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This past Monday I had the opportunity to do my first long run in quite a while. Rather than head up into the foothills, I decided to check out a portions of the C-470 bike path. I’ve driven along side it many times, and have been curious as to what the running experience would be like. So I plotted out a route of roughly 33 miles, as follows:

  • Start in the Northwest corner of Bear Creek Lake Park and take the C-470 bike path to S. Kipling Parkway (where there’s a gas station and grocery store for resupply).
  • Continue along C-470 bike path to its intersection with the Mary Carter Greenway, and follow the Mary Carter Greenway alongside the South Platte River (crossing the river three times) until the intersection with the Bear Creek Trail. Just uphill from this intersection there’s a Target for resupply.
  • Take the Bear Creek Trail west to Bear Creek Lake Park. Follow the trail that parallels W. Morrison Road until it cuts back to the southeast, then work down to the Mt. Carbon Loop trail and head back to the car.

Here’s the map:


The first “aid station” came at approximately mile 9.5, and the second came at around mile 22.

It was good to finally get out for a longer run, and I learned (or was reminded of) a few key points that will hopefully help me out with the races I’m signed up to do later this year:

1.   There’s Value to Experiencing the Unknown. I realize there’s not much “adventure” in running on city bike paths, but knowing that I was going to be out there for a long time, on a route I was generally unfamiliar with, had me a bit nervous. It wasn’t the same as lining up for a race, of course, but it took more mental “oomph” than running a trail or route that I’ve run dozens or hundreds of times before. Heading out on this run was welcomed practice in staying alert but relaxed.

2.   Not All Calories are the Same. Or, more accurately, the source of my calories will impact how much I consume. I knew this already, but apparently needed a kick-in-the-pants reminder. For me, there’s a big difference in getting my fuel (and water) from (a) combination of plain water and real food/gels, versus (b) water with a drink mix as the primary source, with a few gels thrown in. I keep myself fueled much better with a drink (I really like Tailwind) than I do with plain water and food/gel calories. This run was powered by plain water and food (sandwiches purchased at my “aid stations”) plus a few gels, and I finished feeling quite laggy.

3.   Choose the Gear that Fits the Fueling Strategy. The reason for experimenting with the plain water approach was kind of silly. I was trying out a new pack with a non-removable 2L bladder (the Inov-8 Race Pro Extreme 4 Pack, purchased online at closeout) to see how it felt on a long run, and I didn’t want the hassle of having to wash it out afterwards. But as a result I didn’t drink or eat enough — next time I’ll use my preferred drink mixes, even if I have to spend more time cleaning gear. So, DUH… use the gear that fits my needs, rather than trying to adapt my fueling and hydration to the gear.

4.   Optimizing Aid Station Stops is Important! In races and other organized events I generally try to avoid lingering at the aid stations. But since I wasn’t paying much attention to my time during this run, I didn’t stress about how long it took to navigate two unfamiliar stores. Sill, even though I was trying to be fairly efficient in using the restrooms and purchasing my food and water, I ended up spending about 25 minutes on those two stops. If I run this loop again, I might choose gas stations instead of larger stores, as I won’t have to give up as much time hunting supplies and waiting in a checkout line. OR… once the various park drinking fountains get turned on, maybe this loop can be done without having to set foot in a store.

5.   Avoiding Automobile Interactions is Awesome!! Given the length of the route, there were surprisingly few times where I had to cross roads or otherwise come close to cars. So even though the route was urban, I was able to just cruise along without having to worry about traffic.

Perhaps surprisingly (so much concrete!), I enjoyed the experience, and would like to try others.

Does anyone have any good solo urban ultra routes in the Front Range that they’d be willing to share?