Colorado’s Unknown Mountains


Burro running? Hardscrabble 10K / 5K Race Director mentioned it to us all like it had been around for years. Well it has in Colorado! Since the 1940s according to Hal. My initial reaction was “What’s a burrow, will it chase me, and does it bite?”


This was only day two of our camp with the runners up from the Copper Canyons of Mexico and here we were on technical single-track at 9,000 feet above sea level trying to lead these huge animals! This was my forth run of the day and I was exhausted trying to plead in Spanish with “Red Bull” and “Boggie Down.”. Even my newly acquired Spanish motivational phrases learned in Spain like: “Venga” and “Animal” were not working. It was clear I was not in charge of these massive beasts.


Earlier in the day I was invited to start my day with the Bobcats of Custer County Middle and High School Cross Country Teams at their morning summer practice. The wind was whipping off the Sangre De Cristo Range bringing a chill to Westcliff, Colorado. I showed up in tights and a long sleeve shirt. Corey, a sophomore sub ten minute two miler at elevation, and star of his team was in shorts and a tank top. As we ran toward the snow covered peaks chatting I was impressed with his stride and lack of heavy breathing above 8,000 feet. This kid could run! Less than 40 hours earlier he had dropped all four of the runners up from Mexico and myself in the biggest climb of the 10K course we were previewing. There are going to be colligate programs out there in the years to come that are going to improve tremendously when Corey & his teammates lace up their spikes.


I had to duck out of practice early in order to make it back up to camp in time to lead our morning group run at Bear Basin Ranch.


The day before had been the longest travel day of my life! It had taken me 31 hours to travel from Zegama in Basque Country to the least populated county of Colorado. 24 hours plus the nine hour time difference put me into Westcliff at 4am after leaving at 4am from rural Spain. Three flights, the longest of which was ten hours had wore me out! After a couple hours of sleep I was up running with the four guys in from Mexico. We ran the 5K and 10K courses and chased large deer in the brilliant sunshine which glistened off the snow covered peaks some twenty miles west of camp.


After lunch we all went out again to loosen up for the visit from the Custer County Cross Country Team and their parents! The guys played traditional Bola with the students before we went out together to preview the course. After a delicious dinner provided by the Bobcats’ parents we all tucked into bed early ready for a semi long run.


Thursday morning the guys, physio Sue, and I went out for a two and a half hour long run in the wind and sun of the Wet Mountain Valley. The views of the Sange De Cristo were amazing and the guys all stopped to take photos of the snow capped peaks.


We got back to camp in time for lunch and a nap. Later that evening we took the new camp arrivals up from Phoenix out on a course preview. About a dozen huge deer took off across the trail in front of us and Miguel and gang sprinted after them! It was amazing to watch them fall in stride with the massive animals. Later on that same run we saw a dozen horses out on the trail!


The sweat lodge ceremony was moving as Mario led us through the four traditional phases. I slept great that night with vivid memorable dreams!


Fridays morning group run with at the camp was about an hour on horse trails. A father and son had arrived after dinner Thursday night to complete our camp. After lunch we headed into town so the guys could shower at Club America. Friday before dinner and Burro running we did another short run on some horse trails at Bear Basin Ranch with some amazing views. I tried to keep up with the 4:25 miler. Big mistake as that night I would be the one in need of “physio.” I was more than twice the age of these two 16 year old running studs I was trying to run with. Ouch!


Saturday was the most amazing day of our camp as Corey volunteered to lead us up to the Venable Falls and Lakes. The Falls were amazing but the journey to the Lakes was epic. I got the guys tossing snow balls and laughing at me as I slid down a snow field in my shorts, ouch!


Probably the most memorable moment for me after post holing up to my upper legs in the snow was watching the guys chase the “whistle pigs” around the lake at 12,000 feet. I reminded them that Dave and Arnofolo would be waiting at the trailhead with lunch. The run down was perfect as we alternated snow and dry single-track!


After a soak in a snow melt stream and showers we went to a BBQ for the San Isabel Land Trust, the primary beneficiary of the Hardscrabble Mountain 10K & 5K. Sue and I had a nightcap in the Dome’s Beer Garden meeting some locals and watching the sunset before we called it another early night.


Sunday’s races wouldn’t start until 10am so we slept in waking to the birds chirping and sun warming our faces. We warmed up and I decided I would be running the 10K at my 100K pace especially focusing on seeing how fast I could Euro style power hike the hill at mile 2. I was proud of my power hiking and after I finished I ran the course in reverse cheering everyone on! The race start was emotional as Maria had us all repeate Micah’s famous oath: “If I get lost, hurt, or die it is my own damn fault.


After the race the trail running community bonded and we bid farewell to everyone. Sue and I were treated to dinner at Corey’s house and the next day we got to run again with the Bobcats before we stopped by to thank Kristie and Megan at the Land Trust. On our way back we visited Mission Wolf, and I saw a baby bear.

Another great night with my good friends Amy and Nick in the Springs was followed by Sue’s first trip up Pike’s Peak.


I just had the pleasure of spending some more time in and around Custer County this past week and it is truly a place that is deeply connected to my heart and soul now. Saturday after my turned ankle forced me to end my day in Steamboat early I was able to make it to Pueblo in time to cheer on Coach’s Bass’ Bobcats!


I confirmed and committed my return to the Mozart 100 in Salzburg for June of 2014 and I will be training to regain my title as Champion and Course Record Holder in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Dates are set for both the second annual Hardscrabble Trail Run (June 1st, 2014) and our camp with mi amigos from Mexico (June 5th – June 8th). We hope that you will come join us for both events and get a chance to experience the magic of Colorado’s unknown mountain range.


About rundavejames

Two Time USATF 100 Mile National Champion Two Time Coastal Challenge Rain Forest Run Champion Team Red, White, Blue #CoachDJ @rundavejames Premier Mozart100(r) Winner Athlete / Public Speaker
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4 Responses to Colorado’s Unknown Mountains

  1. So many great experiences in Westcliffe Colorado this past May. Burro running and trying to catch my breath at 12000ft running in the Sangre de Cristo mountains were definite highlights, along with meeting Mexican and local runners. I enjoyed being resident physio and experiencing fantastic Colorado hospitality! Thanks.

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