Saturday, September 3, 2016

Running Colorado: Peaks Trail, Frisco to Breckenridge

With our first mountain race coming up this month, Matt and I are in need of logging some miles at altitude. Recently we decided to try out the Peaks Trail which runs between Frisco and Breckenridge. Many run this trail as an out and back, for a total of about 16 miles, but since we weren’t in need of (or in shape for) that many miles, we decided to try it one way and find our way back to our car.

With a decent amount of research but little detail to be found, I did learn that it is possible to take a free bus from Breckenridge to Frisco (and vice versa) but little information on how to get to the bus. So keep reading for more on that.

The Frisco trailhead is just through town, turn left down 2nd Ave and down the road about a mile or so you’ll find a parking lot on the right. If you curve towards the left, you’ve gone too far. Keep an eye out for cyclists as you’ll cross over the paved trail that runs between the two towns to get into the parking lot. Note that there is no ports-potty at this trailhead, so you might want to make a pit stop in town.

Rainbow Lake Frisco - Early Morning Run

If leaving from Frisco, as we did, you encounter Rainbow Lake a little less than a mile in, which was pretty busy when we were there as it’s a nice spot for dogs to play in the water and in itself, a nice turnaround spot for locals or families just wanting a short hike in the woods.

Not long into the run/hike (we ran at least 5 miles, but again, I wasn’t in shape for a 8 mile trail run) I knew I was going to like it. The terrain changes quite a few times and while there are some definitive climbs, it’s nothing too serious and easily tackled by a quick-paced hike. The vast majority of the trail winds through woods, which I like because it means you’re protected a bit from the hot Colorado sun. 

We saw a fair amount of other people out on the trail; most hiking or mountain biking, some running, but there were times when we had the trail to ourselves which is always nice. As per usual, it’s best to get started early.

Peaks Trail Frisco Breckenridge - Early Morning Run

Beyond Rainbow Lake, much of the trail winds through the woods along a fast-flowing creek that adds a bit of coolness to the air and a nice soundtrack to the run, towards the later part of the trail you’ll run along a viaduct of sorts that we think must be man-made and perhaps helps reduce erosion from water run-off as the snow melts. In a few spots along the way we were reminded of some trails we hiked in the pacific northwest because of the bright green moss and ferns and overall swampiness, complete with wooden bridges to get you through.

While most of the trail runs through the woods as I mentioned, there are a few spots with nice views of the mountains. Do yourself a favor and stop and take them in because you won’t get many chances to on this trail. According to the Trail Run Project, the trail starts at 9,088 feet, tops out at 10,165 and ends at just under 10,000. The first 3.5 miles are a steady climb with a few ups and downs, then a nice decent before another climb to the peak of the trail (not the peak of the mountain, your in the Breckenridge ski mountain area) and a few climbs and decants before one final, quality decent to the trailhead at the Breckenridge end, again in dense forest. A few trails split off from the Peaks Trail, but it’s fairly well marked and easy to stay on course.

Peaks Trail Frisco Breckenridge - Early Morning Run

Even without looking at our watches we knew we were getting close to the end because of the amount of people and families on the trail. It finishes at a dirt parking lot at the end of the paved section of Ski Hill Road and just past the Grand Lodge at Peak 7 with a restaurant and (public) restrooms and water fountains. In all the overviews I read about this trail, not one mentioned there is an actual trailhead. So know that, if you’d like to start from the Breck end, this trailhead with parking lot exists (porta-potties do not, but clean, indoor restrooms do).

It took us about two and a half hours to complete, which included a few picture breaks and a bit of hiking. We were pretty happy with this and felt like we could tackle a few more miles, but decided to head into town instead. 

Peaks Trail Frisco Breckenridge - Early Morning Run

Turns out the gondola, which can be accessed just past the Grand Lodge and its neighboring Crystal Peak Lodge, is free. So we hopped on and took a ride down the mountain. If you haven’t been to Breck before, it’s good to know that the gondola drops you off just a block away from the main street in town, which is awfully convenient. By the time we get off, we’re sufficiently hungry and ready for breakfast. 

I had done a little research the day before and found a spot called Amazing Grace which sounded perfect for two vegans after a run. I’ll warn you that this spot is off the main street and up a hill, but it’s worth it. And it’s not just for vegans and vegetarians. The cute little yellow house  has several tables inside with a back patio. The fresh menu is filled with sandwiches, breakfast burritos and other breakfast plates, and the staff was super helpful and accommodating. While we’ve been to Breck a few times this was our first visit to Amazing Grace and from now on it’ll be our go-to spot. 

Peaks Trail Frisco Breckenridge - Early Morning Run

After becoming sufficiently full, we headed back to the transportation center where the gondola lets off to pick up the Summit Stage bus back to Frisco. This was an easy process but the bus only comes every 30 minutes or so, which means we ended up waiting around for a bit. Be sure you get on the Frisco bus rather than one heading to another regional town like Keystone or Silverthorne. The bus drops off on Frisco’s main drag and it’s another mile or so walk back to the trailhead where we found our car, cleaned up and headed off to Broken Compass Brewery.

What to know, if you go:
  • There are trailheads with parking lots at both ends; neither have porta-potties or water
  • While this isn’t the highest trail in the area, you’re still in the mountains so take layers
  • If going one-way from Frisco to Breckenridge, pick up the gondola just down Ski Hill Rd for a free ride down into town; the free Summit Stage bus can be caught at the bus loop just outside the gondola drop for a ride back to Frisco
  • If you start from the Breck end, drive up Ski Hill Rd till you hit the trailhead; if you’re doing one-way to Frisco once you make it to the trailhead turn left at 2nd Ave, walk till you hit Main St then turn right and walk several blocks to the bus stop for your trip back to Breck and the gondola ride back up
  • Take a picture or two of the trail map with your phone so you can reference along the way if you feel the need
  • Don’t forget to wear sunblock (higher altitude, thinner air) and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Visit Amazing Grace in Breckenridge for your post-run brunch.
  • Have fun and enjoy the journey!
Here's a helpful link for a trail map and elevation chart:

When you go trail running, do you prefer big views or forest shade? * With so many trails, how do you choose which ones to run or hike?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Running Colorado: Lair 'o the Bear Park

Technically we visited Lair o’ the Bear for a hike, but it would work well for a trail run as well, even though the Bear Creek Trail is less than 2 miles long.

We’ve passed by the trailhead countless times, so I was particularly happy to check this one off earlier this summer. The trail is just west of Idledale; about a 40 minute drive from our house in Denver and part of the Jefferson County Open Space system.

The trailhead is off I-74 (Bear Creek Road) on the left when coming from Denver and down below the highway. There’s a sizable parking lot but it fills up fast with porta-potties and several areas for picnicking. It seems like a great little spot for a picnic along the Bear Creek - either to make a day out of it or bring a picnic for after your run or hike. Fishing is allowed here (with a license and a 2 fish maximum), so we saw a number of fly fishers enjoying the day and the fast-flowing water. 

Lair o' the Bear Park - Early Morning Run blog

The first mile and a half out of the parking lot is flat and wide, following along Bear Creek; perfect for families and an easy start to a longer excursion. I’d like to bring visitors back here for a short walk as it gets you into the mountains and would be comfortable for those who aren’t used to elevation. It's possible to hear traffic noise from the highway above but the rushing water of Bear Creek covers it well for the most part, and near the end of this section is Dunafon Castle - an elaborate residence/wedding venue - on the other side of the creek. While a bit out of place, it is pretty to look at. 

Where this section of the trail comes to and end, another trail veers left and starts to climb. It’s good to know that this area has a ton of interconnecting parks via the trails. You can venture into Corwina, O’Fallon, and Mt Falcon parks with seemingly endless trails to explore. The path we took seamlessly connected into Corwina Park and while the trail is substantially shaded, there are sections without cover and with a lot of sun, where the temperature can rise quickly. While this trail isn’t far into the foothills, it does start around 6,500 feet and rises from there, so the thin air is nothing to take lightly. Hydration and sunblock are a must.

Lair o' the Bear and Corwina Park - Early Morning Run blog

On numerous occasions we had to jump to the side of the trail as mountain bikers passed by. While technically bikers are to yield to hikers and runners, it’s much easier for us to wait for them, than for them to stop, especially on steep or rocky terrain or narrow passes, as is the case for much of this trail. This would have been a bit annoying if we had been running - it seems to be a popular trail with mountain bikers, likely due to the proximity to Denver - but as we were hiking it was fine.

Lair o' the Bear Park - Early Morning Run blog

We went about 7 miles out and back, which provided a solid workout with some serious climbs and beautiful views of the mountains. We were glad to have some snacks with us and a good amount of water, as we took a bit of a break half way through to enjoy the view and refuel for the trip back to the car. The flat section along the creek on the way back was welcomed and all I wanted to do was put my feet in the cold rushing water! 

Sitting by Bear Creek at the end of the hike - Early Morning Run blog

What to know if you go:
  • Go early for a parking spot or else you might end up along the entrance road
  • Take plenty of water, a snack (if you’ll be out for a while), sun block, and a hat
  • Snap a photo of the big trail map at the trailhead to have on your phone - but know that this only covers the small Lair o’ the Bear Park and not the surrounding trails (you’ll want to take screenshots of those maps on your phone before you head out)
  • Porta-potties are available at the trailhead but no water
  • Be ready to get out of the way of mountain bikers
  • There are nice picnic tables & grills for a post-run picnic
  • If you’re not up for a picnic, Lariat Lodge Brewing in Evergreen is a great spot for post-run brunch and beer
What's your favorite running or hiking trail near Denver? * Do you ever run trails alone?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Totally [US Olympic Team] Trials 2016 Recap

To say I was exhausted Thursday morning would be an understatement. The day was spent in a haze that can only be described as a Totally Trials Hangover.

While there are a lot of questions and concerns surrounding the Rio Olympics, one thing is for certain: thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of athletes have spent years training and dreaming about those two weeks in August.

Wrapping up today has been a week of track and field events in Eugene, Oregon which have determined Team USA. A week that has seen all the emotions.

Tracktown USA 16 - Hayward Field

Matt and I were lucky enough to spend the start of the week in Eugene and attend 2 days of the Trials at Historic Hayward Field. This was our first trip to Eugene and our first time attending Trials - for any sport. And let me say, it was amazing.

Oiselle was out in force, and Matt and I were proud to be part of the crew! While we all know Nike is everywhere when it comes to USATF, I don't think I'm biased when I say Oiselle was in close second when it came to strength of presence in the crowd. We were loud. We were excited. We were certainly the best dressed.

[You may have seen some of the news coverage and social media posts about Oiselle's latest run in with the USOC. The situation is ridiculous, to say the least. While I could write an entire post on the topic, I'll point you to THIS solid article if you're interested in reading more.]

And we were there to support the 14 Oiselle athletes who showed incredible grace, strength, grit, power, and incredible talent!

Track and Field Trials 16 - Women's Steeple
Oiselle Birds Megan Rolland, Shalaya Kipp, and Mel Lawrence in the Steeple 3000M first round. Each of these 3 women achieved PRs!

US Track and Field Trials 2016 - Women's 800
Kate Grace (in the center) on the last lap!

US Track and Field Trials 2016 - Kate Grace Wins
That's MF Fast Kate talking victory, Rio and giving major props to her Tribe!
Two things I know for certain after our trip to Eugene:

US Track and Field Trials - Oiselle

1. My love for Oiselle - the people behind the brand and my teammates - is stronger than ever. These are amazing, strong, and inspirational women. Each with their own story and own goals. We come from all walks of life, cover all distances and speeds. We support and push each other to be better, even if we've only just met.

2. I need to go back to Oregon so we can get to the coast and spend more time exploring! What a cool state!

While in Eugene, we did some running of our own - including a Oiselle run on Pre's Trail and the Butte to Butte 10K. Matt got another PR and I had my fastest 10K time in more than 5 years, which I'll attribute to the warm-up led by Lauren Fleshman, and to my teammate Rebekah, who stuck with me to the finish line.

Oiselle runs Pre's Trail

Butte to Butte 10K

Butte to Butte 10K - Lauren Fleshman warmup

We were able to catch quite a few events over two days, including the women's high jump, Men's and Women's 100M and 400M, 2nd Day of the Men's Decathlon, Men's Pole Vault, Men's Javelin, and of course, the Men's & Women's first round 3000M Steeple Chase and the finals for the Men's and Women's 800M. It was just amazing watching these athletes - the best in the country - compete. All of them, whether they're going to Rio or not, are incredible. (And when I say "all", I really mean, all the clean athletes)

The decathlon guys had a little fun and took a dip after Ashton Eaton claimed another national championship.

US Track and Field Trials 2016 - Decathlon water pit

There were also some fast guys in Eugene - including Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp, who ran this heat for the 5000M first round on July 4. As you likely know, Lagat went on to win the 5000M finals at the age of 41. Pretty incredible.

US Track and Field Trials - 5000M men's - Bernard Lagat
Beyond running, I spent some good times connecting with Birds and we were sure to enjoy Oregon beer and wine (we may have brought some back with us), and visited the Rose Garden in Portland. Just enough time to know we need more time in Oregon!

US Track and Field Trials - Oiselle
King Estates Winery

Portland Oregon Rose Garden

Only one month till the Olympics begin! Let's hope for everyone's sake that Rio can get their act in gear and make it a great event for these incredible athletes!

What are your favorite Olympic events to watch?

Check out Oiselle's final wrap-up of Trials HERE.