Trail Ultramarathons…Or What I Do When Climbing Season Is Over


By: Clare Reda

Most Coloradans I know have at least 3 sports they do over the course of the year. This way, they can enjoy an activity no matter what the weather is doing. What is your main sport and what are your backups? Write the compass editor with your story!

When I first moved to Colorado, some 7 years ago, I only had one sport: Climbing.

Clare at Shelf Road
The author, about to rappel the route Don’t Be Messin’ With Ma Moves at Shelf Road.

My first couple of winters were not fun. I actually tried climbing through it; driving 375 miles to Shelf Road for one day of climbing or spending 2 hours to climb one route in Clear Creek because I needed to warm my numb hands at every bolt.

I remember one miserable day in January, climbing at Hawk-Eagle Ridge in Eldorado Canyon. I climbed with about 10 layers of clothing on, looking like that kid in the Christmas Story who couldn’t put his hands down. Using my mittens, I’d clear the crack of snow, stuff the mitten in my jacket, place a piece, put the mitten back on, then aid up the climb. My climbing partner, from New York, kept calling me a whimp-what a meanie! It was tedious to the extreme…and…cold!

At some point it dawned on me; I need another sport (or three)! I branched out to Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, and finally, I discovered Running!

Running in the snow was thrilling in many of the same ways as Cross Country Skiing. I didn’t have to worry about falling, since everything around me was soft and puffy. The activity kept me warm, so I could go out with just one or two layers and be happy. Our snow is dry, unlike Sierra Cement, so I don’t get wet. And, last but not least, it’s easy on the knees.

Crossing the Finish Line at Way Too Cool 2013 Deception Pass 50K Finish Line
Top Picture: The author crossing the finish line at Way Too Cool 50K (March, 2013)
Bottom Picture: Here she is sprinting to the finish line at Deception Pass 50K (December, 2013)

So, in the winter of 2012, I decided I’d spend my time trail running, training for the Way Too Cool 50k trail race in Cool, California. All winter, I ran. I enjoyed trails on North and South Table Mountain, Green Mountain, Bear Creek State Park, Apex Park, Elk Meadow, The Mesa Trail, The Highline Canal, Platte River, and Sand Creek.

I had a blast. But with all the running, I didn’t get a chance to Cross Country Ski. I only managed to squeeze in a couple snowshoes, on “rest days”. I realized, in hindsight, missing out on the opportunity to hang out with CMC skiing buddies made me sad! I decided the next Ultra would be done prior to ski season and after climbing season.

So, after a very hectic summer of peak bagging (I’m now up to 34 of the Centennials), I picked the Deception Pass 50K trail race, on Whidbey Island, Washington. The race was on December 15th. What a fun event! Running in the Pacific Northwest was fantastic. Everything I expected; wet, verdant, and with a moderate temperature.

So, with running out of the way, this winter I will be able to ski, snowshoe, and try ice climbing. I can still do some running, but I won’t be tied down like last winter. After 7 years, I finally figured it out. Climbing is still the front runner, but I have other options and know when to engage them. I have now assimilated to the Colorado lifestyle. Go me!

What is your main sport and what are your backups? Write the compass editor with your story and we’ll publish it!


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