On Friday, after a tough workday afternoon of bowling, pizza and beer (company party) I found I had time for a longer-than-usual run.
The White Ranch outer loop is more or less on par with an out-and-back on the Mesa Trail in Boulder in terms of distance, technical difficulty and vertical. This is a bit higher.
The main difference is you probably won't see nationally-ranked ultra runners at White Ranch. Boulder is thick with them.
Distance was 15.31 miles, time 3:56 (moving 3:08), elevation gain/loss 3,086 feet.
But first, bowling: to my amazement, I did OK. I was in a league for a year in high school but after that, I've probably gone 10 times in 30 years. I started with a 106, then (don't remember), 181 (tie for my high score), and 174. Got 4 strikes in a row in the last game, then two more in the last frame. I thought of my running, asking: "What do I know from running that I can apply here?" and the answer was: relaxed upper body, tall spine. And it worked, as long as I didn't lose focus or slip.
This is looking back down from Mustang Trail:
Mustang passes through what seems like a huge number of folds in the hills, and over a few ridges into the mountains. At the back you go up a narrow canyon with aspens in it, then climb to the top of Belcher Hill.
This is from a bit later on Rawhide, which follows an old road up/down/up/down over small hills on top:
This is from somewhere in the northwest part of the park:
The image below is coming down Longhorn, which is probably the steepest trail in the park (not necessarily this section, but in general). I have no idea how people bike this stuff, I'd rate it black diamond in ski terms; big rocks, drops, twisty with steep grades most of the way.
Around the spot in the photo below, I heard voices of bikers coming down the gnarly hill and picked up the pace a bit to stay ahead. They caught me just as the trail dropped into a steep V-shaped ravine, and they had to slow down. The next 3/4 was all uphill, and I gained ground. They caught me right near the parking lot, then I caught them again on the rock "garden" near the gate. Fun stuff.
This was about 13 miles and I had some light left, so I stowed the pack and ran back out. Unfortunately, about 20 horses had the same idea, and were queued up on the trail, totally blocking it. I ran back and forth a bit until I couldn't see and I clicked over 15 miles.
Although my pace was not blazing, I held energy levels pretty well on this run, which for me is a hard run. Legs felt good. Hand is a little sore from bowling.