Last year after I ran my second 50-mile trail race, my desire to run completely vaporized. I had been running to hopefully help a couple knee problems caused by being purely a cyclist, and then I had created other problems by deciding to see what it was like to run an ultra, as opposed to riding one. The running also payed huge dividends racing the Arizona Trail, with that annoying canyon near the northern terminus. But once I finished a tough race in the San Juan Mountains that was my primary goal for the year, I had had quite enough suffering on my feet.
More than a year later, I've finally started to have urges to run again, and I've managed to get out on a few short runs to try to get my running muscles to remember what they had become relatively comfortable with. But sadly, that muscle memory just isn't there.
Anyway, I wanted to get back above treeline and take in some vistas this weekend, so it was off to Breckenridge for the Breck Crest Marathon. This race uses a rather, uh, challenging course, climbing steadily and steeply from the start, high up into the Tenmile Range, over Wheeler Pass, and then it traverses the ridge crest at well over 12,000' before eventually plunging down the Colorado Trail back into the Blue River Valley.
It was a beautiful morning for a running race, and the frost on the ground was the first I had seen since Spring. The climb up toward Wheeler burned my legs, and I struggled to simply find traction up the loose trail surface. The fastest runners passed me while I was stopped at the second aid station, trying to catch my breath. I cheered for them and then continued on.
The guy in front of me was particularly chatty. And he didn't seem to be breathing very hard. Apparently he was also a mountain biker, and he said that he was sure glad he wasn't trying to ride on this trail like I was. Oh yeah, I guess I didn't mention that I was on my bike. Caroline was running somewhere in the pack lower down on the mountain; I just came along for the ride, and the running course happened to use some of the same trails I had planned to ride. I was amused to find that my pace on this terrain was the same as the runners until the trail tilted downward. And I sure was glad that I wasn't running!
After another hour or so of tundra riding with endless views and a big blue sky above, we finally hit the high point of the Colorado Trail in this area and began to descend. The runners I had been near hopped aside to let me finally pass, commented how they'd much rather run down this trail then attempt to ride it (it's a spectacular descent on a bike in my opinion), I wished them luck in their race, and skittered down the loose track, grinning until I crashed. I righted my bike, hopped back on, and was grinning again before my feet even found my pedals.
That CT descent is an absolute blast. I see why it destroys most CT racers heading in the opposite direction! By the time I finally reached the river, I realized that only a few hours had passed, so I still had a little while before Caroline expected to be finishing. With no shortage of routes to reach the sky in the area, I headed east and soon found myself climbing Georgia Pass. But the climb took longer than I anticipated, and an internal debate began as to whether I should turn around and head back to town or climb to the pass so I could ride the rocky CT descent down instead. The CT option won out.
Out of water and overdue, I pushed hard back into town, bought all the tasty beverages I could carry at a gas station en route, and got back to the car to find Caroline all ready to ride, despite finishing her race faster than her goal. Hmm. I don't think she races hard enough. I needed a bit of time to recover, but soon we were rolling up into the mountains again.
No storms anywhere in sight and cool air really made it feel like fall has finally arrived. Now if only I could find someone to finish writing my dissertation for me so I can spend more days in the mountains...