Sand Lilies!

Sand Lilies!

It’s t-minus three weeks until Bighorn. Time for one last hurrah of big training before tapering! On tap was a double-header of 20 milers after a couple hard days of shorter stuff (8 and 6 miles at a solid effort). Running on tired legs is the reason and who am I to question such things?  

Friday – Chimney Gulch and Beaver Brook

Now that the horrendous weather has mostly transitioned to early summer Colorado norm (beautiful with thunderstorms), a lot of areas are opening up again.  First up, I played hooky from work and got in an early 20 down in Golden before the predicted thunderstorms moved in. This was the trail on which I was stymied back in February by a nasty chest cold, so I was anxious to come back and do it right.

Purple flowers.

Purple flowers.

This time it was lovely and tough. The climb up Chimney Gulch isn’t bad, but is just steep enough — 1200’ in 2.2 miles — I couldn’t run it with any hopes of doing anything else for the day. Beaver Brook is a nice trail which runs more-or-less level from Windy Saddle (the top of Chimney Gulch) west toward Genessee with great views of Clear Creek Canyon. The trail varied from wildly-technical rock scrambling in a few places to buttery-smooth singletrack through lush forest. Things were more-or-less dry, though the creeks were definitely flowing. Near the western end, I took the 1.5 mile Gudy Gaskill trail looping through beatific wildflower meadows under the still-not-stormy sky. Wonderful! The ridiculous descent to Beaver Brook itself and Genessee Mountain Park terminated in the swollen creek itself where I couldn’t make any more dry progress.

The climb back up the ridiculous climb was sluggish to say the least, but I was soon trotting back along the Beaver Brook trail toward Windy Saddle. It was hot and I was pretty whipped coming back down the descent to the car. 20 miles and 5000’ of gain in 5.5 hours.

Saturday – Staunton State Park

It's unclear here whether the marmots are slow or not.

It’s unclear here whether the marmots are slow or not.

I’d gotten word recently about a new state park in the Colorado park system. My internet trolling turned up Tom, a friend of friends, who lived near there and offered to play local guide. Staunton was only opened as a park a year ago and some trails are still being developed. However, I’d mapped out a likely-looking 17-mile circuit which looked like a nice way to round out May’s mileage and usher in my taper.

Drop whatever you’re doing and head to Staunton. It’s spectacular! Tom and I started on a chilly, sunny morning from the trailhead and ran a brisk, tough couple miles up the lush Mason Creek trail. We continued counter-clockwise past the old mill, took in the view from Staunton Rocks, then dropped into the area near Eld Falls Pond.

On the drive in, I’d spotted a spectacular cliff bearing no small resemblance to Yosemite’s famous El Capitan wall. After another mile on a dirt road followed by a steep climb up an unofficial-but-well-marked trail, I was delighted to find myself on top of Lion’s Head, the “El Cap. of Colorado”! The views across the lumpy South Platte drainage were astonishing with granite domes and cliffs studded amongst the conifers and green fields. The impressive Fern Falls roared down 100’ of drop in the valley below and snow-capped Mt. Evans dominated the view to the north. What an awesome spot!

IMG_1163We loped back down to the pond, then took the tougher Marmot Passage (what a great name for a trail!) and Scout Loop trails followed by the smooth, fast Staunton Ranch trail back to the car. The weather was still fine and we were feeling chipper, so we set out for a quick loop of the Davis Ponds trail to round out the day’s mileage before having a nice fruity wheat beverage in the suddenly-summer weather.

18.9 miles and 3500’ in 4.5 hours.  Many thanks to Tom for showing me around and being so entertaining!  Runners are good people and “blind dates” like this usually result in really excellent times.

Viva le taper!

And now, we taper! Three weeks (a little less) to go until the Big Day. The double-header was a lot of work, but worth it. Friday’s jaunt was harder than it should have been given the terrain and weather. Probably it was something about nutrition and hydration and I need to pay better heed to that. Accordingly, I expected Saturday to be a real slog, but I felt consistently good the whole time. Having Tom along for company on day 2 was a huge help in keeping me honest and moving and distracted from the various bodily woes of distance running.

Despite the weather, a week of strep throat, and my intentions of doing focused, intensive training in May, I managed a second 200 mile month. In the remaining three weeks, I drop to 75%, then 50%, than maybe 10% of my recently-standard 50-ish miles/week volume.  I feel fit and fast and definitely ready to be done with this heavy training.

Ready or not, here I come!

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