Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hall Ranch

I want to be clear that when I use the term "fast" to describe my running, it is not in the absolute sense of the term - it is relative to my usual plodding stride. And by "usual" I mean pretty much most of the time. There is no amateur photographer out there, however limited in ability, that I would trouble with a blurred photo. I'm just not that quick, never was and never will be. But I can run long distances and it takes a long time.

Two months ago in Chicago, on a glorious early morning, I did a half marathon in 1hr 42. My best, ran when I was 35, was 1hr 28 on a hilly course in Buxton, Derbyshire, UK. Sometimes I just like to run on a forgiving trail to see how fast I can go. Hall Ranch is one of those trails - not steep enough to need to walk - and without a dog (they aren't allowed in the Ranch) I wasn't going to need to stop for drinks.

It was a little more humid than usual and almost total cloud cover meant for a sweaty morning. I prefer the Nighthawk loop because it is almost 5 miles uphill and this provides a good test against the clock. The trail on this first section is really pleasant and not very rocky. I was wearing my Montrail Bajada's as these give good traction on softer trails.

After a mile of level and then slightly rising ground the trail drops into a stream bed and begins the long climb up the other side towards the north. There was no-one around.

Cresting the first ridge provides this view back to the trail. Although it looks steep this section is just steady plodding. I was aiming for 10 minute miles and was fairly close to the target.

At the summit the view towards Long's Peak gave good reason for avoiding that trip today. It was about 8am - when a lot of early walkers reach the summit - and I wouldn't have wanted to be up there in the building cloud cover.

Sweeping down from the summit I picked up the Bitterbrush mountain bike trail and immediately had company in both directions. There were a couple of dicey moments when bikers came up quickly behind me and almost scared me to death - those things need bells...or more considerate riders.

I could hardly blame them for going fast, the trail was perfect. I was stretching out as quick as I could and logged a few 8 minute miles before hitting the final uphill section. The final 3 miles of descent is extremely rocky in places. I met a runner at the finish who tried to convince me that the reverse direction is best because of the 5 miles downhill on really good trail. He had a point. But for me, that section uphill is what makes this place worth coming to.

Just under 10 miles and 1600 feet of ascent in 1hr 34 minutes. I'll take that.

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