Day #1: Training on the Mesa Trail

Ok! Thus far I’m off to a good start!

Remember how on Monday I moaned about my ridiculous half marathon on Saturday? And how I then said I really needed to get in some decent training so that I wouldn’t (quite literally) die during my Xterra trail half in September? I decided to enact my new theory (aka training!) this week, and I must say that I got off to a great start.

After Monday’s CrossFit WOD, I made plans with Will to meet up after work on Tuesday for a trail run. After all, what better way to train for a trail race? Obviously, we have a huge amount of badass trails to choose from in the area, but I decided to head up to NCAR in Boulder. NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research) used to be a go-to trail running location for me in college, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been back. I didn’t want to start out with something insanely steep, so I avoided Mallory Cave and check the traditional Mesa Trail. The Mesa Trail is a very runnable route but it still has some climbing, which is what I needed. So, I loaded Tals in the car and headed out to meet Will!

Mesa Trail

We finally got started around 6pm and the weather was beautiful! The temps have been abnormally low so it was like 70 degrees with a light breeze—gorgeous. Right out of the gates, there were a few climbs, and I felt my heart rate sky rocket. Coincidentally, I also felt the Black Assassin (aka Tally) yanking the hell out of my arm as we climbed up one of the hills. You see, we had started out with Will running Tals but she kept stopping in the middle of the trail to turn around and look for her mama. So, we decided to swap and I took Tals and he took the water. Unfortunately for me, Will is a much stronger climber than I am so he was a bit in front of me. Tals didn’t like that either since her “flock of humans” was too far apart, so she was insistent on yanking me hard enough to catch up with Will. Honestly, I wanted to punch her in her furry face at the time, but she also helped drag me up some of the hills!

On some of the larger climbs, I definitely noticed that I was not physically able to run the entire thing. I finally sent Will ahead since his bionic legs seemed to have zero problems with the climb. Instead, I  chose to take a mini-walking break every few minutes. I figure that I will likely use this tactic during the trail half also, so I may as well get used to it.

Mesa Trail

We decided to turn around at a rock outcropping, but not before we took a few minutes to enjoy the view. After all, that’s the best part of any outdoor challenge!

Mesa Trail

Will and I switched rolls on the way down: since he has to be very careful with his knees (he has torn his same ACL three times), he needs to walk the downhill section. I am the opposite and can pound the downhills—in fact, it’s really when my slow butt makes up any time in a race!

Mesa Trail

In the end, we ran 3.25 miles in 47:40 with 656 feet of elevation gain. It’s always hard for me to initially look at my trail running times since the pace is so much slower than on the roads, but with an elevation gain like that for such a short distance, I’m pretty proud of the run. Off to a good start!


How often do you go trail running?

What’s your typical amount of climbing during a run? (Seriously, I have no idea how much I should be getting in during my training runs!)


  • Reply LeeAnn at

    I have no idea what is a typical elevation gain, so I am quite curious what others have to say as well! According to RunKeeper, my last few runs have had elevations of 492 (3 mi), 554 (3 mi), and 2854 (7 mi). I run on the road, though, not trails. I’d like to try trails, but I don’t have a run buddy and am too afraid to enjoy a run through the woods by myself! Trying to talk hubby into biking alongside me on a trail, though, so maybe soon!

    • Reply heather at

      Yikes! You’ve got some serious climbing on your road runs! And I actually really love trail running solo too– it’s so peaceful 🙂

  • Reply Miz at

    that darn will and his bionic legs 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      Seriously. The guy “doesn’t run” and he smokes me regularly. Baffling 🙂

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Nice! I still prefer trails over road at this point…even if I am that much slower.

    • Reply heather at

      Agreed. I always forget because of the drive to the trail, etc, but once I get there, it’s always SO much better.

  • Reply misszippy at

    Wow–so pretty! I really need Colorado in my life. : )

    I try to run trails once/week. I truly love it and know that I’ll be doing more trail races in the future. The hardest thing is finding friends to go with me b/c I am not always comfortable trail running by myself as a female.

    • Reply heather at

      Again, I have Tals, but luckily Will likes to go too!

  • Reply Kaitlyn at

    Freakin’ boys and their muscular legs. I am the same way-I always make up time on the way down. the trails outside of my new home go immediately up for a long ways and I am always looking for some easier trails that traverse more for days when I just don’t have it in me to go up and up and up.

  • Reply Kiley @ DVF at

    I love trail running! I haven’t gone in a few years though, aside from an impromptu trail race I did last Saturday in Wyoming. I gotta find a way to make trail runs happen more, it’s just hard with kids and such.

  • Reply Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem at

    Beautiful pictures! I try to get off the main roads and hit the cow trails at least once a week. It doesn’t always happen but I really seem to enjoy these runs more and they are way slower and hillier.

    Three times is a lot to be tearing your ACL!

    • Reply heather at

      No kidding! That’s why he isn’t allowed to play soccer anymore 🙂

  • Reply Relentless Forward Commotion at

    Oh. My. Goodness. I’m sitting here in shock that you live COLORADO and don’t trail run EVERY SINGLE DAY! LOL! So I live in a small town in Vermont, but “downtown”, and I still manage to avoid pavement and run trail 99% of the time. If I had my way, I’d never pound pavement again 🙂 Welcome back to the trails!!!

    • Reply heather at

      Well, to be fair, I do run trails on all of my runs, but I guess I have different categories of trails 🙂 My daily runs are always dirt and by this beautiful lake, but when I say trails, I mean big ol’ climbs in the foothills 🙂 It’s typically a 15-20 min drive to the trailhead + back again, so I frequently don’t have the extra time.

  • Reply Relentless Forward Commotion at

    Oh and amount of climbing TOTALLY depends on the trail. I don’t think there is a right or wrong there, it just depends on what you are training for. Out of our two favorite trails here: one probably has about 25 feet total elevation gain (lol!) the other has 1200 ft gain in less than 2 miles. Obviously, it depends on what we are feeling that day!

  • Reply Angela @ Happy Fit Mama at

    I’ve always loved trails but don’t do them nearly as much as I want. I can’t find anyone to do them with me!

    • Reply heather at

      That seems to be a common comment! I guess I’m lucky in that I always have someone willing!

  • Reply Efo at

    NCAR trails?! Girl, you were literally IN my backyard (I run those trails from my apt door almost everyday). Holler at a sista next time you come up this way! PS. do you live in Broomfield/Louisville/Lafayette? I thought you lived in SE Denver or something… my bad…

  • Reply Beth at

    Looks beautiful, I love running on Mesa!

  • Reply Heidi Nicole at

    Hey…I ran that trail last night! Headlamps were needed but its pretty amazing to get up to the top and look down on all the city lights in the dark! Except I could have done without all the darn spiders hiding in the dark on the run back to the car. Ew, ew, ew!

  • Reply Ingunn at

    I won’t be able to *run* uphill until I drop a significant amount of lbs, but on my hikes this summer I’ve been running all the flats and downhills – so much more fun (and fast) than slogging out those last miles down the mountain!

  • Reply Logan @ Mountains and Miles at

    I love trail running and try to get some trails into all of my runs, unless I can’t fit it in during the day. I made my boyfriend move to a new apartment so that we could live closer to DC’s trails =).

    When I was training for my first ultra, I made my elevation goal for the week to be about the same as my total elevation gain for my race. So since my race elevation was about 4500 gain, I tried to get my weekly totals to be around that. Some runs were flat and easy as more recovery runs, and others had 1500-3000 of gain depending on how far the run was. Now on my normal runs during the week (I’m not training for anything now), I usually get in about 600-700 for about a 5 mile run.

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