The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'


…week 3: Greenland Trail 50k Training

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Week 3 total: 47.88 miles

Monday: 5.7 miles
A weak storm brought some snow to the area right at the end of my school day. It made for a WET run with all those big snowflakes falling. I actually like running in the snow. There is something peaceful and ethereal about it. A loud silence.

Tuesday: 5.72 miles
A little ironic that this intentionally hilly run ended up being the same mileage as the day before. I’m just following the schedule, people! A pack of coyotes had made a recent kill, alerting me with their very nearby howls. Coyotes attack people in Colorado, as of late, so we are all a little more aware of them now.

Wednesday: 10.2 miles
It’s been really windy lately. And I don’t mean measly 5-10mph winds. I mean 20-35mph winds and gusts. Needless to say, Wednesday was one of those days. So, I was dreading this “long” run because of it. I chose a path where I would be somewhat sheltered from the winds with trees, but I still felt it so much on the run. However, I ended up with a 7:50 pace. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Thursday: off
My 3rd graders had a music program, so I opted out of a run for today, so I could by sweat-residue-less for the big event.

Friday: 5 miles
Just a quick run on my way home from work. Epic-less.

Saturday: 7.26 miles
I had intended to long run today, but the boy and I ended up running a morning errand, which turned into errands most of the day. C’mon! We ALL know it happens! So, by the time we got home mid-afternoon, I was less than excited to suit up and drive an hour for a long run. I decided to switch my weekend runs. Chase joined me. He loves it. But, I can tell he’s only running once a week with me. I had to drag him the last two miles! He certainly isn’t ready for 18 milers again any time soon.

Sunday: 14 miles
Chose a new trail in Fort Collins since I was going solo. This one paralleled Horsetooth Reservoir. The water was partially frozen, and you could hear the water/ice settling and moving around. Moaning like a baby whale. At least what I assume a baby whale moans like.


I’m following a basic “first” 50k program, but reference some of my previous marathon training plans off and on. I’m actually putting in fewer miles right now, at week 3, for a 50k than I typically do at week 3 for a marathon! I’m not sure if this should worry me or not.



…the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon (15.5 miles)

I’m sure my five readers are wondering how I did this past weekend with my back-to-back races. Considering I didn’t exactly train how I thought I should, I think I faired pretty well. And by “pretty well” I mean I finished both. Here’s how it all played out…

The boy, Erika, Danielle, and I headed up to Leadville on Friday night. And I really do mean “up.” Leadville is the highest city in the USofA at 10,430 feet elevation. On Saturday morning, Danielle and I prepped as usual (or as best you can when you are camping) for the big race. We all rolled into town around 7am for packet pickup and eventually made our way to the race start.

Danielle and I knew this would be a tough one, climbing to 13,185 feet at the top of Mosquito Pass.

With nothing to prove and no time goals, we started the race at a slow, conversational pace. Of course, the route began on an uphill. And as you would assume, there really wasn’t much relief, save a brief mile or so down hill, before the final, brutal ascent.

I had read that the average finish time for the half was 4h and 14m. So, I guess I was going for 4h and 14m. Or at least a minute faster. To be honest, I really had no idea what to expect. At least it was beautiful.

We ran until about mile 5.5 or 6, when the only choice was to hike. Everyone was hiking.

One of the best parts was watching all the frontrunners coming down the hill. Seeing the lead men and women was such a rush. They are some of the most encouraging people, too. Good job! You’re almost there! Keep it up! Nice job! It was like having a personal set of cheerleaders. You couldn’t help but to return the favor and encourage their pace and stamina.

When we finally summited, at the top of Mosquito Pass, at 1h and 55m, it felt like a huge accomplishment.

Now for the fun part and the faster part…downhill.

The rock field on that last mile or two before the summit was hard enough to maneuver hiking up, much less trying to run down it, avoiding the runners still ascending! There were a lot of little slips and ankle rolls along the way. Once we finally made it past that part, I was beginning to feel queasy. I recalled the same feeling from a previous run I had not two months prior. Uh oh. I tried my best to keep my mind off of it.

The hard part of this race for me were the final few miles. The small downhill we had on the way up (about a mile) was now an uphill on the way back. And although is was SO minor in comparison to the hike up to the summit, it felt much worse! Over 7 miles of uphill, followed by 5 miles of downhill, my legs were revolting. But I pressed on, each pink and black flag that marked the course were my points of contact.

With only two miles to go, my stomach began to revolt. I knew I had been doing a lot of jiggling around, coming down the pass so quickly, but this felt mulitcolor yawn worthy. I tried to ignore it as much as I could, especially since I was now only a half mile from the finish.

Finally, with just a few hundred yards to go, I had that feeling. That feeling that something is going to happen and you just can’t stop it. Since there were no porcelain gods on the course, I frantically made my way off the course to unswallow everything in my stomach (which wasn’t much). Sorry, town of Leadville.

Naturally, not one to quit, I kept running and even passed someone on my way to the finish. Danielle and I crossed in 3:11.

Before even getting my medal, I made my way to the side of the finish and wished there were trash cans there because I cried Ruth one more time. Sorry, Leadville. Now, I just feel like I owe the town of Leadville some community service.

*Note to all Race Directors: PLEASE have trash cans at the finish line so queasy people like me, who can’t figure out why they are getting queasy all the time at races now, can vurp in a contained area, as opposed to streetside.

After I assured the volunteers that I did not need a medic, nor a phone call placed on my behalf to 911, I cleaned up and laid down for a while. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who isn’t totally grossed out when I readjust my fluids. Or if he is, he just doesn’t say anything, but helps me anyway. I really need to figure this out.

Once I was feeling better and smelling better, sans the runner B.O., I returned to the finish to finally meet Courtney! What a cutie! With her lulu shorts and fancy camera and easy conversation, I knew I liked her right away. Can’t wait to run with her soon! She was waiting on her main squeeze who was running the full.

This was a really tough course. Really. Not for the faint of heart. The incline alone was difficult; coupled with the elevation and this was a bear of a race. On one hand, I would love to do this race again, knowing exactly how to train now. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to do this race again!

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t say a big thank you to all of the race volunteers. Everything was very well organized and the aid stations were well stocked with great snacks, plenty of liquids, and fabulous people! They were happy and encouraging and it felt as though they wouldn’t imagine being anywhere else!

Because I had another half marathon the next day, I knew I needed to eat and take care of my legs. We headed back to camp to load up. Danielle would be going back to the Denver area; Erika, the boy, and I would head 2.5 hours north to Steamboat Springs, where I was looking forward to sitting in a hot tub.

Time- 3:11:14
Pace- 12:26
Overall- 89/403
Women- 21/177
AG (30-39)- 12/73 (apparently, this is a really competitive AG; especially in trail running; I mean, 12 of top 21 women were in my AG?!)

Next up: Steamboat Mountain Madness Half, the 2nd race of the weekend, and a huge bonk!


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…East Crosier Trail

The boy had been searching for a new trail for us to ride/run. On a mountain biking site, he had seen the East Crosier trail mentioned. Since it was to be 90 degrees for the day, and the trail was up the canyon, we thought we’d give it a go hoping for cooler temps. Not to mention the fact that the boasted 3100 foot elevation gain in 4 miles had our interest piqued. The only other trail info we could find was: Steep, rocky trail that can be ridden as an out-and-back, shuttle, or loop with road ride.


We had a later start, at least by my standards. By 1pm, though, some clouds were starting to role in, which cooled everything off a little more.

The incline started immediately and I knew I was in for a tough run.

See that mountain in the background? Yeah, the trail goes right up that. The first mile was a slow, slow jog. After that, the incline was entirely too steep to run. At least based on my amateur trail running experience. And even though the elevation wasn’t ridiculous, it felt as though I were much higher, just due to the steep terrain. Out. Of. Breath. I hiked/ran what I could until the 4 mile point, where Garmin told me I was at 8650 feet. I suppose I could have continued, hoping for that 9100 feet, but my legs were jello after my 14er workout only several days prior. Took me over an hour to make it up. Yikes.

Instead, I decided to get down the mountain, find the boy, and head home for some Beau Jo’s pizza. At about 2.5 miles out from the trailhead, I find him reclining on a rock overlooking the canyon. He said it was one of the worst trails he’s ever ridden. He even ran into other hikers who said they don’t even bother riding it. So there you go.

Once we made it down, I was exhausted and a little out of it. On the way out of the canyon, I was also met with one of those nasty nauseous spells from…well, who knows what.

After resting a bit at home, I forced down some cheesy bread, water, and finally, when feeling 100%, a couple of pieces of pizza. Back to normal.

Needless to say, I highly doubt we’ll hit that trail again. Ouch. And I really want something I am able to run for longer than a mile. I may be a weak trail runner, but I think I am capable of going farther than a mile, just not at that incline. Or, I really need to toughen up!



…Grays & Torreys

Last week, a coworker of mine asked if I’d be interested in running Grays and Torreys to celebrate her birthday. Having a soft spot for 14ers, and birthdays, I quickly agreed. Yes, please.

I met Laurel, and her friend Maggie, at 6:30 this morning, to make our way into the mountains for a double header. As far as 14ers go, Grays and Torreys are some of the easiest to traverse. However, most don’t start traversing any 14ers this early in the season. Lucky, or unlucky, for Colorado, the snow was lousy and the weather’s been warm. It means early fire danger in the high country (of which we’ve already had several outbreaks). It means early water restrictions in town. It means that it’s really green now, but will likely be brown in July. But it also means, getting a head start on 14ers.

I climbed Grays and Torreys back in 2009 with Erika. But I was looking forward to a new 14er experience: running them. I’ll be honest, “running” is kind of a stretch. Yes, you can run the trails until about 12,500 or 13,000 feet, depending on the mountain. Then, the ascent is either too steep, you run into snow, or the terrain is not safe for running. Oh yeah, and you may have trouble breathing.

The three of us started right at 8am. The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and the trail was clear.

We started an easy jog, slowly picking away at our 8 mile route. When you start out at 11,280, you can’t do much more than an easy jog. I probably don’t have to tell you that the higher we got, the more difficult it was. Duh. We were able to consistently run until about 12,500. From here to 13,000, the incline was such that it was faster to hike it. At the Y, we went right to summit Torreys first.

Around 13,000, we hit the snow. Or, what was left of it. We’ve had such a light snowpack this season that we didn’t even need gaiters. With the bright sun, it was mostly slushy at this point. We hiked through it. Literally. I fell in, up to my knees, two different times! I’ve got some minor scratches to prove it. We pushed up the crags to make our first summit for the day.

Happy Birthday Run, Laurel! (from the top of Torreys)

After a few pictures and a few energy blocks, we made our way down Torreys, and back across the snowy, slushy saddle to summit Grays.

We much preferred the ascent to Torreys over Grays. Being on the windward side of the peak was rough. It was really kicking up, and my hands were getting so cold. Grays ended up being a more difficult climb (Torreys is typically) due to the wind and more snowpack. Laurel lent me an extra pair of microspikes and we slipped them on before making our final ascent and summit for the day.

Looking back at Torreys (view from the top of Grays)

Needless to say, we quickly made our way down. Probably not remaining at the top but for a few minutes. Brrr…

On the way down, we were able to move at a pretty quick pace over the snow. Once we’d made it to drier ground, we took off the microspikes and were finally able to run again. My legs were so tired from the double ascent, but I kept them moving. I was stumbling over baby heads and rolled my ankle a few times. Not to the point of stopping, but it will probably be sore tomorrow!

Grays and Torreys
8.08 miles
3h 28m of run time
3h 57m total time
25:49 pace



…the Colorado Trail: Breckenridge

This past Memorial Day weekend the boy and I went camping, along with about 15 others (with a nearly 1:1 human to dog ratio). Some friends had gone up on Thursday, and found a large spot in Breckenridge. The majority of us showed up on Friday afternoon/evening, ready to relax and play.

A lot of people in the group brought their motorized toys: UTV’s, ATV’s, and dirt bikes. While the boy used to have a toy or two himself, he’s downsized to a mountain bike (or two); at least when it comes to summer toys. I am not to blame for the downsizing! So, when it came to play time this weekend, the boy took off on his mountain bike, and I took off on a run.

We had camped less than a quarter mile from an entrance point to the Colorado Trail. It’s a 500 mile trail connecting Denver to Durango. To be honest, I didn’t really know much of the trail until this weekend, and I was anxious to do some elevation/vertical training.

The trail is divided into 28 sections; probably for ease when referencing a certain portion of this gigantic trail. And because of that, I can probably most easily guess that we were nearest section 7.

On Saturday, the boy gave very clear directions as to where the trail was off of Tiger Road. And at the time, it seemed easy enough. So, he took off on his mountain bike, and I followed, with Chase, 20 minutes or so after. I guess I didn’t realize how clearly I expected the trail to be marked, because it wasn’t. And I blew right past it. Not being one to necessarily turn around and backtrack, trying to figure out where the trail really was, I just kept running. I was already in that forward motion anyway, so it felt like a shame to stop.

I was on the main road and I decided to just keep going. It was feeling like a pretty decent climb, especially factoring in the 9900 foot elevation start. Chase and I ran all the way to the top of the mountain, which was also the end of the road. 3 miles. After some playing around on my Garmin, I found the button to locate latitude/longitude, as well as elevation. We reached 10,900 feet. I felt that a 1000 foot elevation gain in 3 miles was significant enough, considering my breathing, or lack thereof. We ran down for a total of 6 miles in a little over an hour.

We waited around for about two hours before the boy came back. When he did, he only raved about the epic ride! The elevation gain and vertical climbs; the downhill; the broken bike piece that he MacGyver’d back together. I was immediately curious about the trail that I had so “blondly” missed. So, after an hour, I took back to the trail.

When I finally found the true trail, I was instantly impressed. Maybe it was because of the run only a few hours prior, or maybe it was the vertical climb, but I was winded early on. I pressed through downed trees, stopped bikers, and my own limited lung capacity. I threw in some moments of fast walking/hiking because I was just that out of breath. My goal was two miles. I just wanted to know how much of a climb it was.

When I reached two miles, I checked my watch. I was already at 10,900. The boy easily climbed well over 11,000 in his ride. I ran back down for a total of 4 miles.

It was tough, but I’m definitely wanting more of that kind of training this summer. I guess I need to get back up to the Colorado Trail. And maybe take some pictures so I can show you with a thousand words.



…Coyote Ridge Trail

This past Sunday, the boy and I headed to the trails. Him, with his mountain bike; me, with the only equipment I need: running shoes. Okay, okay. And maybe my Garmin 610. A Type A girl has to know how far she’s gone and how fast she’s going.

We started at the Coyote Ridge Trailhead, in the foothills, where Loveland ends and Fort Collins begins. While this trail alone is just a few miles, it connects to several other trails that can take you north or south for miles on end. My intention was to run 10. First, starting out through Coyote Ridge, and eventually connecting to Rimrock Open Space. Depending on mileage, I would head south at Devil’s Backbone and start the Indian Summer loop. The boy would ride for as long as I would be running. He’s accommodating that way.

While the overall elevation was nothing to speak of, the long vertical climbs were! It was no Rim Rock Marathon, but the first two miles were at a gradual incline; first on dirt road, then on single track trails. This was followed by some reprieve, only to continue the rocky incline to the top of the ridge. Once there, the views were breathtaking, looking down into the valley, and across to the other ridge. So, I just kept going.

The next 1.5 miles included a decent downhill, but then another slow climb along the Indian Summer Trail. At the 5 mile turn-around point, I looked back to where I had just come. Thinking about making that ridge was a little daunting. I wish I had pics to prove it, but I don’t typically run with my phone. Hopefully, that won’t come back to bite me at some point. Risk taker. I would steal borrow some pics from someone else’s site, but then I’d feel bad for a day or two.  And I have enough on my mind right now to wonder if “big brother” is watching and going to get mad and sue-crazy about some stolen borrowed pics of Coyote Ridge.  So, you’ll have to take my word for it.  The incline of the ridge, that is.

But, I’m a tough one, so I headed back with determination.  Mostly determination to pass someone who was already on the ridge, making decent progress in that hot sun.  Don’t worry, I passed her.  My legs might have been totally shot by the time I reached the top, but it was worth it.

By the time I made it back to the trailhead, I was tired.  And sunburnt.  And elated.  Trail running is just that fun.  It works you in ways you didn’t think could be worked.  Brain included.  I couldn’t zone out for this run, but I had to stay alert, so as not to face plant hopping through those rocky sections.

This simple run got me SO excited to do more trail running in preparation for my big summer.

One thing:  I need trail shoes.  Stat.



…in the mountains

For awhile now, I’ve had some strong desires to run Colorado mountain races. Partly because I wanted more experience at higher elevation, coupled with trails. And partly because I wanted to take the pressure off of a “time” goal. I’ve always run/raced with a particular time in the back of my mind. While I might not vocalize it or write about it, I’m the type who has a plan. And I think that part of me that puts pressure and expectations on myself needs to take a break.

With such a variety of races to choose from here, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find a few that stood out to me. Before I started training for Boston, I had considered a few, although I didn’t sign up for anything.

But the week before Boston, I registered for two half marathons. A day apart.

June 30Leadville Heavy Half Marathon
Called the “heavy half” because instead of the usual 13.1, this race is 15.46. This is run primarily on old mining roads and trails, peaking at 13,185 feet elevation (Mosquito Pass). There is an 8.5 hour time limit. Yikes. Luckily, Danielle will be running this one with me!

July 1Steamboat Mountain Madness Half Marathon
The following day, I’ll be running a true half. 13.1 miles. And this one is only at 6732 feet elevation. This race will be run along country roads, with some of it paralleling the Yampa River. I love Steamboat, and was actually offered a job here last year. But, I turned it down for several reasons. However, now I wonder what my life would have been like, had I taken a job in a small mountain town (~15,000 pop.). Likely, different. Steamboat also has natural hot springs, so I’m hoping to take advantage of that while I’m there. Plus, my friend, Erika, will be running this one too!

And then, I registered for this one yesterday:

August 11Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon
This race was named the Half Marathon of the Year by Colorado Runner Magazine 2011. It is run along Clear Creek, beginning at 8500 feet elevation, and ending at 7500. While this is a downhill course, I’m not necessarily expecting a half marathon PR. The boy and Erika will both be running this one!

I’m also considering registration for a few other mountain races in August and September.

August 25-Golden Beaver Half Marathon 8342 ft. elevation
September 8-Imogene Pass Run 17.1 miles over a 13,114 ft. elevation mountain pass
September 30-Bear Chase 50k

My goal now is to just trail run as much as I can. On the weekends, I am trying to get up into the mountains for higher elevation runs too. I’m not totally sure how to train for these races, other than this. I’m sure some hill work would be beneficial as well! Maybe even join one of the trail running groups in the area. Most of all, I’m excited for a new challenge. I’m happy with the distance running I’ve been doing the past few years, but this will bring a new element to it.