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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Summer Runnin'...Had Me A Blast!

Mt. Sopris

A year ago I pledged,  "I will not: run any races, wear a watch, keep any kind of running log, or plan any workouts.  However, I will: jump lots of sagebrush, splash in many a stream, glissade as much as possible, and only run when I feel like it. I want to run for running's sake." Since the year has expired, I feel compelled to reflect upon the how well I adhered to my intentions and what the results were. Looking back I can honestly say this was the greatest summer of running I have ever had. Without the obligation to race, there were no tapers or recoveries, I could run freely, and I did! I shared many a mile with a cadre of fellow ulta hounds and saw amazing country. It was a special summer, spent enjoying the Elks with some stellar people. Below is a highlight reel of a few runs I took this summer.

"Uncle Al" on The Woody Creek Trail

Woody Creek Trail - I kicked off the summer with a retracing of one of my first ever long runs as an ultra runner, the Woody Creek Trail. I shared an early season venture into higher country with my brother Alex Tiernan, Megan Lizotte, and Travis Baptiste. Not to be thwarted by the large stores of late snow, we post holed our way to the southern exposure of the highest ridge before descending into the beautiful Hunter Creek Valley. This seldom used trail is a blast to run!

Joseph enjoying the views of Hay Park 
Hay Park Trail - For the last two years I have joined Joseph King in running from his house up Capital Creek to Carbondale, via the Hay Park Trail. It's a net downhill run with spectacular views, both great reasons to run this route! Only minutes from my house, running this trail reminds me how fortunate I am to live in the Elk Mountains. 

Megan charging toward a foreboding sky!

Arbaney-Kittle Trail - On the other side of the Roaring Fork River from the Hay Park Trail lies the Arbaney-Kittle Trail. A stout six mile climb along a rugged jeep road gives way to a pristine ribbon of single track accented by seas of wildflowers and dramatic ridge running. The fact that the run finishes at my front door is a bonus.  Interestingly, both times I ran this route this summer, the shuttle driver left their keys at the start, making the shuttle back a little tricky. This could be an amazing segment of an ultra event
South Maroon Summit
South Maroon Peak - The Maroon Bells are iconic mountains that are rumored to participate in more photo shoots than any other peaks in North America. Their allure is inescapable and that is why I try to reach their summits each summer. This year I never made it up North, but I had an enjoyable run/hike/run attack on South with my good friend, Dave Bowman.

The boys (Dylan Bowman, Pete Gaston, Alex Tiernan) enjoying some good banter atop Buckskin Pass
The Four Pass Loop - Sage Canaday recently lowered Ricky Gates FKT for the Four Pass Loop. His 4:27 is an outstanding accomplishment! My running of the four pass loop this summer was all about camaraderie, not about speed. Dbo, Uncle Al, T-Bap and I rolled over the four passes that encircle the "Bells"laughing along the way. I love this Aspen classic!

Jonathan and Leora Jordan
East Maroon - Gothic - West Maroon - I can vividly remember when Jon Garcia was a senior in high school, he confided in me that he had a crush on a sophmore 400 meter runner name Leora. I encouraged him to pursue the relationship and over a dozen years later I found myself sharing some trail miles with the happily married couple. Running East Maroon trail to Gothic, one of my favorite singletrack trails in the Elks, and back over West Maroon Pass, I understood why so many tourists have ventured these same paths.
Jeremy Duncan watching the clouds roll in from Daisy Pass

Ragged Loop - My biggest run of the summer was a long and rugged loop that dove deep into to the Ragged Wilderness Area. The appropriately named wilderness is wild and sparsely used, giving it a truely remote feel. Navigating this route with my great friend Jeremy Duncan made for an epic run!

Alex Tiernan, Michael Barlow and Alex Huger stride toward Mt. Sopris

Mount Sopris Ridge Loop - Extending from the eastern false summit of Mt. Sopris is a long ridge that eventually connects to Capital Peak. I have long eyed this ridge as an alternative route up Sopris and this summer I finally ran it. It was an awesome ridge!

Snowmass Mountain Summit

Snowmass Mountain - "Who has two thumbs and is a wimp when it comes to heights....this guy!" That is exactly what I was saying when the above photo was being taken. I have always had a discomfort with exposure, but somewhere between my marriage to my wife Molly, the birth of my daughter Jude and aging toward fuddy duddy, I have become downright scared in high places. That is why I almost missed out on a spectacular run over Snowmass Mountain (the 14er, not the ski resort). Thankfully my fear subsided as we made our way up the peak and I was able to enjoy an awesome point to point run that took us from Marble to Maroon Lake, right over Snowmass Mountain. This unique route made for a great day in the mountains. 

Gazing at an Elk Mountain Canvas from my perch on Avalanche Pass

Avalanche Pass Lollipop Loop - Most people who grow up in Aspen, Colorado undergo a rite of passage known as 8th Grade Outdoor Ed. This school trip takes 8th graders on a pack trip though the Elk Mountains. My own 8th Grade trip constituted a seminal moment in the development of my early love for the mountains, especially the Elk Range. For the last several years I have run out to meet my wife as she guided students through the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. This year my wife sat out the backpacking portion of the trip, but luckily for me, Jeremy's girlfriend Lyssa was leading a group. He devised a monster run for us that included a visit to his girlfriend's camp. Even though we spent a good two hours off piste, whacking our way through the bushes, it was absolutely spectacular!

Jer negotiating the broken bridge crossing of No Name Creek 

No Name Creek to Mitchell Creek - The Flat Tops Range that lies directly north of Glenwood is a vast trail running playground that I have only just begun to explore. This highly intrepid route, due to difficult trail finding and massive overgrowth, was an outstanding run, even with the oceans of stinging nettles that we were forced to wade through. It was a great equinox run, capping off an amazing summer of running. 

With the commencement of fall, I can look back and see that I was free this summer to run solely for the joy of it, and for that I feel truly blessed. Thanks to all the wonderful people intrepid enough to run with me, cheers to the mountains that host me, and love to my family that supports me! 
Run On!