LooseCrew-JeffO: Golden Leaf run


Ramblings of an adventurous guy living in Denver and playing in the mountains.
For my trail adventures, visit my Trail Bum blog

Monday, September 25, 2006

Golden Leaf run

I ran Golden Leaf. It was awesome!
The winter storm was still storming, so I threw on my studded snow tires and took off right after work.
Vail Pass was horrible. I'm surprised they didn't close I-70. Cars were going about 30mph. I zipped by at 55mph, but still 10mph slower than the speed limit.
Then the snow got so thick I could hardly see. So even I was going 30mph for awhile. But it cleared before I entered Glenwood Canyon.
It snowed sporadically the rest of the way.
I found a dark place to park 10 miles from Aspen, and slept in the back of my CRV. The coyotes were yapping outside and the snow kept coming down all night, but melting without accumulation. Everything was muddy.
Just a few miles from Aspen, there still wasn't any snow on the ground next to the road. I was thinking it would've been dumb to cancel the race.
I parked (no parking fees or tickets off-season) and took the shuttle to Snowmass Village.
The race director emailed me directions, but it was hard to decipher because I had no familiarity with the ski resorts. But once I picked up Government Trail with its race markers (black arrows on yellow backgrounds), I was better off. There was one spot where I went from markers every several hundred feet to about half a mile with no marker. So I actually backtracked about half a mile to make sure I had my bearings. Didn't need to backtrack that far, but missed two arrows. It didn't matter. I felt great, the scenery was totally amazing, and there wasn't a soul anywhere to be seen.

I was the first person out that day, in spite of the fact that there were at least 5 people, and probably more than that, who wanted to hike the trail in spite of the cancellation. But they started later.
I started immediately from the shuttle at the Pedestrian Mall and climbed up Wood Drive until it ended, and then onto a dirt road with light snow on it. This is what my emailed instructions said to do, but I found out later that the race didn't go up Wood. Wood was an alternate the race director emailed to us fools.

As I started up Wood, not yet sure it was the right street, I asked a guy on a morning walk what street I was on. He confirmed and asked what I was doing (I was obviously dressed for some serious stuff). When I told him I was running the cancelled race, he said I was (can't remember the exact euphemism) whacky or a loon. To which I said, "Yeah and this road ends in a circle, right?" in a run-on sentence because if I had a nickel for evey time someone said I was crazy I'd be able to race and train for free.

There was about 8 inches of powder on the trail. I learned last winter that even on tricky trails, you don't necessarily have to look down and don't necessarily have to see everything you step on. You have to use the right form, use those strong trail-runner stability muscles, and some trail-sense, to step without trouble. There are spots where I chose to walk to be totally safe, but generally, the whole trail was runnable.
There were nearly 500 registered runners. The snow held the water onto the trail. Even a hard rain wouldn't have produced as much water and mud. So if the race hadn't been cancelled, the trail would've been turned into a widened quagmire. A couple-dozen runners would be fine, but not 500. So it was probably a good call to cancel. The trail-runner in me said its ridiculous to cancel, "let's DO THIS!" But the environmentalist and pragmatist in me said it was definitely the right thing to do.

It was beautiful, peaceful, magical.
I felt like one of the billionaire Aspenites. Here I had this virgin snow on a trail that was all marked-out just for me. I surely appreciate all the work the volunteers put in. I hope they know their work wasn't totally for nothing.

Afterwards I talked to the folks at Ute Mountaineering and got my race packet with t-shirt.
Then I drove to Glenwood Springs, drank beer, and soaked in the hot pool for an hour. Then to a coffee shop for mint tea, wireless, quiche, then a brownie and ice cream (I know - lousy post-race - but the brownies had nuts in them, so it must be healthy).
A great Saturday! Good for my soul.


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