Sketchy weather has been de rigeur here in Steamboat this spring, so it was really no surprise when last week's warm, sunny and dry weather gave way to this weekend's rain, snow and thunderstorms. Still, some of us had plans we didn't want to change. In my case, a long, fun adventure run in the mountains outside of Silverthorne, Colorado, with my partner in running, the talented Katy Taylor.
The original plan was to double loop Eccles Pass, around Buffalo Mountain, but the route would have taken us over 12,000' and the snow is still just too deep. Instead, under rainy/snowy/sunny skies, we decided to tackle the Mesa Cortina trail and link it up with the Gore Range Trail and do an out-and-back 30ish-miler.
We hit the trail head right around 8:00 a.m. and knew immediately we were in for a day that would entail wet feet. I wore Gore-Tex running shoes and gaiters to stave off wetness as long as possible. Air temperature swung from the mid 40s to high 50s throughout the day and the trade off between light snow and sun was just as prevalent. Starting in a high Silverthorne neighborhood, the Mesa Cortina trail rolls uphill for 2.7 miles through fairly dense pine tree and aspen stands and occasional meadows. The trail was extremely soggy in spots and between all the running water in the trail and the downed trees we had to climb over, the early pace was hardly a run. Evidence of a previous forest fire was evident along the entire trail (although the forest had bounced back nicely and a carpet of green plants was in full effect). We met up with Gore Range Trail (which actually runs 29.6 miles through Summit County) and ran 1.7 miles of gradual climbing to the next trail junction, Salmon Willow Trail. Here we did a 4 mile out-and-back jaunt, climbing up to about 11,000' to check out some alpine lakes. The views of Buffalo Mountain were spectacular once the clouds cleared. Already a couple hours into the run, we took a break here and ate and talked before heading back down to Gore Range again. Once back on the GRT we enjoyed a series of short uphill climbs followed by gradual descents as the next leg took us 5.3 miles further north to a junction with North Rock Creek Trail. The GRT was fairly technical in spots that would go one for a mile or two with tons of roots and round rocks to keep you "on your toes." Between these spots, you could find stretches of smooth, pine needle covered trail that went on equally long. Water crossings were abundant and the trail was super well maintained with many log bridges set up along the way. We made short stops periodically for photo ops and to eat or just take a breather. Both of us agreed that we could feel the altitude. Living and running at 7000' doesn't equate to running at 10,000'. The air was noticeably thin for the entire run and an eye opener for the altitude we would be enduring at Leadville.
We turned around at the junction after another short break to change socks and regroup. On the return run, we enjoyed going mostly downhill and clipped off the miles with relative ease and certainly faster than the way in. My only physical issue was tenderness in my right big toe from running in wet shoes, which showed up about 19 miles into the run. Other than that, my legs felt great and I could have easily run another 10 - 15 miles at that pace. Speaking of pace, we did well. Katy's goal at Leadville is to finish under 25 hours, which means maintaining a 15 min/mile pace for the entire day. Our pace for this 27.4 miles was 13:50 min/mile, which felt quite leisurely and I'm fairly sure we could have held onto it for 50 miles. Of course, it's the second 50 in the 100-miler that really test you and even with an hour-plus cushion I'm sure it will be hard to hold pace all night.
Overall, another amazing outing on a day that turned out to have many moments of raw, natural beauty as the weather went through it's many moods. Long runs can get lonely so it was a joy, again, to run with someone as fun and engaging as Katy to make the run even better. It hardly seems like work when you are laughing and cutting up the entire time you are out running (maybe THAT'S why we were so out of breath!). A great day of running sure has a lot in common with a powder day!
Oh, and as for the title...on the drive home, Katy tells me that it's Father's Day. Swears it is and tries calling her dad. We stop at a gas station and I decide to call my dad to wish him the same. When I do, he gives me this strange, "Ok." reply. Katy gets ahold of her old man a little ways down the road and he informs her that, no, it is NOT Father's Day yet. We have a huge laugh about it and I understand why my dad's reaction sounded so befuddled. He must have thought the long run made me crazy.