Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Change is in the Air

I think it's pretty amazing how a physical environment can affect feelings.  As I've been leaving and driving to work the past couple days I've noticed significant changes in my surroundings.  The most obvious is that my morning commutes are getting noticeably darker.  And aside from that, the air just feels "different".  I don't know how else to explain it.  I can feel fall coming.  I can feel change. 

Yeah, I know fall isn't really close.  But the shortening days will eventually lead to cool fall weather.  This makes me want to ramble on about heat transfer (on a large scale), but I'll shut up.  Anyway, for the same reason that the hottest part of the day is later than when the sun is shining on us most directly, the shorter days don't immediately translate to cooler temps.  As a matter of fact it's unbearably hot right now.  I'm starting to get surprised when it DOESN'T reach 100 around here.  But even if the high is 105, I'm content now, with my ever darker mornings. 

There is another reason for my growing excitement beside the prospect of my favorite season arriving.  I'm moving to Colorado in...*checking calendar*...15 days.  So I'm getting pretty excited about that.  And the prospect of having a few weeks off work.  Or maybe more, since I don't have a job yet.  Sometimes things interrupt my daydreaming though.  Like packing and cleaning.  Alas, these things get in the way of running too, but I guess it's all worth it to be one step closer to living the dream with my sweetie.

Fortunately, enjoying change doesn't mean that we have to devalue the past or present.  I'm so thankful for all of my relationships with Kansans and even Missourians and wouldn't trade my past 20ish years here for anything.  I was lucky enough to see bunches of my friends at our going away party this weekend.  It was a BLAST!  Clearly.

Way to capture the ridiculousness, Elizabeth!  And if you thought that was ridiculous, you haven't seen anything!

This is a long story.

It appears Nick was so forceful with his offer of whiskey, Elizabeth had to beat him off with a pan!  And yet our friends still tolerate us.  It's amazing.  We're the luckiest.  So of course we'll cherish all our memories of our midwest peeps and look forward to their visits and return for ultras from time to time.  And we'll also appreciate all of our new experiences and friendships.  See what you have to look forward to Courtney and Luke!  Now you're in trouble.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunar Trek 100k?

I took the day off Friday, hoping that I could stay up late Thursday and sleep in a bit Friday to lessen the strain of staying up all night for Lunar Trek.  I'm not sure why I cared.  This was supposed to be a training run for Leadville after all.  Well I didn't end up staying up late Thursday or sleeping in, or even napping on Friday.  I spent all Friday morning and afternoon preparing my bags.  I would be crewless because Nick was running the 50k and needed to sleep after the race so he could drive me home.  So I was taking extra care to get my drop bags in order.

With my best running buddy, Sarah. Waiting for the race to start.

The doggies and I left the house shortly before 3 to go pick up Sarah.  Her husband, Justin, would be driving out with Nick a few hours later.  It was already a hot day.  The thermometer read 100 and climbed as we made our way to Scandia.  In Manhattan it reached 104!!!  We took a route that I hadn't tried in my previous 2 trips.  It was actually really nice.  The other way is pretty boring.  You spend most of your time on 1 highway going west.  Boooorrrriiiing.  This way had plenty of turns and it was really pretty.  Lots of cute little towns on the way.

I was getting pretty anxious about the heat, thinking it could still be in the 90s after the sun set.  So when we started seeing dark clouds to the west as we approached Scandia, I felt relieved.  The temperature was dropping fast.  It was cool and in the low 90s by the time we arrived at packet pickup.  Hahahaha.  Cool.  90s.  We arrived just before 7 and were the first to race day register.  It turns out Sarah and I were only the 2nd and 3rd women to register for the 100k in its 3 years of existence.  Fun!

The guys in charge - John Neal, Rich Cox and Steve Breeding were great.  I know Steve from a lot of other races and KUS events.  John and Rich work for Pike Valley High School I think, so I only see them when I visit Scandia.  The race benefits their track and cross country team.  They are great guys and make everyone feel welcome.  Well every year KUS, the Kansas Ultrarunners Society, of which I'm a member, picks one race and pays entry fees for its members.  This was that race!  So not paying was nice.

The next couple hours was rough.  It didn't take me long to get all my stuff together, so I spent a long time waiting.  A quick storm came through town with heavy rain but was gone in a snap.  The general thought was that we were done with the storms.  The sunset shown on the horizon.  But before long, the mother of all storms took hold and didn't let go.  I worried about the dogs in the car.  I worried about the car seats which were being soaked from the deluge.  I worried about the fact that I couldn't go to the bathroom.  I mean, there was a bathroom and I could go to it, but... 

Just a little more waiting.

Well once the RDs took a look at the radar it was clear that the storm wasn't going away any time soon.  They pushed the start time back an hour.  We finally got going at about 10:20.  There was still plenty of lightning off to the southeast, but we couldn't hear thunder so it was a ways off.  I urged Rich to let us go.  We had signed waivers after all.  He asked if everyone was ok with starting and in a few minutes we were off.  Fireworks signaled the start.

It was quite cool and windy for the first several miles.  So windy that I couldn't keep my hat on.  I chased after it about 5 times before I decided to just carry it until the wind calmed down a bit.  We headed east on a dirt road for a couple miles before we reached "the loop", which is 18 miles.  There's an aid station at this intersection but I don't think anyone stopped for anything but to let the volunteers know our bib numbers.

Sarah and Gary. More waiting. And face making. 

These first 4 miles, heading east, were on a dirt road with no gravel.  So the rain had made it muddy.  As far as mud goes, it wasn't the worst.  It was soft enough that it was challenging to run through, causing strides to shift, ankles to rotate and muscles to work harder.  But at least it wasn't sticky.  We were on this road for a little less than 4 miles then we turned south on a nice crushed gravel road.

It was a little soft from the rain but better than the mud.  And the gravel was really fine so it didn't bother my feet at all.  There was a good pack of us running together.  Dustin and another guy had taken off pretty quick from the start.  But Gary Henry, Adam Monoghan, Eldon (of Wichita), Sarah and I were hanging together.  A few times I thought I should be walking the hills, but they weren't very big in the beginning so I just went on over them.

I don't remember when Terry Rider passed us but it was fairly early and we were a bit surprised.  He was definitely having a good day.  The 5 of us continued on together and as we approached the next aid station about 6.5mi into the race, we were surprised to see the guys of the cross country team lined up outside the station (an oversized garage for tractors? barn?) doing a synchronized clap to bring us in.  They had stepped up their game from last year after the coaches kept nagging them about how the girls' station got all the praise.  It is true that they were slightly less than enthusiastic volunteers when I did the 50k last year.  So this was refreshing.

I picked up a pbj rollup here.  I really like the idea of doing pbj in a tortilla.  Easy to carry.  And they don't get stale or soggy like sandwiches.  Sarah and I were in and out quickly.  I think she was actually ahead of me so I did my best to catch up.  After a bit of running, the rest of our pack caught up.  The course is somewhat of a blur to me.  Perhaps because it was dark.  You'd think after running parts of it for 3 years, I could put it together.  Nope.  This might have been the section that we caught up to Dustin, who was walking.  I guess he was starting to have a tough time.  We passed Terry too.

I think there was a hilly section between the guys' and gal's aid station.  Gary and I ended up out in front of the pack.  Gary ran all the hills and I would run part way up the hills and power walk the rest of the way.  We made it to the gal's aid station with no trouble.  I think we were 12 miles into the race.  I spent a bunch of time getting stuff from my drop bag.  I grabbed some gingero-s that I'd packed and downed a 5-hr energy after spending several minutes trying to get the plastic off the lid.  I had a few pringles and when I finally left the aid station Sarah apologized for making me wait.  She hadn't made me wait though.  I was taking forever myself.  I was already a little fuzzy.

The next section was painfully flat.  I think it was perfectly flat for about 3 miles.  I liked the hills better.  I suggested taking walk breaks on this section but nobody wanted to, so I just kept on goin'.  We finally reached some nice hills, including Hill 88 and I was happy for some walk breaks.  Hill 88 is a steepish hill that's maybe a quarter to half mile long.  Not bad for Kansas.  The cross country coach makes the kids do repeats on it.

I tried a new gel while I was walking, Accel Gel I think.  It was completely disgusting.  It was really liquidy and when it hit my throat it felt like I was swallowing vomit, which of course made me want to vomit.  I didn't though.  I managed to get it all down.  My stomach was starting to hint that it was getting unhappy with this run or my feeding of it, or something.  It didn't help that I started forgetting to eat at aid stations. 

The next aid station had an actual toilet.  A camp toilet that is.  I tried to go to the bathroom but again no luck.  I think I had a few cups of coke here and they were absolutely amazing.  The coke, the ice, perfection.  The wind had long since died down, so the last section had been stangnant and mosquitoey.  I like to refer to it as Mosquito Pass.  It made me giggle.  Because, you know, there's a Mosquito Pass in CO which is nothing like this.

Adam was a dear and waited for me during my attempted bathroom break.  He didn't want to attempt the upcoming mud bogs on his own because he wasn't carrying a light.  I was glad for the company.  Sarah had gone on to get a head start on us.  So the mud bogs were pretty bad.  This was STICKY mud.  And the mud was covered in puddles in many sections.  The best strategy, of course, was to go straight through the puddly sections.  They weren't so sticky.  We caught up to Sarah as we sloshed through "the bog".  It wasn't very long.  Maybe a half mile but it was definitely taxing.

Not long after we left the bogs, I decided I really needed to stop and deal with my socks and shoes.  My socks were stretched and misaligned from all the water and mud.  I could also feel mud accumulating under my toes.  Continuing to the next aid station without fixing this would be a mistake.  A mistake I've made before.  The challenging part was balancing on one foot while I cleaned out my shoes and readjusted my socks.  I kept losing my balance and dropping my unshod foot into the gravel.  There was a lot of falling over and removing gravel from my socks.  But after 5 minutes or so I managed to get everything fixed up and my shoes back on.

I was immediately happy that I'd stopped.  My feet felt so much better.  It took me a while to catch back up to Adam and Sarah but I managed it after 10 or 15 minutes.  Before we knew it, we were back at the loop aid station, the first one we passed.  We'd run 20 miles.  I grabbed more gels from my drop bag and a water bottle which I filled with some Succeed! Amino drink.  Coleen gave me a sample to try and since this was a training run I figured it would be a good time.  Oh I also grabbed some socks.  We had to head right back toward the mud we left, so I put them in my pack to change into right after we got through.

Again, I think I forgot to eat at this station.  But I had plenty of gels.  I PROBABLY ate some.  Apparently I cannot be trusted to keep myself properly nutritioned at night.  Well my first impression of the Amino was, "Gross! Barf!"  But I continued to sip at it and maybe 15 minutes later, the nausea that was threatening to set in had completely stopped.  Not sure if it was the Amino or what.  I was also taking S!Caps about every hour.  But I can't remember how often I was eating gels now.  Probably because I wasn't eating them enough. 

This was my first attempt at not eating Honey Stinger Chews in an ultra.  I seriously love them.  But they make my mouth so sticky after a while that it's unbearable.  So I attemped an all gel diet.  Not so successful.  Maybe I'll just start putting a little bottle of mouthwash in all my drop bags so I can rinse the taste out.

Well back to the run...Adam and I ran for a bit and saw Gary and Sarah heading toward the aid station as we headed back for the mud.  We kept up a good run/walk routine.  This part of the course made it easy to decide.  Walk the steeper parts of the hills, run the rest.  By the time we got back to the mud pit, another storm was coming through.  It started pouring.  It felt great!

When we got back to the aid station, most of the volunteers were piled in cars.  I happily sat down in a chair to change my socks.  Yes, it was pouring, but these socks would still be better than the muddy, stretched ones I was wearing.  While I was sitting, Adam was grabbing food and asked if I wanted a peanut butter sammy.  Sure!  I grabbed the sandwich with my grubby, just-changed-my-muddy-socks hands and chowed down.  So if you can picture it, I was eating a peanut butter sandwich that was covered in mud from my hands and being soaked in a deluge.  But I couldn't be happier. 

Before we knew it, Adam and I were back to that forever flat section.  We decided on a run/walk scheme.  It was easy to tell how far we'd gone because major roads intersected every mile.  We walked for about the first minute and a half of the mile then ran the rest.  We also got in the habit of switching sides of the road every once in a while so we didn't get any lopsided injuries.  We still managed about a 12 minute per mile pace even with the walking.  It was great.  But the flatness was definitely boring.  And we were back in mosquito pass.

When we got back to the girls' aid station I filled my bottle up with more Amino and drank another 5-hr energy.  I'm not really sure why I did that.  I wonder if it didn't cause some of my later intestinal distress.  From now on I might just try to stick to good ol' fashioned coca cola.  I did remember to grab some cookies from my bag and I think I got some pringles from the aid station too.  The food selection was starting to look unappetizing.  It was all pringles, M&Ms, pretzels, peanut butter, and ham sandwiches.  Meat pretty much never appeals to me during a race, nor does cheese.  Some watermelon or oranges would have been really nice at the aid stations.  At some point those salty dry foods are just not what you want.

We didn't get far from the aid station before I announced to Adam that I needed a bathroom break.  He walked on ahead.  I felt a little better after finally going.  It took me about 10 minutes to catch back up to Adam and I was still in pretty good spirits.  I started to eat a gel and was talking about the third loop or something and Adam was sounding a little doubtful of finishing.  His stomach wasn't feeling very good and we both realized that we would be finishing no earlier than noon due to the storm delay.

Before I knew it, MY stomach started talking to me.  I couldn't finish the gel that was in my hand.  Could not.  I started guzzling Amino and water thinking that they'd make me feel better.  I think we walked for a whole mile at one point.  Adam was really nice to stay with me.  But we got running again.  We were running fractions of a mile now before I needed to take walk breaks.  But I could still run so that was a good sign.  Sometimes I get so sick I can't run at all.  When we got back to the guy's aid station I went around the barn to take a bathroom break again.  Adam and I sat for a bit at the aid station and I had a coke but didn't eat.  I think I had pretty much sealed the deal that I would not finish, since I refused to eat at this point.

Hannah, a 40 miler who started early, and her friend Scott, a 100k-er, passed us at this aid station.  I swear they came outta nowhere.  Sandbaggers!  Hahaha.  Adam really kept me going at this point.  He would say, let's run to those trees then we can take a walk break.  Then he would say, oh we can make it to that second set of trees before we walk ok?  And I said ok.  The sun had risen and we could see forever.  I just wanted to get back to the high school.  I wasn't in a terrible amount of pain.  I was a little stiff in the hips and my ankles ached a bit but I had no debilitating injury. 

I just did not want to face running into the middle of the day (it reached 106) for 20+ more miles, uncrewed.  Adam and I were partners in drop out crime.  This was a training run for both of us and we agreed that running 100k was not necessary training for our races.  We managed our way through the last 4 muddy miles with the following technique: run 2, walk 1 - telephone poles that is.  Telephone poles are great motivation.  Although, running on a trail and not on the darn country roads would be even better motivation.

I crossed the "finish line" and asked Nick if I could drop.  He said "no" of course.  I was totally expecting that.  But I didn't give in.  I listed my reasons.  My feet are pruney, it's going to be really hot, I don't need to run this far today, I haven't eaten in several hours, etc.  On top of that I sat down in a chair and took my socks and shoes off.  He wasn't going to get me back out there.  LOL.

Everybody else who came through dropped to 40 too, except for Terry Rider, who came in a half an hour to an hour after me and is a serious badass.  There were 3 100k finishers overall.  Adam and I probably would have been 3rd and 4th if we continued on.  We ended up having to wait a couple hours to get our drop bags back from the course.  I considered driving out to find them myself but wasn't sure how to get around the mud on the course so just waited.  I was STARVING by the time we left.  I ate one biscuit at the finish line.  The eggs, sausage and gravy did not appeal to me at all. 

There wasn't really anywhere to get a decent meal on the way back either.  I tried to wait until we got back to Lawrence, but after about 45 minutes of driving I told Nick to stop at a gas station.  I bought some Combos and ate most of the tiny bag before I started feeling sick.  The rest of the drive consisted of me feeling sick to my stomach and thinking I was going to poop my pants.  Oh and I also had an emotional breakdown, complete with tears, because I felt like I wasn't ready for Leadville.

But as my friend Coleen pointed out, it was good to get the bad run out of the way early.  After all, my legs did feel strong.  And even with the stomach problems, I still kept a pretty decent pace (13:09) for 40 miles, for me.  And if I had done the 100k, I would've needed to take several days off running and potentially would have risked injuring myself before Leadville.  I probably should have just signed up for the 40 in the first place.  Leadville is THE race I'm getting ready for.  No use putting it all out there on a training run.

Well I had a great time running with my friends at my last Kansas ultra for a while.  I'm going to work hard at getting my nutrition in order over the next couple weeks.  Our group is hosting a Sweaty Ass run the weekend after next.  You complete as many 3 mile loops as you care to between 6pm and 6am.  I will probably end up doing something in the 30-40 mile range.  Don't wanna overdo it as it's just three weeks from Leadville.

Thanks to the RDs and volunteers who made it a good race.  Thanks to my friends for running with me.  And thanks to Nick for driving my crazy, emotional butt back home!

All cleaned up after the race. We didn't plant to match, but this stuff happens when you're BUBFs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Itching to Go?

Tomorrow I will run the second longest race I've ever competed in.  Lunar Trek 100k.  It's a race that's held every year on the Friday night closest to the full moon in July.  Distances range from 10k to 100k.  This will be its 4th year and the only year I didn't compete was in 2009.  The first year, I ran the 20?-miler.  Last year I ran the 50k and came in first! (Out of three female finishers.  Hahaha.) 

The 100k starts 2 hours before the other races, at 9pm, so we don't have to run into the hottest parts of the day on Saturday.

There are awesome aspects about the race.
  • It's at night.  Running in the dark is fun.
  • The fireflies hover in the trees like Christmas lights.
  • It's at night...so it's cooler.
  • It's a loop course.  Don't have to pack a bunch of drop bags.
And there are not so awesome aspects.
  • It's on dirt/gravel roads.  Can be tough on the feet.
  • Even at night, it can be really freakin' hot in KS in July.
  • At some point in the 100k, the sun will rise and I'll be running in the HEAT.  Because I'm slow.
  • It's a loop course.
Of course this is supposed to be a "training run" for Leadville, but naturally I've started setting goals anyway.  And obsessing over them.  My crazy agressive, unlikely goal is 12 hours-24 minutes, which is a 5mph pace for 62 miles.  My I-hope-I'm-not-this-slow goal is 15 hours-30 minutes, which is a 4mph pace.  I know without a doubt that I can run a 50k at a 5mph pace.  What will happen the rest of the time, I'm not so sure.  I DO know that I've been practicing my walking a lot lately though.  And even if I walk a LOT the second half, I can still probably average a 4mph pace over that distance.  Unless my feet turn into hamburger like they did at Heartland, which I guess could happen.  So I'm hoping for something in the 4.5mph range overall.

The other things beside pace that I'm obsessing over right now are...
  1. The heat.  Highs in the high 90's mean it might still be in the 80's at night.  Sweatfest.   
  2. My legs are still a bit sore from my intense leg workout on Monday, but at least they feel way better than yesterday. 
  3. Sarah, my running partner, got me thinking about this.  What am I going to eat all day??  Starting a race in the morning is nice, because you've had all night to digest your food from the day before.  I don't know if there's a good answer, except, you're GOING to have to go to the bathroom at some point in the race that is probably inconvenient.  Should I eat more fiber to help things along?  I dunno.  You'd think after 10 or so ultras I'd be more prepared, but I usually just wing it.  I vow to attempt to be more responsible from now on. 
  4. The distance is scary to me.  50k's are pretty much old hat to me.  Knock on wood.  The last time I said 50k's were sort of easy, I jacked up my achilles tendons.  I feel like 50 milers are slightly more daunting, even though I've only done one.  They're 20 miles longer than a 50k.  That's pretty serious.  Then you add 12 miles on to that and you get the 100k!  Geeez.  At least in a 100 miler, you just relax in the knowledge that, you will NOT be done ANY time soon.
  5. I'm literally itchy.  I'll leave it at that.
While there seems to be an endless list of things to worry about, there are a few reassuring points.  I'll be running with my BUBF (best ultra buddy foreva) Sarah, who is excellent at maintaining a steady pace.  And she's just great to be around in general.  She wanted to run an ultra with me before I moved.  I think the 100k is a good choice, because by the end of spending 14 or 15 hours together, she'll definitely be ready for me to leave!  Also, Nick will be out there running the 50k.  And hopefully he will sleep for a while after he sets an awesome PR, so he can drive me home in the morning.  So between the friends and fireflies I don't know how things could go wrong!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Colorful Colorado

Last night, we got home from a trip to Colorado.  It was to serve several purposes.  The first, to see Nick's brother who would be making a rare appearance in the states.  Matt has been on a job assignment in Australia for the past year or two.  Rough, huh?  We also decided to move some of our stuff out to our new place in Conifer.  We're not moving permanently yet, but this would ease some of the burden in late July when the rest of the move would be completed.  And since we'd be out there, I figured why not take a few extra days to relax and enjoy ourselves. 

We didn't stick to all of our plans.  For example, we never hiked Mt. Massive, which I was set on before we left.  But it just didn't work out.  We were too tired to do it on the day we planned, plus I was nowhere close to being acclimated enough for a 14er that day.  Plus, we heard it was too snowy to make the ascent anyway.  We did have tons of fun outdoors though.  We went running and hiking every full day we were there.  Every day on a different trail.

The first night was really rough for me.  I started getting a progressively worse headache as we rose in elevation.  Going from 900 ft to 8300 ft in one day was tough on this KS girl.  I learned my lesson on many counts this evening and throughout the trip.  The first being, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  If you think you've had enough water, drink more.  Margaritas don't count.  Trust me.  So by the time I landed in bed my first night I was in tears from the pain of this headache.  I thought my head would explode.  Even my TEETH hurt!  Finally, Nick came to bed bearing water and drugs and I was able to sleep through the night.

Day 1
That night I thought there was no chance I'd be getting up in the morning to head out on a 1.5 hour drive to run a 10k at Copper Mountain.  But when I woke up I felt 10 times better.  I still had a headache but at least it wasn't tear-inducing.  Luckily, this race started at 9am, so we didn't have to wake up super early to make the drive.

When we arrived at Copper Mountain, I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be a relatively small race.  Less than 200.  I'm not a fan of big races.  They make me nervous.  Well all races make me a little nervous, but big ones are worse.  It was just a beautiful morning.  And before long, we ran into Nick's dad, stepmom, brother and sister.  I was excited that everyone was doing it.  I think it's been 3 or 4 years since I've done a 10k, but I was just so thrilled that the whole fam was participating that I was all in.

Copper Mountain.  Chatting with Nick's bro, Matt.

I wasn't feeling very racey that day, plus I knew the altitude and hills would be an issue.  The hills turned out to be much steeper than I realized based on the course maps.  Before the race, I said I wanted to finish in under an hour but it didn't take long for me to accept that wasn't going to happen.  Aside from the headache I was expecting, my legs just felt like lead.  The first mile was all uphill, mostly steep.  I was actually astounded to look at my watch to see I had completed an 11 minute mile.  I had walked most of the way.  Guess my walking training has helped.

Fortunately, there were also several long steep descents which I took advantage of.  Well nothing too crazy.  I'm sure I was in the 8-9 min/mile range at the fastest even going downhill.  My legs were pretty useless.  When we finally reached the second half of the course, which I had described as roughly "flat" by glancing at the course map, I realized it was not at all flat.  But at least it would have been runnable at a lower altitude.  So you guessed it, I continued to walk hills, even small ones.  I don't know if the fatigue in my legs was all altitude or a little bit lingering from my workout earlier in the week, but they were just not working.

We finally left the Colorado Trail (did I mention we were running on it?).  The departure was a bit odd as we just made a sharp turn down an extremely steep grassy slope that contained no trail.  Spray painted blue arrows led the way down the slope.  I heard lots of people cursing the course, but I rather enjoyed this little challenge.  The reset of the course was mostly road and paved trail that led us back to the finish line.  I ended up chatting with a girl that I had traded places with a few times throughout the race.  If I were really racing a 10k, I suppose I wouldn't have been so chatty.  Good thing I wasn't racing.

Kate even pushed me up the last hill.  I was going to walk it but she kept me going.  Something along the lines of..."You can do this! You're doing Leadville woman!"  Hahaha.  Well that got me going.  Can't look like a whimp after I tell the girl I'm doing Leadville.  So by the end I had made a new running buddy who lives in Denver.  For the record, I now have 3 new CO running buddies: Courtney, Luke and Kate.

Finish line.  Kate's right behind me.

Chatting with Kate.  Amazed at the fact you can sit directly on the grass.  No chiggers?

Day 2
We kept it easy on Sunday and decided to visit a trail right off 285, a few miles north of our place.  It was at Meyer Ranch Open Space.  The trail consisted of several loops and a lollipop.  I think they were Lodgepole, Sunny Aspen and Old Ski Run trails.  I'm probably missing something there.  I like how all the trail sections have specific, meaningful names.  At Clinton Lake, we just have "red", "white" and "blue".  Anyway, you can guess from one of those names that we went up a hill that used to be a ski run.  It was a little over 800ft of climbing total.  We kept a pretty brisk walking pace, but my legs were still just too tired to attempt running. 

Meyer Ranch.  It used to be a ranch.  Duh.

We stopped to check out the view from a granite outcrop on the way back down the hill and I had a strange moment.  I put my hand down on the rock to steady myself and look down to see, OMG bugs!  Gross!!!  Oh wait it's not bugs.  Whew.  OMG it's not bugs it's chipmunk poop!!!  I stuck my hand in chipmunk poop!  Ah well.  What can you do, besides complain about it until you wash your hands.  There was actually no visible poop residue on my hand but still.  Gross.

Anyway, we managed a nice running pace all the way down the hill.  It was a beautiful cool morning.  It was in the 40's - 50's every morning in Conifer.  SO nice.

Meyer Ranch: Sunny Aspen Trail

Day 3
We did a little more driving Monday morning to go to Reynold's Open Space.  It was about 6 miles east of 285, down in Kennedy Gulch.  The loop we took was about 4 miles and had 1000 ft of elevation gain.  Of course that's over the first couple miles.  In CO the trails go UP then DOWN.  Well the interesting ones anyway.  We didn't spend much time climbing before we ascended out of the lush valley and found ourselves on a dusty, hot trail.  The low elevation (only 7000ft or so) and the fact that this part of the trail didn't see any moisture combined to create a desert-like effect.  The CO climate is fascinating.

Well all of a sudden we make a hairpin turn and find ourselves on a lush section of trail alongside a stream.  At this point, I start complaining that the online review I read said that there was some amazing view and it was clearly full of poop.  Because we were on the specified, Eagle's Crest Trail and had yet to see anything spectacular.  A few minutes later we found the view.  Holy cow!!!  You can see Pike's Peak way off in the distance and some really cool rock formations closer up.  I think one of them might be Long Scraggy Peak but I'm not positive.  That might be the best name for a mountain I've ever heard though.

Reynold's Park. Eagle's Crest view.

We soon descended back down into the gulch where we found ourselves on a steep technical trail.  It was pretty fun, but I went slow because I didn't want to die.

Reynold's Park.  Looking back up at a rocky section of trail.

After we finished up, we went in search of second breakfast.  It became a tradition.  First, go to Starbucks for a scone.  Second, go hiking and running.  Third, eat second breakfast.

Day 4
Nick had to work a bit on our last full day in town, so we got a later start than usual.  That was ok though.  I had lots of time to research the trails and find a new spot.  We finally settled on Maxwell Falls Trail, which was northwest of us, up on Shadow Mountain.  As a result of our late start, it was a bit toasty when we started.  The combination of dusty sections of trail, the hot sun, and the strong pine scent could be overwhelming at times.  I never thought I could find the scent of pine unpleasant, but when you combine it with dust and heat it can get there.  Despite the less than ideal conditions, this actually started off as my best run of the trip.  I was able to run up the moderate hills and didn't have a splitting headache.

Because I'm smart and stuff (and didn't look over the map closely enough), I decided to chose an unmarked section of trail to start on.  It ended up working out ok, I just had no idea where or how far we had gone.  We eventually hooked up with the marked section and turned back the other way.  We stopped in the "falls" for Roxy and Juko to grab a drink and to act like snakes.  Roxy spent a good deal of time wriggling around in the water like a reptile.  Apparently she enjoyed the cool down.

Maxwell Falls.  Roxy snake.

Once they were sufficiently cooled down and snaked out, we continued on and soon found a section of trail called the "Cliff Loop".  It sounded difficult, so of course we took it!  As expected, we spend a good deal of time on a steep hot climb.  I was starting to realize that the single bottle of water was probably not enough for the two of us, but what could I do but start conserving.  I started getting a headache.  When we finally reached the top we found some excellent views.

Maxwell Falls: Cliff Loop.  Nick, Roxy and Juko.

At the top, we could see dark clouds out to the west and started hearing thunder so we made our way back down the way we came instead of doing the loop.  In hindsight it might have been shorter to do the loop, but we didn't know where we were going. 

Once we hooked back up with the Maxwell Falls Trail, it started getting pretty dark and pleasantly cool.  I kept thinking we should hurry up, but I kept being confronted with good photo ops.  So of course we had to stop to take pictures.  The "falls" might not be what you're thinking of in terms of falls.  The largest distance I saw any water drop was about 2 feet.  Not quite Niagara, but still pretty.

Maxwell Falls: The Falls

I started getting pretty lethargic and hungry toward the end of the hike and asked Nick if we got lost out on the trails which dog should we eat.  He didn't want to eat either dog, but suggested that we all eat him.  Bleeding heart.  LOL.  Nick offered me some Honey Stinger Chews but I declined, stating that I wanted REAL food.  It never did rain while we were on the trail, but I was definitely thankful for the clouds.

Maxwell Falls.  The doggies get tangled around a bush.

After we finished and made 2 unsuccesful attempts to obtain lunch (one restaurant closed on Tuesdays? and one "out of food"), we ended up at the Crossroads Grill and Pub.  The food was delicious and I was ravenous.  I ate like there was no tomorrow.  And when we got home I slept just as hard.

I learned many lessons on our little vacation.  1) Drink crap tons of water!  If you think you've had enough, repeat.  2) A scone and a bowl of cereal is not enough to fuel a hike/run at noon in the mountains.