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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

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.

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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.

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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.

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Tara and I volunteered to help crew and pace Chris at his first 100 mile ultramarathon, the Leadville 100. The race started at 4am from the town of Leadville, an event we missed as we were still sleeping in another mountain town over the divide then. We easily found the Pipeline crew access point (2 miles north of the Half Pipe aid station – no crew allowed there) and met Brad and others crewing for Chris and soon our runner showed up.

He was in and out pretty quickly and our group packed up to head to the 40 mile point of the race at the town of Twin Lakes. There we setup on the edge of town with the gear we could haul to the site from a mile or so out of town, which was the closest we could park.

Chris came in looking good prior to the big climb up and over Hope Pass to the halfway point of the race.

He was a little disappointed that we didn’t have any of his pre-cooked tortellini for him saying “But I always eat tortellini when I climb over passes.”

Prepped with various non-tortellini foods, Skratch labs drink mix, clean socks and freshly bandaged blisters he headed out in good spirits.

Pacers are allowed for the second half of this race and Brad had already selected the soul-crushing climb back over Hope Pass from 50-60 miles to pace. Now that we were all gathered I organized the other pacers for the remaining 40 miles – Kristoffer, Tara, myself, Erin, and Michelle. Since I hadn’t really run in nearly 2 months since severely spraining my ankle I was hoping to get off with a small segment to pace. Due to the way schedules shook out, I ended up with the 10 mile leg between Outward Bound and May Queen aid stations that would involve a 2,000 foot climb up Powerline to Sugarloaf Pass. At least coming 3/4ths of the way into the race I figured Chris wouldn’t be moving too fast.

Brad, Tara and I quickly left Twin Lakes to drive around to Winfield not realizing what a traffic mess the roads around Winfield would be. With 2.5 miles still to drive to the aid station it was looking like we’d never get there in time to meet and pace Chris. So Brad and I loaded up a couple backpacks with food (including tortellini this time), clothes and water, plus Brad’s own gear to pace, and set out on a forced march up the dirt road. Tara eventually parked the car off the road and hiked in to join us as well. Chris came in looking a little worn out but Brad’s company soon brought him around and he passed many people going up Hope Pass on the return trip and threatened to outrun Brad. Tara and I scored a ride back down the 2.5 miles of road to our car then drove around to Twin Lakes, ate a bit of dinner and were soon surprised by an early arrival of Chris and a worn out Brad. Kristoffer took over pacing for the next 12 miles and the rest of us scattered to Pipeline or other more comfortable places to nap through the night.

At Pipeline I concentrated on eating and staying hydrated knowing my pacing leg was coming up and tried to catch a little sleep in the field as runners came through to meet their crews. Chris arrived feeling sluggish (the downhills were hurting him by now) and dehydrated. Tara had the next 3.5 miles to pace and force liquids on him while I drove ahead to Outward Bound and got ready to “run”.

Tara had done her job well and Chris had consumed 20 oz or so of water in the hour jog and hike to Outward Bound. There we put him in a chair with his legs up, got him to drink some broth and eat a bit of real food while he started to come around a bit more. In fact, by the time we left the aid station he was fairly chatty and I was able to keep up a conversation on ultras and other adventures as we motored up the steep and sandy Powerline trail to Sugarloaf Pass. Chris was able to eat and drink through this segment and even run some of the flats and gentle downhills on the way into May Queen. There Erin took over pacing and Tara and I fought to get out of the mess of a parking situation and tired crew members. We barely located and reached the Tabor boat ramp by the time Chris hiked the 6 miles there to give him his last opportunity to switch layers and access his gear. Michelle took him the final 6 miles into town for a ~28.5 hour 100 miler. As much as Tara and I would have loved to be there at the finish, we were simply too exhausted after pacing all night and found an empty gravel parking lot to throw some sleeping bags down and sleep for 3 hours as dawn arrived.

Chris’s performance was inspiring and motivating – I’d be lying if there wasn’t an ember in me now burning to train for another ultra next year.

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Big thanks to David Veit for taking the following photos of my wedding to Tara. Additional thanks to Pastures of Plenty for hosting and catering the event.

Rehearsal dinner:

Wedding ceremony:

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The last few weeks have been busier with normal life stuff than I’d like and while I have been out hiking, running and raced an orienteering meet, the blog has certainly been quiet on those smaller events. However, Tara and I got out for a weekend trip to Shelf Road, a destination rock climbing area of sunny limestone southwest of Colorado Springs. A normal 2.5 hour drive was delayed by rush-hour traffic through Denver and the campgrounds were all full so we eventually punted and got a hotel room for the first night. Disappointing since I was looking forward to camping in the high desert more than anything.

Saturday morning we rendezvoused with two other car-loads at the Sand Bank area and hiked into the Contest Wall. I’ve barely climbed in the last year+, so getting up The Opportunist (5.9) felt significant and once on top I setup a second anchor and took myself out of the climbing rotation and became the trip photographer. Being on a separate anchor and rope I could move up and down and capture more professional-style photographs from above and avoid the all-too-common “butt shots”.

After our group climbed the two 5.9’s (The Opportunist and Enterprise), Brad tried leading Phase Dance (5.12b) and had a handhold break off sending on a fairly major (but ultimately safe) fall. I wish I hadn’t been rappelling off my anchor at the time and had a lens pointed at him.

We moved on to Regroovable (5.11b) and Lime And Punishment (5.11b/c), neither of which I climbed, but the first I ascended and took up an airy perch for more shots.

At the end of the day I did top-rope one more route and we found a dispersed camping site to enjoy sleeping out in the desert air.

A several hour rain setup at 2am and caused some loss of sleep. Lingering clouds and cold air in the morning sent us away from the cliffs of Shelf Road and back into Canon City for breakfast and a drive home.

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I’d seen the signs a few times on the drive from Boulder to the Denver Airport. Since I was shuttling my beloved to the airport on Sunday morning I packed my camera gear and finally stopped by the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on my return trip.

I arrived before the visitors center was open, but already a couple other photographers were gathered in the bison area with their big lenses.

Shooting out of the car on this cold morning was a great way to settle in for an hour or more and let the bison wander around us.

I finally left the bison and headed to the rest of the refuge’s roads and spotted many of the other mammal species that call the Arsenal home.

Lake Mary was also a worthwhile stop with its floating boardwalk and plentiful bird life.

The white tail and mule deer seem to largely hang out around the eastern roads in the refuge.

This place isn’t really too far away (closer than the Wild Animal Sanctuary) and I hope to visit again, probably in a different season.

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