The trip also gave me an opportunity to get a couple of training runs in with a twist from my normal routines. Wednesday morning I awoke to good sunshine and warm temperatures and set out from the Great Northern Hotel for a hike up to the top of Mount Helena and a trail run to follow. Mount Helena was a frequent hiking destination when I lived in Helena for a number of years back in the 90s. I'd not been up to the summit since moving to Missoula more than a decade ago. Back then, I was in great hiking shape. Now, I'm in good running shape. It didn't take long to recognize the difference.
The Ridge Trail is a Forest Service trail that heads southwest from Mount Helena for about 6 miles to Park City. My training schedule had me going 6 miles this day, so my plan was to take the trail until it intersected the Show Me The Horse Trail, dropping down to Grizzly Gulch Road and back into town. The Ridge Trail is a well maintained single track trail running roughly along a ridge line through open meadows and some forested patches. Heading southwest, it had a bit more elevation gain than I wanted at this point, but the views are great and there wasn't a single person around.
I cruised along checking out the sights and watching for trail signs, reaching an unmarked junction roughly 3 miles from the summit. According to the map I'd seen earlier, Show Me The Horse Trail was the second trail down to Grizzly Gulch Road and I'd already passed the first one. So, using uncanny powers of deduction, I figured this was the trail I needed and headed downhill. The trail runs largely through forested hillside, dropping steeply for more than a mile of good single track trail. It dumped me out onto Grizzly Gulch Road right after a road grader spreading new gravel passed by the trail head. It's good to know I can run faster than a road grader.
Sidestepping the heavy machinery, it was mostly a straight shot down the dirt/gravel Grizzly Gulch Road, Park Avenue and Last Chance Gulch to the hotel, a distance of 7.1 miles from the summit. On the way past Blackfoot River Brewing Co. I smelled the sweet wort coming from a fresh boil and thought about knocking on the door. I'm not conditioned to trail running and the steep descent and wildly varying footing of this trip took a toll on every muscle from my quads to my toes. Garmin said the total elevation gain/loss was 1729 feet with most of the pounding coming on the steep descent down Show Me The Horse trail.
It was a "step down" week in the Marathon training schedule, where you drop the mileage down and take it easy to recuperate before ramping up the mileage again in the next phase. Ooops. Training run done and legs well worked, it was time to get back to work.