What a great run. I didn't run before work this morning because I was taking Jocelyn to the airport, and then I didn't get off work until 2pm, but it didn't matter because it was ridiculously warm this afternoon--61F degrees! On basically the shortest day of the year!
I started out feeling awkward and tired because of the day off yesterday, but within in a couple of miles I knew that my ankle tendon wasn't going to be a problem--it's always nice to have some affirmation that a day off does some legitimate, simple good.
By time I made it through Bear Creek and into the mountains, though, I had found my groove and chugged to the top of Mt. Buckhorn. I was feeling good and loving the weather, so I kept going and took the Buckhorn trail along the ridge all the way over to the 666 (El Diablo) trail. The trail through here was a lot more clear than I'd expected. Running down El Diablo was great, with the snow offering extra cushioning, and by the time I got to the bottom I decided to just extend my run an extra hour instead of doing the late-night two-a-day I had originally planned.
Even though it was getting legitimately dark, the run over to Red Rocks on Intemann was fantastic and I had a blast on the Sand Canyon trail--my favorite singletrack in the Red Rocks system. After sucking down a gel (I'd been running for 3hrs), I ground up the tough Ridge Road climb and then hopped on the panoramic Niobrara Trail in the Garden of the Gods. This is one of my favorite trails in the Garden because it's the name of my home town, but also because it runs right along the precipitous spine of the ridge formed by the Niobrara geologic formation on the east side of the Garden (by the way, my hometown, Niobrara, NE, is the type-location for the Niobrara formation: there are miles and miles of chalk bluffs/cliffs lining the Missouri River there).
It was great finishing up the run in the moonlight. My legs were definitely tired by the end, but it's runs like these that make all the difference for me in 100 mile races--the first 3 hours are cake--basically pure fun--but because I usually do a 4hr run with minimal caloric help (read: gels) the last hour gets a little uglier and it's a great opportunity to rehearse the fatigue that occurs during the average ultra race.
I can't emphasize enough how incredible it is to be back running here in the Springs. I know it seems redundant, but to be able to do a 30 miler like this literally from my front doorstep with less than 2 miles of pavement and ~3000' of climbing with such stunning and varied scenery is an absolute gift and privilege that I feel so lucky to be able to indulge in.