Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Jogging

Easy early afternoon jog around Elk Meadow Open Space.

Distance: 7.2 miles
Time: 1:04
Effort: Easy
Body:  Fair
Weather:  Sunny and warm(ish)

Completely uninteresting (compared to what, oh Exciting One!?) jog around the Meadow View loop at Elk Meadow Open Space.  Ran today with Steve F.  Definitely feeling the effects today of a series of lunges I did post-run yesterday. My ass glutes is are sore! Reminds me of how badly I need to get back to the gym now and then. That's what winter's for, I guess.

The easy pace had me looking around at a summer's worth of trail impacts.

The crushed gravel Painter's Pause trail, which already was a good four feet across and smooth, now has a hard dirt singletrack trail running alongside it, separated from the main trail by about three inches of grass.  Seeing that got me to wondering...why do people walk on the side of perfectly good, smooth, well-maintained trails?  Surely I'm not the only one that likes single track singletrack, am I?  Don't other people hate seeing braided trails?  Don't others' hearts sing when they see a single ribbon of dirt heading off through a meadow, over a hill or across a vast stretch of tundra?  Am I in the minority on this?

Which leads me to another question I've been wondered about for a while.  Why are there not regular volunteer trail days at individual JeffCo Open Space parks?  (I know they have occasional volunteer days  here and there, such as the recent one at North Table Mountain.) Elk Meadow has a resident ranger. That park is the centerpiece of North Evergreen.  Surely there are many people like me that would jump at the opportunity to donate some sweat equity several times a year to our beloved trails system.

820 feet o' elevation gain.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday Tempo on Wednesday

I like alliteration, so I'm sticking with the Tuesday tempo run, even if I have to do it on Wednesday.

Distance: 8.2 miles
Time: 58:44
Effort: Hard
Body: Fair
Weather:  Sunny & Cool

Last week was the first decent week of consistent running since the mysterious neuropathy issue popped up following the mid-June San Juan Solstice 50.  It wasn't a big week mileage-wise, but it felt solid with six days on the trails.  It looked like this:  53.76 miles; 11:30; 12,578 feet o' elevation gain.

Following Sunday's 24-miler in the Lost Creek Wilderness, I was pretty whooped. Took Monday off to recover a bit. Ended up taking Tuesday off as well due to work/family schedule issues.  So, time to get after it a bit today.

Headed over to Teller Farms in Boulder to get in a bit of turn-over at a tempo effort.  The plan was to run tempo for 45 minutes.

Parked at the lot off of Arapahoe and started quick right off the bat due to time constraints.  I must admit to still feeling the effects of the Sunday run...even with two days off. The fitness is still proving to be elusive.

Did my best to hold a tempo pace along the old farm roads, past lakes, cows and fields.  Hit Valmont Road and ran a quarter mile west and picked up the continuation of the trail and proceeded on until about the four-mile mark.

Turned around and continued the tempo effort (if not pace) up to the 47-minute mark in the run (the extra two minutes to make up for a brief bathroom stop and having to wait on a flagman on Valmont Road (the whole road is being re-done).

Never felt good on the run, but got it done. Perfect running temps.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Add This to Your Must-Run Loops List

The Goose Creek Loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness Area should be on every Colorado trail runner's to-do list, especially in the fall. Spectacular scenery, great trails and a decent amount of elevation gain.

Distance: 24.27 miles
Time: 6:16
Effort: Easy
Body: Poor
Weather: Perfect - sunny and cool

I've been eyeing the Lost Creek Wilderness Area for a long run for a couple of years now. It's a rare low-elevation wilderness area (8,000 - 12,400 feet), standing in stark contrast to many Colorado wilderness areas dominated by alpine habitat types. Plus, the LCWA is just a hop, skip and a jump from the Denver metro area.  The LCWA was created by Congress in 1980 and is comprised of 120,000 acres (187.5 square miles).

On Friday I did a little online research, typing "Lost Creek Wilderness Area, loop" into Google. Out spit the Goose Creek Loop, which begins and ends at the Goose Creek Trailhead near Deckers.  I saw a few pics from several backpacking reports and I was sold.

I was up and out of the house by about 5:20 a.m. on Sunday, bound for Goose Creek. By sunrise, I was driving up a washboarded dirt road through the Hayman fire burn area above Cheeseman Reservoir.  (The 2002 Hayman Fire burned 138,000 acres.) The trailhead is about 12 miles from pavement on a very windy, but good (washboarded sections notwithstanding) Forest Service road.
Sunrise over the Hayman burn area en route to Goose Creek Trailhead.
There were a half-dozen cars in the large parking lot when I arrived, but no one was stirring. I figured the cars belonged to backpackers.  With the rising sun casting a red glow on the Tarryall Mountains ahead, I set off down a buff, crushed granite-covered trail.  The initial quarter mile winds through a burned section of forest.

Let the fun begin!
After that quarter mile, the loop begins with a choice. Go left up the forested Hankins Pass Trail, or right up the Goose Creek Trail. I figured any trail with "pass" in it's name would indicate climbing, so I figured I'd do that section first. Turns out, it was a good choice. I definitely recommend running this loop clockwise.

Typical Hankins Pass Trail scene - aspen, meadows and coniferous forests.
 The Hankins Pass Trail heads up Hankins Gulch, repeatedly (at least in the opening couple of miles) crosses a small (unnamed on my map - Hankins Creek?) creek. At 4.5 miles is the first trail junction of the day.

At the junction, I hung a right on the Lake Park Trail, which climbed steadily up and over a few humps offering great views to the northwest into South Park.

South Park in the far distance.
 After a couple miles, one enters the trail's namesake, Lake Park, an open meadow surrounded by mountains and granite outcroppings.

Lake Park. The sign reads "Lake Park.  Elevation 10,880 feet."
 After a bit of downhill through Lake Park, the trail climbs again to a saddle filled with amazing slabs of granite - a mere hint of the scenery to come.  I think this saddle was the day's high-point at something like 11K feet and change.

I'd be running down the distant valley above in another hour or so.
 From the saddle, the trail dropped down a north-facing, snow-covered slope. This was the only real snow I encountered all day.

Lake Fork Trail down a north-facing slope.
After the snow-covered descent, one hits another trail junction.

My NatGeo/Trails Illustrated map says I should have hit the McCurdy Trail, rather than Brookside.  The map shows Brookside ending at an intersection further south with the "McCurdy Trail." Still, it was easy to figure out that I needed to turn right, regardless of the trail's name.  (UPDATE: Map shows the trail as "Brookside-McCurdy Trail.")

From the junction, the trail winds through some heavily treed area and then emerges in McCurdy Park, another open meadow with a creek ambling through. This meadow was gorgeous, with big rock outcroppings out in its middle. Off to the right were other amazing rock formations, including an ominous looking granite sawtooth, the McCurdy Park Tower, which the maps marks as a climbing location.

McCurdy Park Tower
McCurdy Park.
McCurdy Park. Log cabin ruins at base of granite rock outcropping.
After McCurdy Park, the trail switchbacks down the eastern side of a long valley. The sounds of falling water are all around as the creek that flows through McCurdy Park tumbles down to meet up with Lost Creek at the valley's bottom.  Lost Creek, the wilderness area's namesake, gets its name because it "disappears" a couple dozen times beneath the ubiquitous granite and reappears again downstream. Once Lost Creek emerges from the valley and all the granite, it becomes Goose Creek.

As one gets near the bottom of the valley, the views open up and the most sublime scenery of the trip unfold below. This area feel unworldly, or at least un-Colorado. It sorta feels like Utah, with granite instead of sandstone. Big rocks. Canyons. Incredible.  It was here that I saw my first people of the run, two backpackers who were shocked (!) to learn I was running their multi-day loop in far less than a day.

There were a lot of yellow left on the aspens, but the leaves were falling fast.

A spot on Lost Creek where the creek emerges from granite near Refrigerator Gulch
There are lots of places where small tunnels or arches are created by the haphazardly placed rocks and boulders. 

From the head of the valley down which Lost Creek flows, the trail initially hugs close to the creek. Soon, though, the trail climbs the north side of the valley to get around major rock outcroppings.  It drops and rises multiple times, quickly padding the elevation gain totals.

After several miles, the Goose Creek Trail enters from the north and the McCurdy Trail ends.  After several more miles of ups and downs now on the Goose Creek Trail, one passes a trail spur that leads down towards the creek to some historic buildings, the remnants of a failed attempt to dam the creek (the area dodged a bullet there!).  I by-passed the buildings due to time and flagging energy.

Once past the spur, the trail opens up and follows an old (wagon?) road bed, the grade and surface of which reminded me of the Bob's Road section of the Barr Trail.

Soon, the trail dropped back down to the creek, flattened out and suggested the homestretch was near.

Sure enough, after crossing a solid footbridge over Goose Creek, I re-entered a Hayman fire burned section and soon was standing at the Goose Creek/Hankins Pass trail sign. Another quarter mile climb and I was exiting the wilderness area.

Looking back down toward the Goose Creek/Hankins Pass junction.
This has got to be one of the best long trail loop runs I've done in Colorado. Sure, it doesn't have the grandeur and high altitude of the Four Pass Loop in the Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness, but it has such unique scenery that it should be on the list of any Colorado trail runner.  And, fall has got to be the absolute best time to run here. When I was there, the aspens were a week or so past peak, but still spectacularly ablaze with color. I strongly recommend running this one!

My legs today had no pep and I walked a LOT more than I normally would, plus I had an hour of picture-taking/scenery gazing/bathroom breaks.  So, a more reasonable run time would easily be in the five-hour range.

Pikes Peak was visible at several places on the run. This pic from the road on the drive back to pavement.
There's still time to hit this one before the snow flies. 

5,840 feet o' elevation gain.

Friday, October 14, 2011


"May I see your registration and driver's license, please"

This guy was roadside as I drove the kids to school this morning.  He was standing along Bergen Peak Drive, about 1/4 mile from the house.  He was keeping watch over 10 or so cows, who were on the left side of the car grazing on the other side of the road.

Beats dealing with road rage-filled drivers on I-25!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Red and Green

Red and Green?  The question a waiter asks when you order enchiladas?  Nope.  Shorthand for the last two days of running.

Wednesday - Red

Distance:  6 miles
Time:  54 minutes
Effort:  Hard(ish)
Body: Average
Weather: Sunny and warm

Afternoon run squeezed in between work and family stuff.  I was pressed for time and figured I could squeeze in a run right off I-70. So, I pulled off and parked in the park-and-ride just west of the hogback.

I headed up a steep trail to the ridge line of the hogback and started heading south on the rugged, very-rocky trail.  I figured I had enough time to loop over to Red Rocks, pick up the Red Rocks Trail and cruise back to the car via Matthew Winters Open Space.

I dropped down off the hogback on a now-closed paved road and ran over to Red Rocks.  I forgot I had about another mile of road running to get to the trail that would lead me back north. Now I was going to be late.

What was supposed to be an easy-paced effort quickly morphed into a tempo effort run up around the Fountain Formation rock outcropping and up to the Red Rocks Trail.  Once on the trail, the real cruising began as the trail flattens out with some easy undulation.

Made it back to the car about 10 minutes behind schedule.  Nothing some creative driving couldn't cure.

879 feet o' elevation gain.

Thursday - Green

Distance:  6.02 miles
Time:  1:19
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather:  Sunny and warm

Looked at the day's calendar on the way into Boulder and realized the only chance I'd have to run was first thing in the morning (gotta remember that for the future...who knew?).  So, I hung a left at Baseline and soon was parking at Chautauqua and gazing up at Green Mountain.

I had hoped to run the loop up Bear Canyon to the top of Green and down the backside, but there wasn't time.  Instead, I opted to head up the frontside and down the back.

I took it easy on the ascent, knowing there was no point in punishing myself after the last two days of fairly hard running.  Hiked a lot, ran the flattish stuff.  Tagged the summit marker in about 41 and change.

Had a really nice time on the descent. Weather/temps were perfect.  Surprisingly, I came across a lot of uncommunicative, grumpy hikers.  Decided it must have been Dour Day on Green today.

Great way to start the day.

2,506 feet o' elevation gain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One of Those Runs...

Yesterday was one of those days out on the trails.  You know the kind...a day when the leg muscles feel way more impressive than they are...when one's endurance feels limitless...when you look forward to the hard parts...and time seems to fly by way too fast.  Yesterday was one of those days.

Distance:  6.46 miles
Time:  54 minutes
Effort:  Hard
Body:  Good
Weather:  Sunny and cool

I left the house planning on a hard effort.  I jogged about a mile to Elk Meadow Open Space and up the spur from the lower lot to the Painter's Pause Trail.  At the junction, I started five miles of alternating one minute hard, one minute easy.

The first couple hard minutes felt...hard, but soon I was in a rhythm and the hard minutes felt good and the easy minutes were simply time gaps between the fun stuff.  A few times I was tempted to keep rolling with the hard pace and skip the easy, but managed to stick with the plan for the 45 minutes (or so) of the 1/h x 1/e.

Ran an extended version of the Meadow View loop and finished up with a c/d jog through an adjacent neighborhood and down the hillside behind the house.  Had an enthusiastic greeting from Maya and Cisco, who were rambling around the newly-fenced backyard.

Felt just great after the run, as well.  One of those days...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Fun

This was a tough week for running.  Let's just say the work/life balance was non-existant this week.  Any breaks I took from work were for post-school day family stuff.  One and two a.m. bed times were the norm.  As a result, I didn't run Mon. - Thurs.  I can't remember a time when I missed four days due to work/family commitments.

The days off were made more difficult given the fabulous weather and the knowledge that it couldn't last.

And, it didn't.

We got the first snow of the year yesterday up here at 7,600 feet in the foothills.  jP burst into our room around 7 a.m. yesterday morning proclaiming loudly, "It snowed!"

While I was grinning from groggy ear to groggy ear at his enthusiasm, I can't say I was glad to see the snow.

Thankfully, I got out Friday around 4 p.m. in the sun for a dash around the upper loop on Bergen Peak (8.2 miles; 1,631 feet o' elevation gain).  Maya was along for the ride and showed no ill effects from her running lay-off.  She was bounding ahead and exploring at will, easily adding another mile or so to her day.

After a Saturday morning of snow, the sun finally came out around mid-day, which was enough encouragement to get me our for an extended version of the Meadow View Loop at Elk Meadow Open Space (6.3 miles, 820 feet o' elevation gain).

This morning, I was up a bit early to meet up with David W. for a run at Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space.  We started easy from the lower parking lot and ran the eastern loop through the old Blair Ranch property and over to Elephant Butte, a Denver Mountain Park property.

We picked our way up the well-defined trail to the hump's summit.  We spent a good 10 minutes soaking up the SPECTACULAR views to the west of the Mt. Evans group.  Perfect morning.

We finished up with a couple more miles on the Alderfer trail system before piling back into the cars and getting on with the non-running parts of our days (6.2 miles, 1,597 feet o' elevation gain).

A few pics from the morning:

Early morning view of Evergreen Lake with mist rising.
Obligatory summit pic atop Elephant Butte with Mt. Evans in the distance.
The Mt. Evans Group. 
Bergen Peak.
Looking south to Evergreen Mountain with upper Alderfer meadow in the foreground.
Elephant Butte from upper Alderfer meadow.
View of the Three Sisters rock formations from the upper meadow at Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space
Hoping to get back into more regular posting here.