Thursday, May 30, 2013

Twin Owls Loop

On Sunday, I went with my brother-in-law Sean to Rocky Mountain National Park for an overnight in the Lumpy Ridge area. We thought it would be wise to avoid the high country with all the late season snow. Lumpy Ridge doesn't get much higher than 9,000 feet and yet offers challenging climbs, expansive views of the Divide, and little nuggets of beauty in unexpected places.

The trail out to the campsite:

Aspens are nearly as beautiful in the Spring as they are in the Fall.

Thankfully there was a trail head only a mile away from our site, allowing us to set up camp first, and then explore with lighter day packs. The Rabbit Ears campsite (named for a rock formation that towers behind it) was set apart from the main trail by deep conifer woods and a roaring brook.

Once camp was established, we started hiking the Twin Owls loop, a twelve mile (or so) series of trails that goes around and straight over (twice) the massive granite ridge just to the North of Estes Park.

This family seemed less shy than their cousins on Turkey Mountain.

At one point the trail descends to the valley floor, crosses over onto private property, and meanders through a working cattle ranch.

Big expansive views of the Divide were to be found on many sections of the trail.

Snuggled in between giant rock boulders on top of the Eastern end of the ridge is Gem Lake. It lives up to its namesake.

I tried to imagine the first human to ever stumble upon this natural cathedral. What did he (or she) think? Was he too occupied with searching for his dinner or an enemy to take note, or did the power of this place compel him to stop, even for a brief moment, to wonder and marvel at something greater than his own immediate needs?

The shot below was taken at the end of the day, when we were tired and hungry. And yet this was the best part of the loop, in my opinion. The day hikers were gone and we had the trails to ourselves. Shadow blanketed the ridge and the land went still. Deep peace surrounded us as we trudged on, dreaming of pork and beans.

On Monday morning, after a hearty camp breakfast, we hiked a side trail to Bridal Veil Falls.

We were back at the car around noon on Monday, and stopped in at Oskar Blues in Lyons for the recovery. The G'Knight imperial red ale hit the spot, followed by the Siloh, basically a giant pile of meet in a bun. Sean had BBQ pulled pork that probably tasted a bit like heaven. Good beer, good food, good company; a great ending to an awesome trip. With all that vertical I feel a little more confident going into Golden Gate now.

Thanks Sean for an awesome adventure!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The line

Race strategy has never been one of my strong suits, but for the upcoming Golden Gate 12 miler, it's something I can't afford to go without.

Experienced runners, particularly of the ultra variety, will sometimes talk about identifying " the line". The line is simply that invisible point on the course for which you need to have tank in the gas to finish strong. The reason I finished so poorly at this year's Snake run, so the theory goes, was because I failed to think about where the line would be given my relatively low base mileage.

I've been thinking about where the line is on the Golden Gate course.

My best guess is it'll be somewhere on that steady climb up Windy Peak, the second of the two major climbs. The trick to doing this right, I think, will be to avoid the excitement of the start and hold back on the first ascent and descent.

Last Saturday morning I wanted to do something that would approximate, sans altitude, the course layout and put "the line" to the test. At Turkey I ran a six mile hilly loop at a conservative pace, followed by 8 continuous lipbuster repeats (about 1000 feet of gain), followed by a smaller hilly loop at a fast pace. It was a good run; my climbing  legs are strong and I finished ready for more.

Things are looking good, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if the high altitude will reduce all these plans to nothing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rediscover the familiar

Turkey Mountain undergoes a truly magical transformation during this time of year. 

In winter, the land is characterized by its openness. The river and surrounding hills can be seen through the bare branches. You see the lay of the land ahead and always know where the trail is going. While the views are nice, the place feels a bit small. 

And then, almost overnight, Turkey explodes with vegetation. In some places, the trail becomes more of a narrow tunnel in the dense foliage and undergrowth, having an almost claustrophobic feel. Birds mating in the trees, insects crawling in the leaves and my own footsteps are amplified in this natural studio. That constant drone of automobiles, so prominent in the winter, fades a bit. The trail that you've been running for months now has you disoriented and second- guessing where the next bend might lead.

Its time to rediscover the familiar.

Totally accidental, but I though it was pretty cool.

A suitable beer to match this explosion of life might be Tallgrass' new Ethos IPA. 110 IBU's, according to the can. The smell and taste are so fresh. This one has a nice balance of hop flavor and bitterness that makes it very drinkable. I'd put it up there with the best of them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Golden Gate

A work conflict kept me from the Oklahoma City Marathon this year, and that was just as well. My training wasn't up to the level I wanted in order to give it my best, making the price and time spent away hard to justify. If I do a road marathon this year, it''ll be Tulsa's Route 66 in the Fall.

One race that I have signed up for and really excited about is The Golden Gate Dirty Thirty - a 12 mile trail race in Colorado on June 1st, when we will be visiting God's country. The race is in Golden Gate Canyon, a beautiful state park in the foothills of the Rockies just West of Denver. I have blogged about running in the park here.
Dude's Fishing Hole in Golden Gate Canyon State Park
The Dirty Thirty has a 50k and 12 miler, and I would have preferred the challenge of 30 miles in the mountains if getting to the starting line at 6am wasn't such a logistical nightmare.  The 12 mile race begins at 9 and has a shuttle that takes you to the starting line. Much easier on the family :)

From a look at the elevation profile, the 12 miler is not walk in the park.

And running the 12 miler will allow me to do a little bit more than merely survive to the finish line. So how does a flatlander prepare for a good showing at a race like this? Plenty of Lipbuster repeats, for sure.