Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Favorite Trails

I was recently asked to make a list of my favorite trails in the U.S.  As a high school teacher, my summers allow for a lot of travel, a perk I have taken advantage of.  I have had the privilege to explore some of the most beautiful areas of the country, though I prefer to spend most of my time in the mountains of Colorado.  Asking me to pick 5 top trails was difficult, so I picked 10.  Even that took a week of narrowing down my list, no small feat.  For me, my favorites are the ones with the best views, though sometimes that view takes many miles and thousands of feet of climbing to reach.  All the pain and suffering goes away as soon as I gaze out into the vast mountain wilderness.  I’m a sucker for high alpine lakes, especially those that are lightly trafficked.  So, here’s my list…

#10 – Blue Lakes/Blue Lakes Pass (Ridgway, CO)

            We rented a house in Ouray in the summer of 2012, and I had the opportunity to explore the San Juans for 6 weeks.  One of the first places I hiked was up to Blue Lakes, just outside Ridgway.  There is a lower and upper lake, both of which I visited that summer.  I have since returned and hiked all the way up to Blue Lakes Pass, which affords you great views of Mt. Sneffels and down into Yankee Boy Basin.  It’s a lung-buster, but totally worth the effort.  Take a book and sit by the lake.  I didn’t want to leave.

(Lower Blue Lake As Seen From Upper Blue Lake)

 (Relaxing At Lower Blue Lake)

#9 – Isabelle Glacier (Indian Peaks Wilderness – Nederland, CO)

            The Indian Peaks Wilderness lies just 40 minutes up the canyon from Boulder, so it can get a little crowded during the summer.  Snow often lingers late into July, so this area was one I hadn’t explored until this past summer.  I’ve spent time in Nederland before (love this town), but last July was my first chance to explore (albeit briefly) the trails within the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  I decided to do an out and back to Blue Lake (does every town in Colorado have a Blue Lake???) and then do the same to Lake Isabelle (carved out by the Isabelle Glacier).  This 11.5 mile jaunt has 3,200’ of vertical change and tons of views, highlighted (for me) by the lakes on either end.  There are numerous other trails that I’d like to explore here, with some bigger linkups available.  I’ll definitely be back.

(Blue Lake)

 (Isabelle Glacier)

#8 – Sawtooth Lake (Stanley, ID)

            Until a few years ago, I had never been to Idaho.  While making my way to Oregon, I decided to kill a couple days in the Sawtooth Mountains.  Not knowing where I should stay, I listened to a song (titled “Idaho” - from one of my favorite bands, Yonder Mountain String Band.  The lyrics mention 4 towns in Idaho, so I did some research and settled on Stanley.  The Sawtooths are spectacular, reminding me a bit of the Tetons.  Stanley was a neat little town, like a Colorado town with less people.  I was able to find a natural hot spring next to the Salmon River, which was a nice treat after a long day of hiking.

 (Sawtooth Lake)

#7 – Mohawk Lakes (Breckenridge, CO)

            As I mentioned, I love lakes.  Lakes are to me what waterfalls are to Chris Russell.  So when we saw this hike listed in a magazine, we decided to give it a try.  The first few miles wind up through the forest, eventually popping out next to Lower Mohawk Lake.  A rocky scramble brought me to Upper Mohawk Lake, where I thought about stopping.  Remembering that a local had told me about a series of lakes beyond this one, I continued on.  What I encountered was one beautiful lake after another, separated by flower-filled tundra with smooth trails.  The best part was I was the only person out this far, so I had the place to myself.  This is a nice little 9 mile hike, and I’d recommend it for anyone visiting the Breckenridge area.

(One of the Many Lakes On This Hike)

(Buff Singletrack)

#6 – American Basin (San Juan Mountains, CO)

            I was told I couldn’t count the Hardrock course as one big trail, so I’m counting the American Basin section (including Handies Peak) as my #6 favorite trail in the U.S.  I’ve been on this section of the course three times, including a spectacular sunrise and and even better sunset (in 2015 when I ran Hardrock).  Any race that makes you scale a 14er, then descend to 12K, only to go back over 13K before dropping into an aid station 3,000’ below is sadistic, but that’s what Hardock does.  I am particularly fond of the ascent up Handies in the counterclockwise (odd year) direction, as you are treated to spectacular views into American Basin when you summit the 14,048’ peak.  

(American Basin Just After Sunrise - Hardock 2016)

 (Descending Into American Basin @ Sunset - Hardrock 2015)

#5 – Bridge of Heaven/Bear Creek (Ouray, CO)

            While some of the aforementioned trails offer more spectacular views, the Bridge of Heaven hike in Ouray, CO has a special place in my heart, as it was my “go to” hike (especially when adding Bear Creek Trail) when I spent a summer in Ouray.  The “bridge” is a large grassy knoll that sits at 12,300’ and offers sweeping views of the Sneffels Range to the west, Red Mountain to the south, and the town of Ouray 5,000’ below.  This hike can be done from the upper trailhead, or you can start from town and take the steeper approach.  I’ve done it as an out and back (about 11 miles total), or as a longer outing that connects to Bear Creek Trail (part of the Hardrock course) before dumping out in Ouray.

(Looking South Towards Red Mountain)

 (Bear Creek Trail)

#4 – Scarp Ridge/Blue Lake/Oh Be Joyful Trail (Crested Butte, CO)

            Crested Butte is my favorite town in Colorado, hands down.  It has something for everyone.  You can get big vertical or cruise buff singletrack through the wildflowers for hours on end.  I love the place and go every summer.  The views from high on Crested Butte’s peaks are hard to beat, offering sweeping vistas of the Elk Mountains and the Maroon Bells to the north, and numerous valleys all around.  One of my favorite views is from the top of Scarp Ridge, a narrow path that cuts across the top of peaks from town out to Lake Irwin.  There are numerous linkups you can put together, but one of my favorites is to cross Oh Be Joyful Creek and head up the OBJ Valley.  The initial climb out is fairly gradual, but you are rewarded with huge views up the valley with peaks on either side.  After several miles, you have a few options, but I recommend climbing up for Blue Lake for a dip, then making your way up to the pass and the top of Scarp Ridge.  From here, take the narrow (and at times a bit sketchy) path over Gunsight Pass and back down towards town.  You get a little bit of everything on this trail – steep climbs, high alpine lakes, smooth dirt trails, and of course the wildflowers that make Crested Butte so famous.

(Hiking Up the Oh Be Joyful Valley)

(Looking at the Maroon Bells From Gunsight Pass)

(Green Lake Below and the Elk Mountains Ahead)

(Descending the Ridge)

 (A Cold Dip In Blue Lake)

#3 - Sneffels Highline Trail (Telluride, CO)

            After my first year of teaching, I decided to take advantage of my summer and go check out the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  As soon as I hit the San Juans, I was hooked.  If you’ve ever been to the festival or seen the San Juans, you understand.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of this area, but it feels like home to me.  I like all mountains, but the rugged beauty of the San Juans are at the top for me.  While Crested Butte has become my favorite town in Colorado, the sheer beauty of Telluride is hard to beat.  Nestled in a box canyon with 13,000’ peaks on 3 sides, Telluride is a slice of heaven.  If you don’t enjoy steep and nasty, stay away.  Don’t like waterfalls?  Telluride isn’t for you either.  I spent that week waking up early to play in the mountains all morning and listen to bluegrass all afternoon into the night.  Talk about heaven. 
            It took me several trips to Telluride before conditions were good for exploring the Sneffels Highline Trail on the north side of town.  The bluegrass festival is in June, and typically there is still too much snow in the high country to attempt this run.  One year I got lucky, as it was a low snow year, so I set off on the 14 mile loop.  It was spectacular to say the least.  I found myself all alone, feeling like I was hours from civilization.  There were huge peaks, cascading waterfalls, and wildflowers bursting with color.  I was hooked.  Although I have yet to run this trail since, I rank it as one of my favorites of all time.

(Mt. Wilson in the Distance)

 (Telluride Beauty)

#2 – Island Lake/Grant Swamp Pass (Silverton, CO)

            If someone wants to know what Hardrock looks like, just show them a picture of Island Lake.  If they want to see if Hardrock is for them, take them to the top of the Grant Swamp Pass at over 13,000’ and look over the other (north) side.  It’s steep.  Actually, steep doesn’t do it justice.  It’s ridiculously steep, and the rocks and dirt move with every step.  You don’t run down so much as ski/slide/surf.  It’s a scary feeling at first but is actually a lot of fun.  Runners hit Grant Swamp at mile 15 (clockwise) or 85 (counterclockwise), and they are often greeted by a cheering section of people who have hiked up to watch from the best seat in the house.  I try to run this section every time I’m in Silverton, and it never disappoints.

(Steep Side of Grant Swamp Pass)

(Sunset Over Island Lake)

 (Jason Showing Off His Scree Surfing Skills on the "Easy" Side of the Pass)
(A Still-Frozen Island Lake During Hardrock 2015)

 (On Top of grant Swamp Pass @ Mile 85 of Hardrock 2015)

#1 – Columbine Lake (Silverton, CO)

            This hidden gem is tough to find, and even tougher to run (round trip is 9 miles with over 6k vertical change).   Situated just north of Silverton, between Silverton and Telluride, most people have never heard about it.  I had never heard of it until, after pacing a friend at Hardrock in 2012, another friend suggested we check it out.  After fording a creek in my car and parking on the side of a rutted-out road, we began the steep (over 1,000’ of small loose rock in the first mile) climb to the first saddle.  From here you traverse across snow and ice (this was mid July) into a huge basin.  Upon entering the basin, we lost the trail and couldn’t figure out where we needed to go.  After locating Columbine Pass high above us, we figured we would cut across the tundra (through water, snow, and mud) and gain a better vantage point.  From the pass you can see across into one of the many valleys leading down into Telluride, and the majesty of the San Juans is on full display.  Figuring we had somehow missed the lake, we turned to head back down.  Upon doing this, we were greeted by views of the bluest lake I have ever seen in person.  I have since shown pictures of Columbine Lake to friends, who inevitably give me grief about having photoshopped an image.  No, it truly is this blue.  We saw no one on the way up or the way down, got big views of the San Juans, and hung out by the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen.  For these reasons, the Columbine Lake trail is my favorite trail in the U.S.

(Columbine Lake)


Saturday, May 28, 2016

High Times in the Low Country: My Hypoxico Experience – Part 1

-->           Pursuing a passion for the mountains can be a challenge when you live at less than 1000’ above sea level.  I am lucky because as a high school teacher, my job allows me time to get out to the mountains well ahead of any Summer race so I can acclimatize.  Still, I’ve always wanted to bypass that 2 week period where gasping for air is inevitable as my body makes the necessary adaptations allowing me to run and play above 10,000’.  For several years I have looked into buying a Hypoxico system, but they are an expensive investment. 

(My Idea of Paradise)

(Hypoxico Tent)

--> This Spring my coach and friend Joe Sulak developed a Performance Lab at Stratton Sport and Spine in the Stone Oak area of San Antonio, Texas. They recently purchased a Hypoxico altitude simulator to help athletes maintain aerobic conditioning while recovering from injury as well as assisting mountain athletes get a head start in the adaptation process.  Brock Stratton, the clinics mastermind and owner, and Joe brought me in to test out the unit.  After 6 weeks I am a believer.  Joe devised a protocol that, in 3 workouts of 30 minutes each per week, would have me mountain ready by June.  We started relatively low, usually beginning at 5,000’ and working up to 8,000’, running at speeds ranging from 5mph to 6mph.  Now I begin at 10,000’ (7mph) and work up to fast intervals (10mph) at 12,000’.  Aside from feeling better, my oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) prove that my body is adapting to the stresses of higher elevations.  That’s the cool thing about working with Joe and Brock…their methods are always driven by science. 

(It Puts the Lotion In the Basket)
--> Today I can run faster at higher elevations than when I began which is proof of the application of the adaptations made in the clinic. We have added a few “passive” sessions into the protocol, where I sit around at 22,000’ reading a book.  This sounds easy, but your brain doesn’t initially function well at that altitude.  I usually have to remain seated for a few minutes afterwards so I don’t pass out.  It’s a surreal experience.  I am excited about my mountain fitness and can’t wait to test it out for real next week.  

(Light Reading at 22,000' Above Sea Level)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“You Can’t Pick Up Any White Women Driving Slow” – My Hardrock Experience (Part 1 – Before the Race)

            I fell in love with the San Juans in the summer of 2007 on my first trip to Telluride.  I had just finished my first year as a teacher and decided to travel to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and to explore places I’d only heard about.  The minute I crested the pass and saw Trout Lake ringed by snow-capped peaks just outside Telluride, I knew I had found paradise.  This place was special.  I have since spent many hours in the mountains, exploring some of the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer, but I still find myself drawn to the San Juans.  If you’ve been there, you get it.  If not, well, it’s difficult to explain.  They are massive, rugged, and undeniably beautiful.  I am in awe every time I go.  It truly feels like home.  I have since gone back to the Bluegrass Festival 6 times, and it never gets old.  I look forward to my yearly trip and can’t think about anything else the last few months of school.  I get to run in the most beautiful mountains in the U.S. for hours, then listen to bluegrass music until the early morning hours.  It doesn’t get much better than that.
(Trout Lake)

            The summer of 2007 also marked my first mountain ultra, the White River 50 Miler in Washington.  I suffered quite a bit that day, but I was hooked.  2 years later I signed up for my first 100 mile trail race, the Wasatch Front 100 in Utah.  It was rugged and beautiful, and it just happened to be a Hardrock qualifier (although this was the furthest thing on my mind when I registered).  I decided to put my name in the Hardrock lottery, but I was not chosen.  Nor was I chosen the next 5 times I tried, and with each passing year (accompanied by more trips to the San Juans) my fascination with Hardrock grew until I could barely contain myself.  I HAD to run that race.  It was the perfect combination of rugged beauty and extreme challenge.  As the race grew in popularity, the chances of getting selected in the lottery grew smaller and smaller.  I was lucky enough to pace a friend (John Sharp) in 2012, so I got to experience firsthand the final 54 miles in the clockwise direction (the race alternates direction each year).  I was both frightened and enthralled by the experience.  Finally, after 6 tries, my name was called.
 (Finishing the White River 50 in 2007 - my first mountain ultra)

          I had followed the previous 5 lotteries via Twitter, waiting anxiously with friends to see if any of our names were called.  This year I was in the mountains of northern Georgia running a 50k with a friend in some of the most horrendous conditions (the mud was laughable), so there would be no waiting by the phone or constantly hitting refresh on my computer screen.  I knew that friends and family would let me know if my name was drawn, and I anxiously awaited the end of my race so I could check my messages.  When I got back to the car (and had time for my numb hands to dry and thaw out), I saw dozens of messages congratulating me on being selected for the 2015 running of Hardrock.  I was speechless.  I had been waiting 6 years for this.  After the euphoria wore off, I was left with a slight sense of dread and worriedness.  How would I train for this race, with it’s 67,000’ of cumulative elevation change and average elevation of 11,400’, in San Antonio?  I had hills, but no mountains.  This was going to be quite the challenge, one I was ready to tackle.
            After sitting down with my coach and close friend Joe Sulak, we hammered out a plan that would prepare me for 100 miles of “wild and tough”, as the race’s motto states.  We carved out weekend trips to the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas, countless hours of incline work on the treadmill, and a couple mountain races to test my fitness along the way.  I totally trust what Joe says, so I knew that whatever he had me doing would work.  I would continue my weekly strength workouts with Joe, which I firmly believe have made me a better runner over the years.  I would arrive in Colorado 3 weeks before the race, giving me ample time to acclimatize to the altitude.  With the plan in place, I began counting down the days until school was out and I headed West.  I spent hours watching You Tube videos of the race, reading reports from past years, and talking with Joe Prusaitis (who has 7 Hardrock finishes and offered a wealth of information).  I studied maps and memorized elevation  profiles.  Although the course is marked (“sparsely marked” in the words of Course Director Charlie Thorn), there are section where navigating can be difficult.  Snow, fog, and animals eating flagging all wreak havoc on the marking, so anyone attempting Hardrock should have a fairly good understanding of where the should be and where the course goes.  I prepared for this race like none before, because it was a race like none I had ever run before.  I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  I had to do it right.  
(The Guadalupe Mountains - my "local" mountain)

(Fun at 40%)

            The second semester of school whizzed by, and before I knew it I was wishing my students a happy summer and packing my car for the month-long adventure.  The plan was to spend 5-6 days in Telluride (by way of Taos and Rico), another few in Ridgway, followed by 10 days in Crested Butte before moving over to Silverton the week of the race.  We had received an email in mid April detailing the snowpack conditions on the course and predictions for the race.  Snow had been sparse in the San Juans and we could expect a mostly dry course come July 10.  But then a funny thing happened in May in Colorado (and elsewhere) – it snowed…a lot.  By some accounts the San Juans received more snow in May than any other month this season.  Now the rumor was that this could be one of the snowiest Hardrocks ever.  Since I live in South Texas, I have limited experience with training and running in snow, especially the deep stuff.  I made my mental plans of routes I wanted to hit, peaks I wanted to bag, sections of the course I wanted to scout.  But when I stopped in Taos, NM on my way out to Colorado, I realized the snow in the high country was going to make these tasks very difficult, if not impossible. 
(Lots of this while I was in Colorado)

            I tried (unsuccessfully) to summit Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest peak at over 13,000’.  I made it to just under 11,000’ before the waist-deep post holing began.  After a few minutes of this I realized I was fighting a losing battle and headed back down to try another approach.  I made it all the way (through snow) to Williams Lake at 11,000’ before turning back.  I would repeat this same scenario numerous times over the next 10 days as I trudged up and down the peaks around Telluride and Ouray.  The days were warm and clear, and the snow was melting fast, but there was a whole lot of snow to melt.  I ran solo most days and enjoyed the solitude, although it was nice to have a familiar face join me a time or two.  I spent a few days in Crested Butte before one of my pacers, Dave Brown, arrived with his family and dog (who apparently is immune to leaps from second floor balconies).  We explored the Elk Mountains and Maroon Bells surrounding Crested Butte, a place I would move to in a heartbeat.  I am obsessed with that town, maybe more so than any in Colorado.  Everything was so green, and the contrast against the reddish hue of the Maroon Bells was spectacular.  It made tapering very difficult, and I found myself cutting a few outings “short” at 16 miles and wanting more.  I can’t resist summittng a pass, and I’m a sucker for high mountain lakes.  

(Copper the Wonderdog) 

(The Maroon Bells)

          Cindy joined us in Crested Butte for a few days before we headed to Silverton.  I had experienced great weather for 95% of my trip, but that all changed in Silverton, where it rained for much of the week leading up to the race.  I guess this could be seen as a blessing, as I wasn’t tempted to spend countless hours exploring the mountains so close to Hardrock.  I hiked the 4 mile section from the Bear Creek (Ouray – there are 3 different Bear Creeks on the HR course) trailhead to Ouray AS and out to Camp Bird Road with Dave and Eric White since Dave and I would be hitting that at night and wanted to be familiar with it.  Chris (crew, chief napper) and Liza (pacer) drove up from San Antonio a couple days prior to the race, and we all had fun seeing other runners and crews walking around town.  We sat through the “shortened” (2 hours instead of the typical 4+) course briefing, during which Charlie Thorn detailed the various ways we could die on the “sparsely marked” course, none of which made Cindy laugh.  Several of us walked the last few miles of the course to make sure we knew the route and could find our way home in our oxygen-depleted state at the end of the race.  I packed my drop bags (ask Chris for a detailed account of this), bought some souvenirs, and stopped at the local coffee shop/brewery for one final beer before settling down at the house for what I knew would be a very restless night.  In what I can only describe as one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever overheard, a local miner detailed life in Silverton to Cindy.  After boasting that he had once driven from Silverton to Ouray in 17 minutes (if you’ve ever driven this road, you know how ridiculous that sounds), our new friend remarked (with a sheepish grin) that “you can’t pick up any white women driving slow”. 

 (Helping the local economy)

 (Dave exploring the climb out of Ouray)

 (Mineral Creek - mile 98.5)

(Even aliens want a picture with the Cactus Kid)

(Ready to go)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Goin' Out West - Week 1

Tuesday (6/16)

            After spending the night with friends outside Taos, NM (very different town than I had envisioned), I drove to the Taos Ski Valley to make an attempt to summit Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest mountain at just over 13,000’.  I had summited the previous year from the other (Red River) side, but I wanted to see the Bull of the Woods Trail and its beautiful ridges from the Taos side.  The same storms that have brought devastating flooding to Texas dumped massive amounts of spring snow in the mountains, so I had my work cut out for me.  Sure enough, after only 3.5 miles, I hit impassable (for me) amounts of snow, still 5 miles from the summit.  Disappointed, I turned and headed back down the mountain, unsure how I would get my 15 miles in for the day.  Once at the Ski Valley again, I explored and found another trailhead (Williams Lake) and followed it up to the lake at 11,000’.  I encountered a good bit of snow along the way in the woods, forcing me to follow the blue blazes on the tress since the trail was buried much of the time.  I passed several groups of people who were coming down from the lake, and they warned me that there was a bear and her cub roaming around the lake.  Much to my dismay, the bears were nowhere to be found when I arrived at the lake, which was beautiful and ringed by high snow-covered peaks.  With a storm approaching, I quickly made my way back down through the snow to my car, hit the local brewery for a burger and beer, and made the drive to Rico, CO, where I had managed to find a hostel run by a guy who went to my high school in Memphis. 

Mileage – 14.8
Time – 4:36
Ascent – 3967’
Descent – 3967’
Total Vertical - 7934'
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – N/A

(Lots of Snow)

(Williams Lake)

 (Rio Grande Gorge)

Wednesday (6/17)

            I chose Rico in part because the hostel was cheap and owned by a guy from Memphis, but also because it offered quick access to the trails in the Lizard Head Wilderness.  I have been coming to the San Juans for 7 summers, but I have yet to explore this area around Lizard Head Peak.  I decided I would try to make it to the pass (12,600’) but knew I might not be able to due to the snowpack.  I set out under a clear blue sky and cool temps, and sure enough, I turned back after 2.5 miles and headed down to my car due to the snow.  I drove a few miles to another trailhead, hoping for better luck.  I made it another couple miles before I had to cross several snowfields in which the snow came up to my waist at times.  After 30 minutes of this (and seeing no break in the snow ahead), I again turned back and headed to the car.  Although I only logged 10 miles, my legs were worked.  It isn’t easy (at least not for me) to work your way up the mountain through deep snow, and the run back down was no picnic either as the melting snow created rivers of mud and cold water.  My stabilizer muscles got quite a workout.  After my run I drove to Trout Lake and soaked my feet in the water while soaking up some Rocky Mountain sun.  It was a beautiful day, and I was headed to Telluride for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, my annual journey into the San Juans.  To see how well I was acclimating to the altitude, I brought a pulse oximeter and would be measuring my waking heart rate and oxygen saturation in my blood.

Mileage – 10.3
Time – 3:34
Ascent – 2234’
Descent – 2234’
Total Vertical - 4468'
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 66/90

(Theme For the Trip)

(Love the San Juans)

(Lizard Head Peak)

 (Trout Lake)

Thursday (6/18)

Telluride, what more can I say.  I was hooked the first time I saw that box canyon.  If you’ve ever been, you get it.  Waking up early a bit tired and stiff after late night of music, I looked out the window to see bright blue skies and snow-covered peaks inviting me to come play.  My goal was to log about 4 hours of running/hiking, so I took the gondola down into town and headed for Tomboy Road in hopes of making it up to Imogene Pass at 13,100’.  The road is fairly tame by CO jeep road standards in terms of footing, but it gets steep.  I made it all the way to the abandoned mining town of Tomboy (roughly 11,400’) before running into a snowplow that was clearing the road.  The snow drifts on either side were well above my head.  This road is popular with jeep enthusiasts in the summer, as it links the towns of Telluride and Ouray.  I turned around and headed back down, then hopped on the Jud Wiebe trail for a couple more hours of fun.  All in all it was a good first day in Telluride.

Mileage – 15.2
Time – 4:14
Ascent – 4334’
Descent – 4334’
Total Vertical – 8668’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 80/89

(Probably the Only Property In Telluride I Could Afford)

(Looking Up Towards Imogene Pass)

(Almost To the Snowplow)

 (Looking Down On the Festival)

Friday (6/19)

            Friday’s workout was just that – a workout.  There was nothing “fun” about this one, just a quad-pounding downhill-focused couple hours.  The shortest “trail” from the top of the gondola (10,500’) down into Telluride (8,750’) drops roughly 1800’ in 2.6 miles.  My day would consist of running down and taking the gondola back up, a total of 5 times.  My legs felt surprisingly good, and I even managed to get faster on the 3rd rep and maintain a decent pace.  This is definitely something I couldn’t have done in San Antonio. 

Mileage – 13.1
Time – 1:43
Ascent - 0
Descent – 8264’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 79/90

(Headed Down There x5)

Saturday (6/20)
            I took today off.  My quads were screaming, and the lineup of good bluegrass music was long.  I’d spend my day baking in the sun listening to good music.

Mileage – 0
Time – 0
Ascent - 0
Descent – 0
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 73/90

(Beautiful Festival Weather)

 (Hard To Beat Telluride Sunsets)

Sunday (6/21)

            Today was scheduled as a longer (8 hour) day.  My friend Eric drove over from Durango (he lives in SA) to meet me and see the San Juans.  It was his first time here, and I was eager to show him around some of my favorite trails.   We started from the St. Sophia gondola station at 10,500’ and headed up a service road aiming to hit the top of the Gold Hill ski life (just under 12,000’) and then head down to town.  We were close to the top when I noticed a deer (maybe an elk) atop the hill.  There was some snow to cross, but we decided to follow the hoofprints to the top.  When we got there, much to our surprise we saw a figure standing on a mound of snow, staring off into the distance.  It turned out to be local runner Ricky Denesik, who knows the trail around Telluride better than anyone.  He showed us around and led us on a rather scary scramble up some loose rock (we had to down climb using cables on the return trip), but the view from the top of Gold Hill (over 12,500’) was incredible.  Snow surrounded us, and the perfectly blue sky provided the perfect backdrop to the towering San Juan peaks.  Ricky told us about his race that he is putting on in August and then led us down the mountain towards a trail that would take us to Bear Creek.  We said goodbye, and Eric and I headed up to view the falls at Bear Creek.  Mostly because it’s relatively easy and convenient to access from town, this trail was full of people wanting to catch a glimpse of the impressive falls.  We took a few pictures and cooled off in the spray of the falls, then headed to the other side of town and up Tomboy Rd.  We made it a few miles before Eric and I both decided that we were ready to turn around.  We cruised back to town and grabbed fries and a beer at the local pub.  Afterwards, Eric got on the gondola to head back to his car and drive to Durango, while I took the trail up and did a fee more hours of hiking/running.  All in all, it was a very productive training day for me.

Mileage – 26.8
Time – 7:56
Ascent – 7956’
Descent – 8917’
Total Vertical – 16,873’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 76/90

A great kickoff to my mountain training.  Totals for the week…

Mileage – 80.2
Time – 21:53
Ascent – 18,491’
Descent – 27,716’
Total Vertical – 46,207’

 (Another Great Sunset)

 (Top of Gold Hill)

(Running Down With Eric and Ricky)