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Monday, December 24, 2012

Arbaney-Kittle

Last April AJW wrote a story for irunfar where he made the definitive claim, "...there is nothing like the Daily Constitutional."  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Jones-Wilkins.  The Daily Constitutional is the staple of my running diet, the constant source of my fitness and trail running pleasure.  My Daily Constitutional, winter and summer, is the Arbaney-Kittle trail outside of Basalt, Colorado.  For me, it is the perfect trail. It's steep enough to provide a serious training benefit, close enough to run from my door, quick enough for an after work jaunt, or long enough (summer only) for an hours long adventure, but most importantly, it offers outstanding vistas and an instant escape into the wild.  The trail follows a historic ranching road and pack trail, climbs 2000 feet in elevation at its highest point, and traverses nearly 20 miles.  I love the trail year round, but in the winter, when nearly all other local trails are buried in the fluffy white, a portion of the trail remains runnable, making it one of the few ways to trounce through the local wilderness.  I am blessed to have it out my back door.  

In an attempt to hasten, "Operation Get Zeke Fit Again," I decided to hit Arbaney for the first time in a few months.  To this end I chose my friend and training partner Jeremy Duncan to chase up the hill.  Jeremy is an excellent hill climber, sincere friend, fellow teller of bad jokes, and all around fun guy to run with.  Jogging from the house we eased our way to the trailhead along a snow covered bike path.  This provided a nice two mile warn-up to the trail's start.  I cherished this mellow section as I knew the ensuing climb would be painful.  Talking casually we slogged along under bluebird Colorado skies and soon arrived at the Arbaney-Kittle Trailhead. 



   Jeremy Duncan at the Trailhead 

The climb up Arbaney-Kittle is not terribly long or technical, but it is pretty darn steep.  The pitch of the trail immediately angles upward from the trailhead and there is little reprieve until you top out.  Once, as I labored up Arbaney, I bumped into fellow Basalt resident, Ron Lund.  Ron is a longtime runner, coach, and the father of accomplished trail runner, Megan Lizotte.  I told Ron that I was trying to to, "take it easy," but I was have little success at this goal.  He accurately declared, "you can go slow up Arbaney, but you can't go easy!"  This is one of the reasons Arbaney is such a great trail; it's hard.  

I chose to use Yaktraxs on my shoes for added traction, and since Jeremy didn't have any, I thought that a little extra gripping advantage would help me stay with him.  That proved to be wishful thinking for as soon as we started to climb Jeremy slipped away.  In the end, it always comes down to fitness and Jer is fit.  Not to worry, for the day was glorious and I was out moving in the crisp air, under the radiant sun.  So who cared that I could barely lift my legs, as my weak hip flexors struggled to flex my hips, or that my calves were on fire just minutes into the climb.  I was running my Daily Constitution and I was lov'in it,  regardless of the fact that my body was screaming at me to stop.  Sweat poured off my brow and I wore my sunglasses at the tip of my nose so that they would not fog up.  Finally, I saw Jeremy waiting for me at the main trun-around point.  I thought perhaps we too would turn here, but it was not to be.  We climbed one more switchback to do the lollipop extension, and it was worth the extra effort.  The views of the Elk Range at the apex of this added loop are outstanding and every time I go there I am filled with gratitude for the life I have.  
Mt. Sopris Shrouded in Clouds 


Jeremy with Basalt Mt. in the Background


Looking at the Elk Range


The Final Ascent

Jeremy was kind enough to tell me some excellent bad jokes before he disappeared on the descent.  My favorite was, "Why did the one handed man go to the thrift shop?  Cause he heard it was a second hand store."  Arbaney is my Daily Constitutional. Arbaney provided the descents to condition my downhill legs for Western and the climbs to prep me for Hope Pass, but mostly it provides me with happiness.    

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