Today in two weeks I will run the Little Rock, Arkansas marathon. This will be my first marathon in 2015 and I am really looking forward to this event. Little Rock might not be the most glamorous travel destination and there are certainly more famous marathons out there that one would want to run, but for me this does not matter. I picked Little Rock for one very specific reason: I want to visit all 50 US states before I turn 50 and I have less than 3 years to go to fulfil that dream. I have been to 45 states already and – you probably guessed it by now – Arkansas is one of the 5 remaining states I need to visit. Since I do not know anyone in Little Rock and do not really know what to see there I decided to make it “easy” on myself and to “just” run a marathon in Arkansas. For me, that are 26.2 good reasons to make the trip and now I am just two weeks out. [Read more…]
Archives for February 2015
Are you a road warrior runner or do you prefer to run trails? I usually prefer trails for my running, but unfortunately most of my runs are done on pavement in one way or the other. This last Saturday I had the chance to go for a run out in the woods again. I had been sick with a sinus infection the week before last week and was looking to get only about 12-13 miles done because I wanted to make sure I am not overloading my body. About 15 minutes from where I live is Waterton Canyon which is a dirt road leading up to a dam for the Denver Water system. The dirt road is flat and has only slight ascent and I think the total change in altitude is less than 400 ft. total for the in-and-out distance. The road is about 6 miles long and that was exactly what I was looking for. In addition the road is closed to traffic and so you only see bicycles, hikers, runners, and occasionally some folks on horses. I had been running every day this week and had to realize that I was not totally recovered from my sinus infection, so the Waterton Canyon run sounded great.
Another reason I picked Waterton Canyon for my run was the option to slightly extend the run because there are a couple of
hiking runner trails leading into the foothills. As a matter of fact the famous Colorado trail starts right at the end of the road that leads up to the Waterton Canyon dam. One of the options to extend the run would bring the distance of my run to about 17 miles and I wanted to have that option in case all felt good. The weather was perfect. Temperatures were around 50 degrees when I left my home and it was supposed to go up to the lower 70s later on.
I arrived at the Waterton Canyon trailhead at about 9.00 AM. The parking lot was already pretty crowded. Waterton Canyon is a pretty popular by folks here in Denver, but I did not expect it to be that popular. I parked my car, used the restroom and started my run. My legs felt pretty good, but I decided to take it easy and just see how things would turn out. Even though there were lots of cars down at the parking lot the trail was not crowded at all. No idea where everyone was, but I did not see many people all the way up to the dam at all.
I worked my way up the dirt road and stopped for pictures here and there. When I reached the rest area near the Waterton Canyon dam my Nike Plus GPS watch showed just a little over 6 miles. I took a small break to refuel as well as to enjoy the scenery. My legs felt good and so I decided to follow the Colorado trail for a mile or so and then to turn around. Well, that was the intention at least. I followed the Colorado trail and suddenly I was completely away from everything – just the wilderness and me. The single file trail lead up the mountains and I just kept on going. I walked the steep inclines and ran where appropriate. I encountered only a few areas with snow and ice on the trail and slowly worked my way up. The Colorado trail would meet the Indian Creek trail at one point and that’s where I would have to make a turn and follow the Indian Creek trail back down to the Waterton Canyon dam. At the intersection of Colorado trail and Indian Creek I took a small break again. There was a bench and a Mountain Biker was sitting there and we chatted for a few minutes enjoying the nice view at the same time.
I got up again and followed the Indian Creek trail. I guess I was a bit naïve or spoiled from the trail conditions on the way up. The first half mile on the Indian Creek trail was perfect for running. The trail was exposed to the sun and it almost felt like summer and not early February. You could smell the pine trees and I even saw a few butterflies in the air. Then the trail conditions changed dramatically. Well, duh – somehow that trail had to lead back to the canyon and it turned “away from the sun”. Suddenly the majority of the trail was covered with snow and ice, but it still wasn’t too bad. However, the longer I followed the trail running conditions turned bad. The snow became knee-deep and harsh. It looked like only one other person had been on that trail in quite a while. I tried to step into that person’s footsteps, but it was quite difficult to do so. The next 1.5 miles were extremely difficult and at one point I thought I was lost, but then noticed that I had to cross the Indian Creek and that’s where I found my way back onto the “trail”.
I walked, hiked, and run whenever possible and soon reached another intersection where the trail would lead me back to the dam. I almost made it back to the dam without any incident, but pretty much on the last stretch before back on familiar territory I hit a stretch of ice and lost my balance landing on my butt. Ouch! For the entire time I had managed to make it through ice and snow, but here I just hit the ground. Well, I may have hurt my ego a bit, but fortunately nothing worse happened.
I arrived back at the rest area at the dam and continued my way down back to the trail head and the parking lot. My legs felt good, but I could feel the effort of the last 4 miles of real trail running and since I was not fit the entire week I kept my pace on the slower side of things. When I checked my pace later on it turned out I was actually averaging less than 9 minutes per mile on those last 5-6 miles which is pretty good for me on those long runs.
The closer I came to the trailhead the more crowded with people it became. I no longer felt being out in the nature – this felt more like a busy day at the mall.
About 1.5 miles out from the parking lot I saw a herd of Bighorn Sheep on one side of the trail. They were just hanging out in the water that came down from the dam (South Platte River). I stopped and enjoyed the moment before taking off again. Another half mile down the dirt road I saw a second herd of Bighorn Sheep climbing the hills. Again, I stopped and enjoyed the moment before taking off and heading back to my car.
This was a great run and I will definitely come back more often, but when doing so I will get a more early start. It was not pretty coming down that dirt road with so many people being around. I definitely enjoy running in nature when not many people are around, but as mentioned it felt almost like a busy day at the mall.