Thursday, May 31, 2012

Action Packed Mountain Weekend

So when your 16-year old running son wants to join several other cross country kiddos for one hellaciously tough 25k trail run on Memorial Day in Gunnison - about 4 hours SW of Denver in the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains - what's a good great mom to do?

Road trip!

We set off on Saturday afternoon, giving us 2 days to play and explore before the race on Monday.  I instantly hit up fellow blogger, Cynthea (who, sadly, no longer blogs :( ), who lives in the area, to see if we could hook up while there.  She graciously offered to let us stay at her house, having never even met me.  I guess my charm and wit are irresistible :).  I promised I wasn't some ax murder and we gladly accepted her offer for one night (thanks again, Cynthea) and then hoteled it the second night with the rest of the track team in town.

When we set off on Saturday, the winds picked up to some insane gale-force strength and smoke from some monster fires in New Mexico filled the air and caused a thick haze to cloud our views along the way (and cause my eyes to itch like mad.  Bleh!)

Horrible smoke-filled haze constricting the normally gorgeous landscapes
When we stopped at the top of Monarch Pass, elevation 11,332', the winds were so strong and little rocks were whipping around, like a tornado picks up cars, and pounding them smack into my legs.  We didn't stay long to explore on the top of the pass, like I had hoped to.

Like the wind-blown hair in the face look?
Instead, we continued on into Gunnison and gave ourselves a little self-guided exploring of Western States University campus, home of the world's highest collegiate track and football field at 7700'.

I obviously have mastered the Steeplechase hurdle on my first attempt over
We had dinner on Saturday night with Cynthea and her son in the really cute town of Crested Butte (elevation 8909').

Sunday morning, a scrumptious breakfast of homemade buttermilk waffles ("scrumptious" would indicate I did not make them), Cynthea and her family drug my sorry butt 1000'  up the side of some mountain on a gorgeous trail near their house.

Our gracious hosts on top of whatever peak we climbed
Trail coming down
Wild Lupines
 Hike done, we said our goodbyes...but first a quick pic of the view from Cynthea's backyard,

I'm jealous!
then Ryan and I headed back to Crested Butte to do some sightseeing.

I'd like to own this house, please!  That baby cow was so funny, it keep mooing at me :).
House sided with old license plates (mostly Colorado ones)
Close up of some of the plates.  Pretty cool place, I thought
Springtime in the Rockies produces some awesome growing green things
Monday brought race day.  Not for me this round (thankfully), but for Ryan and several members of his cross country team.

The race was the Sage Burner Trail 25k and 50k, which is hosted by the university and is held at the Hartman Rocks Recreational Area on the outskirts of Gunnison, Colorado.  Hartman Rocks is a 160 acre "park" filled with a network of single track trails and dirt roads.  I'm not sure where or how the tradition began for our high schoolers to run this race - it's not like it's really convenient to home - but because freshman are not allowed, per unofficial written "rules" by the team, Ryan was chomping at the bit to run this race this year as it'd be his first (if I only had a dollar for every time I heard "Sage Burner" in the past year, I could buy that house above).

Ryan knew this race would be tough, but he had no idea how tough.  The area is a plethora of hills.  More hills.  And then topped off with just a few more, for good measure.

He was nervous when we got to the starting area.  It was a tropical 27 degrees at the start (yeah, 27 degrees) and he had layers on, then off, then back on, then off.  Last minute, he ditched his long-sleeved shirt, which eventually he was grateful to shed.  A few words from the race director before, and then they're off.
Lining up.  Probably about 150 participants, about 50 of them the 50kers.
Our kids are on the far left
Ryan, being rather nervous
There they go.
Since I had some time to kill waiting for Ryan, Cynthea came into town so we could run a little of the trails ourselves.

She wouldn't let me wear a watch (I actually left my Garmin back in Denver - I know, gasp!) and I was perfectly fine with that (though, admittedly, I wanted to know how far we went, but didn't care at all about our pace.  And I was a bit worried we'd miss some of the kids finish by not knowing what time it was).  We just ran.  And talked.  Then ran some more.....up and down and over and around and up some more then down and then up and up and up and upppppp.  Time passed so fast as we enjoyed the scenery together...

I only tripped and stumbled over rocks about 30 times, but remarkably didn't end up with any road rash (trail rash?).  I had so much fun wandering around on the trails with someone I so easily got along with; my heart was definitely resonating in the present with these playful moments on the trails.  I can't remember the last time I felt so free and liberated out on a run; 2 hours felt like about 10 minutes.  Maybe this casual pace works best for me.  Maybe I can go farther and enjoy more fully when I just let everything go, leaving the numbers planner in me at home.  I absolutely need more adventures like this!

We made it back just in the nick of time as the racers were starting to come in.  As we were heading down the last section of trail to the finish line area of the race, I saw the first of our high schoolers cross the finish line, coming in 4th overall.  Cynthea and I hurried down to the bottom to watch and cheer the remaining runners coming in.  I started to get a bit concerned to not see Ryan where he thought he might finish (he has horrible asthma, exacerbated by dust.  Dusty trails are not his best friend), but soon he was there and crossed a few seconds shy of 3-hours for his first 25k trail race (16.4 miles, actually :)).

His first words?  Oh my God, that was SO hard!!!  (repeated multiple times on our 4-hour drive home :)).

I just grinned.  I couldn't have been more proud.  I have a lump in my throat just sharing this moment with you.
Ryan looks like he'd rather be dead right now.  I look like I'm so grateful I didn't run that race!
Isn't it cool how some people can just astound us?  Even people we know as well as our own children.  That race was not easy for Ryan, he's never run anything over 13.1 miles before and never on terrain that tested his physical limits as well as his mental ones.  And he's only 16!!  Yet he was bound and determined to do it, and did it he did.

I've always believe that determination far out-weighs giftedness, his race was a classic example.

There is something about a little adventure that brings out the best in all of us and sets us free.  I can't wait to see what type of adventures Ryan turns to as he grows into the incredible runner he is becoming.  I have a feeling this won't be his last.

And it definitely won't be mine.

I'm heading out of town this weekend for a little R&B time (Race and Beach).  Ahhh, another adventure...but I'll probably bring my watch ;).


Terzah said...

Ooh, I think Cynthea had the right idea and you should ditch the watch this weekend too. Because you sound so happy in this post after your trail run! See, Kathleen is right! Trail runs are soul runs!

Congratulations to Ryan! I remember my first 25K--I was 24, and it wasn't as hard as his. The dust would have done me in. But he owned it, as did the whole team.

Johann said...

Congratulations Ryan! Really awesome performance! I agree, a no watch trail run is the best there is. Beautiful photos confirming I have to get out there one day.

Denae said...

Looks like fun!!That wind was stupid on Saturday!!!I won't be doing Slacker now :( probabaly GTIS and Evergreen town race though....are you doing those?

Julie said...

Wow beautiful photos and awesome racing! It's been a long time since I've been to that area....must get back there soon. I'm sure that and what sounds like great company conspired to make your running great!

Congrats to Ryan on such a great race. He really rocked it!

Anne said...

Sounds like the perfect weekend getaway, though I'm still trying to catch my breath thinking of those hills at that altitude. And you always seem to attract smoke from faraway fires, don't you. Hooray to Ryan on a strong performance on a tough, tough course.

Karen said...

Ditching the watch once in awhile feels incredible!! :) Your trail scenery didn't suck either, haha. Looks like a wonderful weekend. Congrats to Ryan, the terrain looks killer from the photos.

Kandi said...

Wow! That is so very impressive. Way to go, Ryan! When I ran track and cross country in high school we never did anything like this. The farthest I ever ran in a race was 5k and during practice I'm sure we didn't do much more than that. The idea of running longer distances were never on my radar. And trail racing is a whole other animal!

mtnrunner2 said...

That's a really fast time on a hilly course, Ryan did great.

It's a great part of CO. Love Hartman Rocks; I've both run and biked there. CB is nice town, I need to get up into the hills there some time.

Not too far to Lake City and the San Juans either.

brg said...

How great is that seeing your little boy growing into a young man. I'm proud of him!! You are an awesome Mom - I bet he brags about you all the time. I totally LOVE that area - I've done the 50k mtn bike version of that race, I bet it would be so fun (and hard) to run it. Glad to hear you had such a great weekend.

Ewa said...

Rayan is taking after you, isn't he? Congrats to him.
I find that if I don't look at my Garmin and just enjoy the run, I... hmm, enjoy it more? Gee, what a concept. Right now I am suffering so enjoyment is not in the effort but scenery though.
You've got some great pictures there, girl. What a place to run, hike or just sit and inhale the beauty!

Christi said...

I am so glad that you and Ryan had so much fun.

Good luck this weekend!

Rachelle Q said...

Wow, what an amazing weekend Jill! Congrats to your son and I am happy you enjoyed a great run too:) Beautiful scenery, thanks for the great re-cap!

On the Right Track said...

What a great experience...for both of you! Awesome photos and how cool to stay with a fellow (or former) blogger!!!

Congrats to Ryan! That last shot of him is great!

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Fun, fun, fun! I hate trail rash glad you didn't get it, I'm still recovering from mine!

ShutUpandRun said...

He kicked a$$! Love that he wanted to do something outside his comfort zone and so TOTALLY Colorado!! Sounds like an amazing weekend in the hills - glad you got out there and loved running for just running - not for paces or form changes or any of that other crap that we can get so focused on!

SupermomE13 said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend!!! Congrats to Ryan! Love the pics, and cannot even imagine being able to run and jump over that hurdle!!!!

Coy Martinez said...

Kids are so awesome!! Ryan is awesome!! To think he had never run even 13 miles and then put up that kind of a race time! The look on his face says that he earned it! :)

I have location envy!

Teamarcia said...

What a great weekend for both of you. I swear CO is filled with the cutest towns. Congrats to Ryan on a spectacular performance. Somebody is running like his mama!
Race and beach sounds divine...well beach does..enjoy!

Petraruns said...

That's amazing - well done Ryan! And well done you - you've done really well with him. You made me laugh "Maybe this casual pace works best for me. Maybe I can go farther and enjoy more fully when I just let everything go, leaving the numbers planner in me at home. " Ummm yes girlfriend - this was meant to be fun? Love you - have a great weekend. XX

Jeff Gallup said...

Way to go Ryan! Wow... that looked like a tough race! Love all the photos you took... so cool.. and glad you had a great run too!

Robin said...

Wow he did fantastic! Congratulations Ryan...very impressive. Great pics as usual.

Colorado Gal said...

He did awesome!!!! Totally your kid :)

I love Crested Butte! One of the cutest mtn towns ever and great mtb!

pensive pumpkin said...

I just love you. This is awesome.

Do more things that make you happy.

funderson said...

Yeah, that Ryan kid is pretty awesome. I'm so so glad you had such ADVENTURE!! and enjoyed your non-timed run.

Caroline said...

congratulations to Ryan!!! what a great thing to share with him! you should be so proud!!! beautiful pics! I could live there for sure!
next time you come to CA you need to come closer to Pasadena?!!!

HappyTrails said...

Way to go Ryan!!! We've always thought the course is challenging but oh so fun! Maybe you do need to let the "pace thing" go for awhile (and run more trails!, run for fun and enjoyment, and maybe you will come back stronger??? (Mostly from running trails, though. Do you see a TRAIL theme here??? :-) ) Glad you had a fun weekend and we hope you have a fantastic weekend at the BEACH! Jealous, big time! :-)

ajh said...

That last picture of Ryan is great.Sounds like the whole weekend was pretty awesome. Blog buddies, great scenery, hiking, running and awesome offspring!

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

so jealous of where you live!!!

Way to go Ryan!!

I want that house to!

Running Librarian said...

Way to go Ryan! What a great mom/son weekend!

Kate Geisen said...

What a great experience for both of you!! Congratulations to Ryan for pushing himself so far! :)

Blog friends are awesome. I love that you can call up (email up) someone you've never met and have a place to stay. Someday that's going to be me at your door...and then you'll HAVE to leave the Garmin at home because otherwise the slow pace will make you crazy. :)

Char said...

This is such a lovely, heart-warming post. I know exactly how you feel - that heart-bursting pride when your kids step up and do something brave and astonishing. Well done Ryan.

Jenny said...

Congrats to Ryan! Amazing job!
So glad you enjoyed your time on the trails minus Garmin. :)
Enjoy SD and good luck this weekend!! :)

Cory Reese said...

I got goosebumps. What an awesome story. I hope I will be writing a post like this someday. I really admire your son being so young yet so ambitious!

Definitely a proud parent moment.

Average Woman Runner said...

What a lovely weekend - quiet and soul-warming, and yet intense at the same time. Congratulations to Ryan, it never would have even occurred to me to do something like this at 16 yrs old. And congrats to you, mom, for raising a strong kiddo!

Raina said...

This was an incredible experience you got to share with Ryan. How proud you must be! I am looking forward to when I can see one of my boys take on a race. The photos speak volumes too!

The one on the steeple chase thing is pretty funny :)

Would like to join you for some scrumptious waffles some day. Some one else will have to cook them for us though.

Have a great weekend, Jill.

Marlene said...

What a fun weekend road trip! Wow, Ryan has come so far, hasn't he? No wonder you are so proud! Sounds like one tough race.

bangle44 said...

Love it. Congrats to kiddo! And Mom for being awesome.

Ransick said...

Wow that looks like a fun trip! Blogger meet up, hiking and running in a beautiful place, and watching Ryan kick butt at a tough race. Sounds perfect!

GZ said...

Colorado. Family. Altitude. Racing. Kids getting an insight. Love it.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

YOur posts are such a treat for my eyes! I love those photos. Ryan's last photo is amazing! Did you take that?

Such wonderfull days!

Liz said...

Incredible scenery. You must be so proud of your son. Congrats to him on some great running!

Brian said...

Sounds like a great adventure. Congrats to Ryan, that sounds like one heck of a tough race!

C2Iowa said...

Freak'n Awesome. That last pic of him is TOP NOTCH.

Well done dude!!!

As for the rest of the post -- green with envy here in boring Iowa

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

I've been to a lot of those places you are showing pictures of, only I was there with snow on the ground and skis on my feet.

What kind of pacer leaves their Garmin back in Denver. Based on your recent post, I think you're trying to get out of any future pacing duties.

Hats off to Ryan. No doubt that would be a tough course.

RunToTheFinish said...

awesome mom of the year and awesome son! fun seeing how he has started running more distances, clearly a great mom rubbing off on him.

david is starting to think i'm nutz because i keep talking about moving to colorado and seriously it's your fault with all the gorgeous pictures

Mark said...

I always enjoy your posts!

Kathy said...

What an awesome kid ... and equally awesome mama!! Love this, I sure hope the running bug sticks with my son!
I love it out there, fabulous place for a road trip!

Lindsay said...

so scenic! and always cool to meet a fellow blogger (/retired blogger). glad she wasn't an axe murderer either :)

the license plate house is cool. but then i started to think - water damage? all those holes from having to hang each one... i'm such a positive thinker, i know!

Black Knight said...

Congrats to Ryan. Beautiful scenery and another great experience.
Thanks to these posts I am learning to love the trails. Here we are planning something and I hope that our dreams come true soon.

Molly said...

Congrats to Ryan!!! What an accomplishment! And kudos for running naked, what a perfect place to do it. Are you sure you're not going to race this one someday???? : )

XLMIC said...

Very cool!

Hope your R & B trip was awesome...and so bummed I couldn't hook up the other's been a pretty challenging week :(

Bubble Boy said...

Congrats Ryan. Jilly Beans, you only tripped 30 times, the ballet classes are working :)