(Green, stuck in the clouds today.)
"Damn, dude, you're killin' it! Two laps today?" This man was noticing that we'd already passed each other once on the Gregory Canyon trail, maybe twenty minutes earlier.
"This is four, actually."
Of course, seeing as I was about a third of the way up my fourth ascent of Green Mountain today, I hardly possessed the energy nor inclination to further avail this man of the fact that I had taken the time--in between the 2nd and 3rd reps--to interject an additional 3000' of climbing and 18 miles of running out in Walker Ranch and Eldorado Canyon. Plus, within another mile or so, the day caught up to me and I was most definitely not "killin' it" anymore and was just doing whatever I could to get to the top at something faster than what felt like a snail's pace..
(A reprisal of last weekend, plus a couple extra ascents of Green Mt.)
On the whole, though, today was probably the best day I've had in the mountains since before Leadville last summer. I knew I wanted a final long run before the Miwok 100K in two weeks, but was unsure about what form I wanted it to take. A double-crossing of the Grand Canyon? Pressing academic projects precluded the amount of travel time such an excursion necessitates. A 50 mile race? Maybe Leona Divide? Spring Desert Ultra? My competitive nature would almost certainly drive me to run too hard and jeopardize my subsequent effort at Miwok. I've learned that I can't run "training races" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). So, I turned to my backyard--Boulder County Open Space.
(50 miles, 7h30min, 4 x Green Mt., 13,000' vertical.)
After jogging up to the trailhead with Jocelyn, I kicked off the day with two ascents of Green Mt. The first one passed in a snappy 36:40 that was surprisingly effortless. It's always nice to see the benefits of taking Friday relatively easy. Thanks to being warmed up, round two felt similar to the first, except I climbed a full minute faster for a completely unexpected five second PR on the Gregory-Ranger route of 35:35. Clearly, I'm in shape to go a lot faster than that if I ever get around to time trialing it.
The circuit around Walker Ranch was a joy. I'd taken my first gel at 1h30 and one every hour after that, and the earlier fuel seemed to be allowing me to maintain a higher intensity deeper into the run. From the Ethel Harrold trailhead I cruised around the loop to the Eldorado Canyon singletrack in 56 minutes, and then 28 minutes later was chugging water at the State Park visitor center. High on the Eldo trail, I enjoyed maybe the best views of the day: low, misty clouds had been draping the mountains all morning, and, with it's summit obscured, Eldorado Mountain on the other side of the canyon looked gigantic.
(The stairs down to South Boulder Creek in Walker. Photo: Lucho)
(The bridge crossing the creek. Photo: Lucho.)
Descending off the Fowler trail down into Eldorado Springs, I anticipated the Old Mesa climb with trepidation. This extremely skinny, rocky, somewhat overgrown half-track generally hurts. I'd been running a quick pace for more than four hours at this point, had already ascended over 7000', and rain was beginning to spit from the heavy clouds. Instead, I ran up the 700' rise with little effort. At the top, my extra energy allowed me to maintain a fast pace that would keep me warm in the rain, and by time the Mesa trail reached Bear Canyon I'd decided I was going to turn up it for a bonus ascent of Green.
Once back down at the Gregory Trailhead, I dropped my bottle and turned around for one more climb of the mountain. Finally, on the ridge above the Ranger Cabin, my day-long euphoria came shuffling to a bit of a stilted halt. The increased gradient exploited my slowly-eroded caloric advantage, and I had to reach into my pocket not once but twice for a gel in order to stimulate some kind of peppy response from my legs. Fortunately, three GUs in the span of only 30 minutes seemed to put me back in the game and above the 4-way junction, my legs again felt curiously sprightly. On the descent I spontaneously bopped over the top of Flagstaff and descended down to Eben G. Fine before running the Creek Path home for a (quick) soak in the creek itself.
Running isn't always this easy. But, on the days that it is, it's a pleasant reminder of the exquisite awards that can be reaped by consistently perservering through the long winter months, injuries, and other detractors. It's been a long, long time since I could just go tearing off through the rocks and woods with daylight and fuel being the only limiting factors to my voyage. I am equally grateful to have the arena for such opportunities exist quite literally in my backyard.
(The view from the top of Green today.)