Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crosier Mountain Triple

25.5 miles
8200' climb/descent

A crosier, historically, is a curved, symbolic staff, carried by high ranking Christian officials.

A crosier was carried by the Pope for some time, but during the Middle Ages, the crosier was replaced by a triple cross:

And so ends today's history lesson, abuse of Wikipedia, and a horrible trail running segue.

The Crosier Triple has nothing to do with any of this; rather, it is a devilish invention of Nick Clark, who noted that Crosier Mountain has 3 distinct trailheads, and that doing all three gives over 25 miles and 8k of climbing above Devil's Gulch, between Drake and Estes.

After reading about it last year, it sounded like a fun challenge as soon as the snow melted out -- perfect for the 'shoulder season' before the high peaks melt out completely. Some other neat aspects of the run are that the first climb is the hardest and longest, while the subsequent climbs get respectively shorter. However, all 3 climbs have one thing in common: a beastly half-mile, technical switchback climb to the top. And, if we mention it enough in Blog's, it'll enter the Googleable trail-running vernacular.

We set out at a reasonable pace, but I was happy to let Nick open up a gap, even if we were running 'easy'. I had partly skied this trail early this year, before giving up on uncovered roots and rocks in some steeper sections, even early. Still, I remember seeing a cool little mineshaft and a bunch of mica flakes along the trail. After the first couple of miles, the trail opens up into a gorgeous meadow, followed by a descent through a burn area, around the backside of some large rock formations, and down to a creek. All very gorgeous in their own right -- let alone seeing them again 5 hours later!

We finally reached the junction for the last half-mile climb, and I appropriately sandbagged it so I didn't blow up. One goal for the day was to run every step -- I was at least able to accomplish this. However, I also wanted each climb to be faster than the last, and I failed by a minute on the last one, as I was in pure survival mode. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, the first climb felt decent, and we cached some supplies. The first descent felt great -- heart rate auto-pilot. Overall, the higher trailheads have some enjoyable smoother singletrack through sections of aspen. Soon we were down, with another climb.

I started feeling it a bit here -- a general weariness. Trying not to make excuses, but maybe I wasn't fully recovered from a 50 the previous week? Well, it's an experiment of 1, so you never really know. No matter, this was still a great workout in the mountains. We saw some folks again for the second time, who started wondering (or figuring out) what was going on. They chuckled, shook their heads, or made jokes about catching up to us later.

I pushed up the 2nd climb and tried not to vomit. Two down. Time to go down again....My quads were protesting a bit, but still holding on, and we were at the bottom. I briefly thought about the road shortcut down to the car -- I didn't want to hold Nick up too much on the next climb and descent -- but he cheerily mentioned "Only one more!" before I had a chance to consider it.

And I'm glad I did. My last climb was the slowest, but survivable. My last descent, my legs really weren't under me, and I had to be overly cautious through the technical sections, as I couldn't trust my foot placement enough from my tired legs. I was glad to make it down without anything stupid happening, but this is exactly what I need right now: more time on the trails, more elevation, and more technical running! This is a good run to be done with in May, and have some cool higher peaks in the schedule for the summer.

Overall, it was a bit tough coming off of Collegiate Peaks, but I'm very glad Nick shared this run with me and kept me going. A bit more on that: I think it's very cool when folks like him, and many of the other local running folk (too many to mention), get people out there and interested in running at all abilities, with various long runs, peak runs, handicapped races, inter-city trail showdowns, and social runs. It's certainly easier to keep your head down and just do your thing in training, than it is to create and promote a running culture like we have up here in the Fort and other towns in Colorado.

Photo courtesy of Nick Clark

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