Monday, October 13, 2014

Race Report: Louisville Trail 10K

I hope this race report will serve as a cautionary tale for at least a few people, as I’d like some good to come from my poor performance.Louisville Trail Start

This past weekend Woody and I ran the Louisville Trail 10k, about 25 miles from Denver – an easy drive at 6:30 on a Sunday morning. It was our first time running this particular race, and our first time running any race with the word “trail” associated with it. To be clear, this wasn’t a highly technical trail race like many are in Colorado, the trail – part of the vast trail system in the area – was packed gravel and even some paved sections.

We found parking nearby, picked up our bibs, and went for a short warm-up run along the first part of the trail. It was cool, breezy and a bit gloomy. Woody is still relatively new to racing and he was nervous about doing a 10K (our last one was BolderBoulder and while we’ve both run longer distances since, our race efforts have all been 5k’s). As always, I advised him to be conservative at the start – don’t go out too fast; it’s much better to have negative splits than go out too fast. Famous last words.

There were a total of 614 runners across a half marathon, 10K and 5K. So it was a small race compared to what I’m used to, but about the size of the 5k we ran last month. While I thought I could only run big races, I really don’t mind being able to line up at the start with just a few minutes before the start!

Louisville Trail Refuel

Gotta love a race with chocolate milk at the finish!

There was a count down and we were off – 15 minutes behind the half marathoners who went west out of the start; we went east. Much of the trail was pretty narrow, so I had to adjust to the crowd pretty quickly, but like all races the crowd thinned out pretty quickly. I knew I was putting in some good effort from the start but it wasn’t until just before we hit a big, long hill that I realized I had gone out way too fast. Not good. I tried to slow down but my legs weren’t adjusting. Down the big hill, turn around, up the big hill again. Still too fast. I wanted to slow down but I also didn’t want to lose ground on the two people who had been right ahead of me since the start.

Woody is much faster than I am, so when I saw him not far from the turnaround, I knew I was in trouble. The packed gravel turned out to be a bit more formidable than the packed dirt trails I run in the parks around our house – it’s a bit more loose – so thank goodness this wasn’t a more serious trail. The race consisted of essentially two out and backs – the second with a loop – with the start/finish in the middle. Aside from the start the course was void of spectators, but there was great support from volunteers at the water stops and a few crucial trail intersections to keep us on the right track.

Nearing mile 4 the fatigue was starting to set in, the consequence of going out too fast. I finally started to slow down out of necessity. My legs were heavy, my stomach was aching, but I was only running 6.2 miles. I finished 9 a few weeks ago, there was no question about whether or not I could run the distance. I just hadn’t taken my own advice and went out way too fast. Pure stupidity. With a slight, but long and gradual hill ahead, all I could think about were my friends running the Chicago Marathon who had 20 more miles to run than I did, there was no way I would give in.

Louisville Trail Finish

I gave one final kick to get into the finish, was handed my medal (yes, this series gives finishers medals to everyone), chip clipped I went to find Woody, who had finished almost exactly 9 minutes before I did. This was not my finest race, so I’m very thankful that at least the view of the mountains was pretty spectacular.

My chip time was 55:25, an 8:56 pace. While it’s slightly better than my BolderBoulder finish, I’m certain that if I had gone out a little bit slower, I would have had a better finish. Sounds strange, right? Slow down to finish faster, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have had to push myself quite as hard those last few miles if I had just taken it down a little.

With all that aside, it was a great race with a variety of food and drink at the end. We agreed that we’d like to do it next year. And maybe a few of the others in the Endurance Race Series.

Our next, and likely last, race of the year will be the Mile High Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, right in our neighborhood!

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend! There were a lot of people crossing finish lines around the country!

Louisville Trail bib

Woody and I are handing out treats on Halloween for the first time! What should we give out?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Running Up a Canyon is Hard

But it’s totally worth it. At least when that canyon is Boulder Canyon.

Boulder Canyon 1

While I work in Boulder – one of the best running towns in the country – my daily commute is about two hours round trip, on a good day. So as much as I’d love to run in Boulder every day, it just doesn’t work out very often for me to do it.

Boulder Canyon 2

But this week I was determined to get out for a run. Some colleagues who live in Boulder had told me about this run, and I’ve been pining to do it. Right across the street from our office is the Boulder Creek Path, which winds through town to the east or up the canyon to the west. I was looking for a climb and some peace and quiet.

Boulder Canyon 3

And a climb is what I got! Let me tell you, there is a serious elevation gain going up the canyon. About a mile in I was starting to question my colleague’s assertions that “it’s a pretty steady, but easy climb.” Maybe for them – since they’ve been running it for years! Don’t be fooled, this run will take your breath away. In more ways than one.

Boulder Canyon 4

While the trail starts off at the west end of town, it hugs Boulder Creek for most of the way. There is a stretch where the road separates the trail from the creek, but before long the path sweeps under the road and you’re right back on the banks of the creek.

Boulder Canyon 5

I saw a few other runners, couples out for an evening walk, some bikers and a few guys fly fishing, but I’m fairly certain that the path isn’t typically this empty.

Boulder Canyon run

Boulder Canyon 7

My lungs may have been burning on the way up, but views like this and the fast downhill on the way back down into town made every gasp completely worth it.


Boulder Canyon 8

Okay, it’s time to brag: What are you proud of this week?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Golden Aspens from 9,300 Feet

As far as I’m concerned, fall is a pretty wonderful season for a few reasons: 1) college football season (Go State!); 2) runs are much more enjoyable when they’re not so sweaty; 3) pumpkin everything + fantastic hauls at the farmers market, 4) the spectacular colors. Thankfully, living in Colorado we get to enjoy all of this!

Golden Gate Canyon

One of the best ways to enjoy fall in Colorado is to go for a hike. We recently explored Golden Gate Canyon State Park – 16 miles west of Golden, Colorado, the 12,000 acre park boasts 11 trails covering nearly 35 miles. Less than an hours drive from our house, I was caught off guard when I got out of the car at the visitors center to pay $7.00 for our day pass, and it was probably 20 degrees colder than when we left our house. I should have been prepared for this, being as the park ranges in elevation 7,600 feet to 10,400 feet. I still find it amazing how close we live to the mountains!

Golden Gate Canyon Bear Trail

At the advice of a very helpful park ranger, we chose to start on the Black Bear trail (rated “most difficult”) and then loop back to the trailhead on the Horseshoe trail (“moderate”) for a total just over 5 miles. If we had more time, we would have gone a bit father as it was an absolutely beautiful park – I’d dare to say my favorite so far. Again, I’m thankful we got up there early as we were the first car in the parking lot that was overflowing when we returned, and we only saw 3 other people and one dog on the Black Bear trail but a ton of people as we were getting towards the end of our hike.

Golden Gate Canyon 3

One reason why I loved this park was the variety of terrain – rocky climbs, packed gravel, sandy paths, pines and aspen groves. It was not a boring park at all, and we only saw a very small part of it! With so much to explore, the park has two campgrounds and several cabins, yurts, and a guest house, as well as back country camping.

Golden Gate Canyon Matt 2

Woody obviously was loving the hike too. Turned out once we got out of the valley and started hiking in the sun, the temperatures warmed up pretty fast! And that’s a good thing too, because all I was not dressed for the cold! Starting at about 8,200 feet with an elevation gain of 1,120, the Black Bear trail definitely gets the heart pumping!

Golden Gate Canyon Lisa

There are many mixed use trails through the park, but the ones we took were hiking only, which was perfect. It was nice not having to jump to the side as mountain bikers whizzed by.

Golden Gate Canyon Trail

You may not believe me from these pictures, but this park does get pretty packed. The proximity to Denver and other towns, number and range of trails, camping options and beauty, makes it a perfect destination for all types of people and groups. While it was great when we had the trail to ourselves, it was also pretty awesome to see all the parents on the trail with their young kids. I love that they start them hiking so early!

Golden Gate Canyon Aspen Trees

We took this hike on Saturday, September 27, I’m sure the colors are even brighter now, but like everything good, they don’t last long so it’s important not to wait too long in the fall to get out there.

Where is your favorite place to hike?