What do you get when you combine fall, aspen trees and trail running? A very happy Paula! My friend offered me her entry into the Aspen Golden Leaf Trail Half-Marathon this summer, when she found out that she had a wedding the same weekend. The race, which was yesterday, coordinated perfectly with my marathon training schedule, and I thought it would be a really fun way to get in some mileage before the big event.
I mentioned the race to my friend Britt, who is training for a road half-marathon, and she was interested in coming and running the race “bandit” style. Most running races take place on public property, and there’s really not much any race organizer can do to prevent someone from coincidentally running the same route as a race. We weren’t trying to cause trouble, the race just happened to be sold out!
The morning of the race, Britt and I listened to some inspirational songs, like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan, and we were ready to go. Apparently Britt’s college soccer team listened to this song before every game.
I was a little intimidated when I saw the start of the race. The course pretty literally went directly up a ski hill at Snowmass for the first 1.5 miles. Since I have been training for a mostly flat, road marathon, the first part of the race felt a little rough. The first water station was at the 1.5 mile marker, and then the course switched to a fun single track trail. I was boxed in at this point, but I didn’t really mind. I was absolutely just running the race for fun.
The course was beautiful. It was seriously like running in a postcard picture. The route consisted of idyllic creek crossings, pine tree forests, open meadows, and groves of golden aspens. Unfortunately, the trail was also somewhat technical, and despite my best efforts to run carefully, I took a major spill. Twice. It’s just not a trail run unless I fall! The first fall was not bad at all – around mile 8.5 I basically fell on my front after tripping on a tree root. The second fall, at mile 10.5, was pretty bad though. I ended up scraping both of my knees, and I didn’t realize how bad it looked until I got to the finish line and a little kid was aghast at my bloody mess. Thank goodness for the Aspen Mountain Rescue first aid tent.
While I was excited to run the Golden Leaf, I was perhaps more excited for the afternoon drive back to Denver from Aspen. The aspen trees are just reaching their golden peak, and the drive was insanely gorgeous. If Britt had not been with me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten back to Denver until dark. She was really patient though, considering the fact that I made her stop at least 20 times on the way back to take pictures of the aspens.
I love Colorado. I love fall. I love Colorado in the fall. I’m lucky to live somewhere I love so much.