and spending a few hours together, telling stories, getting to know one-another and enjoying the shaded uphill climb we shared. All told we were out for just under 2 hours, ran 12.32 miles and climbed 2,280 feet by my watch.  Many thanks, Rick, for coming out!

Just inside the national forest boundary. Let the uphill running begin!
 While in Carolina, I got in another run just outside of Asheville on the Mountains to Sea Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This gem of a trail was located just a couple of blocks from where JP was getting some bodywork done. Worked out perfectly...she get's adjusted and I get in ten miles and 1,100 feet of elevation gain.  (Thanks, Rick, for the recommendation and directions!)

Every farm needs a swing.
The view from the front porch toward the Big Ivy area where Rick and I ran. Note the rainbow.
Once back home, the greatest challenge to running has been the late-summer schedule. Between work, school starting and out-of-town guests, it's been hard to find the time to get out. Well, there's one other thing that's been messing with my (our) schedule.  This guy:

Even Cisco was digging North Carolina
One dog just wasn't enough. Enter Cisco, an Australian shepherd.  He joined our clan just before the trip to North Carolina (and went along with us, sleeping soundly in a carrying case beneath the middle seat on our Southwest Airlines flight). This is the first puppy I've had since college. I forgot how much work they are. Seems like a new baby was easier. Can't wait until the potty training is complete. It's only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like months. Must be the regular 6 a.m. wake up whines. Thankfully, he and Maya are getting along swell.

Maya and Cisco ride again!
On another front, I put together a "Beers of Colorado" barrel as my contribution to a silent auction at a recent Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT) event here in Evergreen. It was a lot of fun gathering a solid collection of bombers, six packs and more from breweries around the state. The collection netted something like $160 to support open space conservation in Jefferson, Clear Creek and Park Counties. It was a little hard to let all that great beer go, but it was for a great cause. Check out's a great organization doing great work here in the foothills and beyond.

The Beers of Colorado barrel.
I'm now focused on getting back into some consistency on the running front. Had a terrible run at Matthew Winters/Red Rocks/Hogback on Monday. Running in 85-degree heat at 10 a.m., with no water and not having eaten was a poor decision. I bonked like I haven't bonked in years. I was walking some short, steep climbs on the Hogback that I haven't had to walk before.  On Tuesday, I got out for 8.3 miles in JeffCo's Apex Open Space. It was hot again (90+ degrees), but I was fueled and had a bottle of water with me. Huge difference.

On another note, I sent in my formal notice to the Bear 100 folks that I was to be a DNS this year. Fortunately, they have a pretty generous refund policy - all but $25 to be returned, according to the Web site. I hope to have that race on my calendar again next year.

In the meantime, I am really feeling the need to get something on the calendar...something to motivate me to get out there on a MUCH more consistent basis. Time to start looking at the options...

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


The nerve damage healing continues...bit-by-bit, cell-by-cell, myelin bit-by-myelin bit. Too bad the body doesn't piece things together as quickly as they can be broken.  Still, I'm getting out for pretty regular runs, missing a few days here and there due to intense scheduling challenges of late.

I formally gave my notice to the Pikes Peak Marathon folks that I was out for the year and would etch my first DNS down there. My running streak for those races ends at four years. Got a nice note back from Matt Carpenter. I replied asking what his race plans were. Not surprisingly, the e-mail exchange ended there. Guess we'll have to wait 'til race day to see if he toes the line yet again. I hope so.  Matt's been sighted running hard up the Barr, we'll see.

Most of the runs of late have been local, but had a couple highlights in the last week, including a beautiful circuit in the Mt. Evans State Wildlife Management Area and adjacent Mt. Evans Wilderness Area.  This run was just a bit over eight miles with 1,577 feet o' elevation gain on a very hot day.  Fortunately, all the creeks and springs kept Maya sated and ready to roll.

Making our way through a meadow on the Indian Creek Trail

These trails don't get much traffic

A bit of shade in a park-like meadow in the Mt. Evans State Wildlife Management Area

Take your pick.


Sublime II

Bear Creek ain't just for bears
Thanks to another challenging day schedule-wise yesterday, I ran my first double in many moons...three here (Mt. Vernon/Beaver Brook) and there (North Table Mountain).  Each run was just over three miles with a combined total of about 1,300 feet o' elevation gain.  And, man, it was hot!

Hard to believe this is so close to Golden/Arvada.

Looking east with downtown Denver in the distance.

Brand-spanking new single track on the mesa top. Still has the tracks on it from trail-building equipment.

The flowers are digging all the afternoon rain showers.
Heading out for a week of travel. Hoping to get in some miles in the mountains of Western North Carolina.