Friday, July 29, 2011

Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge

Ean and I have been talking for a while about how fun it would be to have a Fort Collins Trail Runner camping trip and run and after my trip on the CT last summer, I thought running part of the trail would be a great group run adventure.  Last month, Ean and I looked at the calendar, found a good date, decided on Segment 6 of the CT and sent out an email to the group:

Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge Trail Run

Ean and I are planning to make this happen on July 26.  The plan is to drive to Kenosha Pass on Monday July 25 and camp at the trailhead that night.  On Tuesday July 26, we'll break camp and I, along with anyone that wants to join me, will run segment 6 of the Colorado Trail from Kenosha, over Georgia Pass and down to the Goldhill trailhead in Breckenridge.  This is a 33 mile stretch with about 4500 feet of elevation gain and a lot of beautiful trail.  Meanwhile, Ean will drive to Breckenridge with anyone who would like to join her, park at the trailhead and run back to meet us.  We'll all regroup at the trailhead Tueday afternoon, get something to eat, and then head home.  Let me know if you're interested in joining us for this trip and we can start to work out details.  Nothing like summer on the trails in Colorado.

I immediately got several replies from interested runners.  This is one of the things I love about the group of people I am so privileged to run with - there are always people ready for some great adventure big or small.  Last week a few more wonderful people signed on to join the fun and on Monday afternoon we headed out to Kenosha Pass.

When Ean, Mary, Brian S. and I got to the campground, Brian W. and family, Celeste (fresh off 150+ miles of the Courage Classic Bike Tour) and Mindy (straight from running, road riding and mtn. biking all weekend) were already there.  The campground was pretty quiet (a benefit of camping on a Monday), it was cool and cloudy (a great relief after a week of 95+ degree weather in Fort Collins) and the air was filled with the delicious piny smell of the mountains.  After setting up our tent, we all went out for a short pre dinner walk back along Segment 5 of the CT, admired the wild flowers and read some of the railroad and mining history of the area.

photo by Mindy
We all enjoyed a camp dinner of pasta, fajitas, beer and s'mores around the campfire then headed off to sleep. 

We started out the day Tuesday with coffee and a healthy breakfast and hit the trail,
Pop Tarts (actually I think Mary is eating a banana)

photo by Ean
The run was beautiful and challenging.  The trail was in great shape and the CT markers are frequent enough to prevent getting lost.  The weather really couldn't have been better.  There were high clouds all day and just a bit of light rain.  The temps probably stayed in the 60's and maybe dipped down to 50 on the top of Georgia Pass.  I felt pretty good on the 6 mile, 2000' vertical feet climb up to the pass and Brian S. (who was celebrating his 29th birthday) and I kept up a pretty steady pace.  We made it to the top (about 12 miles in and an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet) in under two and half hours and stopped for a bit to enjoy the view.

Brian S. on the final approach to Georgia Pas

Taking in the view
After the pass, we had nearly 5 miles of nice downhill on sweeping switchbacks down to the Swan River.  There was a minor trail reroute here due to some major beetle kill logging but it was not a problem.  At mile 20 we hit the second and final big climb of the day.  It was over 1000' in under two miles so Brian and I opted to hike most of it.  It rained a bit as we ran along the top of the ridge.  I stopped and ate half my PB&J and thought about the final 13 miles into Breckenridge, glad that it was mostly downhill.  The next few miles were more sweeping downhill switchbacks and we moved along here pretty well despite having tired legs.  Brian and I were both running pretty low on water at this point having skipped past the last stream at the bottom of the climb, but we figured we could make it another couple miles and hoped to where we hoped we would find some water.  Thank goodness the day remained cool.

By mile 24-25 I was hoping/expecting to run into Ean and Mindy who had taken down the camp at Kenosha and driven around to the trailhead in Breck. and were running back to meet up with the rest of us.  Right around mile 26 there was Ean, running, skipping, practically flying down the trail towards us with a big smile and Mindy right behind. They gave us some water and the good news that we only had 6 miles to go and they gave me a quiet heads up to look for a green bag in a tree a couple miles up.  

I kept my eyes peeled and sure enough, right at mile 29, there was a bag hanging in the tree left by trail fairies for the birthday boy.  There was a pinwheel (which Ean later told me that she and Mindy had taken turns carrying because "it was just so fun") a carrot cake Cliff Bar (Brian had said carrot when asked earlier what kind of cake he would like) and a whole load of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies.  We each ate a cream pie, filled our water at the nearby creek (the first water we'd seen in 9 miles) and headed out on the final 3 miles.

The trail ends with another steep switch-backed downhill that drops in to the Tiger Run RV resort and then crosses CO-9 onto the bike path and then in to the Goldhill Trailhead.

Brian S. and I thought the run would take us about 6 hours and Mary, Celeste and Brian W. thought they would take about 8 hours.  The altitude and the climbing (nearly 5000 feet of vertical) not to mention the miles (33 of them) took its toll on all of us and Brian and I took just over 7 hours and the rest of the crew came in a bit over 9 hours.  

Ean and Mindy ran a bit over 20 miles making this Ean's longest run ever.  It was a tough day, but everyone had a great time enjoying the scenery, the trails and the good company.  After we all regrouped at the trailhead, we drove up the road to Frisco and sat down to a celebratory meal at the Backcountry Brewery for some good food, good beer and lots of laughs.  It was a perfect day and we are already talking about the next FCTR camping, running adventure.  Whose up for a trip to the Grand Canyon in October?  But first there's 24 HoT and Pb-ville.

Brian looking very much alive as he crosses Deadman Creek
Ean and Celeste singing/running down the trail

Mary, Celeste and Brian

Loving life on her longest run ever!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Leadville Silver Rush 50 and Caballo Blanco

I signed up for the Silver Rush 50 a few months ago after deciding to run the LT100.  I figured a 50 miler in Leadville five weeks before the 100 would be a good high altitude training run with plenty of time to recover before the big day in August.  Silver Rush was also four weeks after Big Horn, so my plan was to run a moderate recovery week after the Big Horn 50 then two hard, big mileage weeks and then run easy the week before Silver Rush.  That is exactly what I did and I showed up at the starting line in Leadville Sunday morning feeling pretty good.

Cat and I drove up to Leadville on Saturday morning and met up with Rob "Honey Badger" Howard and his friend Mallory.  Rob had a place to stay that belongs to the family of a friend he works with.  It was a 100+ year old place right downtown and only a mile from the Silver Rush start/finish - perfect.  As we walked up the driveway, a very fit looking older man was waking in as well and Rob turned to me and said,"That's Caballo Blanco"  Rob said hey and asked him if he was staying here, which he was and told him we were staying here too.  He was very friendly and we talked a bit about the race that we were running the next day and he told us about a long run he had done on the LT100 course early in the day.

Rob, Cat, Guadajuko, Caballo, Eddie and Me
We enjoyed a nice dinner of fajitas, rice, chips, salsa, beer and chocolate cake (Rob's birthday) in the driveway while we talked with Caballo about running in the Copper Canyon, "barefoot running", Born to Run, and his newest interest- burro racing.  Before it got too late, we headed off to bed in the cozy loft of the purple house.
the birthday boy enjoying a quality pre race meal
Woke up at 4:15 on Sunday morning, packed up, took care of all the pre race stuff: shorts, FCTR shirt, body glide, sun screen, socks, shoes, GPS, waist pack with some Gu's, 24 oz hand bottle with electrolytes (I decided to try running with a hand bottle instead of the hydration pack to see how that would go) and drop bag for the turnaround.  Ate a bagel with peanut butter and a yogurt and we walked down to the gas station on the corner for some coffee and headed to the race start.

It was great to see many friends at the start.  Dan was there ready to celebrate turning 50 by running his first 50 mile race.  Upon learning that this course was closer to 46 miles, Dan made sure to go out for a 4 mile warm-up run before the race.  Eddie was there as well also running his first 50.  Kiwi Rob was at the start to run the course after mountain biking it the day before making him a Silver King.  Shawn was there lining up for his 3rd 50 mile race of the year.  And there were many other familiar and friendly faces looking up the 45 degree hill that made up the first 100 meters of the course.  Someone from the race stands at the top of this hill holding two silver coins for the first man and first woman to crest the hill.  When the RD fired the shot gun, I opted not to go for the coin and just walked, jogged, crawled up the hill.

The first few hours of the race went really well.  I felt relaxed and ran well (about 10 min/mile pace) through the 7 miles of gentle climbing to the first aid station where I got my water bottle filled and smiled some hellos to friends that were there cheering and crewing.  From there, the course continues up for 3 more miles at a slightly steeper grade to the high point of the course at 12,000 feet near the base of Mt. Sherman.  I ran this section a bit slower, but hit the top in 1:53 and turned on to the dirt road to head down to the Printer Boy aid station at mile 13.5 (2:27).  Cat was at the aid station and she filled my bottle, peeled me a couple banana chunks and I continued down the trail.  I was feeling great at this point, thinking about how there was only 10 miles to the turn around and then I just had to run back.  I knew that there would be a couple of tough climbs in there, but I was very happy with the way things were going.  The next aid station was at mile 18 and I grabbed a couple of Gu's filled my bottle and continued up around Ball Mountain to the second high point of the course.  This was a part of the course that I had run with Dan a couple weeks earlier and it was nice to know what to expect.  I could feel the effects of altitude on the climb back to 12,000 feet, but I was still able to keep moving steadily.  The first mile of the drop from mile 20 down to the turnaround was very steep and I descended pretty slowly and carefully.  I found out later that Shawn fell on this part of the course and hit the back of his head so hard that the race officials pulled him at the turn around (he turned out to be a bit shaken, but recovered and is okay).  After a mile, the trail leveled out some and I ran well in to the turn around at Stumptown.  My goal was to make the turn around in 4:30, and I was checked in at 4:22 and after filling my bottle and grabbing some food from my drop bag, I was out and heading back by 4:25.  At this point I was thinking at low 9 hour finish was possible.
getting water filled at Black Coud (mile 7) aid
photo by Diana Hassel
I was feeling a little heavy with an uneasy stomach heading out of the aid station, I probably ate too much too quickly.  I also realized a little too late that I should have used the bathroom before I left the aid station.  I walked for a bit and gradually moved to a jog.  I traded encouragements and high 5s with Rob and Eddie who were both close behind me and looking strong.  I started to feel better a ran well back to the base of the big climb up Ball Mountain.  Mile 27 up to the pass climbed 575 feet and I walked all of it for my slowest mile of the day (22:23).  I was glad to get to the top and enjoyed some rain as I ran the next two miles back to the Rock Garden aid station.  I was relieved to see that there were porta potties and I made a 5 minute pit stop- this was a first for me in a 50 mile race.  The sky cleared as I ran back down from Rock Garden in miles 30-32 and was starting to really feel the accumulation of miles, altitude and hills in my legs.  I climbed back up to Printer Boy, arriving in 6:42, where Cat and Mallory helped me fill my bottle and get me something to eat.  I really didn't feel like eating anything, but I took some pretzels and I drank two cups of coke.  Cat asked me if I wanted to take a second water bottle and I told her no (this was a mistake).  They asked me if I was okay and I said I was fine, but they told me later that I didn't look too good.  I tried to eat the pretzels as walked out of the aid station, but ended up having to spit most of it out, because I just couldn't swallow.

The 3.5 miles out of Printer Boy climb just over 1100 feet on a wide dirt road which makes it considerably less steep than Towers, but after 33 miles, this section was hard.  It was totally exposed and I hit the section at the hottest part of the day.  I walked/jogged as best I could all the while thinking, I just need to get to the top of this hill and then I would have a nice 10 miles of down hill to the finish.  This climb took me nearly an hour and I was running out of water when I got to the top.  I turned off the road on to the down hill trail and I immediately knew the down hill was not going to be as easy or as fast as I had hoped.  I had hit the top in 7:38 so I only needed to average 11-12 minutes per mile to make a 9:30 finish, but as I pushed down the trail 11 minute miles were feeling really tough.  I got to the last aid station at mile 40 and filled my water bottle and drank some more coke.  My legs felt spent and I hoped I could manage a reasonable pace to the finish.

Those last 7 miles were much harder than I had planned on them being and I did quite a bit of walking.  I got passed a lot and sunk in to a late race funk like I haven't experienced for a long time.  I ran out of water with a mile to go, trudged along in the heat and finally dragged myself to the finish line in 9:50:42.  The 13.5 miles from the start to Printer Boy took me 2:27 minutes on the way out.  That same section on the way back which is predominantly down hill took 3:08.  I achieved one of my goals for the race with sub 10 hour finish, but I was disappointed with the slow and ugly final miles.  I'm not sure if it was an issue of hydration, nutrition, unrested legs, altitude, something else or some combination of these factors.  This was so different than my finish at Big Horn 4 weeks earlier where I ran the last 7 miles at 9 minute pace and better.  Anyway, I was glad to be done and I had some serious second thoughts about my plans to come back in 5 weeks and run more than twice as far.

With a little more reflection, I can't be too upset about the race.  I signed up for this race to get a good long run at altitude and I got that.  I didn't taper for this race, so I shouldn't have expected to feel fabulous and fresh all the way through.  As bad as I felt those last 7 miles, I kept the pace in the 11-13 minute per mile range which is still better that what I need to run for a 25 hour 100 mile.  I now have just over 4 weeks left to get in a couple more good long runs and some altitude and then rest well so that I can show up on August 20 at 4:00 am ready to go.

The rest of the Fort Collins/Boulder crowd did exceptionally well.   Dan ran his first 50 miler in an amazing 8:47 and won his age group.  Eddie finished his first 50 very strong and well under his time goal in 9:32.  The Honey Badger ran some 50 minutes faster than he had in this same race a year ago finishing in 9:54.  Kiwi Rob was crowned a Silver King with a 10:27 run the day after a 6:30 bike.

Thanks so much to Cat and Mallory for cheering and support.  Thanks to Carol Turk and Diana Hassel for being out on the course and cheering.  And thanks to the legendary Caballo Blanco for hanging out with a bunch of Fort Collins trail runners and sharing your very inspiring story.  I look forward to seeing many of you in Leadville next month.

GPS Data


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lawn Lake

On my first trip to Lumpy Ridge two years ago, Kemp and I listened carefully to the directions on how to make it around the loop.  Well, maybe we didn't really listen that carefully, but we did hear the part about "you don't want to go to the Cow Creek Trailhead".  So when we got to this sign
we went left.  We continued on far a couple miles, steadily uphill wondering when we'd hit the rolling valley and the climb to Gem Lake that we'd been told about.  One other piece of info I remembered being told by a Lumpy veteran was that the elevation of the trail topped out just a bit over 9000 feet.  I started to think we might have made a wrong turn as the elevation on my Garmin hit 10,000.  So, we decided to turn around and head back to the trailhead, because we knew the others that we had come with would be waiting.  Completing the Lumpy Loop would have to wait for another day, but I also was curious about the "wrong" trail we had taken and looked it up to see that it continued on to Lawn Lake at 11,000 feet in the heart of the Mummy Range.  This seemed like a great run with a nice bit of climbing and some good close to home elevation and I tucked it away as a good run for another day.
Well, yesterday was that day and I went up to the Lumpy Trailhead with my wife and mother-in-law to run to Lawn Lake.
We got a reasonably early start and were on the trail by 6:30 am.  I had decided to take this run pretty easy since I am running the Silver Rush 50 this weekend, but we also had limited time and I really wanted to get out to the lake so I pushed out from the trailhead at a conservative yet steady pace.  It was a cool morning with some slightly ominous clouds off to the west and I hoped I could get out and back before any severe weather came in.
The plan with Ean and Jill was that we'd be back to the car within 5 hours.  I figured I could make it to the lake in that time and I knew it would be a bit quicker coming back so even if I took a little longer on the way out I should be fine.  I headed into RMNP and up the long climb to the junction where Kemp and I had made the wrong turn before and got there in just under and hour.  The trail towards Lawn Lake dropped down along a creek for a ways and passed the McGregor Mountain trail then started to climb pretty seriously for a couple miles.  Mile 7 climbed nearly 800 feet and then the trail topped out at just over 11,000 about 8.5 miles in.  It was beautiful up there surrounded by rocky peaks with water running down the trail though green meadows dotted with wildflowers.  There were some patches of snow, but the trail was mostly clear.

The last mile out to the lake was amazing dropping down to a raging creek and opening into a stunning high mountain bowl inside the Mummy Range.  I took a few pictures, marveled at the scenery, had something to eat and turned around to head back.
The run back felt great and I soon realized that even though I didn't leave Lawn Lake until 2:45 minutes had passed on the clock, I would have no problem making it back to the car in under 5 hours.  I ran in to Marie who on the trail, just back from her crewing adventures at Hardrock.  I caught up to Ean and Jill about a mile from the trailhead, they had stopped to wait for me, and we hiked back to the car together.

5 hours of running and hiking, 19 miles, 4249 feet of elevation gain and all of it between 7776 and 11,031 feet and I felt great.  This was a nice confidence boost after feeling pretty tired for the last few weeks and feeling really weak on the 20 mile run at altitude with Dan in Leadville a week and a half ago.  I am now looking forward to the Silver Rush race this weekend and I feel that with a few easy days for the rest of this week, I should be able to have a good run - maybe even go sub 10:00.  We'll see.

GPS Data