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Running the Colorado Trail

So I figured out the way to make me run just about anything-- tell me "it's pretty".


I am running a trail marathon next month in Wisconsin with my friend Jim, so I asked Steve to look at the elevation map (oy yoy!) and give me a trail run out here that was comparable in elevation change and all. While I know that my ultimate goal is Ironman Wisconsin, I wanted to be prepared for the marathon next month.

Steve said, "You should run the 1st and 2nd legs of the Colorado Trail."-- SOLD! I have heard so much about how beautiful the run is and I wanted nothing more than an excuse to do it. There was, however, a stipulation. For safety's sake, I had to find someone to run it with me, but I could choose whatever date in June to do it.

Enter Andrea. Friend of mine and sufferer in Moab with me. She is training for Ironman Louisville and said she'd be up for it. Awesome. We decided on June 17th. For logistical reasons, we decided to go up and back the first leg instead of doing legs 1 & 2. As far as distance, there were varying reports on exactly how far the first leg was. First I heard 12 miles, then 14, then I read in a book 16.8. Hmmm... not really up for 34 miles of mountains...

We met early in the morning to start off of our little jaunt. It was supposed to be a nice (hot) day, so water wan an issue. We both wore water backpacks, a double-water belt, took hand bottles and some water-filtration tablets. I think we were prepared.

The Colorado Trail starts with a steady climb up Waterton Canyon. I had never been there and it was beautiful running through the canyon at sun-up.
As we ran, we talked about our goals for the day. Andrea had said her legs weren't with her that day, so really any long-run distance would be fine with her. I said I wanted to do at least 20 miles and I would be happy. I figured that 20 miles would be pretty good prep for the marathon next month. We decided that, if we separated, I would go up, turn-around somewhere between miles 10 & 13 and catch her on the way back down. That way, if anything happened, she would find me on her way up and/or I would find her on my way down. About mile 5, I decided to go ahead.

I continued up the canyon past the dam without seeing it. It was there that the road got a little steeper, then about a mile later, the trail started.
It was gorgeous! And up, up, up! I wasn't sure if I was going to really make it, but then it leveled off for a bit. Phew. Wait more up. And that is how it went.
About mile 7.5 you hit a high point, then some downhill, then more steady climbing. It was fun, adventurous and gorgeous views everywhere.

In my guide book, it had said that a campsite at mile 9 would be the last place to get water in a dry year, so I stopped there to refill some water bottles in the stream. It's not a proper trail run without drinking from Mother Nature, now is it? (Don't worry, mom, I used purifying tablets. I was totally safe, just like when I used to go backpacking.)

But, it wasn't a dry year. After this, there were plenty of stream crossings...... and I hated them. I hate getting my feet wet, so I am going to have to work on my stream traversing abilities to be a "real trail runner".

I kept going up, up, up.
I hit the 10-mile mark.
After this, whatever I did was "bonus". But I was feeling the love and didn't want to stop. I hit mile 11. Thought about turning around, but then saw this...So beautiful. I couldn't stop now.

Around mile 12, I ran into a hiker. She was awesome and happy to see someone. She had been out there since 5:30 a.m. I decided she would be my turn around point.

And then it started, the downhill! Oh, it was ice to have gravity on my side again. So, I clipped along. The dread went away and I was "flying", although when you looked at my pace, I wasn't really flying. That's the thing about trail running, it's hard. And when you think you have everything going in your favor, you still have to worry about footing, falling, rocks, rivers, twisting ankles, everything. So, "fast" is not necessarily "fast", but it is fun!

Not too far along and I found Andrea. She was heading up and we were happy to see one another.
She told me her legs had been hurting, but it didn't show. She is a great downhiller. We stuck together for the rest of the trail.
Awe, back in the canyon. Plugged back along Waterton Canyon and back towards the dam.
Wait a minute-- how did I miss this on the way up?They were letting out water from the dam. Very cool.

Now, 6 more miles down the canyon. Without the steep grade, it made running a little bit harder, but got her done. It helped with the pretty views.
Soon, we were back at the road we started out, in desperate need of some relief. 24 miles up and down a mountain can take a toll on the body. So, off to the Platte River for a quick dip.
Who needs ice baths when you have the frigid waters of the Platte?

It was a long, hard run, but the views and the experience made it totally worth it. 24 miles with more elevation gain/loss than I will see in Wisconsin made me feel pretty prepared for my run next month. I am not saying I'll be fast, but I am more excited than ever to do it!

** Note: Shortly after getting home, I received an email stating that Waterton Canyon would be closed after August 2, 2010, re-opening in the Spring of 2012 due to a major construction happening in the canyon.


Bill said...

Nice run report, Randi, thanks for posting. Glad you enjoyed The Colorado Trail. Our little nonprofit and all our volunteers keep care of this 500-mile Trail. Let us know if you need info or would like to be involved.
Bill Manning, Mg Dir
The Colorado Trail Foundation

宗舜 said...


Anonymous said...

Quality is better than quantity.................................................................