Sunday, November 4, 2012

Betasso Preserve

Canyon & Benjamin Loops

I wasn't going to exert myself this morning. A fast 10 miles on Friday and an exhausting slog at altitude yesterday pretty much wiped me out. A gentle 11 miles on one of my favorite lower lying trails was in order. It was unusually cloudy in Boulder this morning meaning only one thing in the higher mountains - snow. This made my choice yesterday a good one. Unless we get an exceptionally warm trend the high mountains will be out for the season.
The steep start of the connector trail leaving Boulder Canyon road.

The good thing about cloud cover is it keeps the overnight temperature reasonable high and it was 40 degrees when I pulled in to the small parking turn out on Boulder Canyon road. Rather than start from the main trailhead I elected to punish myself with the stiff climb up the connector trail from the valley adding 2.5 miles and 400 feet in elevation. The climbing is immediate and it is steep and I took care not to over exert myself and then "crash" at the top. I felt pretty good the whole way up and although I was running within myself I felt in control. It was only when I uploaded my GPS at home that I saw that I ran this section in a personal best time.
Thick cloud cover overhead with sun rising over the plains to the east.

Livvy was alert and excitable the whole way up the climb. A small group of deer were tracking up the stream bed ahead of us and she saw no reason not to play. We left them behind at one of the switchbacks and joined the main Canyon loop after 17 minutes.
The Canyon Loop climbs to its high point.

Mountain bikes are prohibited from the trails on Wednesdays and Saturdays so I'd have to keep a lookout for fast riders. I always run the trail systems "against" the direction of the mountain bikes in order to see them coming. Once or twice I've been unpleasantly surprised by a rider shooting up quickly and quietly behind me. This is never the consequence of aggressive riding or lack of consideration for trail users and I invariably find bike riders to be courteous and concede right of they should.
The trail descends on sweeping curves - a great smooth running surface

Summer time ended overnight and with the change in clocks there were few people around this morning. I ran the first section of the Canyon Loop and the entire Benjamin Loop without meeting a single person. Because I was under no time pressure today I decided to run the connector trail to Fourmile Canyon road. This is a new addition to the trail system and although it is only 0.8 miles it provides fast and pleasant running on a soft, even surface with banked, sweeping bends. Ideal for cycling and great for running. The park service have made a great job of this trail extension and when Livvy and I met the road we just turned back and resumed the Benjamin Loop. This provided a long, steady climb from 6200 feet to 6750 feet in little over a mile.
Beautiful new steps on the Fourmile Canyon connector

Gaining altitude on the Benjamin trail we encountered a black squirrel. Livvy danced and jumped at the thought of giving chase. It seemed to understand Livvy's leash restriction and casually sauntered off up the hillside with the hint of a dismissive attitude. As we approached the junction with the lower Canyon trail we met our first people - a young couple were biking carefully along the narrow trail. We stepped to one side, knowing how awkward it is for bikers to dismount and give way. A little further along a woman was out running in the opposite direction and then three more very courteous mountain bikers. Thankfully there were no ignorant dog owners with their animals off leash and out of control - it improved the experience considerably.
An arrogant black squirrel taunts Livvy from the safety of a low tree branch

The Canyon Loop at Betasso was the first trail I ever ran in the area. Following a house-hunting trip I had to fly on the next day to San Francisco and spent the afternoon running the loop clockwise. The Benjamin extension hadn't then been built and I recall struggling with the altitude around the 3.6 mile circuit. I'm in a lot better shape now and regard this as an easy training run. Even this morning, at a gentle pace and after three days of hard running, I would cruise around this smaller section in half the time I took three years ago.
Just approaching the final climb back to the trail connector.

We arrived back at the top of the trail connector leading back down the steep hillside to the car. At 1.25 miles it would only take about 10 minutes. I have never mountain biked this section of trail - it looks far too difficult for me. On the way down we stepped to one side to allow about 6 bikers to maintain their cadence as they wound up through the trees. Very impressive to see riders cruising up this trail. We resumed our descent and were back at the car in  no time.
Approaching the final trail junction

Uploading the GPS data to I made another discovery - Livvy had passed 800 miles running for the year. I wonder if she can get to 1000?

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