Wednesday, August 03, 2011
On Saturday, July 30th, I really wanted a nice easy run. I wanted to run while it was warm. I wanted to run at a "low" elevation of 6,000 to 7,000 feet. What I found was a difficult and dangerous trail along Dinosaur Ridge called Zorro. Zorro started off easy and became a rocky nightmare. I was too stubborn to turn around. See my previous blog "Clumsy and Fearless - First Aid Kit Required" for a description of the "nice easy trail" called Zorro.
Why was I looking for an easy run?
Because on Wednesday, July 27th, I ran 10k on a very steep trail; in the cold; in the dark; while it was raining; at nearly 10,000 feet of elevation. I ran the the Mule Trail near Shawnee, Colorado. Here is the story.
This is not really a trail sign but a warning to watch out for road apples.
At least the sign says "welcome" while advising that you could run into large foul-tempered beasts. There were no warnings about snakes or unexploded artillery shells, which is a plus.
I started up the trail at 8:00 PM. I took a photo of my car before I started up the hill since I knew it was going to be dark before I got back.
Hopefully, if my wife reports me missing, they would find my Corolla and send a mule after me. She only reported me missing once, but that is a different story.
The trail starts at 8,650 feet of elevation and climbs 1,155 feet in 1.1 miles! FYI - that is steep. The average grade was 20% to 40%.
This steeper than it looks in the photo. The trail starts off in a gentle climb and gets really steep.
The temperature was 52 degrees F. You can see the mule prints on the trail.
The trail is getting steep. Again, the trail is steeper than it looks in the photo. The trail tops-out at 9,805 feet. I still have a 1/2 mile to go to the top.
There are some mule signs on trail. This hill is not easy. I have a technique where I fall forward going up a steep hill. As I am falling forward I catch myself with my next step. This technique is called "falling uphill". This technique allows for a fast ascent but requires extreme coordination and lightning fast reflexes. There is evidence that I am deficient in both these characteristics, so "falling uphill" could easily become "rolling downhill". No guts - No glory. I am getting good at running up hills. I am also passable at applying bandages.
The hill is relentless. My mantra is simple, "step, step, step..."
I took a photo from the trail looking down at Highway 285 where my car is parked. This is shows what an 1,150' climb looks like.
I am on top of a mountain and it is getting dark. I need to run 2 more miles before I can start down.
I hopped this gate and kept running. The little spots on the photo are rain drops. I am wearing shorts, shirt and a waterproof shell. Stream is coming off of me!
I get to the end of the trail and turn around.
This is what it looked like as I started back. The trail is about to pitch down. The trail is muddy and rocky. It is also getting dark.
I took a detour down another trail so I could make sure I ran 10K. What the heck - in the middle of the wilderness was a porta-potty! I have about 2 miles to go and it is dark.
How did I do?
I did great! I covered 10K over bad terrain and steep hills in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 51 seconds! My pace was 10:44 min/mile at an average elevation of 9,558 feet. This was everything I had and then some. This exhausting run is why I was looking for a nice easy run the following Saturday. That is when I found the Zorro trail that ate my lunch!
I think I will be ready for another run tomorrow. Yesterday I lifted weights and did cardio on my elliptical. I am feeling better but the Shawnee Mule Trail and the Zorro Trail beat me up pretty badly.
Monday, August 01, 2011
When I was a kid my mother would not allow me to go near glass displays in a department store. For some reason she thought my close proximity to breakable objects might result in serious injury or at least major expense in terms of broken glass.
She may have had something there.
I lost count of the number of stitches I have had at 172. I cannot really estimate how many times I have visited emergency rooms. However, I have only been hospitalized twice due to injuries. When we were first married, my wife was puzzled why I regularly bought first aid kits. She know accepts these purchases as a necessary expense.
On Saturday, July 30th, I was in Denver for a meeting. I had my running stuff with me. I decided to do some "low" elevation running at 6,000 feet. I live at 8,500 feet in the Rocky mountains. The problem with running at high elevation is that your lungs give out before your legs. Without going into details, there are some compelling physiological reasons to train at a variety of altitudes.
I knew about a series of trails on Green Mountain near Denver.
Hayden Park has been around for a while and ranges in elevation from 6,100' to 6,900'. This park is near some pretty busy roads including Colorado 470 and Interstate 70.
Hayden Park gets funding from Jefferson County. The Park is actually operated by the City of Lakewood. Hence, the porta-potty!
This is a deluxe porta-potty with a barrier fence to keep the porta-potty from being blown away. Winds along the front range can be pretty intense.
The warning signs at parks always tickle me.
This sign notifies visitors that Prairie Rattlesnakes live here. The sign goes into great detail to explain that the harmless Bull snake also lives here and resembles the Rattlesnake. I wonder who is going to try to determine what type a snake is about to bite them. "Oh gee, I don't need to run away, that is just a harmless Bull snake."
A big Prairie Rattler is 4' long and has a really bad attitude. No wait - I think that is a harmless Bull snake.
Here is another sign that I though was unique. Evidently this area was used as an artillery range in WW II.
Just FYI, I did not step on an ancient artillery shell or get bitten by a snake, harmless or otherwise. I am not that lucky.
I decide to cross the street and run Zorro trail.
This sign is to enlighten speeding motorists that the people they just clobbered were hikers.
The Zorro trail looked inviting. Zorro was not shown on the Hayden trail map. In retrospect, I think there may have been a good reason Zorro was not on the Hayden trail map. The trail sign is cracked - first clue.
Start of the trail is smooth. The trail grade was between 10% and 30%. I started up the trail at 5pm. The temperature was blazing hot at 97 degrees F. The sun was beating down. The temperature was one degree cooler than than the ambient air temperature of hell.
I am running along pretty well at this point. I am dripping sweat but I am not even breathing hard. The trail climbs up the Dakota Hogback and rises 700 feet in about a mile. The Dakota Hogback is also called Dinosaur Ridge.
The trail started to get a bit rocky about 1/2 way up. Rough hewn stars on a trail are seldom a good sign - second clue.
The trail had some steep parts that required erosion control barriers. By now all the sun block I had put on had been sweated off. The sun is beating down on my neck right here.
This is s steep stretch over some difficult terrain. So far so good.
When I got to the summit, I found the trail was extremely "technical" and ran along the edge of a cliff! I put little dashes on the photo to show you the trail.
Here is what the Dakota hogback looks like. The trail is on the very top of the ridge. The views are pretty spectacular.
This is a view looking west toward I-70.
Looking east you can see Denver. See the bridge over the highway? Hayden Park is not far from that bridge. Eventually, I am going to have to run to that bridge.
Running on the edge of an abyss is actually draining. Particularly if you happen to be a world-class klutz! Here is were I fell. I tried to mark the photo where my foot landed and were my hand landed. I was about two miles into my run and still trying to keep up a decent pace. I caught myself with my right hand. I smacked my hand on a sharp piece of limestone. The good news is that I did not go over the edge.
The bad news is that I hurt my right hand. This hurt really badly. It felt like I slapped my hand down on a red hot straight razor. I still had a long way to go and my hand just wouldn't quit bleeding. I was happy that the blood was bright red, which means it is heavily oxygenated. My lungs and heart are working great. Balance and judgement are suspect, however!
On the way down, the trail surface got a little better. Note the position of the bridge - I have dropped quite a ways.
The downhill path is still challenging. There was some bad real estate on the way down. It is really hard to run on this stuff. I am still dribbling blood leaving a trail that Rattlesnakes, or harmless Bull snakes, can follow.
Zorro trail dumps out on a paved road that is marked for bicycles and pedestrians. Everybody assumes this little figure marks the pedestrian part of the road. I think it marks the spot where somebody fell off Zorro trail!
I had to run about 1/2 mile back to the car on pavement. Ordinarily, I hate pavement. After running Zorro trail, the pavement looked good to me.
I made a clumsy attempt to bandage my hand. The first aid kit in the car was badly depleted. I cleaned the wound with water and Windex wipes. I slathered on anti-biotic cream. I covered the gash with band-aides and gauze; and wrapped this make-shift dressing with white tape. I did this mostly so I would not get blood on my wife's car.
On Sunday I went to REI and got a small, but well equiped, first aid kit. I can actually carry this with me.
I bought the REI Hiker kit that is rated for 2 people for 3 days; or one very clumsy runner for one run. The REI Hiker kit cost $22.50 but includes almost everything I need to patch minor wounds.
So how did I do?
Not all that great. I ran 5K (3.11 miles) in 39 minutes at an average pace of 12:30 min/mile. I know this is horrible. But I really didn't want to take a nose dive over the cliff and become one of those little white figures on the road!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
There is a small group of crazies that put on the "Run Uphill" trail racing series.
This is the eye-catching logo of the "Run Uphill Racing" group. The only issue that I have with this logo is the little stick figure is smiling. That just doesn't happen!
I am always looking for a new place to run. On Monday, July 25th, I decided to go to Pine Valley Ranch, which is a popular part of the lavish Jefferson County Open Space Park system. Jefferson County, Colorado, is a affluent suburban county. I live in Park county, which is right next to Jefferson County. Here is the vital statistics:
Park County has 2,210.69 square miles and is roughly the sIze of Delaware. Delaware has a population density of 442.6 people per square mile. Park County, Colorado, has a population density of 5 people per square mile. I had a feeling that this place was getting too crowded!
Jefferson County has 778 square miles and a population density of 683 people per square mile! In other words, Jefferson County has a tax base that Park County can't touch. A huge tax base is the reason why Jefferson County has lavish facilities at 36 open space parks, Five people per square mile is the reason why Park County can manage one porta-potty at a few trail heads.
At any rate, I live close enough to Jefferson County to take advantage of the high-dollar facilities that the good people of Jefferson County so generously provide. Here is a photo essay of my run at Pine Valley Park.
There is a really cool building at the park. I really don't know what the building is for. I think the building is there to hold up the park sign.
This is a shot of one of the rest rooms. This is a "green" facility that turns waste into compost. I am not sure what is done with the compost and I don't want to know.
These are some of the ginormous picnic pavilions at the Pine Valley Park. I think you could feed an army here! Perhaps the park management uses the compost on this grass. Your guess is as good as mine.
The North Fork of the South Platte River runs through the park. The "No Tubing" sign is a good idea. This is a very fast river.
There are three nice bridges over the river. The river is running very high due to runoff from a record snowpack.
Here is an aerial of the race course that the "Run Uphill" club holds at Pine Valley Park in May. The distance is 7.7 miles but there is a lot of uphill segments. Hence the name of the club.
The park has a confusing trail layout. Some trails are wheelchair accessible, which is pretty cool. Some trails are marked "Hiker Only". I noted they didn't say "Runner Only". There is also a lake with great fishing. I don't fish much because I usually fall asleep and feed the fish my bait.
I grabbed a trail map and put it in the pocket of my running shorts. I didn't want to get lost. Besides I started running at 8:00pm. It was likely to be dark by the time I got done.
Pine Valley Trail is relatively flat and is traveled by people enjoying themselves. I don't want to go that way. I turned down Narrow Gauge Trail because my goal is to beat the tar out of myself. I succeeded.
Here is a sign down the trail about 1/2 mile. See there are no other people on this trail. I think that is a good sign.
These clouds are kind of pretty. The clouds would be very pretty if they didn't mean rain, thunder and lightning.
Over the bridge and into the woods. The trail is about to get interesting.
Cool little bridge along the trail. This is pretty flat and I am humming along at 6:04 min/mile pace. The flat stuff lasts about 1/4 mile. Then the trail gets steep - like 30% steep!
I wonder why photos never do a trail justice. This is really steep here. The trail is nice and smooth. My pace had fallen off considerably. The good news is that Pine Valley Park is at a "low" elevation of 7,450 feet. 7,450 feet only costs you about 30% in blood oxygen saturation.
Oh No! A fork in the trail. No worries. I just pull out my trusty trail map and ..... rats! I lost it. I got to get back before dark. Eenie meenie miney mo....
Buck Gulch Trail looks pretty inviting.
Strawberry Jack Trail looks a bit steeper. Which one would you chose? I decided to take Strawberry Jack because it roughly headed back toward the parking lot. This may have been an error.
Strawberry Jack bent around and climbed a mountain. When I checked the trail map back at the car I found that both Buck Gulch and Strawberry Jack trails go off into oblivion. There was no right choice.
I ran through the Buffalo Creek burn area. In 1996 this area was on fire. It looks pretty good now.
There were no strawberries on Strawberry Jack trail but there were some wild raspberries. When I took this photo it was starting to get dark.
By the time I finished running it was bitch black. Here is a rock in the middle of the trail that I did not trip over. I was at the top of Strawberry Trail as the sun started to set. I decided to turn around and go down the way I came up. I thought that back tracking was a lot safer then trying to dead reckon my way back to the base in the dark.
How did I do?
I ran 5.2 miles in 45:34 at an average pace of 8:45 minutes/mile. My fastest pace was 6:04 minutes/mile. Granted the trail was at 6,800 to 7,450 feet in elevation, which is lower than I usually run. The maximum grade was 35%. However, the average grade was a more manageable 13%. I think all the trail running and biking is starting to payoff. I am losing weight and getting stronger.
Now if I can just stay healthy and keep from hurting myself, I think I will be ready for the Leadville 10K two weeks from now.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Mountain runners have a saying:
"The closer you get to Heaven the more it feels like Hell!"
I am training for the Leadville 10K that is scheduled for August 14th. I am really trying hard not to hurt myself again. About a month ago I started to rehab my left knee. I had partially torn my ACL by stepping in a hole while running on Webster pass in April. I ran a couple of races on my wobbly knee and did not do well. About the time my knee started feeling better, I injured my back! As a result of my injuries, I missed the Mount Evans Ascent on June 18th . I could not run a step from May 29th to June 26th. Completely out of shape, I started running again doing the C25K program.
Sheesh, as I wrote the above "story of my life", I started thinking all this stuff sounds pretty pathetic.
I am trying to train smarter. I started riding my bike a lot more on pretty easy terrain. I started doing a lot more stretching. I was taking it easy with my running by doing sensible interval training on the nice soft track at the local high school.
All this sensible stuff just sucked! I hit technical trails on my bike. As a result I managed to get a few minor flesh wounds. But the hard trails were fun! If it ain't fun, I have a hard time getting motivated.
I knew my conservative running schedule was not going to help me get up the hill at the Leadville 10k. This race starts at 10,000 feet of elevation and goes up from there. I hit the trails. I ran the Flying J trails and had an enjoyable 5k run in beautiful surroundings.
I got new shoes a couple days ago and had to break them in right. I headed for Beaver Ranch. First, let me say I am fine and didn't break, bang or destroy any critical body parts. The following is a photo essay of my training run.
Beaver ranch is not a high-dollar part of the Jefferson County open space park system. This is a normal Park County low-dollar trail that is "technical" because nature is trying to push out the invaders and nobody is fighting back!
There is a porta-potty at the trail head that is reasonably clean. Beggars cannot be choosers. Compare this to a typical Jefferson County facility.
This is the modern restroom at the Flying J. However, lots of people use the Flying J, justifying the cost. The advantage of Beaver Ranch is solitude.
Here is my trusty Corolla all by its lonesome.
A silent winter warrior stands ready to do its duty. Rusty and beat up,this truck is worth its weight in gold when the snow starts to fly.
My new shoes are ready for action!
Nike Zoom Vomeros are not trail shoes. I find trail shoes are too heavy in size 13.
This is a nice set of trails. However, trying to find the overgrown routes can be a challenge.
This trail map does not say "you are here". The map does show "P" for parking or porta-potty. Really doesn't matter which one.
This is a new and welcome sign. I think this blew the entire yearly budget.
Of course, I got a good idea why this sign is here. The trail looks inviting to a 4x4.
Obligatory sign warning of bears and mountain lions.
I find it interesting that there are no beavers at Beaver Ranch. There is a beaver up on Kenosa pass that we have named "Bridgestone". Bridgestone is bent on flooding the Kenosha valley and depriving Denver of its water source. Bridgestone is a brave little rodent for taking on the mighty Denver Water Board! Now if Bridgestone could dam the Colorado River California would become a budget wasteland and Vegas would become a desert supported by gambling and prostitution. No wait... never mind.
Back at No Beaver Ranch there is even a trail head sign.
Not pretty but effective. The scenery is pretty. We have been getting lots of rain. The fire danger is low and everything is nice and green.
One runner (moi), 65 degrees, 8280 feet elevation, light breeze, crystal clean air, new shoes, great scenery, good legs, hydration belt, wild flowers in bloom and birds singing. Does it get better than this? I think not!
About a mile down the smooth trail is this rustic bridge. At this point I am flying down the trail at an 8 min/mile pace. The nice smooth trail is about to go bye-bye. The new shoes feel great.
Gracious, these stairs are new. Is there no end to the lavish spending on improvement?
I am curious why the stairs are wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. I suspect half way up they starting running out of money and had to economize. Just a theory.
Up the stairs and up the hill. My pace is about to get a lot slower.
I took this shot in attempt to show that the trail is sort of steep at this point.
There are a few more steps up the trail a bit.
There is a Frisbee golf course along the trail. I think that is weird.
Now the trail gets interesting.
Steep and rocky. My pace gets even slower.
This is a long and treacherous uphill stretch. I decided to go up the hill. There is an option to go around the hill. Still have to climb but it is a lot safer.
There is a part of this trail that is so overgrown that it disappears for 1/4 mile. This is not "technical".
The down hill is steep and has a few hazards.
This is the beginning of the descent. The trail profile is all up then all down. The trail does not "roll" up and down. Legs feel like rubber here
This is looking "up" the downhill section. I wanted to get a good shot of the roots. The way I get these shots is to go over the trail once I finish running. I slowly jog or walk parts of the trail to take photos. My photos tend to be of the beginning and end of the trail. I often don't want to do the trail all over again. Carrying my camera helps me cool down.
How did I do on my run? I ran 4 miles in 42 minutes. My average pace was about 10:30 min/mile. With my left knee pretty much healed, I could roll on the downhill sections. My fastest pace was 5:42 min/mile. The steepest part of the trail was a 45% grade. I felt pretty strong during my run. However, I am a long way from be able to do well during the Leadville 10K. I still have a little time to train.
The parking lot is actually pretty big.
This gives me an idea. I think I could organize a trail race here at Beaver Ranch. There is ample parking. I can rent another porta-potty. I have five grown children that can work the race. I have a canopy and long folding table for registration. We have several laptops and printers to help with registration. The trail has just a few technical parts but could be routed to minimize the difficult terrain. My daughter is graduating with a degree in communications and would know how to advertise and promote the race. We have big water jugs. My wife likes to do this sort of stuff. The trail is wide with only a few choke points. I know where to get bib numbers. I know everybody around here and could get sponsors pretty easily. The course is almost exactly 4 miles. 8,200 feet of elevation is not ridiculously high. My good friend John organizes the Long Scraggy trail race and could give me pointers.
I would have to think up a name like the "Beaver Ranch 4 Mile Trail Race". There are tons of good charities that are hungry for money.
Would any of you be up for a trail race?
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