Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trail Running: Dakota Ridge & Red Rocks Trails

Last weekend we took a road trip down to Santa Fe for a luxuriously relaxing few days that included trail running, a few bruises, window shopping, incredible food, and our fair share of margaritas. But more on that later. I need to jump back a few weeks to get a recent trail run on the interwebs.

Beginning with the Colfax Marathon Relay next weekend, I have three races coming up in a matter of five weeks. BolderBOULDER, which may be considered a new tradition for us in our 3rd year straight, will come next and culminating with the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler. As I haven't run 10 miles since my last half marathon in 2011 - when I fractured my femur and came to the hard truth that I had to drastically cut back on my mileage.

In an attempt to be ready for these races, particularly the hilly 10 miler at higher elevation, I'm incorporating some technical trail running into my training, although I'm not following any specific plan.

Dakota Ridge Trail

A few weeks ago we took on Dakota Ridge Trail and Red Rocks Trail which is about a 20 minute drive from Denver and right near Red Rocks Amphitheater. We parked in the dinosaur lot across the road from the main Matthews Winter Park lot (pictured in the bottom right of the photo above). Right out of the gate we were climbing and it didn't take long for my heart to start pounding.

Dakota Ridge Trail

Dakota Ridge Trail

While we've hiked more difficult trails, this was the most technical we've run - at least the Dakota Ridge section. The terrain changed quite a bit throughout the 6 miles but there were plenty of steep rocky climbs and descents; long slow climbs; creeks to pass; rolling hills, and a lot of beautiful views.

Climbing Red Rocks Trail

We went early and on a morning that was overcast, as you can see from the photos. I believe this is key because while a clear blue sky would make for stunning views, the vast majority of the trail is exposed with little, to no, shade so I'm sure it can get very toasty.

Two days after this run my shins and ankles were still a bit sore. Definitely important to stretch and roll after this run. And eat well to help your muscles recover. My ankles aren't used to working so hard! Clearly I need to spend more time on the trails but I can already tell that the time we have spent recently has helped my running.

Red Rocks Trail

If you go:
  • Go early to avoid the heat and crowds
  • Carry a little water
  • Wear sunblock and consider a cap
  • Park in the small lot across from the Matthews Winter Park lot (less crowded, I'd say)
  • If you haven't been to Red Rocks, take a drive up to the amphitheater when you've finished, it's usually open in the morning and a national treasure (IMHO)
  • Find our 6 mile loop on MapMyRun
Do you incorporate trails into your running? * What races do you have coming up?

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