My most recent outdoor weekend started with a post-work trail run with Brad out of the Doudy Draw trailhead. We covered a semi-hilly 8 miles at a mostly conversational pace. Our main topic was the outdoor efforts we were planning for next year and how we could support one another in those endeavors.

Saturday I spent the day out-of-doors, but largely in my backyard as I built my first retaining wall to level out our side yard for a future garden plot. The work was a lot of fun and took me back to my days of regular trail maintenance and should be the first of many such projects.

And on Sunday I decided to metaphorically combine the prior two day’s activities by running and hiking a marathon on my first Boulder Trail Runners “Church Run”. The Church Runs are usually all-day affairs involving a lot of elevation gain. Today’s all-trail loops at Heil and Hall Ranches near Lyons were notable for being particularly runnable. The pace and elevation gain turned out to be perfect training for my Tecumseh Trail Marathon sweep role in a few weeks. Three of us (out of the original 8 runners who started) finished up the full distance for the day and with plenty of hydration and food I’m not sure we ever really hit the wall.

Hey Ranger!

Brad, Pete, Tara and I spent Veteran’s Day at Staunton State Park with a mixed bag of activities in mind. Tara took off for a trail run while Brad, Pete and I headed to Park View Dome for an easy multi-pitch route.

Hey Ranger! is a 3-pitch 5.5 route that most resembles a granite version of the 3rd Flatiron. Just my kind of climbing. While I’m still getting back into the proper head-space for leading, I decided to take the first pitch’s lead and felt pretty comfortable, despite the run-out first 30 feet.

Pete and Brad followed the pitch and while Pete racked up to lead pitch 2, Brad and I started to wonder where Tara was and Brad rapped down to hunt for her.

Pete did well on pitch 2, so I followed up and finished the route’s shorter and easier 3rd pitch to the summit where I built an anchor completely on chicken-heads.

We coiled the rope and took a short hike to find a rappel tree that lead to a descent gully between the Parkview and Ranch Hand Domes.

Tara showed up at the base of the climb and we soon found Brad waiting at a trail junction for us.

After all gathering up again, we hiked up to the Tan Corridor and Brad led Reef On It! a popular 5.10 sport route. Tara, Pete and myself each took a top-roped lap on the climb before calling it a day. It was my second trip to Staunton and I’ll have to come back just for a long trail run one of these days to explore more of the park.

Rattlesnake Ramble

The Rattlesnake Ramble trail run’s original 2013 race date clashed with the September floods that closed numerous mountain roads outside of Boulder, Colorado and Eldorado Canyon State Park. After the park re-opened the race was on for Nov 9th.

I had no particular race goals but to have fun and try to push myself to run a decent race. To that end I didn’t start out too fast and plodded along up the main road to the Fowler trail. I was keeping pace with a couple people including the first place woman and followed them on a couple passes on this first out-and-back stretch.

Back on the main road I threw my windbreaker under the aid station table as we went by and ran the road fairly steadily, pacing Bill Wright (race director) in this section. The big climb up the Eldorado Trail came up quickly and I did a little jogging through the lower section of this climb, passing a couple competitors and gradually my pace morphed into a power walk (Bill Wright’s pre-race announcements included a story of jogging this trail only to be passed by a hiker), jogging only a few of the less serious inclines. The lead runners were bombing down the hill while we made our way up but the climb ended earlier than I thought. Someone said “this is the top” and at first I didn’t believe them only to find myself running downhill on a short stretch to the turn-around.

I’m a fairly fast downhiller, so I let my legs reach a quick turnover while still trying to stay within my comfort range for the rocky terrain. Towards the bottom I got behind one slightly slower runner and had someone else on my heels. The three of us hit the bottom of the trail and wider road together and the fellow behind me passed both of us. I locked onto his pace and fell in behind and we pushed the pace down the dirt road for a mile towards the finish. Once again a third runner caught up and joined our pack and using the Bastille rock formation as a guide I launched an early finish-line sprint (Strava claims I hit a 4min/mile pace for a [very] brief moment).

My final kick lost steam with 50 feet or so to go to the line, but looking over my shoulder it looked like I had enough of a margin to coast in ahead of my two competitors. My run is posted to Strava for viewing. My run was good enough for a 25th overall finish and a time of 36:27.

Tara came in a bit later, feeling pretty good on her run and made the podium for the Masters Women division.

Preliminary results, a large collection of photos, and the race director’s report are posted online. The post race prize table was deep and full of runner/climber goodies. We even helped ourselves to a post-race donut (ssssh, don’t tell everyone else in Boulder!). There’s a good chance this event will make it onto our calendars for next year.

After the Moab Trail Half Marathon, Tara, Brad, Chris and I retired to Milt’s for lunch then repacked for an afternoon rock climbing at Maverick Buttress in Long Canyon.

Brad and Chris tag-teamed a lead up the 5.10 Saddle Sores while Tara and I top-roped after them.

Brad then lead up the neighboring route Texas Two Step and the rest of us top-roped the climb.

Then it was back to Moab where I realized why my climbing shoes had hurt so bad – I’d received a couple large blisters from the trail run earlier in the day.

The next morning Tara and I provided some support (mostly heckling) as Brad and Chris stuffed gear into dry bags and considered swimming across the Colorado River to access a short desert tower. After one aborted attempt without wetsuits, then another where swimming in a strong current proved a tough way to cross. We shuttled the wet climbers up river to a shallower spot.

This time they managed to wade all the way across the river below the Barney Rumble Tower which some interesting hiking, canyoneering and a little bonus pitch of rock climbing allowed them to access and climb.

Since they were now out of shouting range our job heckling was over and we drove on to the Fisher Towers for a beautiful hike.

Next time we come to Moab (for the 2014 Moab Trail Marathon?) we really need to make it at least a 4-day weekend.

For the first weekend in November, Tara and I traveled a slow and snowy I-70 out to Utah for some warm days in the desert. Our main goal was Saturday’s Moab Trail Marathon, of which I was facing up to my actual fitness level and moving to the half marathon course and Tara would be running the 5k for the 3rd year straight. I hadn’t run much for the week before the race, so my body should have been well rested, but I wasn’t feeling super strong going into the event. My “A” goal was to have a fun and enjoyable race.

So I guess it was good that I started in wave 3 of 5 and spent the first 4 uphill miles jogging well within my comfort zone, passing other runners who went out way too fast and generally settling in to my form and pace. Full race GPS track right here. Toward the later half of the Pritchett Canyon climb I started to pass more and more runners, especially on some of the steeper scrambling sections of rock. For the slight downhill into the first aid station from miles 4-5.5 I took it easy and ran with one or two others and chatted. A quick swig of sports drink and I started semi-hard on the rolling terrain that followed, passing quite a few runners, including one sporting a I believe in The Blerch tee.

Sometime between miles 6-9 I got frustrated with the number of runners I was having to pass on semi-technical trails until I remembered that I was the main problem, starting in wave 3 (which may have made sense for a half-marathon effort, but didn’t for my quicker half pace). I will say this course is beautiful, but technical enough that I didn’t get to look around and enjoy the scenery.

Coming into the 9.6 mile aid station I ran into Chris and Brad who were out looking for me and found themselves helping an injured runner descend some steep cliff bands. With their cheering I took another hit of sports drink, then turned right on the half course for a bit of a road climb that I ran semi-hard.

Our next bit of trail had us passing some mountain bikers (on a technical downhill that they were walking their bikes), then in and out of the Kane Creek (cold and mid-thigh deep in spots on me). With only a couple miles to go I was getting into full competition mode, the constant passing of other runners fueling my speed. The creek definitely slowed everyone down (it’s hard running on completely numb feet!), but as we moved out of the creek for the final road and last trail sections I started to push my pace even faster. I also got a little spiteful, picking out runners ahead and passing them for minor reasons (“he’s wearing tights, can’t let him beat me”, “that guy with the hipster ‘stash is getting passed”). Not entirely proud of this behavior, or the two ladies who I sprinted past in the last 50 meters, but the 2:13:16 time felt good for this technical and hilly of a course. This was also the US Trail Half Marathon National Championship, which I guess means my 138th place finish sorta means I’m the 138th best trail half marathoner in the country (if you can believe that). Full results right here.

Other than the cold creek crossings, this was a wonderful course. I’d certainly consider heading back next year and seeing if I can’t compete at the full marathon distance.

Staunton State Park is a recent addition to Colorado’s state park system and opened for (legal) climbing only last summer. With climbing limited around much of the northern Front Range due to last month’s flooding, Tara, Brad and I took a trip out 285 to check out the rock domes here.

Despite doing fairly well in an orienteering race the day before, I managed to get us started on the wrong trail and we got to do some bonus mileage on the way to Staunton Rocks. Armed with the free guidebook from Fixed Pin we found our way through the Tan Corridor and up to the Marmot Tower. The 5.5 trad route “Maybe the Marmot Ate Your Baby” was our warm-up goal. I took one look at the continuous crack system and felt a sudden desire to jump on the sharp end of the rope. I asked Brad for the rack and suited up much to Tara’s surprise.

Sure I over-protected the route, and fiddled in marginal gear from less-than-ideal stances, but I still felt pretty good for my first time leading in well over a year.

We played around on the neighboring routes: Baby Steps (5.9) and Shoes for Dessert (5.8+), with Brad leading Shoes and all of us top-roping Baby Steps.

The weather was clouding up so we started our hike out, but couldn’t resist stopping in the Tan Corridor where Brad led 80 Grit (5.10) and Tara and I top-roped the route.

After a night in Escalante cleaning up from our Death Hollow backpack we’d planned to hike out to the Golden Cathedral before heading home. Our plans were spoiled by the political fights across the country and we got the “Sorry kids, Walley World is closed” from a NPS ranger at the beginning of the Hole-In-The-Rock road.

Going with plan B we started the drive home and veered off UT-24 near Goblin Valley State Park to do an 8 mile hike through Bell and Little Wild Horse canyons. Despite a closed sign at the kiosk (this was federal BLM land) the parking lot was full, as was one of the two overflow lots. Even without some other federal lands being closed this is a pretty popular hike.

Most hikers just do an out-n-back up the more spectacular Little Wild Horse canyon, so we started with Bell to ease into the crowds.

Bell ends at a dirt road which connects with Little Wild Horse after 1.5 miles. From this direction Little Wild Horse slowly narrows down.

If doing the loop between both canyons I’d highly recommend doing Bell first, otherwise, I think I’d have been a little disappointed in Bell if we’d hiked through Little Wild Horse first.