Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bobcat Ridge Weekend Double

Bobcat Ridge Weekend
~12 miles running
~35 miles road bike
~10 miles skiing

Saturday Bike 'n Run
After last Friday's flirtation with temperatures in the 70s, the arctic weather returned, and shirtlessness gave way to layers. When I could catch a break from work, I enjoyed morning and lunchtime runs.

The biggest dilemma for me in the winter is deciding to run, ride, or hop in the car and go for a ski. One advantage of running is that I can sleep in, since most of the good skiing requires an hour-and-a-half drive. After a nice family dinner on Friday night at Bent Fork, in celebration of Christina's birthday, it was nice to sleep in until 8 or so, and then decide what to do.

The weather Saturday, actually, was noticeably warmer than the previous days: mid 30's with full sun by 11AM. I hadn't been on the red bike in a few months, it seemed, so I decided to head up to Bobcat Ridge, a good standby: easy access, more climbing, scenery, and solitude than in-town natural areas. I wasn't sure about the road shoulder conditions, and I was ready to bail or cut things short if it got icy, but it turned out to be quite pleasant. My ascent up the first climb to Horsetooth was nothing to be proud of, so I can tell that I've certainly lost something on the bike. I saw two friendly runners running the shoulder on my way up to Masonville, but zero other cyclists to offend with my non-aerodynamic foolishness and uncoordinated outfit of tattered hiking pants, puffy jacket, and backpack.

The only sketchy ice I encountered, in fact, was the half mile turnoff into Bobcat Ridge itself. Soon I reached the parking lot, did a clothing swap, and headed up Ginny Trail. The lower part of the trail was dry, but quickly gave way to dry, champagne snow in shadowed aspects. I hadn't tested my Yaktrax yet, so I thought I'd give it a go. Even though there were only a few inches of snow, they were a perfect choice, as I really got traction on some slippery technical areas. Huzzah for Yaktrax!

I admired the new (to me) mt. bike features going up, and the single, consistent mt. bike track in the snow. Make no mistake, this is a gnarly trail that I wouldn't contemplate on my own bike.

But I was on my feet today, and going up, up, I crested the ridge, I took a snack break to enjoy one of my favorite local views. Shortly after, I encountered the first two humans I saw on the trail, two hunters taking a break within the Roosevelt NF area adjacent to the natural area. We exchanged friendly greetings, and I guess I was glad I was wearing a blaze orange cap, but I think it was a fine day for all of us to be out there. After passing them, the backside of the ridge, then, was marvelously untracked. With just the right amount of dry snow, traction, and rolling trail, it was a blast. I took the wide loop (DR Trail) off of Mahoney and headed down, when I big mulie crashed through the brush and started bouncing down the trail. "Parkour!"

I looped back, passed two more humanfolk, and returned to my bike; once again, thankfully, unmolested. And, the coffee in my thermos was still hot!

I slowly rode back home, still ahead of the sunset, but started getting cold and a bit stiff from the lack of riding and general weather.

Another front was coming through...

We went to Old Town to celebrate friend Peter's birthday, and enjoyed Stonehouse brews and fish 'n chips, which I need to give credit for as the best in town. On the way, Jessica spotted a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band playing at Hodi's. Only $3 (good!) but wouldn't start until 11:30 or so. After going to Washington's for a bit, we did circle back to Hodi's. The opener was just finishing...which was a Muse cover band. D'oh! Well, we caught the end of "Nights of Cydonia" at least.

"Psycho Sexy" was fun for the mood we were in, it seemed. Surprisingly, they played mostly older stuff, which was awesome. Now, early Sunday AM, the snow was falling steadily in Old Town:

Sunday Ski
After the previous late night, I slept in even more, and awoke to a solid 4 or 5 inches of fresh powder -- and still falling! But, the temperatures were barely in the double digits. Driving to a good ski spot was unattractive, since the unplowed roads and late start wouldn't leave much time.

So, I decided to head back to Bobcat Ridge. I decided the previous day that much of the Valley Trail and DR would be pretty decent with some solid snow.
Long story short, it was still a fun ski, but not enough snow for the rocks. Or, I should say, the trail needs one layer of heavy, wet snow compressed on top of the rocks to make it more manageable. I banged up my skis a lot, and only got some fun momentum downhill a few times. Still, it was nice to be out on the skis, and also fun to drive the Outback with the snow tires back on. I saw exactly two other people on the trail in over three hours today (grand total: 6 for the weekend), and 4 deer, in addition to three more deer on the side of the road near HTMP. I can't say enough for the solitude and quality trails of Bobcat Ridge!

Now, I just have to fight off this cold/fever that everyone seemed to have already...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day Run 2009

Jessica and I were in town for Thanksgiving, and decided to check out the Thanksgiving Day run. We've enjoyed previous Turkey Trot's in Oklahoma City, but this was our first hometown race on Thanksgiving.

The day dawned clear but very crisp, in the high 20s or so, and downright cold in the shade. The generous 9am start gave us plenty of time to sleep in a bit and get ready for the start at Old Chicago. Although 4000+ people ended up doing the race, the lack of daily work and shopping traffic more than made up for it, so traffic was light and parking was easy.

We picked up our packets and learned our shirts would be coming in the mail, due to the high demand and popularity of the race. I ran our packets and my jacket and gloves back to the car, with a little time to spare, so I decided to hit the restroom one more time.

Just 5 minutes before the race, I lined up in the crowd. With so much high-quality competition, and having looked at previous race results, I figured a good 50 or 60 people clearly deserved to start ahead of me, so I headed behind the start banner. Once I made my way into the crowd, though, I looked around, and saw a sea of families, strollers, and headphones. "I'm just hoping to finish" said the guy next to me.

Crap. I'm not *that* competitive, but I didn't want to stress out in a sea of gapers, so I tried to weave my way forward a little bit. Eventually, I settled in, and the race began. As expected, these folks plodded along across the road, so it took a bit of diving and weaving to get to a comfortable pocket of runners. Personally, I enjoy running so much that I wouldn't want to ever take away from someone else's run by getting in the way; I always yield to faster runners and stay the heck out of the way; so I don't understand the motivation of lining up early at the front around people that are, literally, nearly twice as fast.

But, my briefly foul mood was quickly tempered after about 20 seconds, and finding enough space and pace to enjoy the slight uphill first mile. It turned out that my first mile pace was right on target for my "A" goal of 6-minute miles. In the second mile, however, the stress of the previous days and the fact that I was above my head became apparent, as I started dropping the pace slightly. I settled in to enjoy the day and focused on a good run, comparable to my previous four-miler in Kansas.

We looped around and started heading down Mountain Avenue. Here, I had fond memories of a fast one-mile race in 2007, as well as plenty of training runs when I was taking classes at CSU. The crowd was thinned, and I focused on keeping a solid pace, with the Mason and College Avenue stoplights easily visible in the distance.

Finally, we hit College Avenue, and I sprinted in a bit to get the darn thing over with. It turns out I was 5 seconds or so slower than my previous 4-miler, but it was still quite an enjoyable run. I met our friend Brian and 4-year old John, as we waited for various friends to pass by. After focusing on the runners directly in front of us, I eventually lifted my gaze to the masses coming down Mountain Avenue. Wow, what an amazing spectacle! A sea of folks in our proud hometown were giving it their best. I recognized friends, acquaintances, and people I recognized but didn't know from around town. Jessica finished even faster than she expected. All in all, a good reminder of why we love living here!

Al's Run

Grandpa died today. Or yesterday, I don't know.

His heart gave out a week ago, and Technology gave out a week later.
But this blog is about running, and rambling, so what can I offer?

Grandpa Al taught me to ramble, whether it be in story or across the atlas. Just before his 70th birthday, we spent a dream trip together in Alaska. He is the "A" in "MAH" (and, aren't sandwiches named not after the ends, but the meat in the middle?)

Grandpa Al was born in 1933, grew up in Michigan, and saw Korea from the reluctant barrel of a gun, and, at the 38th parallel, he learned to drive truck. A few years later, he returned safely, and drove truck across his homeland. He spent time here in Colorado -- got married in the Springs, as a matter of fact -- and rambled about, and then spent most of his time living near family in Michigan and Wisconsin.

His final days were spent in Racine, Wisconsin, just a mile or two from Lake Michigan, the great, endless body of water that separates Michigan from Wisconsin.

Spending a few days in Racine to celebrate Grandpa's life, I knew I would invariably end up at the lake. There's something innate about water and it's link to the cycle of life, from baptisms to bon voyage. Just over five years ago, in fact, I was in the same house and watched my grandmother pass away on her living room couch. Once she breathed her last, I resorted to the coping mechanism I know best:

I ran.

After my grandmother died in 2004, I ran out the door and headed East. At that time, Fall had just begun, and when I reached the lake -- running out of East -- I waded straight into the water.
This time, being late November, I awoke after sleeping at my grandfather's house, headed out for a run, and simply stopped at the beach. I had arisen early enough to beat the sunrise, by mere minutes. I watched as the horizon lightened, before an intense orange ball poked, degree by degree, above the calm blanket of fresh water. Satisfied in the dawning of a new day, I ran back.

Spending the weekend in Racine, I returned to the beach twice more. Each of these times, I discarded my shoes, and enjoyed the rare pleasure of barefoot beach running. I've greatly enjoyed barefoot running on both coasts before, but never this close to winter in my birth state. This run, at the end of November, I felt a novel sensation of partially frozen, crusted freshwater beach sand sink beneath my feet. I continued a mile and a half or so south, on North Beach in Racine, past the zoo and desolate "Beach Oasis" of summertime pizza and ice cream, until I hit a long concrete jetty that led out to a small lighthouse.

Shoeless, I headed up the jetty, across pockets and patches of solid ice. As the concrete jutted out into the lake and stabbed at my feet, the waves lept vertically and splashed across me. My feet, fingers, and mind were comfortably numb as I made way out to the the lighthouse, with nothing in my vision but swirling waves straight ahead. Eventually, I reached some cold, rusty steps that led up to a platform. I sat here for a bit and rub my feet.

"The meaning of life is to love" said a choice piece of graffiti.

After a few minutes, I headed back to the beach, and retrieved my shoes. I returned along the path and city streets, waving hello to a few folks walking their dogs, in front of old houses with decorative Packer flags, Badger flags, and "Happy 11th Birthday, Tyler!", taking comfort in the small traditions that never change.