On Saturday morning I was whiney pile of whines. It was bad. I knew that without a concert game plan for my Saturday I’d probably sleep in, even if I wasn’t truly sleep…which is exactly what I did. My excuse?! It was supposed to get up to 50 degrees and it was only 21 degrees at 7am…I was waiting for the heat of the sun! But by 9am it became obvious that Colorado sunshine was NOT showing up, so I pouted and whined…loudly…until I forced a friend into running her 4 miler on the trails with me. I’m pushy shovey like that!
Of course, as soon as I got outside on the trails I was fine. The 37 degrees felt just fine, I even got sweaty! The sunshine stayed away but Colorado was still beautiful! And we did what good Coloradoans do after a successful run…stopped by a local brewery for post-run carb loading!
To avoid the whole bucket of whines and regret on Sunday I made plans with Logan to meet at the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space trailhead at 6:30am for a long run that started off with a little sunrise fun. I initially wanted a completely solo weekend of running but it’s pretty obvious my poor, weak brain was not ready for that so I used and abused my friends on the trails!
I had mapped out a run that would guarantee me at least 21+ miles and Logan had enough time to get a healthy dose of double digits so off we went! Our route took us along a portion of the Quad Rock course for a few miles before we detoured for a scramble up Horsetooth Rock. We made it to the top, snapped a few photos and settled in to enjoy your #SummitDonut…because if you run with me I will force you to eat donuts!
Up to this point [following South Ridge Trail + Horsetooth Rock Trail] the trails were dry and bare of snow or ice. Once we double backed to the Wathen Trail, West Ridge Trail and Mill Creek Link things got interesting. Long stretches of trail were covered with packed snow and glossy ice which lead to a lot of slipping, sliding and squealing…but somehow no one biffed it! I’m a good friend; rather than try to save you when you slip I get out of the way so you can’t take me down with you, but I am kind enough to squeak and whimper for you. I’m sure others would have been greatly entertained watching us descent steep, icy switchback, had anyone else actually been on these trails. [silly smart people…]
Once we arrived at the Loggers Trail we split up, Logan heading back toward the car and me heading toward Lory State Park, which borders Horsetooth. As soon as I crossed over into Lory the trails cleared up, a lot. It seems as though Horsetooth has more valleys and thicker forests while Lory is more open so their trails cleared up faster. My climb up Howard Trail and West Ridge Trail took be behind Arthur’s Rock and along smooth, rolling double track littered with cow pies but surrounded by beautiful blue skies and mountain views. This is why I love trail running…
My descent down Timber Trail got tricky again…lots of ice on steep, rocky switchbacks. I remember running down this trail during last year’s Quad Rock 50M – the front runners were already started back up the single track from the 25M turnaround and we were strategically dodging each other without careening down the mountainside. It was fun seeing people and inspiring to watch them graceful run up rocky trail I was attempting not to trip down. Maybe this year I’ll be able to get my legs on board for uphill running at Quad Rock?! Maybe…
I survived but I slowed way down, it was actually nice to have runnable uphill as I approached the Kimmons trail! Even the steep hike up to the Mill Creek Link was a nice reprieve from constantly dodging ice, hopping from rock to rock and praying the dirty grass wasn’t hiding sheets of ice! As I headed back into Horsetooth Mountain Open Space my Bia GPS watch had me nearing 20 miles and the map told me I was at least 5 miles from the trailhead I parked at.
I was getting tired and on an icy climb back up Mill Creek Link I did have about 2 minutes of “ugh, this needs to be over, I’m hungry!” which I quickly fixed by…you guessed it, eating! It is amazing what a little food can do for a rotten mood! Before long I was back to telling myself stories as I focused on purposefully moving forward. My body was doing good, nothing hurt or niggled or whined. My stomach was happy, giving me no grief aside from a few “feed me!” signals. My mind was happy, I was alone in the woods and enjoying it. This run was winning at life!
From Mill Creek Link I dropped onto Loggers Trail then jumped over to Herrington Trail which led to a beautifully runnable Stout Trail. At this point I was so happy to be alive and running I took on the uphills with a smile. I was close enough to the car – even if things fell apart 5 minutes later I could power through a run up this hill, right?! Even the rocky sections of Spring Creek Trail didn’t deter me. The closer I got to the main Horsetooth Mountain parking lot the busier the trails got. Usually this is kind of annoying, especially after hours of empty trails, but this time I welcomed the chatter of hikers. This could be because my first few encounters with others included a cute baby and a fluffy black lab puppy!
Before a quick stop at the [very tiny] Horsetooth Falls a couple asked a few questions about the trail and I handed over my map along with some trail recommendations. It was at this point I realized I was 25 miles into my day and still enjoying life enough to be truly happy enough to wholeheartedly help others take on the day. This long run was still winning at life! I was so thankful, I needed this run and all of its success!
I arrived back at my car 26.2 miles [there was an extra .15 mile jaunt back up the trail because why stop when you’re that close to a marathon!?] and about 7.5 hours into my Sunday. My body was still fully on board, my head was still bouncing around in its special happy place and the weather was absolutely gorgeous! The morning started in the dark with temperatures struggling to reach 30 degrees but by now, at 2pm, the sun was high in the sky with temperatures topping out around 62 degrees! Colorado does not suck!
Riding on the best kind of runner’s high I headed home to inhale some food then talked Sara and Logan into another trip to Horsetooth Mountain, this time for a sunset hike with the dogs. We spent our two mile hike up racing the sinking sun. Unfortunately the sun dropped below the horizon before the we crested the ridge of Horsetooth Open Space but the clouds were still colorful!
I closed out my weekend with a 30.5 mile day, another #SummitDonut and a pair of very happy legs! I may have successfully survived a weekend of solo running but with help from friends I managed to pull off the longest training run I’ve been on since July 2014…and that 28 mile run ended with tears and very angry body parts. I’m taking this as a HUGE win! Next weekend will be full of friendly faces along the trails and hopefully the miles will be bubbly and happy for everyone involved! I’m looking at you Heather…we’re hitting that elusive 17 mile mark!
Want more information on exactly which route I took through Horsetooth Mountain Open Space + Lory State Park? You can find the exact route here: Bia Stats. If you have any questions on specific trail conditions, ask…I’ll tell you what I know, albeit, conditions are ever changing!