Monday, December 7, 2009

Moab Winter/Sun 10K

I may look like crap in this picture, but at least it was for a good reason!  December 5, 2009, I ran my first 10K (6.2 miles).  Never in my life did I think I'd run...especially not 6 miles...but I did, and here's how I did it.

My buddy Lynn (with the peace sign/bunny ears going on) said to me back in October, "Hey Julie!  I'm going to run this 10K in Moab in it with me!"  I thought to myself, "well've been saying you were going to give running a try...this will give you a reason."

So up I signed.  I invested in a good pair of running shoes after 2 runs in old Merrell hiking shoes.  Adidas Supernovas worked for my big feet with a tendency for blisters.  Fortunately I was already in pretty good shape.  I bike, I backpack, I my legs were strong and my lungs could hold air.  It doesn't matter though, because nothing can prepare you for running.  It's unlike any experience unlike any other exercise.  Before you know it you're gasping for breath and your legs will barely pick themselves off the sidewalk.

That's when you realize, "OH.  I have to focus on my breathing."  That's what I did anyway.  I ran my two miles.  I focused on a breathing rhythm, which also helped me to even out my pace.  I ran 3 miles.  I did the same thing--focused on breathing, focused on pace.  I ran a 5K with Lynn for a great program, Girls on the Run.  I finished it in 37 minutes and I was pleased with that!  It certainly wasn't fast, but I did it!  I'd never raced before.  

I love the feeling of teamwork and how everyone is relaxed (at least at the back of the pack) and joking.  I love starting out and the excitement that goes with it.  Yelling, "Less than 3.1 miles to go!" after 5 steps, or "Less than 6.2 miles to go!"  I kept training, even sometimes on the DREADmill when it was cold or dark...

Then came the big test.  The 6 mile predictor race with the Mesa Striders.  6 miles...I'd only done that once before...on a treadmill.  What if everyone passed me?  What if I was dead last?  What if I got lost on the course out in Orchard Mesa?  Those of us predicting more than 60 minute times lined up 10 minutes early and started off down B 1/2 Road.  Lynn was ahead of me but I kept my steady pace and just ran.  The first 2 miles are always the worst.  I think of all the reasons this is ridiculous.  All the reasons I should just stop.  And then the two miles are over and I'm zoned out and following a small group of people.  Then i hear it:  thump thump thump!  The fast guys come flying past me!  5 1/2 minute mile paces!  Foomp foomp foomp...and they're gone.  "Good job!" they yell.  "Nice going!  Keep it up!"  They're so encouraging to those of us who are just getting started.

In the end I wasn't last in that race.  6 miles in 72 minutes.  I ran for 72 minutes.  

Finally the big Saturday arrived.  The race we'd been training for was in sight.  It was cold and cloudy and I debated between wearing long underwear or leaving them behind...I opted to leave them behind and instead covered up everything else!  Gloves, hat, windbreaker...we got to the start and Dan took our pictures all pumped up and ready for the race!  Lynn and I lined up well behind the 9:00/mile marker, leaving room for even those 10 minute/mile people ahead of me! The countdown began..."Four, three, two, one, GO!"  A wave of people swept down the hill from the Moab Golf Course.  Back in my  neck of the woods we joked that this slow jog heading out was perfect!  Soon though everyone was absorbed in their own thoughts, routines and pacing...down the hill, around the corner, down another hill, 1 mile down!  

"Only 5 to go?  I got this licked!"  Two miles down!  YES!  "What the F is that?  A Hill?  An UPHILL?"  I'll admit I made it halfway up running and then I walked.  Everyone as far as i could see was walking it.  I picked up the pace again at the top and made it to mile 3 in 34 minutes...just as Marty Wacker was finishing the race.  Fast bastard.  No seriously, he's super fast and he deserves to win!  He's super nice too!

When I finally made it to the finish line I was SO happy.  I ran and I ran and I ran.  I made it in 70 minutes and 40 seconds...almost 10 minutes behind Lynn who ran her best time ever too!

Running.  Who'd have ever thought it?  It hurts, but the feeling of accomplishment it so great...almost as great as conquering an obstacle on a mountain bike.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Crested Butte and the 401 Trail

Whoa! What a view! This is the top of the 401 bike trail outside of Crested Butte, CO. The elevation here is at least 11,000 feet. Someone up there stole my lung. To get here you drive right through Crested Butte, past the ski area and out towards the Gothic biological research area. You'll see signs, eventually, for 401 trail parking. Then it's a 4.5 mile climb up the jeep road to Schofield Pass and another 1 mile climb through the deep dark forest on switchbacks to get to this view. Worth it? Probably. The ride down certainly is!

I have no idea what the grade of this slope is, but it was enough to have me gripping my brakes for a bit until it evened out a little! There was NO MORE pedaling after that viewpoint above.
Eventually, the flowers get so high there's no fear of falling, only of wondering where in the world the trail will go next! By the end, when you zip across the creek and hit the jeep road again, you're smiling and the long climb is forgotten! Next we hit the Snodgrass trail. Personally, I would have loved loved loved about 4 more miles of this trail. It climbs for a bit and then just takes off through an Aspen forest. The trail rolls and winds through there and some times the distance between trees is barely enough to get your bike through! It's super sweet.

All this biking makes you hungry though! There are some great little places downtown to eat, but we headed back to camp and downed a can of Pringles! Good times were had by all!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wonderful Weminuche

Well you know, it's July and for John and me that means it's time to head to higher elevations--this year we hit 12,000 ft! We left Wednesday afternoon, July 1 and headed down towards Lake City, Colorado and the Rio Grande Reservoir. From there we forded the Rio Grande River and took off up the Ute Creek Trail into the Rio Grande National Forest and the Weminuche Wilderness.

We've been close to here before--last year we backpacked from the Pine River/Weminuche Creek trail which starts just before the reservoir. This year's trip was 6 or 7 more miles down the bumpy "improved" road.

Back to the can see the walkway leading up to it--it was fine for the first 2/3 and a little iffy towards the end, but we just plowed through with our trekking poles and kept going!

A 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms had haunted us for the past week--the weather forecast seemed set in stone and seemed to follow the same pattern we'd seen all spring! We lucked out though! NO RAIN! One thunderstorm at about 11,000 feet the night of my birthday and other than that, skies like this:

This picture was taken high up on the Continental Divide Trail that we merged onto after the junction for Twin Lakes. Neither of us had ever hiked on the CDT and it was amazing! So well maintained!

Lots of people have asked what we ate...mostly dehydrated stuff for breakfast and dinner--Mountain House makes great granola with blueberries and good lasagna too! We plan to start making some stuff of our own though. Lunches, we've decided, should be almonds, dried fruit, and string cheese. Things like tortillas make us too tired. Clif bars, Honey Stinger bars and Paydays are fabulous snacks!

We also worked hard to get our backpacking weight down this year. When we left for our trip, with our packs containing EVERYTHING we'd need, including some water to start with, each of our packs weighed 31 lbs. That's our lowest weight ever. When we got home mine was 24 lbs and John was 26! Sweet. You can see here that my pack is WAY lower than the top of my head--we saw one poor guy whose pack went from his tailbone to about a foot above his head! Too much weight!

The Weminuche is remote, but beautiful. We've seen elk, deer, moose, and yes, a bear out there--they aren't used to people so they always run. This place is filled with rolling meadows and valleys, and beautiful mountains and creeks! We love it here--even when I get a little loopy and can't remember if I purified the water or not! (I did, we discovered the next morning when I found the empty tablet packets.)

One piece of advice: The Chicago Basin area is SUPER popular, so I say avoid it! Why go somewhere where you'll see 50 to 100 people a day? From Thursday at 3:00 p.m. when we got to our first camp site, to Monday at 10:00, about an hour from the trailhead, we saw SEVEN people. SEVEN. 4 of those were on Saturday in about a 2 hour span on the CDT, and the other three were within 3.5 miles of our car.

So all went well and we finally, finally had a perfect summer trip! Coming up: Crested Butte and Te-Ah!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer has come to the Valley!

Well Spring has come and, though the temps are holding steady in the 80s, Summer is almost here! We've been camping and hiking and biking and have spent as many possible minutes outside as we can manage.

First there was the not-so-spectacular Bullet Canyon trip which ended with us spending 2 nights in Durango--gotta love Durango...

Bullet Canyon is part of the Grand Gulch area. Most people start their treks here down Kane Gulch and because of that we decided to be rebels and go down Bullet Canyon. As you can see, there WAS water, but it was gross water. We took 10 liters and that got us through 1 night and back out! The area where this picture was taken was cool, but other than this there was a LOT of bushwacking and that got old really fast.
Still, the weather was pretty sweet and the sky stayed blue the whole time. You can't ask for much more than that!

Next was our camping trip to Mesa Verde National Park. Unfortunately the sky did NOT stay blue the whole time there! We enjoyed a weekend of ruins and hiking trails interspersed with rain, rain, and more rain. Fortunately for us, our Big Agnes Seedhouse 3 tent was amazing and did not let in a drop of water!

We made a loop of our drive and headed down over lizard head pass and Dolores and came back through, you guessed it, Durango. I'd live there if I could. This time of year heading over all the passes is fun because I can while away the hours looking for runoff waterfalls. The picture on the left shows the impending storm on Day 2 of our trip. Spruce Tree House is on the right. It's amazing what the Anasazi were able to do with mud and rocks. The fact that we get to visit these places and see them, preserved for hopefully many many more years, is pretty impressive.

FINALLY, there has of course been tons of mountain biking. Only 2 "minor" accidents--okay, I probably could have used a stitch or two one of those times, but still...nothing horrific or requiring LifeFlight! I've biked everywhere around here so far this season, except out in Palisade. The BF and I have conquered Tabaguache a few times, I've seen Joe's Ridge up close and personal out at 18 road, and have savored the drops and ledges of Horsethief Bench in Loma more than once. Robert S. and I even managed to enjoy parts of the Gunnison/Old Spanish Trail loop one extremely windy day this spring!

I think this picture pretty much says it all though. So far the season has been pretty freakin' fabulous.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be Careful!

According to the Sheriff's Department had to "aid an injured mountain biker on Mary's Loop" on Tuesday. Most of Mary's is tame and a lot of fun, but there are some tricky spots where, if you're like me, one false move can leave you bloody or worse, seriously injured!

Be super careful around the first portage, with the "caution" sign. Even when walking your bike through there it's slippery and could lead to a nasty fall.

Of course, be careful on the 1/4 mile or so stretch of exposed trail leading west to Pizza Point!

Always always let someone know where you'll be and carry your cell phone. You can get reception almost anywhere out there and it could be the difference, literally, between life and death one day.

Have fun and stay safe and keep your fingers crossed for good riding weather soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Finally! Sun! And Blood.

Thanks to the guys at gjmountainbiking once again for their maps. The part in red shows the western side of Mary's Loop. The black part shows a great extension, known to some as just Steve's, to others as Steve's (to the cutoff) and Handcuffs (the extension of the extension).

My buddy Robbie and I headed out Sunday afternoon for a bike ride and, since we wanted a long ride, we opted to ride Mary's loop and then Steve's/Handcuffs. (the entire black section out past the cutoff and back around).

Round trip, including of course some stop
s for pictures and eating a bar of some sort, the ride is about 11 or 12 miles. We started from the main parking lot and headed south over the gravel hill and down to the Mary's Loop trail head. IF you ever just want to ride Steve's for a nice short ride, keep driving west down the frontage road for about another 2 miles until you cross the cattle guard. Right after that is a small parking area. Park here, ride up the hill and you'll be at the junction/trail head for Mary's, Steve's, Lion's, Mack Ridge, and Moore Fun. From here you can just drop down and out to Pizza Point (follow Mary's out to the river overlook and you'll be at the south entrance to steve's).

ANYWAY, Robbie and I headed up Mary's and even showed up a few people by passing them on the hill before they kicked our butts hopping up some ledges. We cruised down Mary's, past the Horsethief Bench cutoff, up puke hill and around to what I call "
The Cliffy Death." It's an exposed portion of trail that is very narrow. Most people ride it with no problem. Not me. I ride portions, then I get off and walk because I don't want to fall down the hill and over the cliff to the river. I had gotten off to go down a rocky ledge and when I got back on for some reason I had no inertia! I couldn't move! So of course, I fell over. I don't have clip-in pedals, so my pedal scraped the hell out of my leg. I didn't realize it at the time, and by the time I got over to the lookout (Pizza Point) there was blood running all down my leg.

Of course, I had everything to repair a bike wi
th, but nothing to repair a leg with. Hence, this genius homemade bandage of a piece of paper and some duct tape.

We dropped down onto Steve's and had a great ride all the way around, back up the ridge, and then back to the junction I mentioned earlier. From here we took the frontage road back to the main parking lot where we of course had a few beers before heading home.

This shot shows a portion of Steve's running around the edge of a canyon. After this it heads up a hill I've never seen anyone ride and cruises high on the ridge until dropping back down where it intersects with everything else.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Rain and snow go away
Come again another day...
Or you know what, just stay gone awhile so I can go out and play!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Foot of Snow!

This was the webcam shot at Powderhorn ski resort this morning. It is an unparalled beautiful day up there! No fair that I am stuck at work! They've gotten 30 inches of snow this week according to the Powderhorn website. The BF is headed up there today to do some fabulous powder skiing--since I haven't quite mastered that yet I'm okay with just wishing I was there.

If you've never been up to Powderhorn let me just say it's a great little local ski resort! The instructors there are awesome and I can say that with certainty since I've taken classes there as have friends of mine and their children. There are 3 lifts--not including the very tame moving-sidewalk-like-lift called the "Magic Carpet." It's for beginners to practice and isn't even a lift at all...ANYWAY...the Take 4 is the main quad lift which leads you up to top of the mountain to blue and black runs. It has a midway stop as well. From the top of the quad you can head right to Equalizer (black) or Bill's or Maverick (blue). Bill's and Maverick are the main blue runs on this side of the mountain and they will lead you to others like Lower Equalizer, Dude, Whistle Pig, Looky-Looky and Lower Snowcloud. Taking Maverick over to Lower Snowcloud is the best way to get to the WEST END!

Going right off the quad lift takes you to other black runs like Yoo-Hoo, ShowDown, Wonderbump, Racer's Edge...

The West End has a 2 person lift and is home to a lot of black runs and a few steep blues. Tenderfoot is a blue run that will get you back over to the lodge and main lift, but it requires quite the cat walk to get to it! The other way to get back to the lodge from the west end is to go down Upper Snowcloud. It's a black run, but when it's groomed it's pretty sweet. I hate moguls myself so I stay away from it when it's NOT groomed...about 2/3 of the way down you'll be cruising and see up and to the right the sign for where you turned off to get to the west end in the first place. Head up that way and back down Lower Dude to the main lift area if you want. Otherwise, keep left and head back to the west end lift!

Red Eye is the other blue on the West End and it's pretty darn steep for a blue! Challenging, but fun if you can make it down without falling! There's a lot of tree skiing to be had over here plus some fun places to just play around and jump.

Powderhorn offers condos and such for overnight stays, a Sunday worship service at the top of the beginner/green run lift (easy rider) and great food at both the Wildwood Restaurant and the lodge bar/grill. It's a great little resort!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where I"d Rather Be

Oh I'm in a snit today. I don't know why. Well, possibly because it's cloudy and cold and gross outside and I want warm summer weather! Here's one of the many places I'd rather be...Avalanche Lake...or at least on the Avalanche Creek trail headed up to the lake...and that's saying a lot because in the last 2.5 miles you gain about 2000 feet! Switchbacks...but it's worth it because look at the view!

To get there, head up to Carbondale to the Avalanche Creek Campgrounds. The trail head is there and then you just follow the signs for 11 miles up and up and up. There's some good camping around mile 6...a nice big meadow and a shady tree area near the creek.

Often there are a lot of people at the's best to get there as early in the day as possible. We ended up with a tiny campsite at the very head of the lake but it turned out to be worth it because we had a great little kitchen area and no one near us!

Here's a link to's description of the trail and directions.
This is the meadow we camped in the first night...there was better camping just up the trail past the grove of aspen trees...but we managed!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday at Lunch Loop

Until I find a better map, the one will have to do!
I hike out at Lunch Loop (Tabaguache) about 4 times a week. Until this weekend I had only biked there once. It's super technical and I felt it was over my head. This weekend I decided to try again. As John says, "You can ride anything as long as you're willing to walk some." So I was willing. Being familiar with the area, I felt a little better. We headed up the main trail west/southwest from the parking lot, and soon turned right onto Eagle's Tail. This soon makes a Y so you can head up Pet-Y-Kes. I've seen people go UP Eagle's Tail, but it doesn't look like much fun. This is a shot from about half way up Pet-Y-Kes looking back. It's single track and a little exposed, but there aren't many obstacles.

From here we headed over to Lemon Squeezer. You keep going down Pet-Y-Kes, take a right where the first "main trail" sign is. At the next junction, take a left. You'll end up at the base of Widowmaker Hill and you'll take the first left down a nice rolling single track for a few minutes. Then you'll get here:
From here the trail has some little ups and downs and takes you up onto the ridge above the canyon and parking lot.
There are a few hike-a-bike sections (or for me there were). This was not one of them :) Once on the ridge it's a super nice ride across and then down one rocky section before you come to a trail sign and junction. Take the right fork and head out Miramonte. This rolls you right along across another ridge, down some easy drops and then down into Miramonte Canyon. It's a nice pedal with the worst part being the sandy descent into the canyon itself. From here it's back up (you'll come to a fork and you can actually go either way. Left takes you back up to the ridge you came down and back down the main trail. This is what we did. If you go right, you come out further east on the original ridge and can go down some steep switchbacks--Kurt's Lane)
Even though I'm only a decent intermediate rider, I found this to be an awesome ride. You don't learn by only playing on the easy trails. You have to get out there and test yourself!
Here are some shots from Miramonte Canyon.

Looong dusty saturday ride

Saturday was beautiful. 70 degrees, sunny, not too we headed out to 18 Road in Fruita to try out Chutes and Ladders. This is the map the guys over at GJ Mountain Biking show. You can see Chutes and Ladders branching off of Prime Cut.

Prime Cut starts right across from the first parking lot. The lot itself is quite obvious. Right across the road you shoot down a hill and take a left to head up Prime Cut. Bear right at the Y junction. Left will take you up and across the road to Joe's Ridge. Follow the trail through the whoop-de-woos and watch out for the big ass boulder! After about 2.5 miles you come to a nice resting spot and another Y. To the left is the remainder of Prime Cut. This is a great way to go if you just want about an hour's ride. Go left, head across the road (angle left to the singletrack) and head down Kessel Run. Take a left back up the hill at the end and have a beer.

We went right at the Y. Right takes you up, up up. John was able to ride about half of the first three "ladders" but I walked it. Following this there's one more hill and then some nasty switchbacks...a few more hills...and I know, you're thinking, "This does NOT sound fun..." BUT soon it gets fun with a lot of super narrow single track, some ups and downs and finally...about a 2.5 mile bomb through a meadow filled with cows!

To be honest, some people don't like Chutes and Ladders. The "chutes" can sometimes be rutted from the cows walking down the trail in the rain or when it's wet. The ladders are quite dusty. But for me, I love the rolling downhill and I love Prime Cut, so I think that one mile of hell is worth it.