Thursday, September 4, 2014

Breck Crest Half Marathon

The racing itch came back after a two month absence and I had been looking for Sunday races that I could jump into without having to ask off of work at the bank. As you may have noticed I've been taking a lot of time off work...

Signing up for Breck Crest had been in the back of my mind and I knew what the first half of the course was like from a recon mission last summer. This race is one of my favorites because it has the perfect blend of epic scenery and good competition with speedy locals coming out to play, while still maintaining that down-to-earth, no frills feeling that a lot of races start to lose over time. Plus it's pretty nice that they give a decent chunk of money out to the podium finishers for the half and the full.

Running the Wheeler Trail summer 2013

So I talked Cory into heading up to Breck after work on Saturday to camp and maybe hop in the race. I hadn't decided which distance to do so I figured I would see how I felt the morning of the race. I ended up feeling pretty crappy that morning with a headache and the beginnings of altitude sickness so we stopped at the grocery store and got me some "Altitude Adjustment Pills" which I'm pretty sure are just a placebo that gives you an attitude adjustment. Cory decided to hop in the half as well.

At the race start, we didn't really have time for race jitters to set in and I realized too late that I had forgotten my watch. Just before they released us into the mountains, it started to rain. It was that kind of nasty drizzle where you don't know whether to put a shell on or to just tough it out. I firgured the rain wouldn't last long.

Cory on the Burro Trail
Photo by Vertical Runner

Off we went on a 7 mile climb up to Peak 9. A good number of women took off at a pace I knew I could not sustain and my stomach was immediately sloshy. I decided it wasn't worth it to push the pace and have another race like the Leadville Marathon so I took it steady and talked with a girl named Laura from Aspen. I was able to run almost the whole way until the Wheeler Trail where I switched into hike mode. I really need to improve my hiking because I always get passed on the steep stuff. As we ascended above tree line, some blowing snow hit us and since most of us were already soaked from the rain, it was a dangerous situation.

Near the top of the Wheeler Trail
Photo by ClimbBetty

Normally, I don't approve of people switching distances midway through a race, but people were just unprepared for the conditions and a lot of runners switched from the full to the half partway through. This made the competition for the half a little more stiff. I knew I had my work cut out for me on the downhill if I wanted to get within the top ten. A lot of people stopped at the mile 7 aid station, but I plowed through it which put me ahead of about 3 women who had passed me on the last climb.

As I turned down the rocky 4 wheel drive road, there was no one in sight. I could see many switch backs below me but no one on them, so I figured there was no way to make up enough ground to pass anyone. I was so cold that I couldn't feel my hands and all I could think about was getting down! About 3 miles from the end I caught my first glimpse of someone and as soon as we switched from dirt road to more technical stuff, I passed 3 more women. One stayed pretty close to me and when I missed a sharp turn on some single-track she saw me swearing and heading back to the course and got ahead of me.

I realized my mistake pretty quick so it didn't take more than a few seconds to backtrack, but it just made me lose my momentum. After that I was stuck in maintenance mode, trying to keep others from passing me back. My legs felt like jello and I was running as fast as I could without puking. Its funny to think that a few years ago a half marathon felt like a long way to me, but now it's like a prolonged sprint.

I crossed the finish line and was happy to see 2:22 on the clock. Since I didn't have a watch I incorrectly assumed this was my time. Apparently the clock was set for the 10k runners that started 15 minutes after us, so my finishing time was 2:37, good for 10th place. Cory got his first first place finish ever at a trail race and kicked the crap out of the competition with a time of 1:57. He got $250 which covered our race entries for the weekend. Pretty proud of that guy.

I won my age group

Cory won the whole thing



Saturday, August 30, 2014

The High Lonesome Loop

Ever since Cory and I moved to Colorado in 2012, we have been trying to finish a 15 mile loop up near Nederland. I've heard the loop referred to as the High Lonesome Loop or the Hessie Loop before, but essentially the "official" route starts at the Hessie TH at the bridge by the last legal parking spot, goes up the Devil's Thumb trail via Devil's Thumb bypass, cuts across the ridge on the High Lonesome trail, and heads back down to Hessie on the King Lake trail. There's a pretty speedy FKT on the route, with the fastest men's time coming in at 2:10.

The first time we tried the route was in 2012 when Cory's sister, Kristen, was visiting. We told Kristen that it would be a tough 14+ mile run and to bring more than she normally would. Back then she just ran roads and her "normal" for a 14 mile run was to go empty handed. She thought she was prepared by bringing 2 or 3 gels, but inevitably we had to turn around 5 miles in because everyone was running out of food. Cory was upset and wouldn't even smile for a picture.

Attempt in 2012... turned around at Jasper Lake

Then, this June, we tried again. About 3.5 miles up Devil's thumb bypass, we got snowed in. It was impossible to tell where the trail went and it started to rain on us. We were bummed, but there was no way it was going to happen on that day.

Too snowy (June 2014)

Too rainy (June 2014)

We realized that we needed to start taking this loop more seriously if we actually wanted to get it done. We decided to make a purchase that is going to make every trail adventure more comfortable and cost effective. We got a Tepui rooftop tent for our car! Now we can sleep like babies on a 2.5 inch foam mattress in the comfort of a four season tent on top of our car. Best purchase we've ever made. On it's maiden voyage we decided to camp 20 minutes from the Hessie TH so we could get an earlier start. Even though it was a windy night with temps below 40 degrees, we woke up well rested and ready for adventure.



When we started the next morning we could tell it was going to be a chilly, windy day, but we were determined to finish the loop no matter what. We were far more prepared than we needed to be bringing at least 8 gels a piece, a water filter, a paper map, a map on my phone, and lots of layers. It was about 3/4 of a mile from our car to the bridge where I officially started the watch. We moved steadily, but didn't go too fast. It was going to be my longest run after coming back from a three week break due to tendonitis.

Wild flowers near Jasper Lake 

Getting to treeline

El Pulgar del Diablo

You can't really see them but there are people on that saddle

They don't call it High Lonesome for nothing

When we got to the top of the ridge it was really windy. Far windier than it was at the Leadville marathon where they said there were 35+ mph winds. When I pulled out my phone to take some pictures my map blew away! It was gone before I could even see what direction it went. It was bitterly cold on top of the ridge so we just tried to power through. After about three miles of hoping that we were on the right trail, we finally saw King Lake below us.


The Last few steps to the top

 Cold at the saddle

Cory running the ridge

Descending the King Lake trail

Water break

After getting below the lakes some clouds started to roll in and we stopped for about 10 minutes to filter some water.  After that I bonked and took 3 gels in 30 minutes. My stomach bothered me the whole way down so we weren't breaking any land speed records. When we made it back to the bridge my Garmin had 4:18 elapsed, 14.86 miles traveled, and over 3,300 feet gained. After changing at the car we saw a guy finishing up his run. He said he thought the wind was too bad for an attempt and had to turn around before the ridge. Even though we didn't have a very fast time, knowing that other people turned around made me feel pretty bad ass.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A month in pictures

I feel overwhelmed trying to write about the last month. So many journeys, visitors, and experiences that I have no idea where to even start. Not to take the easy road, but I have so many incredible pictures that I might as well let them tell the story. I'm so thankful to have a job that allows me to do this, a family who wants to come along, and a husband who keeps escalating the adventures to new levels.

The weekend after the MAS 50, we took off to the mountains again for Cory's FKT (fastest known time) attempt on the 102 mile Rainbow Trail. I'll let him tell the story in a post when he gets around to it, but to sum it up he finished in 30 hours 58 minutes and 38 seconds. As far as we can tell, his run was the first time someone completed the trail in one push so it is also the First Known Time. His crew consisted of my parents, Barth and Jodi; his sister, Kristen; his coach, Josh Arthur; Josh's girlfriend, Jessica; and two dogs, Mayla and Jack. And yes, at times we had five people and two dogs all napping in one truck.


Sleepy start at 3:10 am

Perfect timing: started the night after the full moon

Red sky in morning, runners don't give a shit

Above a thick layer of fog

Mayla running Cory in near mile 40?

Mom's job was to document and take care of Mayla

Mayla stayed pretty close to the food blanket...

Just after sunrise on the second morning

Less than 8 miles to go!

Cory and Josh at the end

After Cory finished his run everyone was exhausted. But we decided to do plenty of hiking in the Sangres over the next few days anyway.


Mayla hates water 

Christmas card 

Dad at a lake near Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp

Overlooking Westcliffe

My happy place: South Colony Lakes

Mayla's happy place: not running

After getting back to Denver, we finally got around to moving our stuff from our old apartment to the new condo we just bought. My best friend, Sara, came to visit after spending two years in a hut in the Gambia with the Peace Corps.

Had to take her to the Hessie TH in Nederland 

Squeezed in Cory's birthday hike before more visitors came!

A few days, later Cory's parents came out for a week and we did it all again! Back to Salida, which is slowly becoming our favorite place. New 10 year dream plan: Move to Salida and open a bakery/coffee shop that features local artists... as if everyone else in town isn't already doing that.

Cory looking manly by a flower

Dad on the dunes

Mom and Cory's parents on yonder dune

Top of the dunes

Dune flowers

Not the Sahara, just Great Sand Dunes National Park

The 14ers in the southern part of the Sangre de Cristos... someday I'll get you Little Bear

Looking towards the light at Zapata Falls

Turquoise Lake in Leadville

Paddling family

Kristen got blisters on her hand from the paddle and didn't even complain!

Dad in a meadow

Last run with dad

Cory and the Collegiates

Eventually we had to get back to work, but first Cory and I decided to squeeze in an ascent of Mt. Evans. Since Evans is supposed to be easy, we decided to taker a harder approach. We parked on Guanella Pass near the trail that everyone takes up Bierstadt and we ascended the gully that rises above the marshy area to the northwest of Bierstadt. The climb was fun and it was relief to bypass the hordes climbing Bierstadt, but as soon as we got to the top of Evans we realized that there was a storm on the other side that we couldn't see. We took a picture and headed down immediately. About three miles from the bottom, it started hailing on us. We started to run through the marshes, getting sucked in by knee high mud and scraped up by the forest of willow bushes. Lightning danced around us and the temperature dropped but we kept moving and made it back to the car.

Having fun on the way up

Cory at the summit with clouds moving in

Beautiful danger


How could I forget that we now have a cat in the house! Kristen and I went with Cory's mom, Amy, to the animal shelter to look at puppies and got distracted by an adorable kitten that Kristen adopted and named Cinder. Mayla is both terrified and curious by the new addition and is very jealous of all the attention the kitten is getting.

He is smitten

How could anyone resist that face?

After a week back at work we were off the Crested Butte this past weekend for the Grand Traverse, a 42 mile race from CB to Aspen. Cory said it was the most beautiful course he's ever experienced. I got to spend many hours in the car driving around the mountains to Aspen, I guess it was the most beautiful drive I've ever done, but I would much rather have run that amazing route. The stark contrast between down-to-earth Crested Butte and high-class Aspen was interesting. I almost felt embarrassed to change my shorts in the car for fear that a sharply dressed, bicycle riding police officer would arrest me for public indecency. Awesome race though! Great people, great food, great beer!
Sunset from our campsite in CB

The start of the Grand Traverse

I ran to the top of Aspen Mountain while waiting for the runners to finish... GORGEOUS!

 Cory bringing it home!

Because we weren't tired enough from the 4am wake up call, we decided to stop in Leadville on the way back to hang out with friends and cheer on the leaders at Mayqueen and at the finish line. So inspired by all of our friends who toughed it out on a hot day and a brutal course!

The man, the myth, the legend: Rob Krar

16:09... 2nd fastest time in the history of the race

So that brings us up to date. Tired, achy, and inspired! We are already itching for some Labor Day adventures.