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.

3 comments:

  1. Great post Laurie! Sounds like it was a lot of fun :) Can I be bumped up to priority status on the list of sneaking into your truck when you move? ;)

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  2. Gorgeous photos! Way to make the most of your time out there.

    The 10K sounds like it was great fun.

    I always get a headache at altitude, and I take a big nap every afternoon because it apparently also makes me sleepy.

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  3. hahaha! nick does look like jesus in that picture!

    GEEEEESH, CAN'T WAIT TILL YALL FINALLY LIVE HERE!!!!!!!!!

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