Friday, March 26, 2010

Lapping Up Green

Wednesday's snowstorm has proven to be a bit of a pain in the ass.  My buddy Jeff is gearing up for a classic Grand Canyon Double Crossing next month, and as such, was interested in logging a solid longer effort this week.  One that would help prepare him for the rigors of the Grand Canyon; you know, tighten the hamstrings, season the quads.  Of course, I would join him; this is the sort of thing that always interests me.

(Today's goal, as seen from my urban approach.  Flatirons Elementary in the foreground.)

Unfortunately (depending on one's perspective, of course), mid-week Boulder was treated to maybe it's largest snowstorm of the season, accompanied with some significant winds at the higher elevations.  Up high, the two feet of snow was whipped into fantastical ice-cream scoop drifts that rendered Green Mountain's Ranger trail virtually unrecognizable. 

My Wednesday morning summit of Green involved excessive amounts of postholing, wading, wallowing, swimming, and cursing as I struggled to descend the socked-in switchbacks of the Ranger trail without benefit of snowshoes.  A downhill three miles in 44 minutes.  Thursday was maybe even worse in spots as the warm day-time temps had glazed the top inch or so of the snow-pack into a shin-bloodying crust.  Fun stuff, for sure.

Jeff and I knew that any plans we had harbored for large, interesting tours of the Boulder Mountain Parks trails were stymied, so yesterday he dutifully took a pair of snowshoes up and down the Gregory-Ranger route on Green to prepare the path for today's task: laps on Green Mountain.

I prefaced the real work with my usual ~30 minute/3.5 mile jog to the Gregory Canyon trailhead where Jeff would park his vehicle as a de facto aid station stocked with a milk jug of water, GU, and bananas.  On the first lap, Jeff and I were full of energy and hope.  Gregory canyon had melted out nicely in yesterday's afternoon sun and our minds and legs were eager and fresh.  Chatting easily, we were soon at the Ranger Cabin--the veritable half-way point of the climb--and dug into the trail with enthusiasm, interested to see what conditions would present themselves today.
(The second of the two short, flat stretches in Gregory Canyon.)

Despite Jeff's best efforts yesterday, the trail was still a mess.  Granted, without his handiwork or Microspikes, it would've been largely impassable with any semblance of a usual running motion.  When the grade steepened, Jeff allowed me to step by as I continued up, maintaining a running cadence amidst the uneven footing and unconsolidated powder.  It was scarcely quicker than his powerful hiking.

(More typical trail at the start of  Ranger--the summit is barely visible through the trees.)

At the top, I scrambled to the summit, caught a few puffs of sweet oxygen, and waited briefly for Jeff.  I'd grown increasingly cynical as the top approached, highly doubtful of my desire to attempt any more laps.  The trail conditions were far from ideal, and I wanted the chance to open up my legs a little instead of having a snow-induced governor clip my stride.  However, 22 minutes of a controlled-but-quick, quad-pounding, 2500' descent of the front side of the mountain erased any question in my mind.  The banter with Jeff--and the sharing of the suffering--rejuvenated me, and after a quick gel and chugging of water we were headed back up the canyon for another 5.5 mile loop and 2500' of ascent/descent.

Now fully warmed up I cruised through the canyon feeling surprisingly good, getting to the cabin 15 seconds faster than the first lap.  Ranger was a little stickier now with the rising morning temperature, but more importantly I had resigned to just flailing a little, and I reached the summit 20 seconds quicker than the first climb: 42:25.  To give an idea of the conditions, on a more packed trail I will typically cruise this route in a routine 37 or 38 minutes with a (snow) PR of low-35.  I waited again for Jeff before tip-toeing and slaloming down the technical Greenman, Saddle Rock, and Amphitheater trails.

On the third lap, Jeff and I decided to split up:  he knew his final ascent was going to involve a fair bit of hiking and he preferred to do that on the shorter, steeper frontside route we'd just run down.  I like to run as much as possible, so I stuck to the 1/2 mile longer Gregory-Ranger route and after another gel charged up the canyon for the final time.

Things were decidedly tough this lap.  Gregory had become wet, muddy, and just generally sloppy, while Ranger had turned into that unpleasantly punchy (and still uneven) snow surface that absorbs any sort of helpful energy return.  Surprisingly, I was hitting similar splits, however, and I pondered the physiology of fatigue that caused markedly higher respiration and leg leaden-ness despite no real increase in speed.  Damn you, legs and lungs.  Despite this, I pushed the last three minutes to the summit in order to sneak in ten seconds under my second-lap time and successfully negative split the workout.

(The MapMyRun summation of the morning.)

On the final descent with Jeff I still felt great.  A fourth lap seemed like the natural thing to do.  Thankfully, ominous clouds and rational thinking won the day and after thanking Jeff for a great run I instead jogged over to Chautauqua to log a couple flatter bonus miles before running home to complete the 25 mile/8000' day in 4h18min.  I'll certainly be back for four laps sometime soon (with better trail conditions), but didn't think that increasing my long run by an hour after a mere four days was the most prudent thing to do to my knee.  Of course, within an hour or so of stepping back into my apartment, the clouds that had enshrouded the Indian Peaks all morning decided it was time to start distributing their contents over Boulder, leaving me grateful for having snuck in yet another magnificent day in the mountains.

(Summit #92 of 2010: Pointlessly testing some of Jocelyn's camera's video capabilities.)


Brandon Fuller said...

My videos of you are much funnier. Wanted to join you guys for some of it today but that pesky job got in the way.

Jeff Valliere said...

Nice write up, you did a great job conveying the conditions and general feelings of the day. I'm still not sure about my decision to forego that fourth lap, now I kind of wish I had (easy to say sitting in the comfort of my house about to eat home made pizza). Thanks again for great company and conversation.

David Hill said...

Love the blog, thanks for the regular updates. Quick question: did i hear that NB 101s are coming out? If so, do you know when they will be available?

GZ said...

Good job gents. Admirable stuff in those conditions. Hell, three laps on Green anytime is admirable. Even in three days. Doing it in an afternoon with that much powder - nice work.

Thomas said...

For real, new balance 101's?
give us the leak anton

Anton said...

Don't worry, four will happen soon enough...maybe next Friday?

101s are in the works. Not sure when they'll be released...I would guess late summer/early fall. Same platform (midsole/outsole) as the 100, but a much-improved upper, i.e. holds the foot better, not as sloppy as the 100 on technical trail. Erik was rocking a pair of prototypes at Chuckanut last week, that you can see here: Erik wearing 101s

JCC said...

Are those 230's you're wearing here?

Deanna Stoppler said...

The video with your head chopped off was too funny. No matter how many times I see photos of you running in shorts during snowy conditions, it always surprises me. Brrr!

Unknown said...

Tony - Am sure most people here have found you to be an inspiration. And I am no different. However I think the reason that I am in awe is that you keep running pure and simple - not to do with records you set along the way for sure. :) I just got into running less than a year ago but am hopefully gonna try keeping at it for another 30-40 years atleast! :) Question - is there any way to prevent any type of pain around the kneecaps when going downhill? (Apart from strengthening quads and hamstrings that is)?

Unknown said...

Jeff Valliere- Great to hear your going to do R2R2R in the Grand Canyon this spring! That has got to be one of my all time favorite runs!!! Being in Flagstaff, I am very lucky to have "The Canyon" in my back yard. Just wanted to give you a heads up if you haven't been hearing reports from down here... We got monster amounts of snow this winter in Northern AZ and there is still snow and ice in the top sections of the trails on the south rim. In past years, a virtually snow free crossing was possible in late April but there are reports of multiple feet of packed snow on the last 2-3 miles of the N. Kaibab that might not melt out till mid May sometime or even later if we get another late season dumping. The park is reporting that some rim trails on the north rim won't be open till mid June! You may already know all this but I thought I'll let you know in case you want to plan for a snow free crossing. I'm crossing my fingers for warm weather and quick melting as I want to do the double crossing this spring too.

Have a great run in the's always an adventure!

Anton said...

This is the kind of pain I've been dealing with for the past year. I'm not doctor and have no idea about your particular symptoms, but I can tell you what has been going on with my knee.

I'm lucky to have a Dr. who is extremely experienced with helping endurance athletes, so he understands how important running is to me. To that end, the entire time we've been working on correcting the cause of the pain, not just the symptoms.

My particular biomechanics are such that my right knee "drops in" slightly upon loading, causing the irritation to the supporting fascia and tendons on the inside of my knee. We've worked to correct this through rehab exercises involving strengthening of the adductors and abductors and repetitive training of the muscles to keep the knee-cap centered over my second toe (instead of dropping in).

Last June I received a cortisone shot to reduce some of the inflammation in the knee capsule, and it seemed to work quite well. However--even though we were never injecting into any tendons--cortisone injections are pretty aggressive, and when symptoms returned after Leadville this fall we ultimately decided to pursue a course of acupuncture (trigger-point dry needling) first. That seems to have ultimately helped me turn the corner with this injury. I'm still in the process of building my long runs to the lengths necessary to compete in a 100 mile race, so we'll see.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Nice job. Your descriptions of the trail conditions are dead on.
Question: How do you "MapmyRun" the green mtn trails? Is there a "follow trails" option or do you manually pick points along the trail?

Anton said...

Koll (Kraig?),
Was that you up on Greenman this morning (I was descending)? There is a "Topo Map" option in MapMyRun that can give a rough estimate of where the trail is. As I'm sure you know, the trails out there have all changed course a bit over the years, so their maps are undoubtedly a bit out of date, but with the topo map option and the satellite photos I can generally come pretty close just drawing my own route point-to-point. I'm not really that concerned about mileage anyways--I usually just use it to get an idea of grade and elevation (using the "Terrain" option).


Unknown said...

Love the accompanying vid. A video of few words...none actually, yet a powerful message of conquest as you take those last careful steps to the pinnacle. As you walked back down, I could almost hear you saying, "there's another Green in my back pocket...sucka"

Anonymous said...

Yup, that was me this morning. We've been crossing paths on Green quite a bit this spring. Thanks for the tip on "Mapping" Green.

Michael Shane Helton said...

David, They reported on that the MT101's would be coming out in October, but I have not seen that confirmed by Bryan or NB.

Tony, Do your feet get wet or cold in the Microspikes? you are wearing them in a pretty open mesh shoe.

milsom said...

not to hijack this thread, but wanted to chime in on grand canyon conditions. we just did a R2R2R this past saturday and there is indeed snow from the supai tunnel on up to the north rim. it is not impassible, though. it's a slow slog and lots of postholing. on the north rim there is some ice for about the first half mile or so, but it is not a problem.

milsom said...

sorry, the ice i mentioned is at the south rim, not north. snow at the north rim.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the really detailed response - i had meant to write in earlier but was travelling on work.

I am training for my first road marathon towards the end of May this year. And once I am done with that, i am considering changing my footstrike (heel to mid) to lower the risk of injuries but so far, all the research and talking to people i have done, there hasnt been a clear voice to suggest either of those two running gaits is considerably better than the other.

Runescape gold said...

Nice job. Your descriptions of the trail conditions are dead on.

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