mountains run

Ups and Downs

By on January 14, 2015

Whew! What a weekend! Over the three days of the weekend (I took Monday mostly off work), I managed to accumulate 37.5 miles and 11,165 vertical feet over 9 hours in the mountains of Colorado. I’d say that’s a pretty good way to kick of training for two events that scare me to death. But seriously they do. Before you continue reading about my wonderful weekend of adventures, you should check out these two videos.

Lavaredo Ultra Trail:

The Rut 50K (skip to the 2 minute mark to see the really scary parts!):

Ok. Now that you understand what I have planned for my summer, hopefully my training will start to make sense.

20150110_073400 (1)To start off the weekend, I ran in the Boulder Skyline Marathon which involves running over all the prominent peaks of the Boulder skyline (hence the name). We started at dawn at the Centennial trailhead in North(ish) Boulder. This race isn’t the type to warm you up before kicking you in the teeth, it starts with a 1,200+ foot ascent to the top of Mount Sanitas, which was even more difficult thanks to the ice and snow that covered most of the trail. After returning to the start area, the course passes by the Boulder Red Rocks (which I didn’t even know existed) and then climbs to the top of Flagstaff Mountain. After 7 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing, we came upon an aid station to beat all aid stations. It had everything from the typical aid station fare of brownies, pretzels, and coffee to the amazing gifts from the gods of Santiago’s burritos, Fireball, and boxed wine! I wish I had taken a picture.

20150110_075330 (1)After the aid station to beat all aid stations, the grueling uphill climbing returned with another 1500+ foot climb up to the top of Green Mountain. At this point I was feeling pretty beat but decided I would continue down Fern Canyon, since it’s one of my favorite technical trails in Boulder. My brain apparently wasn’t working very well since I forgot that you can only get to Fern Canyon from the front side of Bear Peak (not the back side that I was climbing up). So I added another summit to my run. The actual course continued up South Boulder Peak and Eldorado Mountain, but I was really tired so I turned back towards my car. I guess Saturday was my “day of forgetfulness” because I also forgot that Mesa Trail is 7 miles long and climbs about 1,000 feet on the northward trip. I finally made it back to my car to round out the day with 22.48 miles, 7,715 feet of elevation gain, and a little under 7 hours on my feet. Needless to say, I went home and took a two hour nap!

20150111_145138Saturday night Jason came down to Denver and we had planned on going to Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday. The weather forecast changed those plans so we slept in a little bit and headed to Indian Peaks Wilderness. Jason had seen a picture of a lake that he thought started with an H. The only thing I knew of in Indian Peaks that started with an H was the Hessie Trailhead which is the start of multiple trails that go to multiple lakes. It turns out he was thinking of Lake Isabelle, which is about an hour north of the Hessie Trailhead, but we still made the most of our trip. The forest road to the Hessie Trailhead is apparently completely closed during the winter so we added an extra mile each way to our trip, which significantly altered which of the lakes off the trailhead we were willing to hike to. We picked the closest lake, Lost Lake, which is probably the least impressive lake accessible from the trailhead. But it was fun and it ended up being a 7.2 mile hike (with 1024 feet of elevation gain).

IMG_20150112_075839After the relative bust the day before, Jason and I had big plans for Monday morning. We talked about waking up in time to see sunrise over Dream Lake, but both decided it was too far of a drive. So we settled on sunrise over the Flatirons in Boulder since it was supposed to snow over night. We arrived in Boulder to the thickest fog I have seen since moving to Colorado. Standing next to the sledding hill in Chautauqua, I couldn’t see the Flatirons or Boulder. I could barely make out the snow plows along Baseline Road which was a quarter mile away. Sunrise was a bust, but we still decided to explore and discovered that there is an actual trail that goes up between the first and second flatiron (not just the climbing/scrambling route that most runners use). I was curious, so I convinced Jason to attempt it with me. The views left a lot to be desired but I’m sure they would be amazing on a clear day. After a nice 3.5 mile and 1500+ foot climb, we headed back to Denver, stopping at Santiago’s on the way for breakfast burritos! Yum!

IMG_20150112_141248Since we started so early, it was still early when we got back to Denver. I was kind of feeling like a nap, but Jason checked the Rocky Mountain National Park webcams and saw that the skies were blue there. Since he still wanted to get a picture of Dream Lake, we decided to make the drive up to Estes Park. We had hiked to Nymph Lake in the snow last year, but couldn’t find the trail that went beyond it. This time we almost made the same mistake, but then figured out where the trail went (thanks to the map we got when drove into the park). It’s a pretty easy hike, especially with snow covering all the rocks. We did make one wrong turn and somehow ended up 150 feet above Dream Lake, but back-tracked and were able to find the correct trail to the lake. The lake is in a glacial valley between Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain, flanked by the Dragons Teeth. It’s a beautiful but brutally windy place. As a result, the lake was almost swept free of snow. The ice was over a foot deep, which cracks and bubbles that went all the way down to the lake bottom. Jason could have stayed there all day, but my face and fingers quickly froze so we didn’t dawdle too long.

In the end the weekend was a smashing success. I closed out the 7 day period (that I won’t call a week since I count my weeks Monday – Sunday) with 55 miles, 11440 feet of elevation gain, and almost 13 hours on my feet. The crazy part is, those numbers will just keep going up when I really ramp up training for Lavaredo and it’s insane 600 feet of elevation change per mile. Wish me luck!!