So, a few weeks before I left for Estes Park, I saw Ultra Runner Scott Jurek Tweet a photo of Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail. At the time I had no idea there was a loop trail, even though I had been climbing here before. After doing a little bit of research I decided to run the route clockwise, which turned out to be a mistake. The steepest section of the trail was about three of the last five miles. I would have been better taking the steep 1.5 mile ascent counter clockwise, to have a majority of the difficult trail sections on the downhill slope. Next time I return to Estes Park I will likely complete the run in this fashion.
Before I detail the run, I will say there are LOTS of pictures in the RunKeeper data. In effort to save time, I’m going to send you to my RunKeeper profile rather than saving pictures and re-posting here. This post is also a few weeks late. Things have just been so incredibly busy with Bearded Brothers. One of my 2012 goals was to blog more, but I have fell short at meeting that goal, but there is still time to improve on that. Also, I have started training for the Cactus Rose 50 Miler, a 50 mile Ultra Marathon! You may call me crazy, but I can’t seem to get away from the crazy people running these races, so I decided to join them!
The first two miles of the trail are the most scenic, also known as Black Canyon Trail. This trail runs alongside the infamous Lumpy Ridge rock formations, that are a popular destination for rock climbers. This particular section of the trail is relatively flat, but slightly downhill aside form a short uphill section starting from the parking lot. Along with the stunning rock formations: Pikes Peak, Mt. Lady Washington, Flat Top Mountain, Storm Peak, and several other mountains can be seen from the trail. Most of them still had lots of snow on them.
As you approach mile two you begin to go uphill into the trees, it’s at this point you also cross into Rocky Mountain National Park, but not need to pay an entrance fee. Foot traffic enters in here for free, but overnight stays require backcountry permits. The trail also begins to get a bit “technical” at this point, but compared to what I run in the Texas Hill Country the trail was a cake walk. My feet landed mostly on soft ground as opposed to hard loose limestone. I had actually wore my thick soled running shoes for this run, but wished I had went with minimalist gear.
I took mile three relatively easy though to conserve energy, since I was in altitude and wasn’t sure how much it was going to effect me throughout the run. Mile three was by far my slowest, but it was also all uphill. But, near the end of mile three you hit the turn off for Cow Creek Trailhead. From here it was mostly downhill or flat until mile six, which took you back uphill for three miles.
Around mile for you are on the back side of Lumpy Ridge and begin a fun downhill ascent through trees. Up until this point I hadn’t crossed a single person, and didn’t see a single hiker until close to mile six. It made for an enjoyable solitary run. I did enjoy RUNNING past the hikers though. It was obvious one of them was a newbie hiker and was very taken back by the fact that somebody was running through the mountains! It was also about the time I passed the hikers that the trail came out of the trees into open meadows. The trail was relatively flat here as well until reaching mile six.
Mile six began a brutal three mile uphill ascent to Gem Lake. I chose to run the route clockwise because it seemed the three mile ascent was easier than the steep 1.5 mile ascent from the other side that totaled 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Running the direction I went, the elevation gain was 1,000 feet. In hind sight, I would have rather gotten the steep gain over faster, rather than dragging it out over three miles. And, the reduction in elevation gain wasn’t what I thought it was. Needless to say, my pace slowed again, but not was slow was my third mile when I conserved energy, not knowing what was ahead of me.
On my way up to Gem Lake I only crossed one other hiker, but upon arriving at Gem Lake I was greeted by a slew of tourists that had hiked up from the side I was about to descend. After taking a quick break to pump some filtered water into my CamelBack, I began my descent. I didn’t spend much time lingering at the lake since I had just hiked up to it a few days before.
The two mile descent back to the parking lot didn’t go as quickly as I thought. The trail was fairly technical and had lots of large steps. It was never possible to just let loose and fly. On top of that, there were lots of hikers at this time, as it was later in the morning. But, I still wasn’t slower than my third mile, which I was happy about.
Overall I would say the run went GREAT, especially since I have never really run at high altitudes before. Considering I didn’t have much of a problem running the 11 miles at a 16 minute pace, I think I’m in a good position to finish my first 50 mile race in under 12 hours. The race is in October, so I have plenty of time to train. On top of that, I will be training in heat and the temperatures will be cooler in late October.
The total elevation gain for my run was 2,700! The temperatures during the run were in the low to mid 60′s. Slightly higher than I was hoping for, but still FAR better than the brutal humid heat we are experiencing in Texas. I’m looking forward to possibly running more here in the future. Who knows, I might even run Leadville one day!