2007 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
 
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 MORE TRAINING RUNS: TURQUOISE LAKE,
MINERAL BELT TRAIL, & HOPE PASS #4  

THURSDAY, AUGUST 9

 
"Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid of only standing still.
- Chinese proverb
 

 

TURQUOISE LAKE RUN

Jim considered doing another Hope Pass double early this week but incessant rain put the kibosh on that. On Monday he decided to go from the "little power line" (about six miles into the LT100 course) to the May Queen aid station, a distance of about seven miles.

Most of this part of the course is on undulating terrain at the edge of Turquoise Lake, quite pretty with the lake level up this year. The elevation is under 10,000 feet and much of the trail is shaded so even in a thunderstorm it wouldn't be as risky as Hope Pass. Fortunately, we got into only a little bit of rain.

I dropped Jim and Cody off at the bottom of the jeep road that goes up little power line (below) . . .

. . . and drove around to the top. They sure got up there fast! Then we crossed the road near the dam and Jim and Cody continued on the trail around the lake:

Sometimes crews will meet their runners at the dam on their way back to the finish, but it's not recommended near the beginning of the race because there is very limited parking.

I drove the long road around the lake (north side) so I could stop at Tabor boat ramp to take some photos where the trail goes by. This is a legal crewing point the first morning and later in the race when runners come back through. I went there one time several years ago and it was cool to watch hundreds of little bobbing lights come winding around the lake. The race begins at 4 AM and it's still dark when everyone runs through here. The trail is pretty close to the lake in the first few miles through the campground areas:

There was a sail boat on the lake, which Jim could also watch as he made an arc around the water:

The next two photos show the trail outbound from Tabor boat ramp and the arc the runners will follow for the next mile:

 

I also stopped at Mosquito overlook for the first time, but the trees block most of the view of the lake. The road is two or three hundred feet above the lake and trail on this side, then descends at the west end to the May Queen campground. I parked there and Tater and I ran down the paved road to the Turquoise Lake trail head, below. We'd be running "backwards" on the course (i.e., toward the finish) until we met Jim and Cody, then we'd turn around and go the direction the race runs on the first morning.

Despite the overcast skies all morning, we got only a little wet during our run and the views from the trail were still beautiful. This is looking east toward Leadville from the trail head at May Queen campground:

Tater was in Lab heaven with all the swimming opportunities:

The trail is more hilly and rocky at the west end near the aid station than it is at the end with the dam. The woods are very pretty here and there is a nice creek with a bridge to cross:

 

 

The course goes through an aspen grove or two and a marshy area with lots of flowers, including this tall Monkshood right by the trail:

Runners pass by a sulphury-smelling old mine dump at one point, with warning signs to stay out of the shafts and off the ladders:

You just can't escape abandoned mines on trails in Colorado. They're everywhere.

Tater and I met Jim and Cody about two miles into the run, and Cody came running like a speeding bullet when he saw us. Jim seemed happy to see us, too:

I took the next few shots on the way back to the truck, the same direction runners head out the first morning. At this point in the race, it is daylight for most of the runners:

 

 

When we got back to our truck, two runners were waiting at their vehicle. They had just finished a training run on the next portion of the course -- the Colorado Trail, Hagerman Road, and (big) power line. It was Ronda Sundermeier, who is doing the Grand Slam this summer, and her friend Bob Lynes:

We'd never met them but had plenty to talk about for 15-20 minutes. Ronda's doing quite well in the Slam, with sub-24s at both Western States and Vermont so far. She hasn't done LT100 before, so we were able to answer some of her questions about the course and crewing. Do well, Ronda!

While we were talking Jim continued to hold Cody's leash. He waited patiently, unlike fidgety Tater, and I had to laugh when I looked down at him several minutes later and caught him drooling, as he does so often. We didn't even have any food he could smell! If there's food, he drools on BOTH sides. He's a real mess when he shakes his head and the drool wraps around the top of his nose. Since he's solid black, the drool is really noticeable.

Kids. You just can't take 'em anywhere.

TODAY'S TRAINING RUNS (THURSDAY)

1) HOPE PASS (JIM)

That was Monday. Tuesday was a rest day. It was also flood day in Leadville. Wednesday dawned clear and sunny, finally, and that's when we were on Mt. Sherman (see August 8 entry).

Sherman didn't wear us out and we knew we'd be too busy volunteering for the bike race on Friday and Saturday to get any running done, so today we needed to get out there again. It was another perfect weather day (no rain!!) and time for Jim's last Hope Pass double. This was #4 and another variation on the theme.

Instead of going through Lake Creek like he did the last three times, Jim drove past Twin Lakes to the parking area with the bridge that goes across the creek. Hans-Dieter and Susi's camping van was there. We haven't seen them since Hardrock but figured they were in the Leadville area. This will be Hans' 101st hundred-mile race. Susi drove up in their car before Jim and Cody got started. Susi had just taken Hans to a 14er (Princeton?) that he was climbing that day.

A trail heads east from the bridge for a mile or so and connects with the LT100 course above most of the rocky area at the beginning of the climb up the north side of Mount Hope but before you reach the intersection for the Little Willis and Big Willis gulch trails. Jim didn't see how high the creek was after all the rain we got the previous days. He talked with another runner who had gone through the creek that morning and said it "wasn't a problem." He saw only two other LT runners on the course.

Although it was bright and sunny, Hope Pass was chilly and windy. Jim went down the south side about a quarter mile, then turned around. He had planned to go just to the pass, not wanting to overdo things just nine days before the race. He spent half an hour on top, enjoying a fly-over by a helicopter (that's a first for us!), then ran back down in a good time. He was pleased with his run. That will be his last time up Mount Hope until the race.

2. MINERAL BELT TRAIL (SUE)

Well, we've gone and done it now.

We sent off entries to our first 24-hour run this week, the Hinson Lake race in North Carolina at the end of September. We've been interested in doing this type of race for several years, but just never got 'round to it. Friends raved about this new race last year, so we finally decided to JUST DO IT.

For the past three months (heck, the past several YEARS) we've been concentrating on training for mountainous courses. I long ago lost any speed I ever had, and neither one of us does much training for speed or roads. The Hinson Lake course is trail, but it's going to be much flatter than we're used to running out West or even in Roanoke.

It's also going to be much hotter than the weather we've had for over two months and it will be closer to sea level. Jim and I are trained for monster hills at altitude. We have a great mileage base, but we haven't done much speed work this summer.

Hmm . . . Jim still needs to train (and taper) for Leadville, but MY next race is this little puppy in North Carolina. What can I do NOW to start training for it??

I'm still at 10,000+ feet, but at least I can hunt for the flattest, smoothest places I can run once or twice a week until we leave in a couple weeks to go home to Virginia. Although it's not flat, the 11.6-mile Mineral Belt Trail around Leadville has only an 800-foot elevation gain, it is smooth (paved), it is free of traffic, and it's about 400 feet from our front door.

That was important because Jim took the truck today for his Hope Pass run!

I ran the Mineral Belt Trail one day last summer and included some photos of the mining district through which this bike trail passes (2006 journal, August 27). Of course, on such a beautiful day as today I had to take some more photos, but I didn't stop to read the numerous informational signs again.

My goal was to run and walk as fast as I could at 10,000 to 10,800 feet for almost twelve miles (adding in the distance to and from our camper to the path). I wasn't expecting much, estimating three to three-and-a-half hours.

I ended up running about thirteen miles because I returned to the camper to put on cooler clothing after a mile, then started over again (man, this 70-degree sunshine is hot!). <grin>  I was able to run a lot more than I expected, although the pavement hurt my knees the last few miles. It's been a long time since I ran on pavement or in my road shoes (Montrail Masai). And despite taking 47 photos and shuffling the long grades uphill in the first half of the run, I averaged a 13:28 pace. I'm very pleased with that, considering.

On the loop just down from Jack's property I had great views of the Sawatch Range, including Mts. Massive, Elbert, and Hope. Elbert is the highest point in the middle, and Hope Pass is to the left:

I got a late start, so by then Jim was probably already at Hope Pass.

As I rounded the bend and headed for the Hwy. 24 crossing I had a good view toward the Mosquito Range, which includes Mt. Sherman, the 14er I climbed yesterday:

The crossing of Hwy. 24 south of Leadville is the lowest point on the Mineral Belt Trail and it's the largest parking area on the loop (there are several other places to get on it). The old Tabor General Store is just up the trail from here:

The next four or five miles going CCW are all uphill and through woods with few views. I was able to run a lot more of this than I expected, which makes me realize I'm pretty well acclimated by now. I did my standard "run till it's too hard, walk till it's too easy" and averaged a 13:30 to15 minute pace when the trail was all uphill.

There were a few walkers on the trail and a LOT of cyclists. I was surprised by the number of cyclists. Some are in the 100-mile bike race this weekend, but most aren't. I about got run over by one kamikaze young woman who gleefully took a downhill turn MUCH too fast. I had to jump out of my lane to avoid getting hit. Worse, she was pulling a baby in a cart behind her. Some people are too stupid to be responsible for children. (Ask me. I spent 23 years helping to prosecute child abuse cases in a juvenile court near Atlanta.)

Other than that, the cyclists were all courteous and safe.

I reached California Gulch after several miles and had more views of mountains, the valley, and mining relics:

 

 

The highest part of the trail is on the eastern side of the loop in the foothills of the Mosquito Range. This is where most of the mining relics are, too. By now I was able to run more steadily because the trail was flatter and started going downhill.

 

Mine tailings provide an interesting contrast against the bright blue sky:

Not sure if this water is toxic or not, but the deep blue and red colors sure are attractive! There's a "No Swimming" sign on the fence surrounding the pond. No kidding!

There are overviews of Leadville and Turquoise Lake at several of the high points along the course:

The last three or four miles were downhill to Jack's place. By then my knees were getting pretty sore from running two hours on pavement and my breathing was getting more labored. Climbing Mt. Sherman the previous day didn't help any either! I wasn't able to run as fast as I was hoping in that section -- the fastest mile I clocked was 11:10 because I had to stop once or twice. But I'm still pleased with my overall pace. I know I have a lot of work to do before the Hinson Lake race.

We'll be busy with pre-race LT100 bike volunteering the next three days: packet stuffing tonight, registration and loading our truck on Friday, working the turn-around aid station at Columbine Mine all day Saturday, and maybe helping out during the awards presentation Sunday morning.

According to the Leadville Chronicle, both Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis are expected to ride  the race this year. Can they beat Dave Wiens, who has won the race the last four years? Check back in a few days and see.

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil