With the forecast for a beautiful fall day in the 70’s on Saturday, followed by a big snowstorm on Sunday, the time was right to get out and go for a long run. I had ideas to follow the tradition of running the number of miles to match my age (38), but bagged that after spending about an hour trying to map out a route that would work. What I really wanted to do was a destination run. Start from home, end up somewhere interesting. I’ve always done my long runs as loops or out-and-backs, and wanted to make this one a point-to-point adventure.
The route I chose would loosely follow one of my old stand-by training routes on the bike, ending up at the top of Lookout Mountain above the city of Golden (CO). I was a little nervous about this one. I knew the distance would be between 30-35 miles, which I felt I could handle. The part that had me worried is that I would be finishing with a 5 mile climb at an average grade of over 5%. Would it break me? I really didn’t want to end up walking that thing, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep a run going or not with so many miles to get there.
Google Earth view of Lookout Mountain
My goals were pretty simple. Finish. Run without taking any extended walk breaks. Make the climb in under an hour. My best time on the bike was 23 minutes, so it would be interesting to see how I would compare on foot.
I started running at 8:00am under a dusty blue sky with a gentle tailwind. This was nice! The miles passed steadily and I was feeling good. I ran all the hills I normally would walk on a long run and just kept a good pace going. I started to drag a bit after 15 miles and was startled by some cyclists that came up close behind me and started shouting at me to get out of the way. It was my buddies from my old cycling team – Tim, Rich, and Marty out for a ride. We had some good laughs and they rode along with me for about a half mile so we could shoot the bull for a bit before they took off. That really gave me a lift and I felt much better after that point. Interesting how a mental boost can have such a physical impact.
I stopped at a gas station in the town of Morrison (mile 18) to refill my pack with water. I also made short work of a king size package of peanut butter cups. That got me ready for the hard climb up through Red Rocks park. I left the road in favor of the rugged single track and was pleased at how well I climbed the steep parts. No stopping, no walking, just steady running.
After topping out, I crossed under I-70 and had a long descent to recover on. Things took a turn for the worse when my planned water stop at a park ended up with a dry fountain. I guess they’re already turned off for the winter. I didn’t like the idea of diverting from my route in search of water, and would just have to make do with what little I had left.
Shortly after that I came across a bull elk on the side of the path. He was munching some leaves on a fallen branch and wasn’t about to move for me. I got close and tried to shoo him away a bit for a lady waiting behind me with her dogs. When it stopped chewing, stared at me, and flared its nostrils – I took that as a sign to back up nice and slow… I finally just had to ease past it, coming within 15 feet, and go on my way.
I took one walk break at the base of the climb to ready myself for the final push. While I was walking, I saw another friend ride by. Dennis was out on his bike enjoying the day and we had a good chat. We would end up seeing each other a couple of times on the climb and finishing not too far apart.
I made a call to my wife to let her know I was about an hour from finishing, and hit the lap timer on my watch as I started the climb. It was hard, but thankfully I was feeling ok and knew I was going to make it alright. I watched my heart rate climb and tried to keep it under 170. The wind was pretty brutal in a few spots, slowing me down to a 14 minute pace. I knew I had to keep it under 13.5 to break an hour, so tried to make up time wherever I could. I started feeling better and better as I got closer to the top, and really sped up for the last mile with some Def Leppard blasting in my ears. It was a great way to finish!
I hit the top in 55 minutes for a 12:10 average. I’ll take it. Just a few minutes later my wife and girls showed up and it was so great to see them. I got cleaned up and we went out for a nice birthday dinner. Doesn’t get any better than that!
I took a picture every mile of the run and then put it together in a 30 second slide show.