Tuesday, July 30, 2013

‘Merica 2013

‘Merica’s birthday fell on a Thursday this year so my wife and I decided to skip working on Friday (something I should do more often) and make a long weekend of it.

Avery 4k on the 4th

The first stop in our weekend was Avery’s 4k on the 4th. It’s not my type of race. The people I run with tend to track their runs as often by vertical distance as much as horizontal distance. A 4k is almost too much of a sprint. But the race is run on the 4th of July. It’s meant to be short so you can talk your friends into joining you.

Then there is the beer and food. While the price of the race has gone up over the years, you can still get your money’s worth. This year for $35 you got:

·         A well run race
·         A tech shirt
·         A massive breakfast burrito
·         All you can drink Avery beer

I showed up at a race and met up with Greg, Jarod, Afred and Zack from the Boulder Track Club. In spite of the hectic start we all stayed in a pretty tight pack with Jarod leading the way. With about a half-mile to go I edged Zack and then got out-kicked by Greg. My time of 14:08 was a good 16 seconds faster than last year so I feel the BTC has proven its worth.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Fri. 5 July 2013

We lingered for a couple of brews, but the rest of this big, open state was calling us. Around noon Alita and I made tracks for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Six hours later we set up camp and got to work on some fajitas while we waited for our friends, Dan and Rachel.

For those that have never seen this national park, there may be canyons that are deeper, steeper or longer, but none that combine all three to the extent of the Black Canyon. On Friday, Dan and I decided to descend into the Canyon. After and epic breakfast of eggs, bacon, tomatoes and beans, we made for the visitor’s center. Our leisurely pace breaking camp meant that we did not get there until around 10 am. We had meant to hike the Gunnison Route, but the rangers told us that the 15 permits for that trail were gone. Instead we settled on the Tomichi Route.

It is called a route because trail would be far too generous of a term. The route was basically a rockslide / watercourse which descended almost 2000 ft. in 1.25 miles. Dan and I made it down in 1.5 hours. We went upstream a little ways to a waterfall and then started back.

There is no shade and both of us polished off our water before the top. We lost what semblance of even what route there was and were reduced to pulling ourselves up by whatever hardy plants had gained a foothold. We made the rim in two hours – which was decent since the website recommended that you plan for 4.5 hours. But we were beat. We met up with our spouses who had hiked along the rim and went for our campsite that night.

Fishing in San Isabelle National Forest

Sat. 6 July 2013

We camped in the Monarch RV Park and the next day Dan and I went into the San Isabelle National Forest. One of my guidebooks had recommended Brown Creek for the chance to catch some native cutthroats. We parked at the trailhead and started ascending. While the trail parallels the stream it spends most of its time on the ridgeline. There is a marshy section right before you join the Colorado Trail which could be worth fishing. We however turned south on the Colorado Trail and went a ways further. We crossed one branch of Brown Creek but continued onto the second (slightly larger) one.

After crossing a bridge we set up our rods. The creek was tight – you definitely needed a good roll cast. But Dan found a nice hole with what looked to be an 8-10” cutthroat. He rose him two or three times on a parachute adams, but the little guy was no dummy and we continued on downstream. A few yards down the stream I caught a six-inch cutty.

We meandered down the stream for an hour or two. Dan caught two small but feisty brookies. We then went up the ridge and regained the Wagon Wheel Trail which met the road just a couple hundred meters down from the Brown Stream Trailhead.

We finished our trip in Salida which is one of my favorite towns in Colorado. We had a great meal at the Boathouse before retiring to our campsite and heading home the next day. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Keystone Half-Marathon

Sun. 22 July 2013

This last weekend I ran the Keystone Half-Marathon. It’s a well-run, small race in a ski-town in the summer. This race is part of the Endurance Race Series in Colorado. It bills itself as Colorado’s Largest Trail Running Series.

I would argue that calling it a trail race is a little generous. About 9 to 10 of the 13 miles are on the bike path that goes along the Snake River. The one section of trail comes about two miles into the loop when you climb about 250 feet around the town golf course. The half-marathon is two loops of the 10k course plus a 0.7-mile loop tacked on at the end. The total elevation gain for the half-marathon is around 1,400 feet – hardly noteworthy by mountain racing standards, but significant enough to separate the climbers from the non-climbers. The entire race itself stays about 9,000 ft.

Elevation Profile

I left Boulder around 6:30 and made it to Keystone just a little after 8 am. Racers parked on the north side of the road and walk about a half-mile under the underpass to the eastern side of the Keystone Lake. The packet pick-up was easy and I was glad to see that they had a bag check spot so that I did not have to haul my gear back to the truck. There were three porta-potties there which was perfectly adequate for the number of runners. Lines were pretty manageable. I lathered up on sunscreen and did a quick five-minute warm-up.

The race start was relaxed – a quick explanation of the course and a ready, set, go. I surprisingly found myself in the lead. The course starts of going west and downstream which means downhill; so, in spite of my effort to go out easy, I ran the first mile in 5:50. A 10-k runner briefly caught up to me and was a little dismayed to see that I was running the half. I told him not to worry – I might not be pacing this right. But once we turned at the golf course and started going uphill he dropped back and I was all alone.

The single track portion of the course was lovely – if short. The course pacer warned me about the “hill”, but while not insignificant, a 250-ft climb over a mile is hardly bad. For that I have to thank Greg Nash and the Boulder Track Club’s Mountain, Ultra and Trail Running Team. After training on the Shadow Canyon loop, the ascent here was pretty tame.

Once I regained the bike path I headed back to the start and a gradual uphill climb. While I was alone as a runner, there was ample company from what appeared to be a large bike ride going on that weekend. While I would have preferred the solitude of running, the bikers were very courteous and friendly and we all seemed to share the trail rather well from my perspective.

The second loop was a little slower than the first, but I maintained an average pace of 6:30 miles. While I have run a faster pace on road marathons, this one was at 9,000 feet and there was no one really pushing me so I felt okay with that. The last 0.7 mile loop was a bit of a ball buster. You climb for what feels like a while before returning to the bike path for a smooth finish. My watch had the whole thing at 12.7 miles, but I lost about two tenths of a mile each time through the single-track portion of the loop. Finishing time was 1:26:01 – not blazingly fast, but good enough for the win.

There was free Left Hand Sawtooth Ale at the end and the race organizers were pretty efficient at getting the results out. The spread of food was also pretty respectable for a small race. I got my award and was on my way home before noon. Another fun race in the books.

The Taste of Victory (which tastes like Lefthand Sawtooth)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Very Colorado Day

Saturday, 22 June, 2013

This day was one of those days that embodies what living in Colorado is to me. One of my good friends from Maine, Bret, was in Keystone for a forestry conference and wanted to get together. This coincided with a Boulder friend of mine, John, trying to organize people to go on hikes with him. Alita graciously told me to have a good time. While she likes a good walk, the midwife advised us to keep the kiddo-to-be below 11,000 ft.

The three of us agreed upon hiking Bierstadt. It was a good middle choice for my friend in Keystone and John and me in Boulder. John and I had not hiked Bierstadt and it was an easier 14’er for a sea-level person like Bret to take on.

We met up at the Georgetown exit at 6:30 and were at the trailhead by 6:50. Bret brought along two other forestry friends of his from Quebec. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and this being a 14’er, there was already a good crowd at the parking area and starting up the mountain.

I had never checked out the website 14ers.com, but I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to hike one of these (or several 13,000 –ft. peaks). The pictures, maps, GPS points and trip reports were spot on and very helpful. The route was pretty clear from the ant-line of people already going up the trail. We walked through the bog section with its boardwalks and crossed the stream as a nice warm-up. The first mile-or-so of gain was a fairly nice path. The trail was clear except for a few snow cones near the top.

Snow Cones!
We made the summit by 9:20. We took the required touristy pictures; then, we retreated to the far side for a little space so that we could eat our lunch in peace. John had mooted the idea of picking up Mount Evans as well, but Bret and the Quebequa were starting to feel the effects of the altitude so we agreed that an out-and-back would round out the hiking day just fine.

The trip down was uneventful for us, although it appeared that someone was getting rescued as a helicopter circled overhead and an ambulance was waiting in the parking lot when we arrived. We were back to the cars by 12:30. John and our friends from Quebec went their separate ways while Bret and I decided to try some local fishing.

Our Quebecois Friends and the end of the hike
After some debate about driving times and various local options, Bret and I decided to check out a stretch of the Blue River above Silverthorne. It was a beautiful canyon stretch with nice little runs. Being downstream of the reservoir, it was not running too high either. I tried a dry-dropper out of principle, but eventually joined Bret with a double nymph rig. Bret hooked into what looked to be a nice rainbow  on a copper john but lost it after a few seconds of fighting.

It seemed that small was the order of the day so I switch to a size-18 midge and beatis nymph set-up. About a half-hour later this paid off with a nice 14-inch rainbow. We each had one more fish express interest, but the Blue did not give up any more fish for us that day – just spectacular and peaceful vistas.

We head back to the cars around five and went our separate ways. We had hiked a 14-er and fished a beautiful trout stream. I cannot think of too many better ways to spend a summer day in Colorado.