The Lonely Road of the UltraRunner

I read lots of articles daily about running, as I am a person who has sole focus when I commit to a thing.  Articles about hill training, or long runs, or pacing, strength training, about doping, and all sorts of other things that make up our wonderful sport.  But few on what happens when you really commit yourself to a training plan and a desire to excel in a field.  What happens when your training plan no longer allows you to just show up and run with your local running group because you have an important workout the day that they all meet, and the usual 5-6 mile jaunt through the woods isn’t what’s on your plan for the day?  Want the real world truth?

Solitude.

Solitude is what happens.  If its an LSD it can be hours alone with your thoughts.  Perhaps if its a speed workout you’re brain is too occupied trying to remember how many laps you have done in the mile repeat, and then how many mile repeats you have just completed, oh… and don’t forget keeping an eye on that pace/split you are supposed to hit.  In reality those brain occupying, pain inducing workouts are becoming somewhat of a relief to my over-thinking solitary brain.

Do I miss my social running buddies, yes.  Do I feel guilty when I show up at coffee or a morning run on a rare day that I don’t have an important workout and I am greeted with “where have you been,” “you do still exist”–of course.  Do I wish I could be everywhere and have everything– don’t we all?  Instead I have traded in my early morning social runs (so I am not a night time zombie and can actually have a conversation with my husband) for mid morning runs–or even sometimes sneaking in an after work run.  I have prioritized getting adequate sleep, and recovery (and of course work and family.)   And yes, I miss you all!

Do I regret this?  Not really.  I’m not driven by overstretching myself and trying to squeeze everything in.  I don’t feel compelled to give into the societal pressure that tells me I need to do everything, please everyone.   I realize I cant.   When I’m all in- I’m all in.  I’m a person that when I choose to focus on something important to me I am able to let go of regrets.  I realize that most of my life is a consequence of choices I make, and the rest I can’t control–so what is there to regret?

I thrive on single minded-ness.  When I have a few things on my plate that I put as much of myself into that I can.  And I do.  Spreading myself thin doesn’t make me satisfied.  I don’t want to be a jack of all trades, I want to be a master of few things that are important to me.  So right now running, running fast, and uninjured is my free time desire so my single minded-ness has altered my journey onto a path of solitude — for the moment.

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Looking Ahead to 2017; new art direction, and Something new from Carson Footwear

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For many, January signifies a time to start planning the next full year.  For me, Lotteries have made my year planning occur the Thanksgiving before the new year.  So January is just when I make sure my ducks are in a row for my first race of the 2017 season.

This year I was shut out of both lotteries I put in for; Western States 100 and Hardrock Hundred.  OUCH! Because I was on a roll of being rejected from lotteries I entered one more; CCC in France since I probably can’t really afford to go, and I most likely won’t get in.  I just figured what the heck!

For the year, so far I have Black Canyon 100k, maybe a spring race?  Grayson Highlands? Quest for the Crest? Promise land?  Then summer hopefully San Juan Solstice. Fall; CCC??! Waldo? And then something local in the winter…Hellgate 100k? Mountain Masochist 50?  As you can tell I am having commitment problems currently. Oh, and FOMO. Why are there so many fun races?!  I should probably sprinkle in a trail marathon here and there… any suggestions?!

So as January is here I am already mid way through my training cycle for Black Canyon 100k.  I have started working with Meghan Arbogast, and the change to my usual training has been both challenging and refreshing!  In all honesty I’m a bit of a control freak about my own running, and thought it would be hard to give up and go with someone else’s plan for me– but the reality is its been pretty freeing.  I don’t need a lot of motivation, just someone who can answer my questions, and thinks up new workouts for me to try.  She’s been really great, and I am hopeful working together will help take my racing one step further.  I like to do the best I can!

In other news, I have been testing out some new things for Carson Footwearhttp://www.carsonfootwear.com/  Sometimes just a small change can make a huge difference.  I was having some achy foot pain in distances over 45 miles where I am on lots of gravel or pointy rocks.  I mentioned this to Everett, and ever since he’s been hard at work testing out new sockliners and very light-weight rock guards.  He’s been sending me some here and there, and each time its like he’s getting closer.  The shoes don’t need to be changed, and for nontechnical trail they are perfect as is…. but for foot bruising-rocky ultras the new insert he’s putting together are awesome!   Soft underfoot yet somehow still firm and springy.  They can’t be ordered just yet–as they are still in production and testing, but I’m excited to share this little news now.  Look for them to be available in the spring of 2017!

Also, I have been brushing up on my digital design skills recently, wanting to get back to a little design work here and there.  If you need a design, logo, photo editing, or painting… send me an email! rbellkelley4@gmail.com

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Just a peek at a race poster

Alt Shoe Review: Topo ST-2(women’s)

This summer I ran a 50 miler all on road.  Why you may ask? Well,  there is no real good answer, but in trying to find a pair of minimal shoes I liked to race in, I ended up finding the Topo Athletic ST-2s.Image result for topo athletic st-2

I went on a hunt for zero drop, minimal shoes for this race.  I always run trails in my zero drop Carson Footwear shoes, so I figured why wouldn’t I also run roads in the same shoe fit.

The search for me started by first trying to find a straight lasted female shoe. I’m not sure why there are so few straight lasted shoes, but I went through all the big box shoes, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, almost all had curved lasts.  I look for a shoe that is shaped the way my foot is, and my foot sure isn’t curved!  It came down to Topo Athletic shoes, and Skora shoes(but these seemed a bit more curved..) and a few others.

I saw the Topo Athletic Fli-lyte road shoe on sale online so I ordered them just to see what they were like.  After a few long runs I didn’t love them and decided they were “too much shoe for me.” Meaning what, meaning that I am used to an upper with very minimal overlay, a soft heel cup, and flexible sole.  The shoe was just too, sturdy, if you will.

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Fli-Lyte

I could see a heavier footstriker wearing these, but since I am 105lbs these shoes were just too stiff.  The heel cup was too structured and felt odd, I was looking for something a little more free and flexible, giving me the ability to move in a way that is natural to my gait cycle.

 

Someone saw my review of the Fli-lyte and suggested I try Topo Athletic’s newest shoe the ST-2.  So I did, unfortunately I got them a day before my 50 miler so I didn’t wear them for it.  I like to stick to the rule of no new things right before a race.

This shoe was totally different than the Fli-lyte and much more in line with what I look for in a shoe.  Zero drop, good toe off, minimal breathable upper, even the heel cup is constructed more like a tri shoe.  Very flexible-not to mention light too!  I really am enjoying this shoe immensely!

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Straight lasted, just like my foot!

 

For those who think that minimal shoes are too firm and not comfortable, these have 5mm of foot bed, plus 16mm of total stack height, which still allows for ground feel and flexibility while still soft under foot-though not squishy.  A bonus, for me anyway, is that the sock liner or foot bed can be removed.  I sometimes want a firmer feel under foot and like to take the sock liner out, or put in a different one.  In the Fli-lite it was glued in, so a removable sock liner in the ST-2 makes me happy.

I got them in July, its now October, and have put several 100s of miles on them with little to no wear to the upper, the white part of the sole (seen above) is the only thing that has worn.  Its a softer material that allows for the natural foot motion.  I think its a good compromise of flexibility and softness for how long it lasts though.  Originally I thought the minimal upper construction would wear out first, but they have stood the test of time, as well as a lot of travel all over the west/southwest during the month of September. (Not just on roads but some trail also, which I think accounts for some of the wear on the white part of the shoe.)

At the beginning of September I ran a 100 mile trail race and used them both before and after the race running around on the road.  Their soft upper was great for post race sore feet, as was the comfortable toe box.  After the race I took them with me on a month long trip around the west (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and back to Colorado) as my road running shoe, and sometimes non technical trail shoe.  Another plus I discovered while traveling is that with its flexibility its able to pack down really well into my already overstuffed luggage.

So let’s get into the details of this shoe;

  • A size 7 Women’s shoe (I wear 6.5) weighs 5.6 OZ
  • Its a zero drop shoe, with an anatomical toe box (read real room for your toes to naturally spread when you push off.)
  • 4 mm of rubber outsole-which was nice and grippy on wet pavement.
  • 7mm of footbed
  • 5mm of footbed, totaling 16mm of stack height-which is sort of in my sweet spot for a shoe.  Anywhere between 15-22 mm stack height seems to give a nice low ride of control.  Too much stack height and I feel like I’m tottering around, and worry about ankle twisting.
  • The uppers are a breathable knit fabric that give it a second skin feel, and the printed upper pattern eliminates seams to rub on, and also reduces weight.

Who these shoes are for; Because I am already very comfortable running hundreds of miles in zero drop shoes I would, and have worn them for all sorts of road runs, tempo, hill workouts, and long runs.  If you are someone who usually wears a shoe with elevation in the heel-like any other zero drop shoe -I would caution that you to test them out and get used to the zero drop before taking them on a high mileage spin.  Going from a shoe with a high heel to toe drop, it can make your calfs sore at first.    I asked Topo Athletic who they saw using this shoe and they responded that the ST stands for Speed Trainer and that it would be used for track workouts or as a racing shoe.  They also said that for people who are used to minimal shoes they have gotten feedback that many love them for marathon racing.

Even if you aren’t planning on going 100% into the minimal shoe thing, I would still recommend these as a shoe to throw into your shoe rotation as a foot strengthening shoe.  I am a big proponent of injury free training and racing, and I think an important part of that is making sure you are keeping your feet and the smaller muscles in your lower leg strong, as well as the larger gluteal muscles that we work out with hill repeats, lungs, squats, etc.

The overlay isn’t really overlay in the sense that its a sewn upper, its printed right into the mesh upper giving a bit more structure to the shoe, but very minimally.

 

All around I like these shoes quite a bit, I can’t find any negatives actually. Their low stack height also makes them good shoes for weightlifting at the gym, nice and stable.  Truth be told I don’t wear shoes for their appearance, but I would say these shoes are pretty cute and go well with jeans casually around town, they also come in black with raspberry trim.

 

 

Run Rabbit Run Race Report 2016

It has been almost 3 weeks that I have been processing Run Rabbit Run 100, so its finally time to write a blog post.  I apologize, its written as though I threw up every memory onto a page, which is sort of what happened. I like raw, unedited race reports though…I hope you do too.

Fantastic crew at the start (minus Drew)

The story really starts 2.5 weeks out from RRR.  I decided to do a shake out speed run on the trials..just an easy 4 miles. 1 mile from the house I caught a toe under a root, rather than holding and just pulling my leg, it broke as I was aiming to launch myself over a waist high fallen tree… as it let go I slammed my opposite knee into the tree and flipped me over it landing on the back of my head. At least that’s how I can work it out going back to the area.  I don’t remember landing, I don’t remember getting up.  I remember just thinking I had hit my knee and shin so hard they immediately blew up and I had to hobble home.
I must have talked to some people and then fallen asleep because a few friends of mine a day later knew I had fallen, and I didn’t remember telling them.  I think for the next few days there are holes in my memory. I finally went to the doc, who told me under no circumstances should I run 100 miles at altitude… but I should be ok to fly in a week. I then talked to a PT who deals with head trauma and he seemed less concerned.  Told me to lay around so my brain could stop moving and the headaches would go away.  So my taper mostly consisted of napping and laying on the couch and meditating…. for three weeks.  I finally ran the Wednesday before RRR and decided the world didn’t spin anymore when I moved so I would be ok.  I do think that my head was more sensitive to altitude than normal, but I’ll get to that later.

with a little help from my friends

So Ringo and I headed up to northern CO to exchange Cari for Gumbi and meet Drew, ET and gyro in Steamboat(our fantastic crew).  Gumbi would end up pacing Ringo 60 miles, and the rest would be my wonderful crew for all 105 miles!
The weather was clear for the race, sunny and warm during the day(80s), and cold at night(20s/teens depending on elevation).
Ringo started at 8 am and I followed at noon in the Hare division.
There was a slight change to the start, due to a mud slide on one of the ski slopes we hike up, so thinking we were going on more single track than normal, not 2 miles into the race I realized we were off course…. oh well, no need to panic yet, it was just the first 30 min of the race.
Most people hiked the steep incline, a few tried to run it.  I distinctly remember one guy who was expending so much energy trying to wave around people, I KNEW I’d either be passing him again, or he would drop.  At mile 45 I saw a headlamp heading back towards me, I called out that it was the wrong direction… it was afore mentioned runner heading back to drop at the previous aid station.
Anyway, the aspens were pretty great, the sky a clear blue and I continued to head up to 10,500 to long lake.  Long lake was a little out and back and I could see I was toward the back of the pack, but not far behind a large group of runners.  Remembering my drop last year, I not only had LOTS of warm clothes, but I also kept to my own pace and didn’t worry where I was.  I also remembered that around mile 30 I would start catching the Tortoises too, so no worries.
Ok, so maybe this is TMI but this is something that we female 100 milers deal with- PMS during races.  Mostly I just had to stop quite often feeling like my bladder/colon was full all race long-kind of a pain, but ya deal with it.
Anyway, down fish creek falls I caught a few people-Monica was one of these runners.  A runner from Washington state who would play leapfrog with me the entire way, slowing at higher altitude but speeding up at lower altitudes, just like me.
I hadn’t really seen many people up to this point, so when I finally saw Drew it was really nice.  The Hare division allows no pacers or poles, so many of us spend the entire race mostly alone, however, there is a 4 mile road section that doesn’t have a shoulder so they allow a safety runner to accompany you to make sure traffic is aware you are there.  This is about mile 15-21 and then again back up in the dark around mile 42ish.
Coming into Olympian Hall I was having some knee pain, probably leftover from the fall a few weeks before.  In a matter of minutes Gyro worked his magic , having me make sure to rotate over my hip, and for the rest of the 80+ miles my knee gave me absolutely no problems-THANKS GYRO!!
Et made sure to feed and refuel me because I would have no aid or water for the next 10 miles.  This is my favorite part, nice single track trails and rolling hills from mile 21-42, low enough that I could actually run it all, I think its all between 6,500-8,500 feet… perfect for running!  The night was cool, but not cold at that point and the full moon was AMAZING! It was so bright a few times I looked into he trees thinking it was someone’s super bright headlamp on a switchback ahead.

Coming into mile 30-Cow Creek AS

I saw them again at mile 30sih for more food and my headlamp.
The section from 30-42 went along uneventfully, just me and the night, illuminated by the moon.
Back to Olympian hall at mile 42 there was discussion about how many clothes to put on me.  The problem is that from 42-50sih you hike really hard going up from 6,500 to a little over 10k and in the middle of the night.  Working hard over rocks that are big enough I need my arms to hoist me up in places so I create a lot of heat. There is no drop bag in this section, and the aid station is at mile 52 and is flattish enough that in those two miles you can get hypothermic really fast-this is exactly what happens to sage Canaday in this section, he ran in just a light jacket and was warm until just a few miles from the aid station… got cold… and dropped.
I put up little resistance as they dressed me like Randy from the Christmas Story” I can’t put my arms down.” I of course took it all off as I powered up fish creek falls until mile 50 as the moisture froze on the plants around me, all of my clothes went right back on.  I had on heavy winter tights that are wind proof over my quads, over that a down skirt, and then my puffy and a hat and mittens.  Unlike last year when I got into that aid station shaking so violently I couldn’t put on clothes, I waddled in nice and warm, grabbing some broth and an orange, leaving behind several very cold and nauseated runners. This is mile 52 and 10,100 feet and people were feeling the elevation, effort and cold.

Me? or Randy from a Christmas Story all bundled up.

mile 52-57 roll uphill to a little over 10,500.  This is the aid station that I sat at last year for 40 minutes trying to gather my brain and get warmed up. No problems this year, aside from not wanting to eat at all from mile 53-65 (all at higher altitude). Again I saw no one on this section.
mile 57-65.5 is all downhill. Though it was supposed to be 8 miles, it was much closer to 10 (the race works out to 105 miles and this was where the mileage gets stretched) I would say I had a bit of a low moment for those two miles where I thought the aid station should have been-but not bad.  I tried to eat when I saw Drew at 65.5 but didn’t get much down.  I knew the sun would start to rise soon and I was again taking off layers, but we plunge down to a low section where a lot of the cold air sits, so I didn’t want to really take everything off.  Just a few minutes from mile 70+ I ran into RIngo and Gumbi moving well.  This is another out and back so I knew they were less than 15 minutes ahead of me… but I needed to take off my clothes and change into warm weather pants because the next section was an exposed uphill section that got HOT!

Ringo and Gumbi just 15 minutes ahead!

Lucky for Ringo I took my time at that station- but in the back of my head I was still hunting them, looking for them around each corner as we hiked back up to 10,600 and mile 83.  From mile 83 to mile 100 the course weaves through forest and fields up above 10,500 on single track.  I was so focused going uphill for those 15 or so miles in the heat that I didn’t drink much and arrived really dehydrated.  Not sunburned though, I forgot my hat but had chapstick with SPF 30–so I might have rubbed that stick all over my face…mmm cherry scented face.
Monica rejoined me in this aid station. I offered that we were both going to struggle in the high altitude since we were both from sea level and that maybe working together we would feel better.  So from 83-90+ we hiked, gasped for air, and shared running stories.  Somewhere around here was when I started coughing up, what I assume to be, was part of my lungs..pinkish foam.  Many of the other runners were having the same problem, coming into the aid stations hoarse from the dry very dusty thin air. I told myself not to worry, only a dozen more miles to go, and lung cells regenerate pretty quickly!
Somewhere after this aid station..mile 93 or so I let Monica go. My coughing was getting worse and I was finally really slowing down-a lot.  My head hurt, my chest hurt, I was wheezing, oh and still wasn’t drinking.  For the first time in a race my hands were SO swollen.  This is also where the 50 mile racers merge onto the course with us and start passing us.  A bit disheartening but they were all nice and encouraging.  I got some water from one runner who looked at my hands and said –you are so dehydrated.  A 27 hour finish slipped away, a 28 hour finish did as well. I sat a bit gasping for air and allowing a second or two to feel bad for myself before getting back up and hiking uphill again.  Before this race I decided it was time to practice more mental aspects of racing 100 miles.  I found a good meditation guide that teaches to just clear your mind, don’t allow thoughts to hang around because it takes effort to continue positive self talk, and often its a fight to keep negative thoughts out so this was really the first time I actually let myself think and feel bad.
 Finally around mile 98 the last aid station at 10,600 feet came into view.  I collapsed into a chair finally there and asked for some tailwind.  Something I have never drank but I was depleted.  I got a bowl of it from a volunteer and downed it, as I eyed my watch. Shit- I had 50 minutes to make it the last 6.5 miles downhill to get a buckle.

Go get it!

The official cut off time for everyone is 36 hours-32 for the Hares, and 30 for hares that want a buckle and there was NO WAY I was going home without a damn buckle again!!!! (Last year I didn’t dress warm enough and dropped at mile 70 unable to warm up.)  I took a deep breath and told myself that the pain of running downhill for 6+ miles on a paved road would soon be forgotten once I had that buckle in my hands!
I put my head down and ran!! I passed Monica who had left me 6 miles earlier, I passed tortoises, I passed 50 milers..down down down down…I don’t need those quads..right?  I passed one tortoise who looked at me, then realizing I was a hare he looked at his watch and called…” yea you had better run… you can make it, but it will be by the skin of your teeth!”
The wide road turned into single track and I started to wonder where the damn finish line was!? You really couldn’t see it until the last few hundred yards, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how much farther, I had less than 10 minutes.  Suddenly I came out into a field and saw Gumbi and Ringo… with a slap on the back I passed him calling out “see you at the finish.”
The watch I had on was new, and too big and as I ran downhill it was bothering me a lot so I took it off and stuffed it into a pocket, so I thought I only had seconds left… and picked up the pace, driving my knees harder.  I saw ET, heard Gyro and saw the finish line.

Mile 105 with the finish line in sight!

There is an official hugger at the finish line-this wonderfully excited volunteer that coordinates much of the race… she opened her arms and said “you got this, right here”…I basically leaped into her open arms and let my legs turn to jelly. I had less than 5 minutes to spare.  Fred, one of the CO-RDs remembered me from last year….I mean how many women from NC sign up for the Hare division of that race….I will tell you, according to him- only me so far.
He asked how I felt to get the sub 30 buckle and all I could think to say was, “so great that I’m going to puke,’. Ha (I held it in for another 3 hours or so though). Those who know me know I am great for post race spewage
I didn’t get to see Ringo finish, as I needed Drew to help me walk around after.  We mostly just went back to the room and after rinsing off 105 miles of sweat dust, and probably drool 😉 I very happily passed out, not to wake until 5 am the next morning.
Thank you so much ET, Gyro, Drew and Gumbi!  I am so glad you all were there, as well as your lucky crew pants ET! I wouldn’t have made it under the cut off with out you wearing them! 😉 You guys took such great care of me before, during and after!! I am so lucky!
Also thanks so much to Carson Footwear ( http://carsonfootwear.com/ )  Orange Mud and Balanced Movement for supporting my racing! http://www.orangemud.com/
I finished in 29:56 107th overall of 203 finishers
A total of 121 dropped
Ringo finished 166th in 33:58, winning a spot for next year!

Me and Ringo with our buckles, fantastic husband photobomb!

And though I conquered that beast, or bunny, deep down I still want to come back and better my time, I know I can!
I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone.  Its a great challenge, its the perfect time of year when the aspen trees start to turn.  The RDs and Volunteer coordinator really put their hearts into it, and most of the money raised by this event all goes to different local charities, which is really great!
Its super easy for crew because you basically run into and out of town so your crew doesn’t need to travel very far at all leaving plenty of time for their self care, and naps even.
Steamboat is a fun mountain town, I would also suggest post race that you visit the natural hot springs for a soak after.  They have hot and cold pools which is great to get your circulation going again.
Hope you enjoyed my little race report… hop on friends!

Sub 30 buckle, YES!

On to New Mexico!

 

We woke early with a 6 hour drive ahead of us, as the storm approached us.  It was drizzly and very foggy so we couldn’t see much of the landscape view out the window, but we passed by the La Sal mountains that I am quite curious about.  They seem to constantly hover over Moab and Arches, always off in the distance, and quite often hidden in the clouds.  Next time mountains!

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Not my picture because the low clouds hid much of the La Sal Mountains while we were there.

 

The drizzle turned to freezing rain somewhere near Durango, and then to warm sun as we drove closer to Santa Fe.  Our first stop was to the Georgia O’Keefe museum.  If you don’t know anything about Georgia O’Keefe, well frankly, you have been living under a rock.  She is best known for her “feminine” or “Freudian” flowers, which she never really intended to be, and actually once critics started associating her flowers with womanly parts, she shifted her painting to other things.  She was very interested in line, shape and looking at things up close.  Most likely critics thought her art was Freudian was because her husband was a photographer and took hundreds of portraits of her to exhibit, some nude, and so they just lumped her into being an outspoken sexual person, which she doesn’t seem to have been. Introvert seems to be the description many use when describing her.  In fact she moved from NYC to a small ranch in NM to be away from people and have privacy, while still married to her husband who continued to live in and work at his gallery in NYC.

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Georgia O’Keefe flowers

 

I was a tiny bit disappointed about the museum.  She was such a prolific artist, but much of her art is scattered around the world in different museums, so the collection was rather small.  I was still glad we went though, just a little break from hiking.

Since we only had a half day we grabbed some dinner and went back to the hotel.

Day two of NM started with a hike up Santa Fe Baldy. What a change in temperature/weather!  In town it was decently warm, but up at 12k+ it was super windy and cold! Like 30 degrees at the top cold!  The puffy jacket came back out.  Above 11.5k breathing was still hard for me, and we slowed down considerably. When we got to the saddle I was just about blown off.  That front that we drove through in Moab was on its way bringing some wind and much cooler temperatures in town.

Brr it was cold!

 

The hike started off somewhat steep with some switchbacks, but the Aspen trees were amazing!  In a way I feel like we were Aspen tree chasing.  From Aspen where they were gorgeous, through western CO, down to NM, and then back up to eastern CO again. Each place there were golden Aspens.

 

 

Chasing Aspen colors around the west

 

Back to Santa Fe Baldy-looking at the map there is quite a large network of trails around Santa Fe Baldy and the Sangre De Christo Mountain range.  Santa Fe Baldy is the southernmost peak in the mountain range that runs up north into Colorado.  It was busy, full of hikers-their dogs , and several runners, which was really great. I’m not certain, but would assume from the hike there is a vibrant outdoor community in Santa Fe.   We passed through a wonderfully scented pine forest, and then up above tree line finally where the wind really blew!

We hiked a trail out and back, and after driving back down the mountain we went straight to lunch.

Local Dale Balls trail overlooking the city

 

That night we went on a walk in town on one of the local paved path and watched a beautiful pink and purple desert sunset.  Seriously, since college in Tucson, AZ I still think there is nothing better than a desert sunset.

The next day we planned to drive up to Colorado Springs so we woke up early and ran some of the local trails in the foothills, my first run post Run Rabbit Run 100.  It felt a bit weird, but really great! We did only 4 miles, but it was wonderful.

Soon after our run we were back in the car and heading to Colorado Springs and to see Ben!  Of course, this was the vacation of adventure, so we had to take the scenic route and stop at a lesser known hot springs and the old downtown Taos.  The hot springs pools were really cool.  According to some articles I looked up, it used to be used by a  commune but was abandoned and left in ruins until the town of Tahoe and the local neighborhood fixed it up.  It was a one mile walk into the foothills and we had it all to ourselves.

Ten more minutes up the road we entered the old town of Taos and poked around some of the art galleries.  As an artist that studied in the Southwest I have a love for the bright colors often used in southwestern art, the desert vistas, and the use of local stones (turquoise) used in silver jewelry.

We only stayed in town for an hour, getting up to Colorado Springs by 7pm.

 

 

Moab: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

We arrived in Moab late so we went straight to bed… in a hotel room that was ah, well let’s just say I checked for bedbugs before getting into bed.

Because we were right on the highway and unable to sleep we were up early and into Arches National park before they even opened to start charging, so we got in free, and beat the crowds.  I was surprised that Arches was mostly a driving park.  What do I mean by this? There is a paved main road that has several pull outs for photo taking, mostly they want you to stick to the very short trails that lead from the pull outs up to the arches and back to your car so as to not disturb the land.

There was one hike that we were able to find.  If you drive all the way to the end of the road into the park there is a lollypop hike around, through, and over the arches.  Devil’s Garden is a mix of sandy, and rock hiking and climbing.  The guide said it was 7.8 miles, my watch had it at under 6 miles, though we didn’t do each and every little overlook.  It was actually a lot of fun, the rules are mostly if its a hard rock you can climb on it as much as you like, if its sand or dirt, stay on the main trail to minimize erosion.

The 1-2 mile hikes to the arches were super crowded, the hike around Devil’s Garden thinned out once you got a mile from the parking lot.  If you don’t like heights, this may not be for you, if you hike clockwise you begin hiking up a slickrock arch with drop offs on either side.  The drop isn’t terribly far, but seemed to unnerve some of the other hikers. Also, the slickrock wasn’t slick as long as you weren’t wearing shoes with just flat soles, the rock is actually sandy, like sandpaper.  My shoes gripped fine, my husband was wearing shoes that had been totally worn out and he had a slightly harder time, but it still wasn’t bad. Most guidebooks call this strenuous and say it takes 5 hours.  Hiking took us 3 hours and the hardest part was the walk through sand.  For an active person this hike was fairly easy, again, as long as you are comfortable climbing up and down the rock.  There was a little route finding as you followed the trial downhill, but as long as you kept an eye out for the cairns it was no problem.  Note-its well marked, if you don’t see a cairn for more than a few minutes, back track and find where you went wrong.

We finished the entire park by 1pm and headed back to town for lunch.  After lunch we headed over to Gearheads Outdoor Store to find a map and decide what to do in Canyonlands the next day.  We had wanted to do a bike tour of Canyonlands but there was a really big storm with high winds, lightning, and even snow headed our way, so we picked something we could finish by noon.

With a map in hand, we decided we could do one more short hike before dark, so we headed back out to Corona Arch.  As the sun was setting we finished this 3 mile, 440 foot gain, round trip hike just before dark.  It was an easy hike, able to be completed by people of all ages, no special equipment needed. The colors were really amazing!

The second day in Moab we hit Canyonlands.  Canyonlands National Park is almost as otherworldly as Arches, except you drive up and up and up to a plateau, called Island in the Sky, and look down into all the canyons below.  It felt kind of strange with all the storm clouds blowing in over sandy dunes that eventually would open up to vast reddish canyons below.

We had hoped to do Upheaval Dome, but with the winds picking up, and the storm nearby the Park officials strongly suggested we skip the hike.  Instead of doing the 7.8 mile hike around it through canyons and washes, we opted for the 2 mile out and back up it to see down into the crater.  It was still amazing even if we couldn’t do our planned hike.

From there we drove to Murphy Trail. It was a mile hike through a sandy prairie to the top of the rim, and then dropped 845 feet in just .95 of a mile.  There is a 10 mile round trip hike that sounds really cool, but trying not to get blown off the canyon we just went down and back so we could experience the fun part of the hike, the loop just goes along the flat section of canyon below.

We ended the day by hiking out to the very tip of the Island in the Sky to look over all of the canyons.  This is an easy and very popular hike and many tourists do it.  By the time we had gotten out there the wind had picked up and was whipping sand at us.  We snapped a few pictures and called it a day.

Next up: Santa Fe!

 

Post Run Rabbit Run Adventure-ing: Aspen, Maroon Bells, Rifle Mountain State Park, Moab

Because I am just not ready to rehash Run Rabbit Run 100 yet, I though I’d get to my post race vacation adventures instead. (not to leave anyone wondering, I did finish RRR100, I did buckle, I did finish in the allotted time for hares-with no pacer, with no poles all 105 miles.)

I will, however, just leave this here.

 

Back to adventures! I always try to come up with a fun vacation after my 100 milers as a thank you, and recovery time for my husband.  This year we decided to road trip, see some national parks, do some hikes, eat lots of food, and see some friends.

We had to make our usual stop at the Strawberry Springs just outside of steamboat.  Love that place to soak my tired feet after 29 hours of running around the mountains of Steamboat.

From Steamboat we drove a handful of hours down to Aspen, much like we did last year. There is a nice, quiet, cheap condo right in downtown that allowed us to recover well last fall, so we went there again.  Last fall, even though I DNF-d at mile 70, I was actually more tired and way more sore so we mostly stuck to the river walk and things downtown.

This year we HAD to do the Maroon Bells hike and see the Apen trees in all their glorious golds and oranges.  You park and take a shuttle because a few decades ago people we parking all over and the exhaust was killing much of the vegetation, so now the park has set up a nice shuttle service that will drop you off and pick you up about every 15 minutes.

Rachel BELL Kelley with the Maroon BELLS in the background. Husband thought it was pretty funny 😉

 

The Aspen trees were amazing and well worth it!  We had hoped to make it up to Willow pass, somewhere around 12,500 feet so we could see down into the valley on the other side to Snowmass, but somewhere around 11k my vision was starting to get weird-see stars and I decided that the view wasn’t quite worth it… not that I need to recover for anything, but vacation! Still we got to 11,500ft and just to above tree line and a fantastic view. I was happy with that.

More Aspen trees

 

If you don’t want to walk, the views from Maroon Lake are still spectacular, and that is less than a 5 minute walk from where the shuttle drops you, making Maroon Bells very popular, accessible, and busy(especially in September when the leaves change!)  If you can make it just a bit further, Crater Lake brings the Maroon Bells even closer into view.

The next day we had just a half of a day, so we decided to do the Rio Grand trail around town.  The John Denver Sanctuary is a favorite of mine, so while Drew ran, I ran/walked/tested out the legs for a few miles, and then relaxed in the JDS.

Me, probably wondering how I am going to make it up there.

 

We had a quick lunch with a friend, and then hopped into the car.

Rumor has it that one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite movie’s, Tombstone, was buried in Glenwood Springs…which happened to be on our way to Moab… so I might have made Drew detour to the cemetery.   Hey it was nice to stretch our legs, and the view wasn’t bad.

Doc Holliday’s grave..or is it?  He died penniless and was buried in what was once the public cemetery.  Since then the map has been lost and its now a memorial, so this is just a guesstimate of where he lies. Either way, his schenanagins entertain me, thanks DOC.

 

Back in the car I started to get antsy again, so we veered off to the north in Rifle CO and saw some cool caves and waterfall at Rifle Mountain State Park.

Rifle Mountain Park

Just another nice stop to stretch our legs and then into Utah.

Leaving CO for UT!

 

We got the inside scoop that from Cisco in UT we could take 128 down through some very pretty canyons on the way to Moab, so we did.   It was raining, and at first seemed so sketchy as we almost ran into a huge deer, but as we got closer to Moab our breaths were taken away by the amazing buttes and canyons we drove through.

Seen on the drive to Moab, make sure to take the backboard down 128!

Finally arriving in Moab that evening we were wiped out, so many things in one day!  Unfortunately we could literally only find one room available in Moab, right next to the highway with broken AC so we alternated leaving the window open and being vibrated by the trucks whizzing by, and closing the window..muffling the sound, but making the room so unbearably hot.

 

Hey, its an Adventure!

 

Up next Moab: Arches National Park, Canyonlands and Santa Fe NM!