26.2 Miles of Recovery

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Jan 25, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Sunday, June 12, 2011

The next morning, we headed back into town for registration.  Mike had waited until now to officially sign up for the race.  Last year, only 109 racers completed the marathon the previous year.  We weren't too concerned that it would sell out.  Although, the race day forecast did look good.  Clear skies, cool early morning temps.  But, you don't want to take too long, as a relatively mild day gets very hot in the beating sun.  For moral support and to see if he could do it, Mark went ahead and signed up to run the marathon with Mike.  It was a figure 8 course, so if he was feeling bad, he could stop at the halfway point.  I should point out that Mark had shoulder surgery just 2 weeks ago and a hernia repair only 1 month earlier.  Was this really such a good idea?  We'd find out in the morning.  I did rally a little bit and signed up for the 10K.  I would have preferred the 5K given my recent level of training, but if Mark was going to run a marathon on no training (since, um, November) then I could eek out 6 miles.  At elevation.  Um, maybe not.

We drove the race course, which was stunning.  There were two significant climbs, about 5 miles each.  But, also long, sweeping downhills.  And, in the middle of the race, you ran around Estes Lake.  It looked like a great course in every way except one.  The average elevation was 7700 ft.  Can you say, ah, ah, short...of...breath?

Mark here: We started running at 7AM.  I think about 150 people ran the marathon so we had people around us for the first 8 miles or so.  Mike set a nice pace, and we ran the first 7 miles before we took a short walking break at the top of the first big climb.  It was the steepest part so it made sense to walk it.  After that, we cruised for the next 6 miles back to Estes and around the lake.  Our half marathon time was just at 2 hours.  We met a few interesting people - a triathlete named Kirsten that was training for the Lake Placid ironman and an older fellow named John that looked more like a race walker than a runner.  Still , he was moving right along.

We were doing great until about mile 17 (halfway up the second hill).  Mike's right knee started to hurt.  I'm guessing it was his IT band.  Pretty soon, he could barely run, so we walked a bit and poured cold water on it at each aid station.  Unfortunately, the last 5 miles were mostly downhill, which is hard with an inflamed ITB.  We did find a nice cold creek around mile 23 that he soaked his knee in for a few minutes.  Around mile 25, we got back to a steady jog and finished with a lap around the track in 4:35.  Gina and the kids and Gretchen and the dogs were all waiting at the finish line for us.  We immediately got some ice for Mike's knee and shortly afterward, headed off to downtown Estes for some pizza and beer.

We left Estes and went up Falling River canyon and found a nice cabin to recover a bit.  I wasn't much up for camping or hiking after just running.  My shoulder didn't really hurt during the race nor did my abdomen, but I was pretty tired and sore afterward.  I think it's the endorphins.  Once they kick in, I forget all the injuries and don't remember how much they hurt until after I stop.  Oh well.  Everything seems to be healing nicely.

We awoke the next morning and headed up Trail Ridge Road into Rocky Mountain National Park - lots of snow!  So much so, that most of the hiking trails in the park were snowbound.  Essentially 28-30 inches of slush.  Snowshoes wouldn't have helped, even if we had them.  We saw some Big Horn sheep and elk on the drive through Sheep Lakes.  We did do a short hike up Old Fall River Road with the dogs (who loved it), but after that, we headed across the park and down to Grand Lake for a late lunch, some window shopping, and then off into the forest to find a place to camp.

 Gretchen Here:

The first campground we came to at Shadow Mountain was completely clear cut. An attempt to stem the invasion of Mountain Pine Beetles that are killing more and more of the Lodge Pole Pines in this area.  It was next to a beautiful lake, but you couldn't see it from the camping area.  It was a dry, dirt pile, essentially.  Vault toilets, no showers, no water available.  Very depressing.

We drove into the national forest instead and followed a forest road.  There were numerous pullouts along the road specifically created for camping.  And most of them were already taken.  We were able to find a great location with plenty of room for the dogs to run, a stream just a few hundred feet away and a fire ring, with firewood.  Perfect.  There was even a trailhead close by, with toilets.  Who needs to pay $20 for a campground when we could get all of this for free?

We did a short hike along an ATV trail the next morning, mostly to give the Quincy and Samson a little exercise.  Then we headed further south to another group of campgrounds on the southern edge of Granby Lake.  This site was a bit nicer, as one section was not yet clear cut, and there was potable water to replenish our supply.  We hiked up a nearby mountain, but within 2 miles (around 10,500 ft) we found ourselves battling deeper and deeper snow.  I slipped to my hip at one point and laughed.  Both feet went under the snow that was covering a downed tree, over a snow melt creek.  I was up to my waist this time.  And not laughing.  Phew!  That was close.  After a 1/4 mile of this s*$t, I mean, snow, we decided to head back down.  Still, it was a beautiful area and a great hike.

The next morning, I took Samson on a 7 mile run, 4.5 of which was on a trail around Monarch Lake.  What a stunning place.  The only drawback was that dogs are required to be leashed, there was a ranger there when I arrived and it was early enough that there were still plenty of deer in sight.  We saw 8 that morning. Samson takes off like a bolt when he sees a deer, and I didn't want to chance losing what would quickly be my ex-boyfriend's dog.  Aside from having to restrain Samson the entire time, it was a gorgeous way to spend the morning.

Given the level of snow in the upper mountains of Colorado, we decided it might be a good time to head to Utah, where snow was less likely to impede our plans.  (The brutal heat might, but not snow.)  We drove back through Rocky Mountain National Park and headed into the most depressing little town of Allenspark.  Mark had been here years before and remembered it being just a bit more vibrant back then.  We drove up a forest road to a trailhead and let the dogs run off leash along the trail.  It was a beautiful day and another gorgeous trail, that became 2 feet of snow at around 11,000 feet.  I guess we made right decision in making our way to Utah.

We headed on to Boulder for a quick stop to walk the pedestrian mall and grab some ice cream.  We were soon informed that dogs were forbidden on the mall -- an offense punishable by a $150 fine.  Per dog.  Seriously?  Somebody really doesn't like dogs around here.  We continued on to Golden, CO where we met up with Emily Woodall and her husband Jeremy.  They just moved to Golden from Blacksburg two weeks earlier, hoping for new jobs and a change of scenery.  They are an adorable couple and were kind enough to allow us use of their shower -- a service we had not had the privilege of for about 3 days.  In fact, they insisted.  Hmm.

After leaving Golden and possibly the worst meal ever at the Capital Grille, we went searching for a good campsite.  Once again, we had trouble finding a place to camp.  The campground we'd noted on the map was closed for the season due to "Road Failure." What's that all about?  We'd soon find out.   We did find a picnic spot that did not specifically post No Camping signs and just snuggled up there for the night.  Fortunately, no one bothered us at all.

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Steph Stewart on

*sigh* Hey Gretchen...we won't make it out West this year so I'm particularly grateful for your pics. Glad you had such a wonderful time and that Mark is getting along so well!!

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