Really it’s already been a year? It was hard to believe it when I got an e-mail from Kristin at the Scoop Blog Network letting me know that my one ...
Quad Rock 50 Trail Race: A Gnarly 25 Miler, Fort Collins’ only Ultra, and the Ethics of ‘Volunstealing’
The Colorado Marathon might be the fastest marathon in Northern Colorado, but Quad Rock is definitely one of the gnarliest. I’m sure it’s solidly behind the Pike’s Peak marathon, but still. Gnar Gnar.
Actually it’s a 25 or 50 mile race. Not quite a marathon if you do the first half. But it will wreck you like a marathon and then some. For the 50 mile race you will run up both Horsetooth and Arthur’s Rocks twice. Yes, run up mountains. More than once. In fact, four times. Hence quad. For the full course map, check out the race page. Sound miserable? It is. Also very nice views and hits some of my favorite trails in the whole area. An last week’s race was had perfect weather.
Having missed the deadline for registration. And also the wait listing. And well, basically just e-mailing one of the race directors a couple days before the race, I didn’t actually officially run the race. But I did run all but 2 miles of the course. The two flat miles at the beginning. All the miserable stuff I did run.
What? Banditing a race? Have I no morality? Possibly. But in this case I arranged to first contribute and then take a ‘do no harm’ approach.
An approach I like to call “volunstealing”.
See this turn below? This is the first turn of the race. On the race course, it’s 3.5 miles into the race. From where I started, it’s only 1.5miles in. So after discovering that I could not register, I was told that they were still looking for someone to block the this turn. Also that technically the parks are still open to the public that day….hint hint.
So I would be starting at the same time but taking a short cut so I could block a turn, waiting until 6:30 for everyone to pass, and then heading up the course myself with a trusty pack. No aid stations for the wicked (or just procrastinators).
It was pretty exciting to get there at 5:30 in the morning and realize that I was going to get to see who was at the front of the race, not that it matters 3 miles in, but still, being that close to the front of the pack is not something, as a totally mediocre runner, that I ever get to experience.
It was fun. There is a lot more energy. And after heading up myself I was passing people a lot, which is also something I never get to do. Back to that mediocre thing.
It turns out, volunstealing a race is just like french fries. Tastes sweeter when yoinked from your friend’s plate while they weren’t looking.
But back to the race itself. Some of my favorite places to run. I love all the trails we ran. I just don’t usually run all of them on a single day. Well, love them with the exception of Howard trail, which we took up to Arthur’s Rock. I now hate that trail, it winds around forever, making you think you are getting closer to the top, when really you are just running up switch backs for all of eternity. At least that’s what it feel like as you complete the last climb of the race, which starts somewhere around mile 20.
You get some really sweet schwag at this race, too. Not those of us who are volunstealing, the one obvious downside, but everyone else got cool mugs and nice tech shirts.
And the finish line was a lot of fun. Pearl Izumi had a lot of shoes out for people to try on. But having exploded a huge blood blister sometime in the last mile, that was out of the question for me. As was all the tasty food. But I just wnted to curl into a ball and cry, anyway, so it didn’t matter.
And of course, all’s well that ends well. A tough run, but good training for the Jemez 50k coming up this weekend in New Mexico. I highly recommend this race, I’ll probably run it again next year. As an actual registered participant. Because I want a mug. And a cool t-shirt.It was really fun to get to run trails I know well, so different from just showing up and taking it as it comes. It’s kinda fun to actually know where you are and to have aid stations available where you usually just run alone and have to carry all your own stuff.
Hopefully if I don’t hate running after the Leadville Silver Rush, I’ll be in better shape next year and won’t end the race looking like this:
The Horsetooth Rock hike is the most essential of all essential Fort Collins hikes.
Telling people you live here and have never set foot on that trail is like telling someone from West Texas that there are things to eat for dinner besides steak; you will get some raised eyebrows. Horsetooth Rock is the most prominent landmark in this area. It’s on our city logo (it’s on lots of business’ logos, actually), on all our postcards, and yes, even on the Fresh Air Fort Collins logo. It’s iconic.
The hike up to the rock is the hike that everyone recommends to out-of-towners, the one you take your visiting family on, and it’s usually one of the first hikes people do when they move here.
But today’s post isn’t about the way you’ve always hiked up Horsetooth. I’m over that hike. And you may be as well, after having done it every time someone visits you here and wants “to go to something outdoorsy.” Not that the old way isn’t a tried and true classic, but well, I am here to alleviate your boredom. With two alternate paths.
I tend to spend a fair bit of time at the Horsetooth Mountain Park, but these days rarely go up the Horsetooth Rock trail. It’s busy, it’s a bit touristy (especially around CSU gradation), and I frankly just really like the view on the back side of the mountain better.
Difficulty Rating: All these trails are Class 1 trails. Nothing very technical, no steep drop-offs. There is a very short section of Class 3 scrambling, should you choose to get on top of the actual rock (and I think you should).
Time: This is a relatively short hike, even going the long way, this will take about 3-5 hours round trip, depending on how fast a hiker you are.
Round trip total miles: About 6 miles, probably a little over.
My Rating: Four Stars. Because it’s a classic and on this route you get to see more of the park. It would get five, except that it’s typically pretty busy up there and you are on road, not trail for quite a bit of it. But it’s easily one of my top picks for Fort Collins.
But This post gets even more exciting. Because it also involves food. So while I can do the hike stuff, I don’t really do food. At least not in the way some people do food. I like to eat food. I get very cranky without food. but I don’t really like cooking it or chopping it and by the time I get home at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do read recipes and try to remember which of the little spoony things attached to a plastic ring is the teaspoon.
That is to say that when I go hiking, food is either a chunk of cheese and a bagel for lunch and a cliff bar or granola bar and maybe even protein bar. Basically, it’s stuff that I don’t really want to eat, but am willing to eat so I can not bother with preparing anything myself.
So getting to hike with a homemade snack that someone else made for me was fantastic. Andrea of Serving Up Fort Collins wanted to try out some power bar recipes she had and I wanted to eat them on a hike. She gave me homemade cinnamon honey peanut butter and espresso almond butter bars. With local honey and nut butters. Enough to make any hike more memorable.
These are like the granola bars you usually take with you, but fresher. You can really tell the difference between freshly chopped figs and apricots and ones that have been in plastic forever.
And no cooking! You make them similar to the way you make rice crispy treats. Then just wrap them in some wax paper, add a little piece of tape and chuck them in your backpack. They are also not as dense as, say, a cliff bar; they are snacks, not meal replacements.We liked the espresso a little better than the peanut butter and it also stuck together better, which made them easier to eat while walking (and you don’t end up having to use you dirty yucky hands). So hard pack these suckers when you make them!
So here is where I recommend you take your tasty power bars.
See that yellow line? that’s the traditional route up. Those blue and purple ones are the alternate paths up and down the mountain. They might look longer, and, well, they are, but the elevation gain isn’t as steep. These are, for the most part, gently winding trails and service roads.
Following the blue line starts you off where you already know- the Horsetooth Rock traditional route. But instead of bypassing the Falls, veer slightly right onto the Horsetooth Falls trail. The falls can be really unimpressive. But assuming there is actually water falling off the falls, take some pretty pictures. Once you are at the falls, take Spring Creek Trail. You’ll follow that until you see the start of Wathen Trail turning back toward Horsetooth Rock to your left. Then for the last little bit, you’ll get back on the Horsetooth Rock Trail. Sounds like complicated instructions? Just take this little map with you. All the trails are very well marked, you really can’t blow a turn.
Then congratulate yourself on taking the route that knocks out all the Mountain Park landmarks in one afternoon. Winning!
The way back (the purple line) is actually my favorite part of this hike. You might notice that this view is pretty different from what you are used to seeing? It’s nice to see the whole city from the top of Horsetooth Rock, but there are sweeping green valleys on the other side that are every bit as lovely.
Instead of coming back around the front of Horsetooth Rock, look to go behind and you will catch Audra Culver trail and then onto South Ridge to get back down. The picture above is what you will be looking at the way back. Long green valleys and on clear days, snow-capped Long’s Peak.
Mountain biking: this is green (easy) on the service roads to very difficult (black diamond) on Wathen and Spring Creek Trails. You can’t take your bike up Horsetooth Rock Trail or the Horsetooth Falls trail. You can take the service road (South Ridge Trail) up and then do this loop backward, taking Wathen and Spring Creek back down. Just be aware that you have to stay on Spring Creek when it turns to the right, and it will take you to the road a short way from the parking lot where you started.
Location& Directions: Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, a Larimer County Park. You can take either Harmony or Taft Hill to get there. The parking lot is on the right side and there is lots of signage. For more specifics, check here. If you are google mapping your way there, its easier to look it up as Horsetooth Mountain Park.
Other Stuff: Daily parking permit for the 2013 season is $6. Annual pass is $75 for 2013. You can pay cash at the kiosk when you get there, or you can buy an annual pass at the nearby Stout Market (which you will pass shortly before you enter the park).