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Follow the Yellow Brick Road - Sangre de Cristo Ultras

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The darkest part of the day is the time just before the sun rises. The nearly full moon had slipped behind the Sangres hours before, leaving us surrounded in the pre-dawn darkness. The only lights the pinpricks headlamps of the 60+ assembled runners and HPRS Arch. We listened to the final race instructions from Sherpa John, huddled together in a tight group for warmth. The darkest part of the day is also the coldest. With one final reminder to "Stay on the Rainbow Trail" John sent us on our way - into the unknown to tackle either 50k, 50m or 100k of the Rainbow Trail and for the 100k Hermit Pass. Follow the Rainbow Trail. I'd started in the back so I could keep my warm coat on until the last minute before giving it to Nick and began working my way up towards the front on the road leading to the Rainbow Trail. At the turn onto the trail, I was actually leading the race - but I knew it wouldn't last.

Before the race, I'd pondered using a little petzel headlamp or …

The Other Side of the Rainbow

Like most cyclists, I am very familiar with the Rainbow Trail - at least one small chunk of it. The Western (Northern?) Terminus at Otto Mears Toll Road after Silver Creek to HW 285 just north of Poncha Pass. It's the end of the full Monarch Crest Ride and part of the Vapor Trail 125. I've also ridden a few other sections of the Rainbow Trail south of Salida in the Methodist Mountain area - from Bear Creek west. But down at the Southern Terminus? That was a mystery. We'd heard rumors of horrible trails - chunky, babyheaded chunder that wasn't much fun for any mode of transportation. And given the short ride we'd done out of Kerr Gulch a few years ago, that seemed like a pretty safe bet. So my first instinct when I saw the ads on Facebook for the Sangre de Cristo Ultras was to take a pass. Combine what I thought I knew about the area and the fact that adding another 50k to a busy  running schedule that already had two 50ks in place seemed kinda silly.

But I kept se…

Taking the long way

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There’s still a few trails in COS I haven’t ridden and this past weekend seemed like the perfect time to knock at least one of them off the list. Heizer Trail out of Cascade. The year we were going to ride it was the year Cam crashed and then life got in the way. So despite seeing the line on the map and having a number of friends ride and run it, I’d just never gotten over there.

Of course, if Nick is involved, we are doing things the hard way. That meant making a nice big loop ride. To access Heizer, the loop also knocked out most of another big climb in town. Pikes Peak. We parked in Cascade and headed up to the toll road entrance. $30 later and some snazzy red bands on our bikes, we were on our way. Roads never seem as steep in a car as they do on wheels and we had at least 14 miles to pedal to Elk Park. Nick kept the pace steady but easy as we climbed. It was really cool being able to take it all in at a more sedate pace instead of driving. And for the most part, the drivers wer…

ADT 10k (ish)

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With no Vapor Trail 125 this year, I'd pondered - however briefly - doing the half marathon at the American Discovery Trail races this year. I may have done some longer races, but I hadn't done a hard half marathon for time yet - which is something I like doing every year. Even if the time isn't fast by my old standards, I still get a sense of where I am in the running world. But once again, with being on the schedule to work the holiday, common sense took over. The 10k would get me done and at work at a reasonable time, unlike the half marathon. Besides, last year had been such a crappy race at the ADT10k that I really wanted some redemption. So 10k it would be.

Even with packing everything the night before, it was still an early wake up for the race. I left the house earlier then I needed to, but that meant I was able to get a good parking spot that would allow me to get to work easily. I puttered around for bit before seriously starting the warm-up. Again, getting that …

Blaming the moose...

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The loop seemed pretty straight forward when we looked at on the map. Leave the campground, cruise down 50 till County 210 and then head west(ish) until we reached the Little Cochetopa Trail. Then it was just shy of 4 miles of trail to the reach the Continental Divide, with maybe the last mile requiring some hike-a-bike. Even the trail looked pretty clear cut - stay north of the creek for halfway, little jaunt to cross the creek twice, then climb up out of the marshy area before the push to the pass. Once at the summit, fly down to the Monarch Crest Trail just before Agate Creek and then ride north to Greens Creek. From there it was all downhill until we reached 50 again to return to the campground. At least that's what it looked like on the map...

 It was that simple for the 10 miles. The county road was easy pedaling despite the gradual climb. Even when it turned to a forest service road, it was still pretty smooth pedaling. A little rockier and a little steeper but nothing too…

Crossroads

This year was always confused - I never was able to commit to what I wanted to do. Ride or run. Run or ride. What is calling to me? I don’t think I’ve figured it out yet, even though the year is over halfway over. My original thought was that I’d take a break from the long bike races and focus on some running. The 105k race in Crested Butte looks super interesting and my kind of challenge. But then I felt like I didn’t want to give up the hard earned cycling fitness from the Breck Epic and Vapor last year. I felt more drawn to Vapor then I did for running, even as I signed up for some challenging running events. So I halfway committed to Vapor - sending in my money, but wanting to keep my name off the list until after the Pikes Peak Ultra 50k. I built out the training focused on long run and maintaining the cycling fitness after Growler. I put thoughts of Crested Butte out of my mind.

Then Vapor was cancelled for reasons beyond our control. And my entire second half of the year was t…

Re-learning Ultra

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This has been a process in the making since July 2016. Why so far back? Because that's when I ran my first 50 mile race - rediscovering my love of long distances and trail running. I'd had plans for more running races in 2017 - not as long as 50 miles, but eyeing a 50k or two in addition to my mountain bike races. But that was not to happen. My running in 2017 was severely curtailed by the eye flares throughout March and April. I ran some, but kept it short so not to irritate my eye any more then the mountain biking already did. The management strategies I have in place to keep my eye happy seemed to be working. Time to start looking at some long races! Based on timing, my desire to do Vapor Trail 125 for a fifth time, and my hesitancy to do another 50 mile race, I choose a local event on my backyard trails. The Pikes Peak Ultra 50k.

I've been keeping this one quiet - just because I haven't really felt much like a runner the last few months. It's been a roller coas…