July 14, 2016

Arriving after midnight from a flight from Carolina and driving to Tennessee Pass near Leadville, I ran 11 easy miles on the Colorado Trail/Colorado Divide Trail to shake out the cobwebs from my trip. Despite the run being a bit labored from jet lag and my body accommodating to the increased altitude, it felt so good being back in the mountains. I was thrilled to run on trails that I had not seen since the late 1970's when I cross-country skied the very same trails with my Brit roommate Bryan Lodge and our Norwegian friend Lars Larsen. Lars, an Olympic cross-country skier in his day and a survivor of becoming parapalegic from an auto accident was a climbing partner on Longs Peak as well as the person who really taught me how to skate on skis. Lars was also one of the architects of this very same Colorado Trail, which was only in its formative stages when we skied here last, still just a dream on paper. I have many stories to tell about Lars. It just felt so good to run the trails that Lars had designed for so many to enjoy.

After sleeping late at the La Plata trailhead I began my hike to the summit at about 0800. The parking lot was already quite full for a Wednesday. As I lay comfortably in my rented Forerunner I could hear various folks heading out from 0430 onward. At 39 degrees under pure sunshine and perfect weather forecast there seemed no need to rise earlier for the start, choosing to rest a bit more instead of charging into a round-trip climb of less than ten miles.

After crossing some private property and a bridge over a nice chasm of gushing water the trail tilted up over log steps that were built for erosion control. Catching up to two charming climbers from the Front Range - Maricarmen and Sara - I didn't dally too long before continuing at a tempo that would give me a training effect. My plan was to climb a couple fourteeners at the outset in an eleventh hour sharpening effort in preparation for my upcoming 100K in North Park. I put my quads, hammies, and lungs to the test right away. Aside from a calorie deficit and still being jet-lagged, all systems seemed good. Stopping to socialize on the up-climb spelled me enough that I didn't get exhausted.

It is always the people that I remember when the climb is over and I think back. Smiles stick with me longer than rocks and pretty views. There was a family with two boys under the age of 6 making their way gradually to the top; then another couple enjoying the climb with their teenage daughter Abby. As I approached the top I slowed to enjoy society a bit more. The girls I met near the bottom followed me up and we all enjoyed each others' company on the summit. After group pictures and some pure delightful nonsense, everyone turned back down hill under continued sunshine with no hint of foul weather. I paused to eat a bit first as I was famished, starved for calories. Breakfast on top.

Even with boots on it is always easier on my knees and back to "run" back down from the top of mountains. Bidding adieu to eveyone I made haste for the bottom. There is always some scree surfing and talus tipping, but by and large the run down was a smooth shuffle back down, again, all in the spirit of training - to get my quads used to the pounding they would soon be required to undergo at upcoming events. It was 73 degrees and hot by the time I returned to the parking lot. None the worse for wear, I felt good. The climb the next day would let me know just where I stood with training. Nice mountain, nice people, no exposure, good walk-up to begin my running vacation.

Abby and her mom, Sara, moi, and Maricarmen on top

Abby and her parents on top

Climbing La Plata Peak 
Elevation:  14,336'      Gain:  4500'      RT:  9.25M

Sara and Maricarmen