Last week I convinced Paula that a 27 mile birthday run on the Colorado Trail was a good idea! I’m pretty sure she occasionally regretted her decision to join me but the trails were gorgeous, the weather was perfect and we got more downhill than uphill! She even told me a time or two that she didn’t hate me! I’m taking that as a sign of a successful trail run!
We met up well before the sun crept over the horizon, left a car at the base of Waterton Canyon then headed up to Buffalo Creek. Chris was kind enough to be our chauffeur and dropped us off at the Little Shaggy/FS 550 Trailhead at 7:15am.
We were both fighting annoying, snot-filled head colds so we were all kinds of excited when Chris offered to meet us at the middle trailhead. This would let us run without packs, refuel midway and potentially bail out at mile 11.5 rather than 28 if our colds were fighting the mountain air. We liked having the easy way out but I think deep down we’d already set our goal on the big finish!
The trail took us through the burn areas near Buffalo Creek then looped through a forest of pines before dumping us back out into a burn scar then down a few switch backs to the trailhead. Chris had run 2 miles up the trail to meet us then happily fed us, refilled our handhelds and sent us on our merry way.
We probably took the longest “aid station” break known to man but we headed back out on the trail in good spirits with momentarily dry noses. We’d shed a few layers and almost immediately regret that decision…until we realized the hill we were trekking up was lasting forever. Three miles to be exact. It seemed to just keep going, and going, and going. We thought we were approaching a bend, only to realize it was a sneaky switch back! Those blasted switch backs!
Eventually the trail leveled out then started heading downhill. By now we had left the burn scars far behind and the trail gradually flowed through the forest. As we ran on the forest changed from just pines to a mix of random trees. I know nothing about trees but I was so excited to see colorful fall leaves that were not attached to aspens! It started to feel a lot like Wisconsin! We ran along a small creek so the ground was moist and the orange and yellow non-aspen leaves littered the trail. I think I happily exclaimed “this is so Wisconsin!” about 20 times!
The trail was perfect. Seriously, I could not have been happier! Honestly, if you are looking for a fantastic run on the Colorado Trail I’d strongly recommend both Segment 1 and Segment 2, especially in the fall. As we dropped down from our 3 mile climb we were engulfed in the colors of fall. Considering how much I miss Wisconsin’s fall colors I was in heaven!
As we neared the top of Waterton Canyon the trail become more familiar – I’ve ridden bike up this far in the past. I knew the rest of the run would be on a packed gravel road…entirely downhill. I was looking forward to the smooth downhill but was sad to leave behind my cozy trail of trees. Gah. I think I’m obsessed! Luckily for color-crazed me Waterton Canyon did not disappoint – the leaves may not have been insanely vibrant but they were there!
From the get go we made a point to walk every noticeable incline, just to conserve as much energy as possible – it doesn’t make sense to kill yourself running up a hill at the same pace you could power hike it! This tactic had worked wonders as we were still moving forward, quickly. However, once we got to the canyon we had no hills to walk…and 6+ miles to get to the car. We decided to keep playing it safe and took short walk breaks at each mile. Until Mile 26! Every step past 26.2 was a PDR (personal distance record) for Paula! We stopped for a quick “woo, we ran a marathon just for fun” photo and then powered on to the “finish” of our birthday run!
We could have stopped at mile 27 – for my 27 years of awesome – but that would have left us over a mile away from the car so we continued on. Our final mile was hands down the fastest mile of the run – all the way down to 9:03! I love that. It is an incredible confidence booster to know you finish strong after so many miles on your feet!
Somehow we managed to run the perfect tangents on windy trail for 7 hours…the Garmin beeped over to 28 miles as we passed the trailhead bathrooms of Waterton Canyon! The route on MapMyRun does not show the full 28 miles for whatever reason by my Garmin refuses to properly upload data so this is what we have to work with…
The elevation of our run – lots of downhill! Click here or on the elevation chart for more details on the route we ran.
We asked some random strangers to snap our photo at the trailhead sign and were rather disappointed when they didn’t ask why we were so excited about a silly sign. Paula had just ran the furthest distance of her life…with a cold. I had a fantastic birthday run! Bragging needed to happen, so we resorted to social media where everyone offers up unsolicited humble brags!
All in all, it was a freaking amazing birthday! I could not have asked for a better run, though it would have been nice to produce about 4 FEWER gallons of snot. The trail was great, the company was fantastic and having Chris there to “crew” our made up “race” was icing on the imaginary birthday cake!
I finished off my birthday with lots of freebie birthday coffee, a trip to the Rio Grande to hang out with my new #OmniTen family and a late night at 24 Hours of Boulder crewing for Jeremy as he ran his legs off to win the 100 mile race in 16 hours, 30 minutes. Think about that for a minute…100 miles averaging a sub-10 pace, including all aid station stops!
That’s what I call a run-tastic weekend with lots of birthday love! I’ve never freaked out about getting older and I’m not about to start now – turns out birthdays are kind of fun! Also, I apologize for the six million times I said “shut up, its MY birthday!”.