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Yielding to Mountain Bikers

Original Post
Tony T. · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Well, in an effort to see who else is out there reading this forum, I'll post this!

I'm still pretty new to trail running (like 9 weeks new), but I have a lot of experiencing with trail use in general from mountaineering, climbing, etc., in Colorado for the past 7 years. I was looking for a nice and mellow trail to check out without the typical Flatirons up-then-down run since I'm nursing a little plantar fasciitis injury right now, and that stuff kills my PF and my Achilles' tendonitis. I decided to check out the section of CT off of Kenosha heading west yesterday, and it was really was pretty much what I was hoping for, especially with the added incentive of running at elevation to provide a different sort of challenge. Plus, no frickin' poison ivy dodging like in the Flatirons!

However, so.many.mountain.bikers. Being a former rider myself, of course I gave them the right-of-way as they were coming up hill because...damn...that's just mean not to even though I know foot or horse always have right of way. I think I made the same corny joke about wishing I had a cowbell to cheer them on and saying things like "Allez! Allez!" to all of them, and was just being friendly. There were just so many though that I realized it was completely screwing up my rhythm to keep stopping ever quarter mile to let another group by. Being new to the sport still, I keep craving that rhythm too, so I was getting a little frustrated by the end of it. It's not like I said anything to them to let them know since it is a multi-use trail, and they have every right to be there too, but I was just getting bummed I guess. I'm sure it showed a little when I broke the rules and just went off trail to run by since none of the last group showed any signs of doing the ol' Fruita lean or anything to let me by.

So, I'm wondering, is this a common thing other trail runners feel? It's not as big of a deal if I'm hiking, although it would be annoying if I'm trying to go for a peak and I need to keep my mountaineering pace going (you know, that slow and steady one that you can maintain for like 12 hours straight?).

I'm going to just make sure that I'm going to trails that are foot travel only I guess, but that's too bad too. Do all of the trails here show which type of traffic the trail is open to, or is it sort of hit or miss?

Kristen Arendt · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 4,572

Hey Tony,

I am glad to hear I am not the only runner on the trail who has this moral dilemma! I am a long-time runner, and an occasional mountain biker, but like you, I just don't feel right about always having the mountain bikers yield to me (most mountain bikers seem super polite and more than happy to yield). It just seems so much easier for me to step off the trail than for the guy/gal who is toiling up the rocky incline to stop, unclip, and move their bike off the trail and out of my way.

That being said, I too feel your frustration with the perceived interruption. I actually find passing mountain bikers when we are both climbing a steep hill to be the most disruptive to my pace goals (aka - just keep going...) When I am running downhill, I can usually manage a quick side-step/off trail excursion to avoid the climbing mountain biker and keep my own pace going (may the leave no trace/stay on trail gods forgive me).

So what to do? I guess for me it comes back to my main trail running goal - don't eat s#*t. The challenge in trail running for me is all about the obstacles that I don't get on the roads - roots, rocks, trees, animals, and, I guess in this scenario, mountain bikers. My pace and effort on a trail run are often centered on navigating these obstacles, and I guess (whether right or wrong) I consider other trail users as another obstacle to be navigated! This is my best compromise so that hopefully everyone can enjoy their time on the trail - after all, running is all about mind games, right? I also just make a point to go early in the morning on high traffic trails.

You will find that some of the trails on Trail Run Project have notes about the type of traffic that is allowed on the trail but not all will. You can always try cross referencing MTB Project to see if a trail that you are considering running is also popular with the MTB community. And by all means, if you find that a trail is just way too busy at a certain time of day to be enjoyable for a run, please leave a comment on the trail page to let the rest of us know so we can plan accordingly!



Tony T. · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Glad to hear I'm not alone, not only with the dilemma regarding MTB, but having goals like "don't stop" and "don't eat shit"! It's the little things, right?

Thanks for the insight! Great idea about cross referencing with the MTB Project trails too since it's usually more well known among wheeled trail users (whether motor or self-powered) wether or not they're permitted on a trail. I will definitely do that if I have any doubt or question about a trail in the future...which alas may be further out than I want it to be now. My achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis had a bit of a flare up, so back to PT for me and off any fun trails. Just when I was starting to notice real gains from running and benefits to my mountaineering too! Maybe I should take up cycling again as my aerobic activity since it's less impact...but I'm addicted to trails, woods, rocks, and mountains.


Kristen Arendt · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 4,572

Dang - plantar fasciitis is the worst! Best wishes for a speedy recovery - hopefully, you'll be back on the trails dodging poison ivy and mountain bikers in no time flat :)

Tony T. · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Oh, don't get me started about the PI in the Flatirons here (not sure if you're local to CO or familiar). My first encounter was accidentally rappelling off a climb into the 1911 gully off the Third Flatiron...into a sea of chest high PI. It got on every piece of equipment on us...and us. Now I see it everywhere along the trails there and it's kind of like one of those "obstacles" you speak so fondly of with trail running. Hah!

Any recommendations for how to find some flatter elevation gain runs I could do while in PT? The higher the elevation the better too, so I was thinking of something silly like upper Ute off of Trail Ridge Road in RMNP. At least if I'm only gaining less than 1,000ft I might as well do it at as high of a starting elevation as I can so I can get a different challenge! I think I was allowed to keep running, but was advised to keep it "mellow".

Kristen Arendt · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 4,572

Yikes - I am in the Boulder area, and have been lucky enough to avoid having a run-in with poison ivy so far! That is definitely something I am putting in the category of things I would rather not encounter on the trail - along with rattlesnakes and mountain lions....

There is a cool feature on the Trail Run Project map where you can filter trails by difficulty and length - if you head to the Boulder area page and scroll down to the map, check out the box on the right-hand side of the map that is titled "Area Favorites." Right above the Featured Runs section, you can choose the difficulty you are looking for and adjust the length using the slider bar. Hopefully, that should help you sort through all the trails we have mapped in the Boulder area!

Two easy runs that come to mind are Switzerland Trail and Rollins Pass - they aren't really true "trails" but they will get you up high with some great scenery and minimal rocks or other technical sections which should hopefully keep your Achilles and plantar happy! And they are not too far out of town. You might be way more hard-core than me and find them too much like road running, but I think they are a nice option for a compromise when you want to run in the mountains, but your body is just a bit too beat to handle a "real" trail run...

Would be sweet to hear if you find some other easy, high elevation runs in the area! I'm always looking for new places to run.

Tony T. · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

I think that was a running pun you made...well played. I'm kind of surprised that you haven't gotten it then because ever since my...incident, I can't help but notice it everywhere along the edges of popular trails like Mesa, Bear Peak, and Shanahan (can you tell I like to park at NCAR a lot?). I've also definitely spooked myself running alone in overcast or rainy weather along those trails and thinking there are mountain lions nearby (don't worry...I have bear spray and cat nip in case). Rattlesnakes are what keep me from running in the flatter field-like areas since I know how they love to bask in the open sun in those areas.

So, I tried the length filter, but part of the problem is that it'll take away longer trails that I could still do in sections. It's not a big a deal, I was just looking for any that sprang to mind. I'll definitely check out the two you suggested, and Rollins has been on my list for other reasons (snowboarding and climbing) anyway, so I'm overdue for a visit! Thanks for the suggestions!

As for the areas I was thinking of that fit that bill, I know that the Upper Ute Trail right off of Trail Ridge Road starts high and stays high along a ridge, but it's only 3.something miles. Probably be quite a few tourists, but also avoidable by going early or closer to sunset than not. A little further afield would be the section of the CDT that starts up on Rabbit Ears Pass and just sort of rides the ridgeline for 15 or so miles! I've always wanted to try that one anyway when Trail Ridge Road is open because I think it cuts down the drive quite a bit, even if the mileage would be something I have to work up to (…). I've also just been tempted to drive up to the summit of Mt. Evans one evening and just run the ridge between Spalding and Evans until I get bored.

I'm really hoping I can find a happy medium to keep in shape enough to make another attempt at climbing the Grand in a day, but not push it and semi-permanently injure myself. I got within a couple hundred feet of the summit last August, but we were getting blown all over the place, and it didn't seem wise to continue with the technical climbing after that (wish we would have known that the wind calmed down about 100 feet above us). Ah well, the mountain will always be there, but my achilles or plantar might not...

I'd love to say "Let's get out sometime" but I'm reallllly not that good at running, and I doubt I could even carry more than a conversation if I was trying to! I'm envious of all of the social runners out there!

Dot Helm · · Palmer, AK · Joined May 2016 · Points: 330

Hi Tony, I try to do my running where and when mtn bikers are least common. I'm retired, so I can run during business hours. Most of my rolling hill trails are in an urban spaghetti loop system which has bunches of most human-powered users plus horses. Over the years, I've learned what trails different user types like or don't like, sometimes days or time of days are popular. SprocKidz (about 100 kids and coaches) are Mon and Wed night so I generally try to remember to run elsewhere then. HS XC runners dominate one trailhead about 3pm on weekdays in Aug and Sept. Moms with baby joggers dominate that same trailhead in the morning.

Some ideas are to check with a bike or running store to see what they know about local distributions. Maybe check with some local users / racers. You might consider checking with park / trail office to see if they have any general feelings (about who and when) or if they have trailhead or trail counters with data collected by time of day. That will most likely just tell you least/most crowded times of day, not what type of uses.

Portions of our urban spaghetti loops date back 100 yrs, but most recreational trails probably arose in early 1980s. A recent spurt in sustainable trails occurred in the last 10 yrs. They are generally designed and built by mtn bikers, but others are allowed to use them. All are encouraged to help maintain them. You can tell them on our maps because they've got a lot of smooth turning points - keeps the grades down and provides more riding / running time in the same area, but they can also be boring for runners, esp. if you like singletrack with some roots, which I'm starting to call skinnytrack, relative to the way bike trails are being built these days.

Trail descriptions would vary considerably depending upon a person's perspective of technical more so than whether they're running or riding.

Another thought is that some of the longer trails with fewer access points, but still provided opportunities for shorter runs, may have fewer or more polite bikes the further from trailheads - to the point where I've had half a dozen bikes stop and pull off to let me by during a race (I was running a race, they were touring in opposite direction). The trail was wide enough, they didn't have to. But it's the way they ride. (lead rider called out "runner", and they all pulled off) Closer to trailhead, it gets to be more crowded and every man for himself.

Not sure if any of my ramblings help, but thought I'd share some ideas - which are probably useless where you are.

In Alaska, we don't have PI, but do have cow parsnip. ;) I'm jealous. I did my MS degree near Milner Pass, so drove Trail Ridge a number of times. I wasn't a runner back then.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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