I returned to the Picture Rock Trail Head to run some hills in preparation for the Flaming Foliage Relay. Generally I access the Heil Valley Ranch trail system from the Wapiti Trail off Left Hand Canyon. It’s closer to my house and only 2.5 miles up. Picture Rock Trail is over 5 miles up, but that’s the point. Today’s run included Keith and Steve, both on my relay, and their buddy Tom pictured here. He’s running yet another relay across Colorado with Keith and Steve in about 4 weeks. All of us need hill training to prep for our relays in the mountains.
Before starting up the hill, nearly 20 runners ran by us. They were men, seemingly in their mid to late twenties. They emerged from the trail head onto the road. They were apparently training on a more flat loop through Lyons that mixed trail with pavement. They were soon followed by a group of 10 or so women runners. We saw these women on the highway while driving to the trail head. This gave us a good sense of their course. These runners all looked elite. Or maybe all youth looks elite to me but they were running a good clip. The men’s squad had a few falling behind on the strong pace.
I wasn’t able to find the time to run Saturday and I think that made me refreshed for today. I led us up the hill and felt strong. The cool thing about this trail is that even though it goes uphill forever, the grade is manageable. Even for mountain bikers. Oddly there were more runners than bikers on the way up. Generally this is a mountain biking trail. Keith and I reached the top first. This is the point at 5.5 miles where the Picture Rock Trail intersects with the Wild Turkey Loop. It continues rising for another half mile for runners who haven’t had enough punishment. We stopped here per plan and waited for Tom and Steve.
Before they joined us, Keith and I chatted with a mountain biker who was resting. I didn’t catch his name but he was in his 40s and nursing a torn achilles tendon. He related the story of how he ripped it apart trail running in Estes Park. His subsequent surgery included replacement parts from a cadaver. Thank God that stuff only happens to others.
Tom and Steve had less time to recover before heading back down. I’m certain Steve wanted more time, but I felt like pushing him. The boy needs to get serious about his training with all the events he has planned. Invariably, my strategy on this trail is to get my workout on the way up and not worry about speed on the way down. I flew down fairly fast anyway because I had time to fully recover and felt strong. Tom followed me. Not sure of his conditioning but his ability to hang was probably more related to having experienced trail legs and confidence in his footfalls. I slow down on this trail when I feel fatigued because it’s treacherous. Anyone familiar with this trail has their share of stories stumbling over the rocks. I fell once so hard I bounced up a foot and a half into a thorny bush, which was fortunate despite the thorns as it kept me from tumbling down a steep hill.
The biker situation was completely different on the descent. We must have passed, or been passed by, 30 mountain bikers. It didn’t annoy me as much as it does other times. Perhaps because these bikers were mostly experienced and passed by without too much impact. Or, even though I was running strong, I wasn’t intent on racing and didn’t mind slowing down to let the less experienced bikers pass.
It’s rare I feel this strong sinking back to the bottom of a 5.5 mile ascent. I credit both yesterday’s rest and the long wait for Steve at the top with allowing my muscles to recover. I would normally slow down the final 2 miles on Picture Rock Trail regardless of fatigue out of respect for the rocks and memory of past spills. Click on this pic of Steve to get a view of the rocks. I might have got caught up in racing the bikers. I pushed it all the way down, with Tom close on my heels. He passed me near the end as I elected to cool down the final half mile. The weather actually cooled off during the run which may have also contributed to the fast descent. Nothing’s hurting a few hours later as I blog this. Really nice run for Father’s Day.