I barreled down the Barr Trail, the only sounds were the soft crunch of hard packed snow and the jingle from my microspikes. I escaped the tree enclosed singletrack, turned the corner, and stopped. I stood in silence... motionless as Colorado stole my heart.
There's not much living when you work 60-70hrs a week. I felt like a caged animal. I was itching to get away. Anywhere. I just needed to feel alive again... I needed to feel wild.I booked a cheap flight to Colorado with no plans other than to run big mountains and drink good beer. I contacted my buddy Steve and he graciously offered me a place to lay my head. He also pointed out that there was a race in Moab that fell on the weekend that I was flying out. Game on.
Tuesday: Feb 10
After a long 12hr day at work, I clocked out and headed home to pack.
Wednesday: Feb 11I gave a few goodbye head boops to Wobbles...
And kissed my wifey goodbye at the airport.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the floor at the Denver airport charging my headlamp.
I didn't have a car, so I patiently waited for my buddy Steve to get off work and come pick me up. As soon as he arrived, we went home, changed clothes and headed straight to Deer Creek Canyon for some night running.
We cruised around the snowy singletrack watching the twinkling lights of Denver in the distance.
We got to our turn off, slipped on our microspikes, and started the descent back to the car. I was super excited to try them out since I've never ran in snow before!
We wrapped up our run and headed over to Living the Dream Brewery to kickstart the trip!
My internet/IG friend Courtney met us at the brewery for a drink. I've been friends with this chicka for over a year, so it was so nice finally meeting her in real life!
We closed out the tab, said our goodbyes, and we headed back to Steve's place. We refueled on chili and Steve introduced me to his roommate and Buddy.
Steve had a sleeping pad and sleeping bag waiting on me (which was absolutely perfect). Who says grownups can't have slumber parties!?!
Thursday: Feb 12
Steve's alarm went off at 5am... unfortunately, he had to work the next couple of days. I woke when he woke so I could drop him off and use his car to go explore. I can't tell you how thankful and grateful I am that he let me do this! After dropping him off at work, I set off towards Boulder. I arrived in Boulder before the sun, so I grabbed a quick coffee and biscuit before I made my way to the trails.
I ran over to the Gregory trailhead and started the climb to the top. Oh how I had missed the Flatirons.
The lower part of the trail was untouched by the weather, but once I started pushing towards the summit, I found a thin layer of snow that covered sheets of ice. The microspikes made for easy running!
The further I pushed up the snowy singletrack... the clearer my clouded head became...
By the time I reached the summit... all of my work stress and worries had disappeared. I felt alive again.
I sat down and stared at the massive mountains that filled the horizon... thinking how lucky Anton Krupicka, Joe Grant, and Timothy Olson are to get to run to this summit and see this view nearly every single day.
I stopped on the way down to write a little Valentine message in the snow. Any girl that supports you going on an adventure to the other side of the country (especially one where you would be gone on Valentine's Day) is a keeper!
I started to see less snow and more dirt, so I removed my microspikes before heading down Saddle. I turned the corner and was greeted with more snow covered ice on the trail. "Meh. I'll be fine."
I was not fine. I immediately found myself on the ground eating a slice of ice cold humble pie. I dusted the snow from my legs... butt... back.... arms... and mumbled a few profanities as I put my microspikes back on.
Eventually the snow and ice disappeared...
And I found myself back at the bottom...
I left Boulder and stopped by Golden for a quick bite to eat. I had connected with the owner of Elevation Tat the day before and we had planned a short run. I typed in an address and it led me to a bearded guy in short shorts, stretching on a street corner. I parked the car and we started running through city... chit chatting about Elevation Tat. I told him it worked perfectly for the Grindstone 100!
At Grindstone, there was a moment when a runner kept telling me an aid station was at the top of a massive climb, but I didn't believe him because my tattoo said we had one more descent. Guess what? No heart break for this guy! Because of the tattoo, I didn't get my hopes up. It was a simple way to not have to think too hard about when the next aid station would be. An amazingly smart and effective product.
We soon left the city and headed out onto the singletrack.
"Are you afraid of heights?" Trent smiled.
We ran along a narrow concrete barrier that hugged the side of the mountain.
We eventually hopped in an old aqueduct that was built in the 1930s.
We climbed the fence to bypass a locked gate and continued to run along the old wooden aqueduct.
We navigated icy rocks and concrete until we reached the end.
This was by far one of the most unique trail runs I've done!
We headed under the road...
Through graffiti tunnels...
Before hitting neighborhoods that would take us back to where we started.
We wrapped up our run at the Golden City Brewery where we swapped stories over delicious ales. Trent has an absolutely amazing and inspiring story. He broke his back and was paralyzed, but never gave up, fought his way back and went on to finish the Leadville 100 last year. I get chills simply thinking about it. He's such genuine soul with a huge heart and an unbelievable amount of determination. We have extremely similar views on trail running and adventure. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share the trail and a few beers with him. Before parting ways, Trent ran upstairs and came back down with some VFuel and an Elevation Tat shirt!
I left Golden, picked up Steve and we headed to Tipsys World of Liquor to build our own sixer for after the race. The most overwhelming store ever. So. Much. Alcohol. So. Many. Choices. It took far too long to pick out my six beers... but not a single one disappointed.
Friday: Feb 13
Again I dropped Steve off before the sun and headed towards the mountains. I reached the parking lot atop of Mount Falcon just as the sun was rising. The only car in the lot. Perfect.
Silent and alone... something I hadn't experienced in quite some time...
I explored the snowy trails and eventually made my way to the Parmalee trail to head back to the trailhead.
The ridge was exposed to direct sun and yielded a perfectly groomed singletrack.
A few deer shot me curious glances but quickly went back to grazing.
I dipped back into the trees and was back running through the snow.
On the last snowy stretch back to the car, I stumbled across a pair of cheap, neon green "Hornito - drink responsibly" glasses that had been buried in the snow. Trail gift.
I showered up, picked up Steve from a meeting, and we headed off towards Moab.
We arrived at Eddie McStiffs a little too late to catch packet pickup. We headed to check into our room at the Lazy Lizard Hostel.
I had decided to pay the extra $6 to book us a private room instead of a bunk since we had to be up early for the race...
The extra $6 got us a very pretty pink room...
Saturday: Feb 14
We woke up earlier than we had originally planned since we missed packet pickup the night before. After a quick breakfast we found our way to the parking lot to grab our packets. We had to park and walk nearly a half a mile to get our packets. Luckily we caught a ride from a volunteer, but we still had to walk the half mile back to our car to drop off our swag. We put our packets in the car, grabbed our race supplies, and trekked back up to the starting line.
We met up with a few of Steve's friend for a quick picture and then fell in line behind the likes of Rob Krar, Darcy Africa, and Joe Grant.
It was a chilly morning when the race started, but I quickly heated up after the first climb. The flat dirt road made it hard not to start out at a quick pace.
Red Hot was not my typical type of race. I live for technical singletrack with lots of climbing. I knew this course would consist of a ton of sandy dirt roads and extremely hard slick rock, but it would give me a chance to see the canyon lands and desert in an adventurous way... so I was excited!
The vastness of the canyon lands is absolutely stunning. Moab is so open and untouched. It's still hard for me to wrap my head around it.
The weather was perfect... cool breeze, blue skies... running conditions don't get better than this.
We soon hit the slick rock...
We spent a lot of our time running on this cambered slick rock. In the past few months, I had battled some ITB issues... even had a DNS at the Lookout Mt 50 because I wanted to take the time to rebuild... so I was anxious to see if Dr. Beau's RAIL system had worked.
I found it hard to complain about the long dirt roads when I had the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop...
It was fun watching a group of Jeeps make their way through the slick rock course...
The better part of the 2nd half of the race was spent running sideways along the slick rock... yay.
We would run down...
And then we would make our way back up...
It was like running balds... except they weren't soft and grassy... they were rock.
And if we weren't running on the slick rock or an open dirt road... we were in sand.
I was over running the slick rock by mile 21, but as I approached the last descent I felt a little sad.
Maybe I was sad because I had initially planned on racing hard at Red Hot 55k, but in my heart I knew I needed to take advantage of the precious little time I had to play out West. So instead of completely wiping myself out at the race... I enjoyed myself and soaked up the experience. I felt solid all day... just a really fun day racing... meeting new people, seeing new scenery, and enjoying the warmth of the winter sun. I think the biggest win for me at Red Hot was the fact that I had ZERO ITB issues! This was the first ultra I've ever ran without having to wear knee straps. No pain... no tightness... I felt... normal. A HUUUUUUUUUUGE thanks to Dr. Beard at the FARM. Seriously couldn't have done it with out him.
We changed clothes, grabbed the cooler, and sat around cheering on the other finishers. When the sun started to fade, we headed back to the hostel to shower up for the after party at Eddie McStiffs. It's not always easy living the dirtbag running lifestyle... 5 star showers at the Lazy Lizard..
The after party consisted of plenty of beer and a short talk from Rob Krar. Krar is about as humble and chill as they come. I adore people like him.
After a few drinks at one of Steve's friends condos, we headed back to the hostel for some shut eye. Another take away from Red Hot 55k? I made an addition to my adventure rules.
Rule #8: always wear sunscreen when in the desert, canyon lands, or at altitude.
Please note the forehead. Awesome.
Sunday: Feb 15
We said goodbye to the Lazy Lizard and we set out for a hearty MacDonald's breakfast. After devouring hot cakes and coffee... we headed to check out some of Moab's finest features.
My legs were a little tight from the 55k and previous days of mountain running, so we decided to stretch them out with a jaunt out to the Delicate Arch.
Utah is absolutely breathtaking.
We were accompanied by a multitude of tourists and sightseers... but it still didn't take away from the sheer beauty of the rocks.
Delicate Arch was stunning.
My legs had loosened up quite a bit on the way out to the arches... so on the way back I pushed it a little harder. I passed tons of tourists heading to and from the arches... even Darcy Africa was out visiting the sites!
We wrapped up in Moab and took the scenic route back to Colorado.
Steve had pointed out Mt. Garfield on the way to Moab. He had ran it a few months back and said it was one of his favorite runs to date. It was 2 miles with 2000ft gain to reach the top... sounded like a blast to me! So of course we stopped... and like normal people... took G 7/10 Road... the road in between G 6/10 and G 8/10... silly fractions...
I immediately became excited the moment my feet hit the dirt.
The destination was the plateau in the top left corner...
It's really hard to put into perspective via pictures of how steep this trail really was...
I was in Heaven... aka... Colorado.
Steve gave me the ok to push ahead and head towards the summit... so I scurried, climbed and frolicked my way up to the first plateau.
I was brought to a stop multiple times by the picture perfect single track...
I eventually made it to the top and sat on the cliffs edge... savoring the moment.
This is why I run trails... for these precious, delicate moments.... moments of perfect clarity... complete freedom... moments where I'm living in the purest and simplest form.
A cold breeze snapped me out of the Zen state I was in and reminded me that I needed to hurry down... there was a winter storm brewing and we needed to get over the pass before it hit. Needless to say... blasting down Mt. Garfield was nothing short of exhilarating.
I must have looked like madman as I slipped, slid and laughed my way down the dusty single track. I was falling in love...
Covered in dust and sweat, I plopped down in the passenger seat of Steve's Mazda. I was glowing... like a little teenage girl that had just received her first kiss. Some of the glow probably was a literal glow... from my shiny ass, sun baked forehead... but you get the idea.
We started what should have been a 3hr drive to Denver. When we stopped in Vail for gas, there was already snow and ice all over the place! Being as I am addicted to candy... I hopped out of the car to get my fix from inside the gas station. It was 28 degrees. The people wrapped up in puffy down jackets and ski pants started giving me the "what the #@&! is wrong with this idiot" look. I was still in flip flops, short shorts and a t-shirt... hell... an hour ago I was gallivanting around shirtless in 68 degree weather!
After we left Vail, traffic started slowing and at times came to a complete stop. The roads were already icing and there was talk of shutting down the tunnel up ahead. I had a sinking feeling that this could be another Snowpocalypse.
The closer we got to the tunnel... the worse things got. People were sliding all over the road... crashing into guard rails... spinning tires. We slowly crept up the icy mountain roads... weaving in and out of cars...
Many, many, many hours later... thanks to Steve's amazing driving skills... we made it back and celebrated with cinnamon whiskey shots and brews.
Monday: Feb 16
Steve was off work, so we got a chance to sleep in a little. We were still up by 8am. We grabbed a quick breakfast and started making our way to Colorado Springs towards the Manitou Incline.
It was a grey, snowy day so we couldn't see the actual length of the incline... but to put it into perspective... here's a snowless picture...
And yes. I absolutely adore manpris. Judge me.
There were quite a few people making the trek up to the top. I started off without my spikes, but when the climb started taking a turn straight up... I took a minute to throw them on. The climb has a few sections where the grade is a ridiculous 68%... not to mention it climbs 2000ft in less than a mile.
Needless to say... it's a climb. But it's all about The Climb right Miley?!
I finally made it to the top. I wasn't quite sure where I needed to head from there... so I just continued along a thin trail heading upwards. I felt like I entered a completely different world... Narnia?
I took another right on a side trail that kept leading upwards. It was apparent that no one had been on that trail all morning, so I enjoyed making first tracks in the snow. I kept pushing upwards until I reached a rock cropping. The trail stopped and the snow was a little more than knee deep at this point, so I decided it was time to turn around and hopefully catch back up to Steve. I retraced my steps and headed back towards the incline. I finally saw the incline sign that I had missed on the way up. I connected with the Barr Trail and started the snowy descent back to the car.
I enjoyed every single step of my Barr descent...
My final run in Colorado was coming to an end. I breathed in the cold mountain air. I stood still... exhausted and hungry... but with a renewed spirit.
We made a quick pit stop at Pikes Peak Brewing Company to replenish. Beers and BBQ.
We spent our last night at Lacavore... toasting one amazing trip.
Tuesday: Feb 17
After sprinting across Denver International to catch my flight, I sat quietly in seat 8a. I wasn't ready to leave. I wanted to stay. I was dying to see Kati and Wobbles... but I wanted to be driving to see them in a small Colorado home... not flying back across the country. I've been out West a few times now... 2 years ago for the Leadville Silver Rush 50 and last year for the Bryce 100... but this was the first time I truly didn't want to leave. I love the South, but somewhere between the vast beauty of the canyon lands and the elevated, snow caped mountains... the West stole a big piece of my heart. Maybe one day I'll be blessed with an opportunity to live in the High Country... but until then... I will continue my love affair and visit her every chance I get.