Thursday, December 22, 2011

Argos's Gear Blog: Part Deux

Hey guys it's me, Argos, again! Momma said I could write another gear review blog (she's typing of course). Momma surprised me the other day with a brand spankin' new RuffWear Pack for an early Birthday/Christmas gift. I'll be three years old in three days! Momma says I'm a "big boy" even though she still calls me her "Little Man".

The other day I saw Momma folding my pack into a box and sealing it shut. I threw a complete whining fit trying to figure out what this all meant. Where is my pack going? Why wasn't she putting it on me to go for a run? Does this mean no more runs ever?!? She finally explained it all to me and then I was ok with it, though it did sadden me a little to part with the pack.

A hot chick named Cierra is now wearing my RuffWear Pack and wow-zah is she a spicy cat in that pack!

Anyways, we went to The Green Paw  (I love Sunnie & Alex) where my dried dog food comes from and tried on all sorts of packs. Momma cinched straps and tugged on me, and had me walk around (momma asked me not to pee on anything, which is irritating because I never peed on anything inside before. Ok there was this one time...) before she tugged on me some more. It was exhausting; I just wanted to sniff the other dogs and play. Daddy sympathized with me and told me all women are like this while shopping. 

Next thing I know we are walking out of the store with a brand new RuffWear Approach pack! Momma said I looked handsome and Daddy agreed. 

Today Momma picked up my pack and I knew it was time for a run!! YES!! She loaded me into the car and off we went!

When the back hatch opened I saw we were at Mount Galbraith and it was really overcast. I saw a huge pile of snow and headed right for it but Momma caught me in time to slip the pack over my head and leash me up.  Off we went, down the trail! There was only one car in the lot so after we got within a decent distance from the trailhead, Momma slipped the leash off and I got to prance around in the snow. It was about 30 degrees out and starting to snow big fluffy flakes. Snow is my favorite!

There are just a few differences between my old pack and my new one. I feel they have improved the pack but only by small margins. Hey when you have a near perfect pack, why change much?!

1. There are webbing loops on the top sides of each bag. What would Momma clip to these? She has no idea...but they are kinda tacti-cool.
2. The heavy-duty zippers are now weatherproof/seam sealed instead of a flap that covers the zipper. Time will tell if mud and gunk booger up the zipper or if this is an improvement.
3. The bags themselves are more "aerodynamic" and smaller, hugging them to my body better. They are made out of stiffer material (unless my old pack just lost stiffness over use, I can't remember) that keep the form of the bag better. This prevents "bag bounce".
4. The underside of each bag has a small loopie thingie that the chest strap threads through to, again, hold the pack tighter to the body to stop bag bounce. Momma said this was a great idea and thinks if she had the old pack still she would have sewn a bit of heavy duty elastic or loop on the bags for the same effect.

5. The D-ring on top is a bit sturdier.
6. The chest strap, where it makes a "Y" binding the neck to the underbelly strap (connecting the straps that go behind my armpits), is well constructed with a touch of elastic.
7. The underbelly and armpit straps are thicker (a touch more padding- not sure if this makes a big difference but it looks nice) and has a small patch of velcro on it. This adheres to the webbing so the padding doesn't slosh around and rub. This is very nice BUT Momma says it is a "Pain in the A**" (I'm not allowed to say that word or the few others she mumbled when sizing the pack to me) when it comes to adjusting the straps to fit. The velcro kept sticking, making it hard to adjust the straps. Once they were in place with a perfect fit, however, it is nice to not have it move around.

The sun was starting to set. Look at how reflective I am in the camera flash!

The pack fit both of my water bottles with a bit of room to spare. We tried out the SingleTrack Pack but
A) saw there were a TON of reviewers who were disgusted with the pack and how much it moved around/un-cinched while hiking. They had to stop quite frequently to tighten up the straps that had come undone. Not cool and would become quickly irritating for me during a run, not to mention probability of rubbing if not paid close attention to.
B) Had way too little room for Momma's likes. They fit the water bottle just barely. What if I were to go on a longer hike would I need several different packs for each activity? I didn't see a problem with that, but Momma said "At $80-$125 a pack: No Way."

We also tried out the Palisades Pack. Momma really liked this one a lot, however after much contemplation (and me trying it on a few dozen times) she decided the Approach pack was the right fit overall. The Palisades pack was cool because: 
A) bags were big, but not too big. Would come in handy during camping trips.
B) Load compression system, another way to cinch up.
C) The outer pack (with bags) had a quick-attach/detach system that allowed Momma to quickly take off the saddle bags from my back, while a neat harness remained on my body. This would have been cool (Momma said) for an impromptu swim or when I got tired. She could remove the pack but leave a harness that still had a handle attached and a D-ring. The attachment points were fast buckles and easy to clip to the pack.

In the end, Momma said she really couldn't justify spending $125 for the Palisades pack when there really wasn't a significant need for the bells and whistles. She didn't think she would really utilize the buckle system, it was just a cool idea. The bladder that came with the pack was just okay, she preferred the bottles so she didn't have to carry a collapsable bowl. It was also a touch too big and significantly heavier for running compared to the Approach Pack. 

The Approach Pack fit great (I got a Large for my notoriously deep German Shepherd chest). I romped and played in the snow and ran with Momma today. It was so much FUN!

Excitement on Mount Galbraith

Today's Mount Galbraith run was both exhilarating and a touch more drama than I had intended. I had run some errands during the day that I lost track of time. By the time I headed out for a run with the pup I hadn't even glanced at the clock.

The sky was dreary and gray with warnings of oncoming snowfall. For most, this type of sky coaxes people back inside to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and a book (I am one of those tempted to do such things). But today I found an absolute beauty in the weather. The trailhead was void of cars except one, the silence in the air was deafening, and big full flakes of snow started to fall in slow motion.

I strapped Argos's new pack on him and we started up the mountain, footsteps light and dancing. It didn't take long to realize I needed my Kahtoola spikes. They were amazing, as always, and I felt like I had superpowers as I gripped into the side of trails and hammered my way through the ice and snow. I didn't slip once. I wondered if I could climb a wall with these things! By far the best $60 I've spent in a long time.

I cruised up the mountain and came to the "four corners" junction in no time. I turned right and headed up the mountain further. At this point I realized the sky was quite a bit darker than just a few short minutes before. I glanced down at my watch and realized it was 1630. Woops! I debated for a minute whether or not to just turn around and head back or burn some fuel tearing up the trail double speed. I half-hazardly decided to keep going. This was not the brightest choice as I found out a little bit later.

As the sky darkened and the snow started to fall faster, I thought about how quickly the sun sets now with the time change and how terribly I miscalculated my run. About this time I also realized I had completely forgotten to pack my headlamp. Not smart...

I knew I had enough clothes on and food with me, and I knew the mountain well enough that I could get off and into civilization even if I had to hike it; eventually I would get back to my car without physical discomfort. No problema. The "problema" I encountered is the fact that just the day before I started reading a book called "The Beast In the Garden" by David Burton:

This wonderful tale is about those lovely furry creatures we call Mountain Lions that slink stealthily through our Colorado mountains. The book mainly discusses the lions that inhabit the Front Range/Foothills...i.e. where I run. 

A quick description from
The true tale of an edenic Rocky Mountain town and what transpired when a predatory species returned to its ancestral home.

When, in the late 1980s, residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their yards, it became clear that the cats had repopulated the land after decades of persecution. Here, in a riveting environmental fable that recalls Peter Benchley's thriller Jaws, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles Boulder's effort to coexist with its new neighbors. A parable for our times, The Beast in the Garden is a scientific detective story and a real-life drama, a tragic tale of the struggle between two highly evolved predators: man and beast.

The book opens by describing the search for a lost jogger on one of the local trails. They find the jogger, or should I say his remains as his entire torso was gutted and devoured. The "criminal" was spotted just a few yards away quietly watching the search and rescue team discover the body. The criminal was identified by the human heart dug out from the large cat's stomach...


So here I am, running in the the Front Range Mountains, and it's now dusk. Dusk, I have been informed by the book, is prime noshing time for the mountain lions. 

Double awesome.

As a child, my imagination was legendary. Stick me in my backyard full of trees and suddenly I transformed into Sheena, the Warrior Princess. A swimming pool? Now a mermaid, undiscovered by man but sure to make them swoon if they saw me, transfixed by my magical powers. Sometimes my imaginary world seemed so true that I would talk to my parents about my escapades as if they really happened. "Today I was running through the woods and a handful of really bad guys were chasing me so I flew up into the air and jumped from tree to tree. They tried to fly after me but I was too fast!"

Yeah, not much has changed over the years. 

So, running (or do I call it sprinting) around the face of the mountain in desperate attempt to get back to the car before pitch dark hits, I now begin to feel my imagination erupting full force from the depths of my mind. I try really hard to not think of the book and how the cats like to stalk their prey before they pounce, aiming for the neck and spine. That running, to a lion, stimulates their instinct to chase (like a mouse's fleeing movements to a house cat). I stay alert to Argos's body language and feel a flutter of adrenaline tickle my gut every single time he even slightly glances off the trail to bushes beyond. Argos seems entirely too happy to be out in the dark, prancing about in the snow and wilderness, totally oblivious to the dark thoughts I am having. 

I finally have to stop, catch my breath, bent over with my hands upon my knees, and take a long second to think things through to calm my overactive cognition. "I'm totally fine," I tell myself.

I have my cell phone for light, if I absolutely need it, and that I am not nearly as far from the car as my imagination would have me believe. I remind myself exactly how frequently I used to do night runs and this entire panic-state I have wound myself into is all due to a book! Ok. I reset my internal thoughts and come to a conclusion. If I haul ass for the next twenty minutes I will make it with just enough light. And haul ass I do. 

The light fades every second and soon I am having a hard time seeing the trail's rocks and ruts under the slight shimmer of the snow. I curse my unpreparedness and I turn to Argos for help. I closely watch his body as we run to determine where and how to step. It's amazing how much in tune I am with his body language. As he gracefully lifts his legs a bit higher to avoid a rock, I do the same. He skirts left around a tree root or rock step, so do I. Soon enough I realize we are in synch and I am doing my damnedest to keep up with him. He seems to understand this and doesn't sprint ahead like he enjoys doing, but stays just within a few feet ahead of me, showing me the way. 

About 2/3rds of a mile away from the car we pass a young girl coming up the mountain with her dog. For some reason this brings me joy to see another human and lessens my anxiety. After I pass her I think, "what the heck is she doing heading out now, in weather like this, and dressed like that?!" She was dressed very lightly and not what I would consider "outdoor appropriate" attire. Odd. Really really odd. 

We continue down the last stretch of trail and cruise into the parking lot. This is exactly how I saw the car...without a single source of light.

and with the help of the camera flash...

As soon as I got home I stuffed not one, but two headlamps into my pack. For sure.

On a side note, the book so far is excellent...just not recommended reading right before an evening trail run.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Argos's Gear Blog

Hundewanderer sent me an email the other day which inspired a blogpost. She asked, "what backpack does Argos wear when you go out?" I'm surprised I hadn't covered this vital information already!

***Please note, if you chose to put a pack on your dog, no matter what- after every single run/hike with that pack make sure after you take it off you do a thorough pat down and check your dog for any signs of rubbing or sores. The pack may adjust during the run and rub your dog under his armpit or elsewhere and cause open sores. It is your job to check each and every time of use to make sure you aren't causing harm to your pup. It may be a simple thing of adjusting the fleece sheath, choosing a smaller or larger size pack, or putting some balm on their skin. Also do not overload the pack and hurt your dog's hips and back! Do not ignore this responsibility, your pup will thank you for it and be more eager to wear a pack if you make it comfortable for him.***

So, here it goes (in Argos's own words):

I wear an old model Approach Pack from Ruff Wear. I highly recommend this company and especially their packs for these reasons:

Yeah, I'd say I'm a dog on the go.

1. Extremely durable. How durable you may ask? This pack is several years old and has yet to show it's wear. No holes, no rips, not even a scuff mark. This pack was Momma's previous dog's pack (Jinx, a female German Shepherd) and between Jinx and I this pack has seen a few fourteeners, has scrambled over, under, and through rough boulders. It has gone through severe mucky mud, been swam in multiple times (I LOVE water), and has spent countless hours in the sun without fading color and becoming brittle. The webbing under my belly and chest has remained intact without a single fray. Momma has laundered the pack a handful of times (no dryer) after scooping out sand, grit, and mud from the insides. Also there are two fleece/flannel type of sheaths that cover my belly and armpit area of the webbing to protect my fine haired spots. These too are in perfect shape even though this area usually gets the worst of the muck collection as I run (hey I'm a frisky pup, what can I say?)

The bag has reflective piping making me look really badass at night, and helps momma find me.
Also, the bag's zippers are rough and tough with a well-thought out flap that folds over the zipper to prevent crud from boogering it up.

2. Fits snug without rubbing and causing friction burns. Many people feel bad for cinching their dog's packs "too tightly", wanting the pack to fit loose on their dog for comfort. They don't realize that packs need to fit snug- with ability to fit two fingers between pack strap and dog- so that the bag doesn't bounce and slide around on us. This hurts! Take a regular backpack for humans, put it on yourself and leave the straps loose. Put two water or Nalgene bottles in it. Now take a quick jog around the neighborhood, really pump your arms and sprint it out.  Feel that horrible bounce? Now imagine doing that for an hour or so, not to mention the hundreds of times we dogs bounce over things, climb, scamper, and slide around in the snow. Think of the chaffing that would happen...not cool.  Cinch up the straps closer to your body tight and take another quick jog. Better? Yep. That's how it feels on us. You want to cinch it tight enough so nothing bounces around, yet doesn't hinder your pups' breathing. Make sure that belly strap is where it needs to be- at the belly, not around our chest where our lungs need to expand.

**this older pack has more "bounce" to it's panniers. Momma has to be careful what she puts into my pack because there is nothing to cinch down the actual bags which are kind of large. The new approach pack has smaller more aerodynamic bags that hold the pack closer to the pup's body. This is especially good for going through obstacles, or when we get curious diving into brush while not having to worry about getting dangerously snagged.

3. Able to carry just enough stuff without weighing me down. Momma puts two Gulpy bottles in my pack (one in each bag) so that I can carry my own stuff.

I also carry my own poop bags. Occasionally Momma will stick her jacket in there or winter spikes. I don't mind helping out. Also, when I was just little, Momma waited til I was at least 6 months old (when my growth plates were fused) to put the pack on me, completely empty at first of course. That way I got used to it and ran around the yard with it on whenever we were out. Now it comes second nature and I know when Momma grabs that pack it's time to play!!! I love my pack!

4. Has a soft sturdy handle on my upper back for Momma to grab ahold of in emergencies or to help me scramble big boulders. Momma uses this quite a bit. Sometimes we climb over big stuff and her legs are a lot longer than mine so when I'm scared and whine she'll grab ahold of my handle and help boost me over difficult obstacles. Then I will yip sharply to tell her how happy and excited I am! Other times, when I am off leash and another dog or person comes into our view unexpectedly, she'll hold me with this handle to keep me still without grabbing my collar. I have been trained that when she holds onto my thick leather collar, that is giving me permission to pull on it. It is part of my protection training- she has control over me but I can bark and snarl ferociously at bad people without fear of being reprimanded. Finally, she'll sometimes take off my pack after a very long hard run to give me a break. She uses a beaner to snap onto that handle (or there is also a light D-ring above the handle) to attach it to her own pack. 

Momma also puts a cool Road-ID (see the left side of Momma's blog to click on their link!) on my pack just in case we are separated. Yes, I am chipped and tattooed but you can never have too many identifiers to make it easier for those locating me right?

So there it is straight from Argos's mouth (I typed since that whole lack of opposable thumb thing).  I really like the new packs Ruff Wear has come up with and even like the Palisades pack for long distance hiking, allowing you to carry food and water. The Approach pack serves our needs the best for it's slim line, small bag size, especially for running. The Singletrack looks great, but I would have to try it on him to see if the Gulpy bottles would fit. I don't like the idea of the platypus bladders since I would also need to carry a collapsable bowl.

One thing about Gulpy: I love these bottles. They are super convenient and just handy-dandy. Love them. However, I have had a few issues with them. They are not very durable, especially if you drop them on hard surfaces. Even just one time...

I eventually had to throw out one of the reservoirs because it became so cracked.

I contacted Gulpy about this issue and they responded that they have since revamped their product to be more sturdy. I was promised two new bottles to replace my damaged products, however I have yet to get them. I am not a fan of people/companies that promise you things and then don't deliver. They also said they are also working on a third upgrade to these bottles to make them even better, again promised a proto-type but haven't heard from them in months. I was really hoping to do a blog on their new product so I could gush about them even more. I'll send them a final "poke" and we'll see what happens.

Any other questions? Feel free to ask me or Argos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Warm Weather Run Along the Hogback

It broke into the high 50's today with the sun shining and a few clouds in the distance. I had to get outside! Pup and I went over to Matthew Winters Park and did the 7 mile loop starting from the trailhead: along Red Rocks Trail up Morrison Slide, continue onto Red Rocks Trail (south) to Dakota Ridge. Followed Dakota Ridge all the way up along Hogback and back down to the trailhead parking lot. I let little man play in the creek by the bridge when we got back. His reward for running hard core with me.

I wished I had the balls to decently ask this guy for his picture, but I wasn't sure if he could stop! He was impressive: a complete AKA (Above the Knee Amputation) who had a cool looking prosthetic and was hauling ass on his mountain bike. The prosthetic (which appeared to go all the way to his hip) looked like two simple bars of metal- one for his thigh and one for his calf and all clipped into a pedal. I love seeing guys like him, working around his disability and living life to its fullest. I am ashamed of myself some days when I moan about how hard or difficult some things are...seriously? This is being burned permanently inside my head for those pep talks I sometimes give myself during races/running. I know, for sure, if I ever lost a limb I would get a wicked looking prosthetic that would make full-limb peeps jealous and keep on running up these mountains!

 Yeah, I'm climbing that!

 Seriously fun and hard trail to run!

 What the heck? Where is this mysterious shooting range?! I must know?! BYOG? Count me in!


At home I made some Spiced Orange Chai Concentrate from FoodiewithFamily. OMG it's delish and to be frank, I am a chai snob. This recipe is too sweet for my delicate taste buds so I would cut down on the sugar next time, or leave it out all together and sweeten each serving as I reheat it. 

My simplified version:
4 1/2 c. water
1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger root, (2-4") chunked
8 whole cardamom pods
2 whole star anise pods
10 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
half orange, sliced (unpeeled)
10 black or green tea bags (I used black- English Breakfast or Assam)
1/2 Cup raw sugar
1 Tbs. Honey
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Instructions: Bring water to boil, add spices and tea. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes. Strain, add sugar through vanilla and store chilled in a large jar up to a month. 

To serve: Mix 1:1 milk to Chai. May reheat or serve chilled. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chilly Cheeks

My truck registered 32 chilly degrees at the trail head of Gudy Gaskill today. I have been battling a nasty sinus infection over the weekend so hadn't run since Friday (treadmill). Cowboy has been absolutely fabulous taking care and pampering me. It's been nice.

Early morning over the weekend I came home from work and felt absolutely miserable. Throat sore, sinus pressure making my head feel like it was in a vice, and overall aches. I curled up on the couch and pulled the largest fluffiest blanket I could find completely over me and, to the pup's dismay, promptly checked out of the world in a deep slumber. I awoke when Cowboy got home and gently peeled a corner back from my "blanket pod" while softly planting kisses on my forehead and neck. I love when he wakes me up like that. I mumbled something unintelligible (he had already been alerted to me not feeling well during the night via text). He whispered for me to go back to sleep and he would make me some breakfast. A bit later the aroma of french toast met my nose as I slowly, exposing only inches of skin at a time, emerged from my cocoon. He had made not only French toast, but Eggnog French Toast. Wow...and YUM.

Throughout the weekend, with his continued pampering of hot tea runs, kleenex, and movie dates in bed, I felt better quicker than I've ever beat a cold before (well, that and the swig of apple pie moonshine I managed to score). I even felt good enough to join him for his teaching of a Concealed Carry class down at the gun shop. There were a few women in the class and he wanted me to be able to lend my expertise if needed. I had brought my book to read off to the side as he taught but by the end of the night I had read only two pages. I love watching and listening to him teach; he is such an entertaining speaker. By the way, if you live in the area and are looking to get your CCW, he's offering a huge discount for the holiday months of $100 for the four hour class. Check out his website for more info.

Anyways, the weekend over and feeling much better, I headed out for a short 3 mile run just to get the muscles warm and joints moving. I needed to loosen up all the mucous in my head too and give my lungs a bit of a workout. I bundled up extra warm since I knew, being sick and all, I was going to be cooler than normal. I even wore my smartwool neck gator pulled up over my face to keep the air moist and warm.

It proved to be a perfect combination of clothes and movement for I warmed up quickly and my lungs felt really good with the neck gator. Argos was excited to be out and it did me good to do a short sprint up the mountain and back. Argos even got to run among three horses, cowering just a touch as he realized he was no longer the "big man" of the crowd. The horses paid him no mind though as he wound around their feet, chasing the three other dogs the riders had along with them.

Glad to be feeling better...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fun at The Bear

Today I am thankful for hot showers!

Pup and I headed out for a chilly run at Lair O' the Bear to chase the blues away. Leaving home my thermometer said 43 degrees and sunny, however once we arrived at the trail head it was a chilly 34 degrees with a very slight breeze. Brrr! Ask me how cold this is in a few months and I'll probably shrug it off but during these months that are 30-40's and chilly one day followed by a day or two of 50-60 degree temps, my body never seems to be able to adjust quickly. It's in an "in-between" stage and confused, I think. If I layer with shirt and sweater I sweat, if I take off the sweater for a long sleeve shirt I freeze...I just can't get it right til it becomes full blown winter. For now, I enjoy lounging around the house in a t-shirt, sweatshirt, and super fuzzy pj pants!

Dressed in CW-X 3/4 tights, a long sleeved wicking shirt, and a light weight wind jacket we set off down the trail. I had preemptively shoved a set of hot hands in the ta-tas to keep the core warm and I immediately slid on my windstopper gloves when the breeze reached my slender fingers. A smartwool cap was in my pack just in case.

Lair O' the Bear parking lot was relatively empty and, looking back, I only passed one mountain biker on my way back down to the car. For the most part I had the entire park to myself! The first mile was pretty icy alongside the creek. I was shivering slightly but knew as soon as I got moving steadily I would warm. I had packed my Kahtoola microspikes in Argos' pack (what a nice pup to carry those for me!) and I found myself slipping them on within the first few hundred feet. What an amazing difference, holy cow. I have had only a small handful of times I have gotten to use them since purchasing them at the tail end of last winter. I had forgotten how great these spikes were. As an avid (previous) user of Yak Trax I can tell you with an honest loving heart to go toss those crappy Yak Trax in the trash and buy yourself some Kahtoolas.

The microspikes dug effortlessly into the snow crusted ice and clung as if I were climbing up the face of a mountain. I had no fear of falling but made sure to lift my legs a little extra to clear the spikes from their grip. It was awesome and I didn't have to adjust my pace or speed as I cruised through the mile-ish of treacherous ice. After we started to climb, the ground cleared up with a few very short icy patches along the switchbacks, I shed my wind jacket, and replaced the spikes back into the pup's pack.

He was full of energy and pounced, scrambled, slid, and bounced along the trail and into every single snow patch he could find. I hadn't been able to get him out the last few days for a run and it was showing. He was happy to be out. In fact, he did the entire 10.25 miles with me without slowing down and falling behind! This just reiterates to me he needs this as much as I do.

We made it up to Panorama Point, swung back around and continued on Bear Creek Trail until we connected with Meadowview Trail. At this point I realized it was getting close to having to get my butt to work so I took a very longing look forward and turned back around. I left the spikes off at the end and just practiced quick delicate stepping with a continuous forward motion across the ice. I did just fine.

Back at the car, I climbed in and looked down at the dash clock. What the heck?! And then I realized that I had forgotten to take my watch off Daylight Saving Time and it was really an hour earlier than I had thought. Dang it, I totally had time for a longer run! Oh well, I decided, I shall take an extra long shower and pamper myself today.

On the way home my sweat soaked shirt started to chill and I was shivering. Heated seats on (sigh, I give thanks for those too) and heat blasting I finally got home, grabbed a bowl full of homemade yogurt with fruit and nut muesli, and bee-lined for the shower. The hot steam and water hitting my chilled body was one of THE best feelings ever. For that, I was oh so grateful!

I slipped into bed with my honey for a quick nap before work and, as I began to doze, heard the pup on his bed snorting out soft dreamy barks in his sleep.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Much Needed Camping Trip

Sunday, Cowboy and I headed to the base of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive for an overdue camping trip. We drove up Halfmoon Creek Rd just passed Leadville until it became a 4-wheel drive trail. Kicking the 4Runner (man I love this vehicle) into 4-lo we kept going on the rugged single track. We picked out a campsite right near the creek nestled between the two mountains. It was magnificent.

Tonight's dinner: Foil packet dijon chicken, Rice-a-Roni mixed with chicken kielbasa, and toasted marshmallows with hot cocoa. 

The area was almost completely void of other campers so Argos was free to roam and frolic as he wished. He LOVED the water and would play for hours in it, dunking his ball in the water, chasing sticks, and just swimming in circles against the current.

We spent our days lounging, reading, napping, and hiking. It was perfect.

 What a handsome boy.

 I love my life.

 We hiked to a really cool waterfall 

 We nicknamed this "Elephant Butt Rock" 

 How's the view from your bedroom?

Tuesday we hiked Mt. Massive. I had been wanting to run both Mt. Elbert (monday) and Mt. Massive (tuesday) but the weather was being unpredictable- drizzling, temps down to 20's-30's in the morning and evening, and thunderclouds rolling overhead in waves. Between the thunder there were long periods of sun and warmth. It didn't affect our activities down at our campsite but at 14,000' I didn't want to take the risk of getting zapped. Hindsight: I'm glad the way things turned out. It was nice to hike and chat and be together. The running of the two fourteeners will be on my to-do list for next season!

 Memorial for soldiers who died in a crash during training. 

 Cowboy: "Holy crap we're going all the way up there?!"

 Click pic to enlarge: there's a cool lake across there, nestled into the mountain. It's so blue-green and although it was a little chilly on the mtn, I wanted to dive into that lake!!

 Argos had found a little mud puddle which he played in then promptly laid down and took a nap while waiting for Cowboy to catch up.

I thought this mountain face was cool- looked like some big monster had taken his nails and carved a claw through the side of it.

"CHIRP" says the marmot.

Cowboy had to be back to work that night so he decided to turn around and head back down, "you keep going." He said to me, "Try to reach the summit and you'll catch up to me on the way down." So I left him with the already pooped pup and I ran ahead to see how far I could get.

The 14er book I owned stated the trail we had chosen was only 5.8miles round trip. Either the book was horribly wrong, my GPS was completely off, or we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on a different path...

At nearly 6 miles up, I was still not at the top and had passed a gentleman hiker who told me I was a good 1-2hrs from the summit. WHAT?!?! I convinced myself for sure he was wrong as I could see I was nearly to the top of the trail. I gave myself 15 more minutes to then stop and re-evaluate my situation. Time was ticking by and I knew I had to head down soon. 15 minutes later I was closer to the top but still had a good bit of climbing to go. My boots (I had chosen hiking boots over my running shoes that day) were starting to rub me raw in the heel and my choice of Smartwool socks were causing my feet to sweat. Dang. I turned around and started running downhill to meet back up with Cowboy. I sure did have summit fever, but after making the choice to turn around I instantly knew it was the right one. 

As soon as I caught up with Cowboy he breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He told me how he had met the same hiker who had told him how far I was from reaching the summit. Afraid I was going to try to keep going, he had gotten worried about my safety and my being alone. It didn't give him a good feeling and obviously troubled Argos as he had utterly refused to continue down any further without me. He had sat his furry butt down and wouldn't budge. Cowboy gave me a huge hug as Argos danced happy circles around us and we all headed down together. It is good to feel loved!

We all piled back into the car, tired and soaked with sweat, and headed into Leadville for a bite to eat. A greasy but delightful meal later (I had the Philly cheesesteak with hot chicken veggie soup) at the Saloon and we continued our trip back into reality...out of the mountains and towards the city.

I used a new product this trip called wetfire firestarting packets. They turned out fabulous, are nicely compact, and I would recommend them. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rainbows, Unicorns, and Puppy Dog Kisses

I recall someone once telling me that a) prince charmings don't exist (this was followed with a snide "good luck finding yours") and b) life isn't rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dog kisses.

I disagree completely.

For one, I've definitely found my prince charming and I'm a lucky lucky girl. Second, right now life sure feels impossibly wonderful: like rainbows, unicorns, and even wet sloppy love-you-with-all-my-soul puppy dog kisses.

For once in my life I actually feel like I belong. I am doing everything that I love, I have a great job, my health is better than it has ever been both mentally and physically, and I have an amazing family and circle of friends. Life is fucking beautiful.

My trail runs have been increasingly satisfying. I have vowed to adventure out past my usual front range paths and into the mountains more, pushing my distance too. I want to explore all I can of this wonderful state. I am not above driving an hour for a good long mountain run. I feel so alive lately.

Sometimes mid-run I just stop.
And look around.

I take out my ear buds (which I've been wearing less and less of except on some high adrenaline downhills where I just want to rock it out and fly) and stand there in a hushed state. My brain literally buzzes with adrenaline as sweat drips down my face and off my chin, sometimes I can feel it dripping down my belly and sides soaking my shorts. Everything looks greener, brighter, happier. Shaking aspen trees, long grassy fields dotted with wildflowers, or snow-capped mountains; it all awes me. Sometimes there are elk, deer, fox, squirrels, birds, marmots, or coyotes watching me watch them. I take it all in and it makes me smile huge and be extremely thankful for the life I live. One day I won't be able to do this. I used to say "one day I might not..." but that is just silly talk. Sooner or later (hopefully much later rather than sooner) I truly will not be able to do this and that is a matter of life. Whether it be age, injury/accident, or disease, I won't always be in the health I am now and I can sort of accept this. For this reason I wish to do as much as I can now, to see all I can, so that when my "down time" happens I can look back at it all and know I have lived.

Two weeks ago Cowboy and I sold our television. It was a great feeling.

We never watch it except for a rare rental movie here and there. It's not even hooked up to any cable. We catch our news and a random movie on our computers so the tv just sat there in the corner of the living room taking up space. A lot of wasted space. We lounged on the couch one day in silence and just stared at the big rustic tv cabinet trying to make up our minds what to do with it. Within a few short minutes and a little apprehension we both came to the conclusion: let's get rid of it.

A week later we sold it on Craigslist, cabinet and all. In its place we purchased a large gorgeous bookcase with heavy sliding beehive glass doors. We moved our growing book collection from our smaller bookcase (which we thought was big at the time) into the large one and sighed with contentment. It was a beautiful thing we just did. If you didn't know, we both love books and I've been reading more lately than I have ever been (if you don't count my childhood in which my nose was literally stuck in a book 24/7). Along with that bookcase I've started collecting children's books. Who knows what the future holds...

Along with my trail running, I'm hitting the weights more and I'm getting back into eating healthier too. I started putting Chia seeds in my meals and shakes. My favorite quick go-to shake is simply pulpy orange juice, a scoop of vanilla whey powder, and a Tbsp. Chia seeds. It really quite delish- like a orangecicle. Hey I should try freezing this in a popcicle tray (note to self: need to put popcicle trays on my wish list).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mt. Evans- Finally Conquered

If you've been following my blog for awhile you might recall a post from last year, leaving a personal bone to pick with Mt. Evans. Left unconquered and un-summited, I had vowed to come back and finish that beast.

Well, Sunday proved to be the day to do it. Shortly after summiting Pike's Peak I emailed MtnRunner2 asking if he was up for it, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to resist. Muaahaahaa! Sure enough he replied the affirmative and we set plans for an adventure in just under two weeks.

We set off at 0530 for the hour long ride up to Echo Lake. On our way up the winding back road to the lake, we came around a sharp corner to see a doe standing in the middle of the road with two teeny tiny bambi fawns underneath her. They were both bucking their heads up into her belly to nurse. They stood there nursing from their momma as we came to a soft halt (cursing the fact that both of us left our cameras in the back of the car) to watch them. They startled and trotted off to the side of the road, the little ones bobbing their heads and ears twitching as they stared at us curiously. They were way too little to realize humans meant danger. It was a great start to our morning.

As we stepped out from the car at Echo Lake a cool dampness hit our exposed skin. A family of campers were huddled in hoodies and gloves around a Coleman stove. We both smiled as we set off onto Chicago Lakes Trail knowing it was perfect running weather!

We warmed up immediately, though both of us commented nearly at the same time how we felt sluggish with heavy legs. I just couldn't get into a groove. We still pressed forward, admiring the beauty of the morning around us.

Passed Chicago Lakes and headed up to Summit Lake. There were a couple of tenters around here just waking up and having their morning coffee. Mtnrunner2 and I both chatted about how camping along Chicago Lakes would be the perfect spot.

 Looking back down upon Chicago Lakes.

 Mountain Goats!!! (babies too)

We curved right (around the goats) and came upon Summit Lake. Summit Lake parking lot was buzzing with activity unloading hikers and bikers from cars. M. mentioned that the Colorado Initiative built a trail just down the road so we decided to opt out of the Mt. Evans trail (starting to swarm with hikers) and head up the road a bit. 

I'll never admit this out loud, but that flat(ish) road felt so good to my legs and feet. As a runner who had caught the trail bug a few years ago I had completely sworn off all running which involved pavement (except for the few triathlons I participated in a year). I hated road with a passion- not only did it hurt my body from head to toe but it was excruciatingly b-o-r-i-n-g. 

With the strenuous beastly climb of Chicago Lakes Trail, however, the road was singing a sweet, sweet tune to me that day. I almost had a change of heart. Almost.

***A good friend and trainer of mine often reminisces his painful ascent up Mt. Evans road as the hardest run he's ever done. We have this friendly teasing timed competition going on. Not to make light of his hard work and kick ass time up the mountain, however..... "T." Get off the road and onto trail and then you can call yourself a badass:) These are two way different animals***

We swerved off the road and headed up the C.I. Trail. Now the real fun began. This shit was steep and rocky. My quads were protesting immensely. 

 Almost to the true summit. 

At this point we were cresting over the ridge onto the Summit parking lot. Needless to say we received more than a handful of strange looks in our running garb and water bottles. M. stated he would've been rich if he had been paid for every time he was asked what he was training for (most people asked "Leadville"?) When we shook our heads and said, "No, just for the fun of it." People scrunched their noses in disbelief and distain gasping, "YOU ARE SO CRAZY."

 Remains of the Crest House.

Crest House 1950 (a fire gutted the insides)

 Summit Success!

Besides the typical rapid heart rate and breathing, I had no other issues with the altitude. However there is one mystery in which I cannot figure out. I handed my camera to a young man in a group of people to take my picture (M was off taking another couple's picture). After the man snapped a couple of pictures of me we got to talking and joking around. As M. rejoined me, I waved at the group, took a step back towards the trail, and realized I forgot to get my camera back from him. I headed back to the group and then noticed I had my camera tucked back into the little pouch of my chest pack right where it belongs. 

I had no recollection of taking my camera back from this guy or putting it in my pouch. None. Try as I might I couldn't squeeze even a flash of memory of this event. There was a big stark white blank where this memory should have been. Seriously it was kind of freaky. I talked to M about it and we both chalked it up to altitude. 

With that, we headed back down. Our intense climb up resulted in a part slide, part scree-ski down. It was literally like skiing. Turn and slide to the right, turn and slide to the left, repeat. It was a little slow going just for the sake of safety. At one point my shoe got caught mid-slide between two rocks and my body (minus my right foot) pitched forward. An adrenaline surge rushed through my body as I lurched forward until I felt the sharp tug of my shoe pinning me back down into place. I took a few breaths, re-righted myself, unstuck my foot, and let the adrenaline drain out from my muscles as I contemplated my near disaster. Granted not as stellar and epic as a fall off the sheer side of a mountain, but this would've been nasty and I could've guaranteed at least a little blood shed.  Once my heart returned back out of my throat to it's rightful place in my chest, I slowly picked my way back down to safer and smoother running ground. 

Cowboy decided to meet us (with the pup of course!) at Summit Lake on our way back down. He was our impromptu aid station and we were thrilled. We both had just run out of water and were discussing treating some water at the lake for a refill. Cowboy pulled out the 7 gallon spare water jug we keep in our car for emergencies and helpfully filled our bottles. Then we stood around and snacked on power bars, pb&j, and a Tanka bar. Argos was in hog heaven as he was positively sure that Cowboy had brought him here to run with us. Without a doubt he whinnied and pranced, sharp happy barks and tongue hanging out the side in a goofy grin. Poor guy. He moaned, shivered, and whined as he saw M and I take off without him. My heart sank.

Cowboy ended up letting him play in and around Summit Lake then brought him down to Echo Lake (where he would meet up with us) to run free for a bit. Argos was pooped by the time we met back up with him. Hindsight I probably could've taken him down with me at Summit but was afraid of having to keep him leashed to me at the still treacherous rocky downhill part to Chicago Lakes. He would've easily  maneuvered it, but I have found going downhill with a large excited leashed dog usually leads to me trying not to fall.

And people ask us why we choose to do this for fun? Times like that I wish I could just hand them a handful of my trail pics like this one.

We made it down in no time and it felt good again to open up on the downhills and cruise. I popped in some tunes and hopped like a kid over roots, ruts, and boulders. Mud splashed up on my legs and I even played in some snow. It was pure childish fun and I loved it. 

We had a large climb at the end of the trail back up to the Echo Lake campground. I was still giddy with play when I came upon a guy crouched down posing with his dog on a rock outcrop as a couple of his friends snapped a picture of him. He was just about to stand up when I said, "wait wait, one more!" and ran up beside him, slung my arm around him, and posed goofy as his buddy said, "got it!" and snapped another pic. I ran off waving as the group of them laughed and cheered. It is fun to be stupid silly some days. Maybe they'll delete the pic of this odd stinky girl who invaded their picture, but maybe they'll keep it and laugh about it years later. This crazy runner girl who made them laugh. 

M and I rounded the sidewalk of Echo Lake and finally reached Cowboy. High fives and grins all around. We were sweaty, stinky, muddy, out of breath, and still having a great time. I was ecstatic that I had finally FINALLY summited Mt. Evans and had some great company doing it. Although we both agreed that we felt sluggish throughout the run and our times could've been better, we relished in the beauty of the massive mountain, of the early morning start, and the fact that we were out sweating up a storm on a fabulous trail run. Thanks M for sharing today with me and getting my legs burnin'! Check out his post on the day here- his pictures are amazing.

I believe this is an 'Aspen Daisy'. LOVE IT!

Ya know. There's an old acquaintance of mine who moved here about 2 years ago. She hates Colorado. Hates it. I don't get it.

I really truly just don't get it.