Monday, July 11, 2016

Trail Running Through America Blog 8

Utah and Colorado

Day 29: Lake Blanche- Salt Lake City

My last run day in SLC, I wanted something that would give me a solid hike with great views, and something that I could spend a few hours on with no rush. So I got to looking on the alltrails app and I found the Lake Blanche Trail. I read on the reviews that it was a 3,000 ft climb in the first 3 miles and that if you really wanted an extra special view to hike past the lake and you would find 2 more small lakes. Sounds good to me.
When I started the hike I quickly found they weren't joking about the toughness of the original climb. There were areas with large rocks, areas with a lot of tall plant growth, and a whole section of some bouldering. But there were also beautiful waterfalls in the first mile. It was a challenging climb but a lot of fun to go up.
When I got to the top I took the strangers reviews to heart and went past the first lake and followed a "trail" over a hill and sure as shit, there were two small lakes and a really pretty water fall. Worth EVERY single extra step~ 

I wanted to explore the area so I did some rock climbing, and some tree climbing and at one point tip toed over a broken up dam so that I could get around the lakes to the waterfall. I also got a fantastic views of the mountains and the surrounding areas from different vantage points. Once I got to the waterfall I realized my handheld was about empty, it was over 80* outside, so I figured since it was flowing fast it should be safe to drink and I refilled. In the refill process I almost fell down the waterfall. Yikes. 

Once I got done exploring the area I headed back down the trail back to my car. I had hiked all the way up and around, and then ran the sections I could on the way down. It was a great way to end my stay in SLC.

If you are ever in Salt Lake I would highly recommend you hike this trail. It is worth every foot of climb!

Day 30: Travel Day- I am headed to Denver where I am excited to meet up some of my buddies I met 2 years ago during the North Fork 50k. It will be fun to have a run reunion and see some more of the Northern Colorado mountains. I had every good intention of waking up early to run before I hit the road, and I did in fact wake up early... but I just couldn't do it. I really wanted to get on the road. So I finished up my last minute car packing, loaded up Waylon, said my goodbyes to Sara and family and hit the road. Driving across Wyoming is BORING and I hit 12 construction zones which always slows things down. So, I busted out the good "classic music", ie: Spice Girls, Savage Garden, etc and had a grand ole Karaoke session in the car. Waylon was not impressed but I sure enjoyed myself.
Finally, after dying a slow death in the Denver traffic, I made it to my cousins's house. She is in Wyoming camping, so I have her place to myself for a few days. It is 98* when I pull in, so I decide I am not running, and instead enjoy just having a quiet evening.

Day 31: Cherry Creek State Park- Colorado
 Wake up, grab some breakfast and start looking at the surrounding areas for somewhere to run. I don't want anything to hard since I know tomorrow is going to be a tough run and I don't anything that I have to travel far for since I had a big travel day the day before. I end up finding Cherry Creek State Park. It is only 15 minutes away and has a 7 mile loop around the lake and a Wetland Area. I grab some water and salt and head over. 

This loop has some shade in the Wetland area which is nice, but that only last for about 2 miles. After that it is full on direct sunshine and of course Denver is in a heat wave. So I take it easy and make sure to drink lots of water and take salt. It is fun to watch people out on the water paddle boarding,, boating, and just swimming. I love seeing people out enjoying the outdoors like this.

I get around the lake and decided to keep going. I go through the Wetlands again and take some off shoot trails that give me extra miles in the shade and end up with about 12 miles. Nice and flat, easy peasy.
Once I get home I get on Yelp to find a pizza joint and find one with great reviews. I order a large vegetarian pizza and cheesy bread and set out to carbing up for tomorrow. My running partner has also told me to prepare for 12 hours on the trails. What have I gotten myself into?

Day 32: The EPIC run-  It is a long post....
Get to bed at 10 pm, lay awake until 11:30 trying to remember if I packed everything and  do my best not go to the car to make sure. Wake up every 45 minutes because I don't want to sleep through my alarm. 1:00 am the alarm goes off. I hit snooze and at 1:20 I wake up, sit up real fast with an "oh shit" and haul my butt out of bed. Let the dog outside, throw my oatmeal in the microwave, heat up some coffee, and I am on my way out the door by 1:34 am. Drive to the Park and Ride where I am meeting John, my running buddy I met a few years ago during a 50k. 2:00 am I park, and he quickly follows behind me. I transfer all my gear to his car, we both lament about how tired we are and we start heading North.
We drive up the mountain until we get the trail head we are going to finish at. The other guys we were supposed to meet up slept through their alarms, so we are starting without them. It is cold, but we know it will warm up quickly once the sun comes out. Regardless I start the run with arm sleeves and a light jacket which I end up taking off after a mile. It is my first time using the bungies on my Nathan Pack, they work like a dream! The view of the night sky without any light pollution is ridiculously amazing. It is hands down one of my favorite things. 

We throw on our head lamps and start out. After a brief jaunt down the road to the starting trail head, we start climbing. Parts of the trail have baby pine trees growing and we are getting a little scratched up. I notice that the trail is very rocky, but don't think much of it. As the sun is coming up we get stunning sunrise views over the mountains with the lakes and the city of Boulder in the distance. Then we hit our first snow field. Because it is still dark, the snow is frozen solid. It is like stepping on a steep ice rink. John makes it across, however since I tend to be a little on the Bambi side of things when it comes to slick, I elect to hike above the snow field and down and around. I know for a fact I would end up sliding down the mountain.

As the sun continues to rise we get to go down for a few miles. In this time we hit 2 more snow fields that are pure ice. We both climb over the top of them and down and around. I have never really encountered snow fields like this, it is way cool. We eventually get to switch off our headlamps and cruise through the moutains. As we get lower it gets greener and a little less rocky.
Then we start the first BIG CLIMB. We are at 9,800 feet at the base and we climb for a little over 3 miles. It is slow going in some spots as there gets to be grades of 35%. And this is where I realize how rocky these Rocky Mountains are :-) Once we get to the top we stop to take some photos as the views are breathtaking, as is the elevation.
Stunning Mountain Views every turn
The whole way was rocky
 We are at 11,843 feet. My highest climb yet. And then we get to go down down down. Woohoo. It is a 6 mile decline. As we are going down the mountain we start to run into other runners, including the runners we were supposed to meet up with. They are doing the loop the opposite direction we are. We stop and chat with the other runners, as well as a handful of backpackers we run into along the way, sometimes just chatting and a few times giving directions. Lucky for one pair of girls, John has brought his map.
However, what you go have to go up. I can see the elevation profile for this run in my head, as John had sent it to me the day before. I know that we had 6 miles of down so I am watching the miles click by. I also know that we have a 6.5 mile climb.

As we are going through this downhill stretch we go through several stream and creek crossings. Some are easy to cross, some are not. Most of them either have rocks that are not slick or a log to balance on to get across. My two favorite stream crossing moments of the day happened in this stretch. The first had a rock you had to jump to near the opposite bank. John warns me it is slick. So, again, Bambi. This is not a good idea for me. So start walking up and down the bank weighing my option. I find a spot where it is a bit narrower, I eyeball it for a second, then make a decision. I step back a good 6 feet, get a running start and leap over the stream, landing just on the edge of the opposite bank. I land it with a hand raise and a "TA DA". John is duly impressed and laughing and we keep on going.

My second favorite stream crossing was a little trickier. It was much wider and it was mostly submerged rocks. I wasn't paying attention as John crossed until I heard "shit" and I look up and he is calf deep in water. hahahahahahaha. Then I try.... uhhu.. that is what I get for laughing. It doesn't take long until I am also calf deep in water. The cold feels good, but now we have sloshy feet. But it was fun.

During this time we have started around 6.5 ascent to the Pawnee Pass. During the beginning of this climb we see waterfall after waterfall. I love waterfalls. They are my second favorite thing after unfiltered night skies. 
The first 3 miles of the climb are not too bad. It is still rocky though and the higher we climb the rockier we get.

Then it happens, the HOLY SHIT moment on this run. We are at mile 17, as we round the corner John says me "There she is". I stopped dead in my tracks, paused my watch, looked at him, looked at the pass, and then looked at him again... " We are climbing THAT?!?" I am going to die. Yup, death is imminent.

Mile 18 we reach the base of the mountain. Now, in all fairness John had warned me that you couldn't actually see the trail and that it really was climbing over rocks and refinding the trail every few feet. I thought he was exaggerating. He. Was. Not. For the next 3 miles I went through just about every emotion in the book. So to save you and me time, I will do the super fast version: "This is cool,  OMG I hate my life, My feet hurt, You know not everyone can do this, John is lying to me, We are not almost there, I swear we are in friggin Disney land they way this wraps around and around, Oo that is a pretty view, How are those people running so fast up this, How is John 2 switchbacks ahead of me, Okay getting through this makes me BadAss, Yup I am a badass, OMG why aren't we done yet, I am going to kill John, Wow look at me go up this rock a billy goat, Fuck, Double Fuck, Wow it's windy.. I hope I don't get blown off the mountain, Oh I am really almost there, oh no it wraps around more... ahhhhhhh, I think I am going to cry, no, there is no crying in trail running, Wait this is really the top! YES, I am Queen of the Mountain!!"  Oh and if I hear "we are almost at the crux" or "we are almost at the top" in the near future...well I can't be held responsible for my behavior, ha. I am told I was radiating my emotions from down the mountains... probably why John got up it so fast. heehee
If you look close you can see John
The view from the TOP

We hit the top of Pawnee Pass, 12, 548 feet. We grab our breathe, do some congratulations. I am so ready for a nice downhill stretch. Which, it was downhill... and it was also more rocks. Nothing like coming up, but enough I can't get a good rhythm. And because I am tired and my feet hurt, I am starting to lose my footing. I have to go slow. But down I go. Then we get to our 2nd to last snow field. Luckily the sun has been out for quite awhile by this point so it is softer, however I still came very close to losing my footing and going down. For the next several miles we pick around rocks and snow as well as say hi to hikers and runners. By this time my feet hurt from all the rocks, actually truth be told, my whole body hurts. My arms, my abs, my glutes, everything. I feel like I just ran a 100k.
Then we hit the bottom. We are right near the lake and a hiker tells us we are only 1.5-2 miles away from the trail head. Praise the Lord. John goes ahead and I take my time. I am wiped so I do a run/walk mix the last 2 miles.  When I finally finish, John is at the car with the beer poured and we celebrate a truly EPIC run.  I am beyond happy we did this run and I got to experience this route. 

As we drink our beers we chat with other runners coming in that we had seen on the loop and enjoy some time. We finally pack up and head down the mountain.

Now the story doesn't end there. Because on the way down we noticed a huge thing of smoke coming up from a ridge. It is a brand new forest fire. It has literally just started and we can see the flames within the smoke shooting up a good 50 feet in the sky. They are just now starting to close roads and call for evacuations. I shoot some photos and share up prayers for the firefighters and residents as we reroute through Boulder. I have kept on eye on the news of this fire and it is not good. It was started by some guys from Alabama and the fire is growing, it has already destroyed four homes and forced thousands to evacuate the area. I will be keeping at eye on it. It legit started 16 miles from where we were just 45 minutes before.

Day 33: Recovery run around Quincy Reservoir- Colorado-
Wake up, do a quick systems check. Quads, fine. Calves, fine. It-band, fine. Step out of bed... feet... still sore. Bleh. Okay, that means comfy cushy socks and some cushy road shoes. But first... I am starving. Eggs and Hashbrowns. That seems like a good idea. Okay, pull up the map my run and see where I wanna go while I am eating. Oh Hey, there is a reservoir with a path around it a few miles away. Perfect. Finish my food and head out.
A. It is already 90* out when I start
B. There is no shade in Denver (no joke)
C. There is a small possibility that eating eggs and hash browns 20 minutes before a hot run may not be a good idea.
I get to the reservoir, about 3 miles with a few accidental detours on the way, run into the area and.... UHHO. My stomach is doing that gurgly thing that it has only done once before. This is not good. Bathroom, where is the bathroom. Oooooo.. porta potty. Done! Sorry fisherman, this is currently out of use.
Okay... got that handled. Do I dare try to run around the water or do I head home? mmmmm... going to try it. First mile goes okay. Second mile I feel much better, Third mile I am glad I decided to do it.
I wanted to do 10 miles, and my legs would have easily done so. But now the temperature is near 95*. I have on my visor, I have my cooling rag draped across my shoulders (they got burned yesterday) and I have water ( although it is getting hot-the ice has long since melted). I think 7.5 is fine. I finish up, eat some lunch and head out to meet a buddy for ice cream. Basil-Blackberry and Lemon-Blueberry. Yum!!

My cousin is going to be back from camping, along with her 2.5 year old twins. It is going to be a fun evening. And I need to plan my run for Day 34 as well as the rest of the trip.

I hope you all are getting in great miles and finding your own running adventures. Happy Running!

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