Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding a groove

So far, my time in Aspen has been spent working, working, and more working. Due to high holiday traffic and under staffing we were incredibly busy. Unfortunately this left very little time to go out and see what this town is all about and little time for running.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion training team in Orlando for the Disney World half and full marathons. While they were both very fun as far as experiences and meeting people go, from a strictly running standpoint it was a but frustrating. The Goofy Challenge is where participants ran both the half and full marathons on back to back days. I chose to take it on thinking it wouldn't be a problem but realized after the half marathon that I am not in the same shape I was in a year ago. I had pushed pretty hard in the half and had set a new PR for myself by about 10 minutes but didn't feel like I normally do after a half marathon. That being said, the full marathon was difficult from the start and while it was still 15 minutes faster than my slowest marathon, it was hard. Mickey and all his pals were strategically staged along various points on the course and made the whole experience a lot of fun.

It took me nearly a week to fully recover but am back up and running more than before. I have found a trail up the side of a snow covered mountain that makes for not only a difficult and productive run but also some incredibly amazing views of all of the town of Snowmass, especially at night.I'm able to start from my apartment and run up for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the depth of the snow. The first half of the run is on a paved path that is covered in about 3-5 inches of packed snow and takes me up from my apartment to the trail head near Snowmass mall where Divide Rd splits off. The trail itself is well packed and about 8-12 inches wide. The tricky part is if you step or off the trail, you fall into hip deep powder which in turn, trips you face down in the snow with no hope of catching yourself because your arms just fall right through the snow as well. Climbing up the switchbacks the trail keeps ascending higher and higher until you reach a bench which is mostly covered in deep snow. The final couple yards the trail somewhat disappears and you have to slog your way through the hip deep powder in order to touch the bench. This last part isn't as pleasant as the rest of the run when I'm wearing shorts.

Coming down is quicker of course, but not by much on a good day. Sliding around is usually minimal thanks to a set of microspikes that fit right over my normal running shoes. Between this run and running home from work in the evening I should be able to train just fine for the Boston Marathon in April and any races following that once I figure out where life is taking me next.

This morning I took off early and found that it was snowing quite a bit. With 2-3 inches of fresh snow on the ground and new snow being added by the second I started my normal climb up the path that would take me to the trailhead. Everything was very quiet and soothing and even my footsteps were muffled by the new snow.

No one had been on the trail since the new snow and I was glad to beat everyone to it. I opened my mouth wide every couple of minutes to break up the ice that was forming in my beard. Upon reaching the top I looked down on the town of Snowmass and everything was peaceful, white and looked clean and fresh. I turned around and headed back down and noticed some blood in the snow. Since I hadn't seen any other living creatures today I figured it must be me. I didn't realize it was my own ankle that I had accidentally kicked open until I looked down at it. There wasn't anything I could do so I continued home only slipping off the trail twice. I really enjoy runs when they are especially difficult either because of weather or terrain and today was no different. I reached my front door with ice in my beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and caked around my legs and feet.

I'm not sure I'll get tired of running here.

-- Patrick

Monday, January 17, 2011

One year

It has been a busy year. That being said, I haven't kept up the blog anywhere near where I would've liked to. I get busy and sort of forget about it. Aspen in incredible. Living in the mountains is an experience like no other and I'm constantly questioning whether this is reality or not. Then I realize how much I've been working, and I snap back to reality pretty quickly. I work at Buttermilk Mountain in the ticket department and am fortunate enough to live in Snowmass Village in employee housing. If they didn't have employee housing there is no way a guy like me could afford this place. Even groceries are astronomically expensive here.

I am lucky enough to have found a good trail that is packed snow as well as living 6 1/2 miles from work. So there is no shortage of opportunity to run even if I do have to squeeze them in. It occurred to me earlier this month that last year at this time I was somewhere in the southwestern portion of this country with only one goal everyday. It seems like the trip across America was forever ago but one year just isn't that long. While I am happy I completed the run, and at times am still not sure if I am completely recovered from running 2,553 miles on pavement, I have decided that there is no way that that was my only long running trip. I'm not sure I miss the pavement, but I do miss the trip, being "on the road," and the simplicity of life when all you have to worry about is where your next meal is coming from. I would love to do a long trail at some point, and will probably just figure out when the time is right.

For now, I'll keep running, focusing on getting faster and stronger and try to figure out what direction to take my life.