Thursday, June 21, 2018

Colorado Hike: Chasm Lake (RMNP)

Ask 10 Coloradans why they love this state and I'm going to guess the majority of the answers you get will mention the mountains. They certainly ranked high on our list when we decided to move out here.

For a while I was doing a fairly good job of sharing information about the trails we've hiked or run, but I've fallen out of the habit. I'm going to try and get back in the habit because there are so many gems to be shared - like the beautiful and somewhat difficult trail we hiked this past weekend.

While I always hope this information is helpful for others who are looking for a trail to hike - or run - I personally love being able to look back and see where we've been.

Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

This trail begins at the Longs Peak trailhead and shares a trail with the Longs Peak trail for several miles. Roundtrip, you'll travel about 8.5 miles and the "strenuous" rating is on point as far as I'm concerned. The trailhead sits at an elevation of 9,405 feet and the highest recorded elevation on this trail is 11,823 feet. 

The first two or so miles are in an evergreen forest. The trail is very well maintained and clear, which is much appreciated, but don't take your eyes off the trail for too long or else you're likely to trip on rocks or tree roots. The trail crosses streams in a few spots and there are some beautiful waterfalls to cross. We were lucky enough to enjoy beautiful wildflowers along the way, and were also quite popular with the mosquitoes.

Eventually you'll climb out of the forest and reach the alpine tundra. There are no trees for shade and the sun can be punishing, so be sure to wear sunblock and have a hat with you. On the upside, there are beautiful views and you'll have left the mosquitoes behind! The trail is still very easy to follow and you'll enjoy a few short respites where the trail levels off for a bit and you can catch your breath.

You'll make your way to a stretch where you walk along the wall of the canyon and have a view down below to a lower lake and a waterfall. At the end of this section there's a bit of scrambling to do and when we visited, there was still some patches of snow, right along the canyon wall, to cross. We could easily follow the path set by others and our hiking poles were useful.

Once across, there's a beautiful flat section where you'll walk along and cross over streams and likely see a number of marmots - the only animals beyond squirrels, birds and mosquitoes that we saw along the entire hike. Here there is also the second of two privy's along the way that likely are welcome sights for many.

One last climb before the lake. While some have described this as "easy", I felt it was a bit challenging. It's all relative but it is doable. On the way down we determined we had taken the wrong way up, so I'll give you a hint: stay towards the right side on the climb up.

It was all worth it once you make it up that last climb. The lake is beautiful, clear and is an instant reminder of just how small we all are.

Take a few minutes to have a snack, relax, take stock of the work you've put in so far, snap some photos and enjoy the view before you start the trip back to the trailhead.

What to know if you go:
  • This lot fills up very early, so plan to arrive before 7:00am
  • While you don't enter through a main entrance to the park, it is part of Rocky Mountain National Park, so be sure to pay the entrance fee
  • There is a Ranger Station and toilets, as well as picnic tables at the trailhead
  • Storms come up quick in Colorado in the summer, especially after noon. So be sure to check the weather forecast before you go and don't start out on your hike if it's already raining or getting really dark. Another great reason to go early. Hiking in a storm is not safe or smart.
  • Be sure to take plenty of water, snacks, sunblock and a hat. Bug spray is also advised. 
  • Hiking poles are definitely helpful on this trail.
  • Have fun, be courteous, leave the animals alone, pack in/pack out, and enjoy this beautiful park!
To help plan your trip, reference this Longs Peak Area Trail Guide from the National Parks Service.

We're open to trail recommendations in Rocky Mountain. If you have one, let me know!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Final Form Check

Since the start of the year, I've been working with Casey at Therapydia Denver. He's analyzed my running form, given me enough exercises to keep me busy, had me run keeping time with a metronome, and forced me out of my comfort zone. And I am extremely grateful for all of it.

I’ve posted about our sessions a few times - here, here, and here (if you want to catch up). After a few years dealing with a recurring and nagging shin situation - which, full disclosure, is not completely gone but is dissipating - and knowing that my natural running posture is extremely inefficient, when Therapydia offered a run assessment and a handful of follow-up sessions in return for sharing the experience, I couldn’t turn it down.

After my sessions with Casey, my form is more efficient and I’m running a bit faster. When he first watched me run and we looked at the video during the assessment, I almost wanted to hide. As he described it, I was actually leaning back a little. And clearly, backwards is not where a runner wants to go. 

Check out these before and after photos. I'm not falling forward (even though that's how I felt when I started trying this!), but there is a difference in both my upper body posture and my leg drive.

I still have to work on building strength in my glutes, but that does take time and it has gotten better, as you can see in the before and after photos below. For a lot of us runners, the last thing we want to spend time on is strength work, but it's incredibly important. And not just when we're in PT, but for forever and a day!

What I hadn’t expected was that by leaning forward, I’m also running a tad bit faster; it's harder to slow down and run at an easy pace. Which can make my sluggish runs feel even more difficult.

One time this didn't bother me was when I ran the Tenacious Ten 10M in Seattle in April and finished with a much faster time than I expected. Although, running at sea level also likely played a role in that finish time.

I’ve enjoyed working with Casey, and it’s been great to see improvements along the way and have a solid plan moving forward (aka: stick with the exercises!). When I told him I had registered for a 10 mile race he was fully supportive and confident that I could do it, which definitely helped me feel more confident in my decision to go after my longest race in years. And it turned out great!

There are 11 clinics around the country and based on my experience - and the feedback of my two friends who’ve now also visited Therapydia - I absolutely recommend them if you’re feeling a little twinge, need help coming back from an injury or just want to get your running form analyzed.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I'd love to hear about yours or answer any questions you have about the experience! Happy running, friends!

This post is sponsored by Therapydia. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Form Check, Part 3

It's time for another check in!

I've been working on my running form since the start of the year with the help of a Physical Therapist, Casey, from Therapydia Denver, (full transparency: this is part of a series of blog posts sponsored by Therpydia) with the goal of becoming a more efficient, and less injury-prone running. What this means in real life, is that I'll be able to run more and hurt less!

What all of us runners want, right?

Over the last several weeks I've focused on exercises and relaxed running. I still have work to do, since it's never really over, but watching the video during my last session it was clear I'm making good improvements. 

Each session at Therapydia begins with a warm-up, followed by a run on the treadmill while Casey captures video to get a closer (and slower) look at my gait, and then we go through a series of exercises, typically a mix of old and new.

The mix of exercises to build core, glute, and hamstring muscles coupled with retraining my mind and body to run more relaxed, is how I'm really going to improve my form.

I have two groups of exercises to do, three times a week each: floor and standing. Depending on the day and how much time I have at home or at the gym to get them done, I may just do one group or I'll do both. If I'm being real, it also depends on how much energy I have.

Standing exercises
  • Monster walks with a band around ankles
  • Speed skaters with a band around ankles (make it tougher standing on a balance/cushy mat so it's not so stable)
  • Single leg dead lifts with a kettlebell (if you're new to these, try the first few days without any weights, or very light ones and don't worry about reaching the ground, keep your hips parallel to the ground and back straight)

Floor exercises
  • Hamstring curls with a exercise ball and band just above knees (or not)
  • Bridges on a Bosu and band just above knees (to make it a bit harder: "march" by lifting one foot up - leg straight out, then the other)
  • Side plank/clamshell combo with or without the band just above knees
  • Alternating planks - alternate between standard forearm plank and side planks
  • Kneeling band push is a bit awkward, so the photo below helps illustrate it. Tie a knot at the end of a band and secure it in a door, the pull it taught and kneel on the knee closest the door. Push the band forward so arms are straight, then pull it close to the body, and repeat. This core exercise requires some good balance.

These exercises along with some drills on the treadmill and stretching have been my routine. Oh, and a nice 30-minute yoga break we've been doing at work once a week, courtesy of a colleague who is also a yoga teacher. I cannot say enough good things about the ability to take 30 minutes out of our fast-paced, busy weeks to stretch and clear our heads.  

I have another session coming up soon where we'll do another check of my running form, see if these exercises are actually turning into something, and maybe I'll get more to add to the routine. I feel like things are improving and with my sights set on a race now, that provides extra motivation to keep doing the work. 

If you're looking for the other posts in this series, you can catch up here:

What is one of your favorite exercises that keeps you running strong?

This post is sponsored by Therapydia. All opinions are my own.