One of the many breath taking views along the way...
jIn order to start this post I need to take you a few years back. In 2004 I took my first trip ever to Colorado. I came in with Meg and her parents on a week long vacation. We were heading to this place called Estes Park. I remember landing in Denver, seeing the Flatirons, and driving up through the Big Thompson Canyon. As we drove into Estes and I took my first GOOD look at the Rockies and was hooked. All I could do was to imagine what I would do in this outdoor playground. I was truly blown away. I could not believe there were mountains like this. Of course...I felt I need to run it to fully experience it. Well...long story short I went on my first run the next morning like I was at sea level and quickly started my smack down on "no air". I was in love!!! Little did I know that EP was going to be my backyard a few years later.

Back to present day. Last weekend Meg and I did our "Sunday Hike in the Park" at Lawn Lake in RMNP. As we pulled into the parking lot I had a flash back to 2004. "I remember this road...this is the one I wanted to run!!!". It was the Old Trail Ridge Road. Starting at 8500 ft elevation and topping out at 11775 over a 10.5 mile dirt road. Like 2004 my thought was I need to run this monster!!!

Thursday evening rolls into Friday. Friday I text Swede and all it said was "Ready?". He knew what I meant as soon as I said it. We both were looking for good vert and good footing as we have a monster run next weekend. Bouncing back ideas my light bulb went off..OLD TRAIL RIDGE ROAD!!! I texted Swede and said I had it. In which he responds "uh oh". It was ON!!!

Swede and I agree that we we would sleep in and meet at 430 in Loveland. I know...sleeping in right. We start off on our drive up Big Thompson Canyon and I started to get flash backs again of the same drive in 2004.

Arriving at the parking lot there were a few people getting ready to pull all day hikes. We discussed our plans with each other in which they stated we were nuts...funny I was thinking the same about them. The sun was coming up, birds were singing, and Swede and I were off!!!

Now if you don't know this road it is 10.5 miles and averages at a 6% grade or what we call runnable. From the start my legs felt good. I was in the mindset to climb so I stated to push the tempo. Miles went by, vert numbers went up, and we had the road to ourselves. It was absolutely amazing. As I neared the top of the climb a tour jeep was taking a few people up. They looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. As the passed me I said good morning and asked how they were doing? One guy responded "better that you". In which I thought if you only knew...I was living my dream!!

Topping out at Trail Ridge Visitors Center I saw the same Jeep. They saw me coming and the same guy asked "are you man or machine?". Talk about getting me JACKED UP!!! We talked for a few minutes as they wanted to know what we were training for. I love the look and questions when my response is 100 mile trail runs. You know the deer in the headlights look and the "all at one time?" question. We were 10.5 miles in and standing at 11775 ft.

As Swede and I left the parking lot there was a trail crossing the road. We had no idea where it went but we knew we were going to find out. Needless to say if there is an adventure then we are on it.

As we hit the 14 mile mark we started talking about how far we wanted to go. Swede said lets go to 15 and make the turn. Since the run was such good footing thus far I felt we could make it in no time. Man was I wrong. We stated up the Mount Ida trail and it quickly turned ugly. Nice technical sections with quick steep inclines. At one point I am sure I called Swede something but I will plead the fifth on what that was. After a half mile or so the trail opened up to a beautiful wide open mountain and we were on perfect footing. When we hit more 15 we decided another .5 to make a full 50K for the day was not going to kill us.

When we made our turn point Swede and I stepped off the trail and just sat down. I have never heard true silence until then. It was absolutely still and so silent. I will never forget that lack of noise.

As we made our way back to Trail Ridge parking lot we were both ready for the 10.5 mile downhill. We made a quick stop at the Visitors Center in which we got the "what are these two fools doing?" looks. Don't mind us folks we are just running a 50K training run!!!

Leaving the parking lot I wanted to push my tempo to see what I had from mile 20.5 to 31. My first mile was 540 pace and stayed fairly quick on the way down. I ran the last 10.5 miles in 1:11. Not too shabby for that time of the run. Coming down the road I saw the same tour jeep. The driver told everyone over loud speaker that he saw us running earlier that morning. He asked everyone to cheer me on in which they did. That was a wild moment!!!

Finishing up I could not help to reflect again on 2004 and the journey that has happened over the past years. The many miles, events, and moves that put us where we are now. Sometimes looking back helps to see forward and appreciate the times even more so.

It was a great week of running for me. Finished at 105 miles and 18000 vertical gain. Tic Toc...Leadville and Wasatch are coming!!!

Next weekends run...all I can say is HOLD ON!!! It is going to be EPIC!!!

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