Friday, April 30, 2010

April Is Gone

A quick tallying of the numbers:

April Totals:
-Miles: 673
-Hours: 101h 19min
-Vertical: 120,400'
-Green: 35
-Bear: 5
-SoBo: 2
-Days off: 0

2010 Totals (Day 120)
-Miles: 2209
-Hours: 329h 50min
-Vertical: 406,900'
-Green: 133
-Bear: 7
-SoBo: 2
-Days off: 0

April was obviously an excellent month of running.  My right knee held together all month even as I methodically increased the duration of my long run each weekend, starting with a 4xGreen/5hr effort the first weekend of the month and ending with a 7h30/50mi/13k' vert outing two weeks ago.  Although I still get the odd twinge in that joint every now and then, the fact that it survived such a rigorous 50 miler with essentially no issues gives me a lot of confidence and joy in the fact that I've finally made it back to a place where I can engage in ultra adventures with a measure of peace of mind.  It's been a while.

Overall, this month I made it to the tops of some peaks a bunch of times (42 times, actually) and ran a bunch of miles, all while tapering the final week of the month, i.e. no summits, no runs/days of more than an hour, and no vertical.  That's cutting back for me.  Enough to make me slightly cranky, bored, unmotivated, and rested.  Must be time to race.  I can't wait to see what May holds for me.

(The last time I took a competitive stride: leaving Winfield, CO August, 2009.)

Finally, starting next week, I'll be posting some additional content (once a week or so) on a new blog over at Running Times, for those that are interested.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Green #132

This morning was my final ascent of Green Mt before taking it easy these last few days leading into Miwok this weekend. 

Mother Nature, though, made sure to make it a scenic one.  Last night Jocelyn and I were sequestered in the CU Law Library--she outlining for finals, me tapping out a project proposal--when we'd had enough and decided to make a break for the mountains.  Unfortunately, within minutes the threatening clouds had opened up and by the end of our little 50 minute sojourn on the trails we were thoroughly soaked. 

As I found out this morning, though, it had been snowing up high.  After jogging through the streets to the trailhead my legs felt nice and peppy and I ad libbed a quasi-tempo of the bottom half of the mountain at PR pace (despite slick conditions) before just jogging to the top through the nearly six inches of new fluff.  I've been fortunate enough to make it to the top 132 times now in the last 116 days, but Saturday's race means it will be at least a week before I see the summit again.  I'm not worried; she's not going anywhere.

Some snow-flavored scenes from this morning's Rocky Mountain Spring romp:

Gregory Canyon Trailhead.
Ranger Trail.
4-way junction below Green's summit.
Green summit.
Bear and South Boulder Peaks.
Dinosaur Mt.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekly Summary: April 19-25

Mon-AM: 16 miles (2:25) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Very easy, relaxed effort; ended with a mile of barefoot.
PM: 8 miles (1:02) McClintock-Mesa-Kitt w/ Jocelyn, 1000'
Ran 3mi of barefoot at the end.

Tue-AM: 16 miles (2:20) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Nice and easy.  Incredible clouds.
PM: 8 miles (1:03) Creek Path+4mi barefoot at Kitt

Wed-AM: 20 miles (3:00) Green Mt.-Bear Pk-SoBo Pk, 5000'
33:38 up front of Green; had to hike the last 5min because of ice and snow. Lovely morning to be up high with the clouds at my feet.
PM: 8 miles (1:02) Creek Path+Kitt
Lunch run with Jocelyn.  4 miles barefoot.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:11) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Nice easy run with Joe.  Creek crossings were epic with all this rain.
PM: 4 miles (:35) Stanford Campus from Zombie Runner in CA
Super easy group run around Stanford goofing off with Erik and Jenn the whole time.  It was borderline hot...need to start working on some acclimation maybe?

Fri-AM: 21+ miles (3:14) Santa Cruz Mts, Woodside, CA, 3800'
Early easy effort run with Gary Gellin before catching a plane back home.  He had devised an excellent loop through Huddart Park, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space, and a bunch of other stuff I don't even know.  Had two decent climbs to Skyline Blvd at 2000' where we were treated to inspiring (but fogged in) views of Half Moon and San Francisco Bays.  All of the trails were ridiculously perfect cushiony singletrack through groves of redwoods, which was awesome.  I will say that by the end, however, I was a bit tired of running through the forest and was craving some sense of topography and wide open views.  Great run, though, and afterwards I had the most gigantic piece of delicious blueberry pie for brunch, courtesy of Main St. Coffee in Redwood City.

(Map of  Gary's redwoods-dominated run up and over the spine of the Santa Cruz Mts outside Woodside, CA.)

Sat-AM: 30 miles (4:31) Green-Eldo-Mesa-Bear Cyn-Green, 7000'
There was ~6" of very heavy, slushy snow above 6800', plus I got snowed on the first time up Green.  The snow slowed down the climbs and almost all of the trails were ridiculously wet, often fully-flowing streams.  Even so, it was a good run with exceptional scenery given the fresh snow.  I couldn't help but compare this run to yesterday's in California.  The trails here are often exceedingly technical, but for whatever reason I absolutely prefer their ruggedness to the soft perfection of CA...I guess home is just home and can't be beat.  Especially the wide-open views and thin air.  Two gels.

Sun-AM: 16 miles (2:22) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Relaxed effort.  Snow is almost all gone already. 1mi barefoot.
PM: 6 miles (:50) Mesa-Enchanted-Kohler from Law School, 700'
Crazy run with Jocelyn. Decided we needed a break from the library at about 7pm so headed out into threatening clouds. Within minutes it started sprinkling then eventually pouring on us as we charged, underdressed through the wet trails. Pretty miserable, but it made my headache go away, which is what I was shooting for.

-Miles: 168
-Hours: 24h 35min
-Vertical: 29,500'

2010 Summits (Day 115)
-Green: 131
-Bear: 7
-SoBo: 2
Some photos from the week:

(Deep in the redwoods, on Friday morning. Photo: Gary Gellin)

(Just another empty suit: strange, I know. Photo: Gary Gellin)

(Post-blueberry gorging, with Jim Moyles. Photo: Gary Gellin)

(New snow high on the Ranger Trail, Green Mt.)

(Higher-than-usual creek crossings in Bear Canyon this morning.)

This was the last week of real training before Miwok.  The last six weeks have seen tallies of 152, 168, 170, 170, 189, and 168.  This has left me feeling pretty good going into the taper week, which happens to coincide nicely with the fact that I really need to devote some extra time this week to finishing up end-of-the-semester academic assignments.  But then it's summer!  At Miwok, my goal will be to enjoy the fact that I've gotten myself to a place where I'm healthy and fit enough to line up at the start of a 62 mile voyage with confidence after months and months of not racing and feeling uncertain in my health.  It's time to go out and have some fun running some new trails in a beautiful location.

Additionally, it was a treat to get the opportunity to briefly visit northern California this week.  New Balance was hosting an event at Zombie Runner in Palo Alto where folks had the chance to see some exciting new proto-types of NB minimalist footwear, chat with the product manager of NB's Outdoor line, and go on a group run from the still relatively-new, brick-and-mortar Zombie Runner store (they've been selling stuff for ultrarunners on-line for a number of years now).  Although just a casual jog around Stanford's historic campus, I was thankful to go on a run with Erik where he didn't drop the hammer from the get-go, like usual, and we could actually get in some quality gossiping.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ocean In The Sky

I was up and out the door at 5:30 this morning so that I could complete a tour of the local peaks before class.  A dense layer of grey clouds formed a dreary, low blanket over Boulder, but based on yesterday morning's run, I knew that once atop the mountains I'd be treated to expansive, airplane-like views above the cloud ceiling.  This ended up being exactly the case, so I was thankful that I'd thought to bring Jocelyn's camera along to capture a pictorial record of the morning's stunning, yet ephemeral, beauty.

(Looking west toward the Indian Peaks Wilderness, from my 127th summit of Green Mt. this year.)

(The sun rising over the ocean of clouds, from Green Mt.)

(Looking back at Green, from Bear Peak summit.)

(Looking east, from Bear.)

(Next up: South Boulder Peak. Can you find the trail?)

(More of the same, from the top of SoBo.)

(And to the west, clouds already retreating.)

(And back through the fog to Chautauqua via the Mesa Trail, to complete the loop.)

(The green grass is starting to make it look like Spring!)

Three hours, three summits, 20 miles, and 5000' of climbing all before 9AM.  How's the rest of the day supposed to compete with that?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekly Summary: April 12-18

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:19) Green Mt. up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Started really slow with Jocelyn and Martin. Felt better by the end.
PM: 8 miles (1:04) Creek Path+4mi barefoot at Kitt

Tue-AM: 15 miles (2:12) Green Mt. up Front down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Climbed in 35:50 despite tired legs and losing at least two minutes to the glacier ice on the Greenman trail. 1mi barefoot.
PM: 8 miles (1:03) McClintock-Mesa-Skunk Cyn with Jocelyn, 1000'
Ran from the Law School between classes. Finished with some barefoot.

Wed-AM: 17 miles (2:30) Bear Peak and Green Mt. up Fern, 4000'
27:25 from Mesa trail to summit post (5:10, 9:45, 12:30) and then 14:05 from Bear Creek to top of Green.  Lots of ice above the Saddle on Fern probably cost me ~1min. Fern is ridiculous--2100' in probably only 1.5 miles or so. Although historical comparison will be lost, I'm looking forward to OSMP re-routing this trail this summer and maybe making it reasonably runnable. Felt okay on the uphills this morning, awkward on the downhills.
PM: 6 miles (:47) Creek Path
Took it nice and easy, but legs felt good.

Thu-AM: 17 miles (2:26) Green Mt. and Bear Peak, 4000'
Bascially ended up tempoing the whole loop Chat-to-Chat (up Front of Green, down Green-Bear to Bear West Ridge, down Fern and back on Mesa) in 1:46. Climbed Green in 32:58 and was on PR pace before having to hike significant sections of ice on Greenman.  West Ridge of Bear in 23:15. Fern above the saddle was pretty slow descending with ice/snow, too. This run reminded me of a conversation I was having with my buddy Martin last week.  One morning we ran up the back of Green together in 41ish minutes and he asked how that compared to my "100 mile race-pace" to which I replied that it mattered what part of the 100 miler we were talking about.  In the first 60 miles of a 100 I would probably run up Green in 37 or 38 minutes.  The last 40 miles it would probably be more like 40-45 minutes, depending on how the day is going. So, in that vein, while I was cruising faster-than-usual this morning I realized that I was really just running ~50K-50 miler intensity, maybe a bit harder on the steepest portions of the climbs.  All in all, a pleasant way to get in some up-tempo, race-terrain-specific running.
PM: 8 miles (1:00) Creek Path-Skunk Creek-Kitt with Jocelyn
Legs felt great and the 4mi of barefoot was at a relaxed 7-flat pace.

Fri-AM: 15 miles (2:15) Green Mt. up and down Back, 2800'
Cool morning with low clouds. Took it very relaxed up in 38:55 and then tacked on 3mi of barefoot at Kitt at the end.  My right VMO is a bit sore/tight, so I got a couple twinges in the knee now and then.

Sat-AM: 50 miles (7:30) 2xGreen-Walker CCW-Eldo-Old Mesa-Bear
, 13,000'
Green #1: (36:40) 16:15, 17:15, 3:10; Green #2: (35:35) 16:00, 16:40, 2:55; Green via Bear Cyn: (35:10) 20:50, 11:00, 3:20; Green #4: (38:30) 16:40, 18:25, 3:25. Green ascents 1,2, and 4 were all via the standard Gregory-Ranger route. Great day of running.  Felt very solid all day except for the last 1000' of the last time up Green.  Eight gels.  Got drenched in a downpour in Bear Cyn.  Soaked in Boulder Creek afterwards.

Sun-AM: 16 miles (2:24) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Gorgeous morning.  Super relaxed 39:35 climb. Quads not sore, just tired on the downhills. 1mi barefoot at the end.
PM: 14 miles (2:00) Green Mt., up Back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Huge (~2min) PR of 33:39 up the Gregory-Ranger route.  Bonked hard coming down Bear Cyn (still operating on a pretty big calorie deficit from yesterday, I think), but came out of it and finished the run off nicely on a beautiful evening.

-Miles: 189
-Hours: 27h 30min
-Vertical: 36,800'

2010 Summits (Day 108)
-Green: 124
-Bear: 6
-SoBo: 1
Just a great week all around.  As usual, by Wednesday I was recovered from the previous weekend and was able to put in a solid climb up Fern Canyon.  As the snow melts out above the saddle on that trail I'll definitely be looking to get back there regularly (once a week?) and hopefully get a decently quick time in eventually.  I was going to say something about how solid Thursday's run was then, too, but I've generally just been climbing extremely well all week long.  To the point where I have to start thinking that a 33min ascent up the Front side of Green is pretty typical, as is 36 or 37min up the Back side.

My run this evening, though, was certainly notable in my eyes.  Jocelyn and I were at the public library putting in a standard Sunday afternoon study session, but I couldn't resist the incredible weather outside so I slipped on my 5oz. hot orange slippers, shucked my jeans and shirt, and bolted out the doors for a late afternoon voyage up my favorite local peak.  On the warm-up to the trailhead via 6th St. I could feel some surprisingly good bounce in my legs (considering 50 miles yesterday and the run up Green I'd already completed this morning), so was excited to hit the uphill trails.

(Forget training, shoes this hot will take 2min off your PR all by themselves!)
I chose my standard Gregory-Ranger route because I knew it would have the best footing with just one significant section of slippery, slushy, packed snow remaining on the upper switchbacks.  My custom configuration of New Balance's MT100s are certainly extremely light and low-profile, but the featherweight outsole doesn't always offer the greatest purchase on non-dirt surfaces.  Once headed up the mountain, I could tell right away that the legs were there.  This was confirmed by my time-checks on the bottom half of the climb: 5:35 to the 2nd Bridge, 12:40 to my-rock-at-the-beginning-of-the-flat-section-before-the-creek-crossing, and a PR 15:25 to the Ranger Cabin.

Above here I wasn't sure how my legs and aggressive pace would respond to the stubborn patches of snow on the steep ridge section, so I just focused on dialing in the effort and was very careful to not overstep the boundary between sustainable oxygen debt and an unsustainable accrual of lactic acid.  I've found that striking this delicate balance is the essential aspect to attaining one's absolute best effort in a hill-climbing test.  Because, once that line is crossed, the mountain rarely offers any sort of opportunity for recovery and one is forced to slow down significantly in order to get back on the right side of things.
Fortunately, I did a fairly good job of keeping the effort reasonable and hit the Crest in 23:20 and the last-log-before-the-final-switchbacks-start in 28:00.  From there to the 4-way junction, I was certainly slowed by slick slush and snow and was forced to hike a few steps, but still hit the final time-check in 30:52.  The remainder of the climb was a hypoxia-induced haze of gasping, grunting, and high-knee stepping up the rocks until I reached the summit (but not the summit rock cairn...people were in the way) in 33:39. 

I would definitely be interested in knowing what the FKT is on this route.  With a completely snow-free trail and rested legs (as in, not the day after a 50 miler), I think I could maybe shave another full minute off this evening's time.  My best empirical guesstimate is that the Gregory-Ranger route is ~3min longer than the shorter, steeper Amp-Saddle-Greenman route.  Considering that Rickey Gates has slayed that in a stunning sub-29min time, I would bet that he could do something in the sub-32 range on the backside route.

However, tonight's sprint up the hill only makes me even more excited at the prospect of being able to some day soon have a legitimate shot at breaking 30min up the front.  We'll see.  We need to organize a reprisal of last Spring's 8er Time Trial series, don't you think, Jeff?

Finally, TV On The Radio is without a doubt at the top of my list of Bands I Still Want To See Live (okay, The Kills might give them a little competition), especially given videos portraying such peformances as this:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Backyard Adventure

(Green, stuck in the clouds today.)

"Damn, dude, you're killin' it!  Two laps today?"  This man was noticing that we'd already passed each other once on the Gregory Canyon trail, maybe twenty minutes earlier.

"This is four, actually."


Of course, seeing as I was about a third of the way up my fourth ascent of Green Mountain today, I hardly possessed the energy nor inclination to further avail this man of the fact that I had taken the time--in between the 2nd and 3rd reps--to interject an additional 3000' of climbing and 18 miles of running out in Walker Ranch and Eldorado Canyon.  Plus, within another mile or so, the day caught up to me and I was most definitely not "killin' it" anymore and was just doing whatever I could to get to the top at something faster than what felt like a snail's pace.
(A reprisal of last weekend, plus a couple extra ascents of Green Mt.)

On the whole, though, today was probably the best day I've had in the mountains since before Leadville last summer.  I knew I wanted a final long run before the Miwok 100K in two weeks, but was unsure about what form I wanted it to take.  A double-crossing of the Grand Canyon?  Pressing academic projects precluded the amount of travel time such an excursion necessitates.  A 50 mile race?  Maybe Leona Divide?  Spring Desert Ultra?  My competitive nature would almost certainly drive me to run too hard and jeopardize my subsequent effort at Miwok.  I've learned that I can't run "training races" (an oxymoron if ever there was one).  So, I turned to my backyard--Boulder County Open Space.

(50 miles, 7h30min, 4 x Green Mt., 13,000' vertical.)

After jogging up to the trailhead with Jocelyn, I kicked off the day with two ascents of Green Mt.  The first one passed in a snappy 36:40 that was surprisingly effortless.  It's always nice to see the benefits of taking Friday relatively easy.  Thanks to being warmed up, round two felt similar to the first, except I climbed a full minute faster for a completely unexpected five second PR on the Gregory-Ranger route of 35:35.  Clearly, I'm in shape to go a lot faster than that if I ever get around to time trialing it.

(Fog on the Ranger trail.)

(Summit #122.)

The circuit around Walker Ranch was a joy.  I'd taken my first gel at 1h30 and one every hour after that, and the earlier fuel seemed to be allowing me to maintain a higher intensity deeper into the run.  From the Ethel Harrold trailhead I cruised around the loop to the Eldorado Canyon singletrack in 56 minutes, and then 28 minutes later was chugging water at the State Park visitor center.  High on the Eldo trail, I enjoyed maybe the best views of the day: low, misty clouds had been draping the mountains all morning, and, with it's summit obscured, Eldorado Mountain on the other side of the canyon looked gigantic.

(The stairs down to South Boulder Creek in Walker. Photo: Lucho)

(The bridge crossing the creek. Photo: Lucho.)

Descending off the Fowler trail down into Eldorado Springs, I anticipated the Old Mesa climb with trepidation.  This extremely skinny, rocky, somewhat overgrown half-track generally hurts.  I'd been running a quick pace for more than four hours at this point, had already ascended over 7000', and rain was beginning to spit from the heavy clouds.  Instead, I ran up the 700' rise with little effort.  At the top, my extra energy allowed me to maintain a fast pace that would keep me warm in the rain, and by time the Mesa trail reached Bear Canyon I'd decided I was going to turn up it for a bonus ascent of Green. 

Once back down at the Gregory Trailhead, I dropped my bottle and turned around for one more climb of the mountain.  Finally, on the ridge above the Ranger Cabin, my day-long euphoria came shuffling to a bit of a stilted halt.  The increased gradient exploited my slowly-eroded caloric advantage, and I had to reach into my pocket not once but twice for a gel in order to stimulate some kind of peppy response from my legs.  Fortunately, three GUs in the span of only 30 minutes seemed to put me back in the game and above the 4-way junction, my legs again felt curiously sprightly.  On the descent I spontaneously bopped over the top of Flagstaff and descended down to Eben G. Fine before running the Creek Path home for a (quick) soak in the creek itself.

Running isn't always this easy.  But, on the days that it is, it's a pleasant reminder of the exquisite awards that can be reaped by consistently perservering through the long winter months, injuries, and other detractors.  It's been a long, long time since I could just go tearing off through the rocks and woods with daylight and fuel being the only limiting factors to my voyage.  I am equally grateful to have the arena for such opportunities exist quite literally in my backyard.

(The view from the top of Green today.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hagerman Pass and the Angle of Repose

The 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose is partly located in what I feel to be my second home of Leadville, CO.  (Of all the "second homes" that exist in and around the Leadville region, I would bet that mine is likely the only one that consists merely of a small, trampled patch of oxygen-deprived, grass-like vegetation that lies betwixt a few pine trees and random piles of discarded trash (not mine), and could only be vaguely designated "mine" by an extremely loose adherence to some sort of probably quasi-illegal Squatter's Rights.  I'll say no more for fear of legal action.)

However, the "angle of repose" I have been thinking of today is even more metaphorical than Stegner's title.  I'm talking about resting.  You see, it is Tuesday, which means I'm tired.  Or rather, still tired.  It is not as bad this week as last (because, ostensibly, my fitness is improving), but for the past three or four weeks, the weekend's serving of mountains and miles has left me predictably stymied for the first two days of the next week.  By Wednesday, my stride usually regains most of its bounce and vigor, and come Thursday morning I'm ready to take on anything the peaks can throw at me yet again.

In Leadville this past summer, though, it was often different.  The difference was that instead of the steep slopes of Green Mountain, Monday mornings each and every week consisted of Hagerman Pass.  I loved running up to Hagerman Pass.  The route was simple, symmetrical, and perfectly fit everything I was looking for in a Monday recovery run: a shallow, forgiving grade (i.e., an "angle of repose" in the sense that the road was at an angle which allowed me to rest), fantastic scenery to distract and inspire my typically weary mind, and a worthy summit.

(Curiously, probably my favorite run in Leadville.)

From where the dirt road started off of the paved road on Turquoise Lake's south shore to the 12,000' summit on the Continental Divide, it was exactly 8 miles.  Another 0.4 miles of jogging up the ridge to the south offered a couple hundred extra feet of altitude and, more importantly, a seat on a rock overlooking a nearly 1000' drop into a magnificent glacial cirque forming the face of the Divide.  I would sit on this rock forever, just soaking up the sun, gazing at the view, feeling the breeze on my face, chomping idly on a snowball.  Eventually, though, I would stand up, take one last look west, and pad back down the hill, exactly the way I'd come.

(The pass itself is fairly unremarkable.)

These 17 mile jaunts would start gloriously slowly.  Easing into the effort was paramount.  In fact, despite the 2000' of gain, the goal for the morning was always to feel essentially no effort.  Without fail, though, by the end, and aided by the gentle 3-4% downhill, my legs would feel alive, awake, and better than when I'd started.  A summit view, two and a half hours of getting the heart pumping, mission accomplished.  Tuesday morning the legs were rarin' and ready again to run up a 14er, usually Massive or Elbert.

(Looking back east towards Turquoise Lake, the venerable Mosquito Range and Leadville, from high on the road.)

It was weird, though.  I mean, the route was a road (albeit, an exceedingly narrow, rocky one after the first four miles) and I'm always seeking the perfect ribbon of singletrack.  A friend stopped in town for a couple days, and--of all the incredible trails in the Leadville area--what run do I take him on?  Hagerman Pass.  By the end of the summer, it was maybe the run I looked forward to most.  When I head back up there for the first time this summer, it might be the first run I do.

(Headed up to Hagerman Pass for the last time this past summer. Photo: Rob O'Dea)

I know that the grades of Green Mountain here in Boulder don't offer me the same chance at recovery as Hagerman Pass Road did in Leadville, but it's still tough for me to stay away.  The pull of the summit is too strong.  The desire to leave behind the streets and concrete and crowds too great.  So, I'll probably just stick to my now-familiar rhythm of weekend energy and long runs and weekday fatigue, recovery, and 8000' peaks, instead of finding a new Monday route with a more appropriate angle of repose.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

101 Days of 2010: April 5-11 Week In Review

Saturday marked the 100th day of 2010, so it is appropriate that this weekend has contained some running that has allowed me to take stock of my fitness and preparedness for racing.

On Saturday I continued my progression of the weekly long run with a rather ambitious circuit on some of Boulder's most sublime stretches of trail.  The morning started with the usual jog up through the streets to meet Jeff at the Gregory Canyon trailhead for a run up Green Mountain.  To my surprise, Brandon and Tim were along for the ride as well, with Brandon taking a liberal head start.  However, after making efficient work of Gregory Canyon, the ice on the Ranger Trail proved to be too gnarly for Tim's soles and Jeff and I continued to the top alone, slowed somewhat by the slick early-morning conditions.

At the top, Brandon, Jeff, and I took some time to chat it up, eyeball the incoming clouds, and get good and chilled.  After the 4-way junction, I was on my own; next destination: Walker Ranch.

(Saturday's route: 6h16min, 43 miles, 9000+' vertical = one big loop)

There were several good reasons to include Walker Ranch in this run.  A) It has to be one of the higher-quality trails in Boulder County (depending on one's criteria of course), B) After weeks and months of almost pure vertical in my training, it was time to get some sustained, faster-than-12min-pace running in my life, and C) On a run this long, Walker has to be visited in order to reduce the amount of repetition in the course of the route.

(The dissected terrain of Walker Ranch, as seen from the summit of South Boulder Peak.)

I joined the 7.8 mile loop at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead off of Bison Drive and turned west, headed around the curcuit in a counter-clockwise direction.  The Walker loop is defined by its "rolling" nature, but growing up in Nebraska, to call the terrain in the area merely "rolling" is euphemistic at best and probably more accurately described as cruel.  The buffed singletrack path takes one in and out of three separate drainages associated with the upper reaches of South Boulder Creek.  Each ascent/descent offers ~700' of vertical change, usually in less than a mile but all with excellently maintained tread.  This sort of profile compares favorably with the Miwok 100K course.

(Some of the pleasing sights in Walker Ranch: South Boulder Creek/Eldorado Canyon. Photo: Richard Ryer)

One hour and 27 minutes after entering Walker I stopped at the Eldorado Canyon State Park Visitor's Center for a refill on water.  I'd been running for just over three hours and 21 miles and the day's cloudy, humid conditions required rehydration.  After a quick tour through the hamlet of Eldorado Springs, another 700' climb-in-one-mile, and a traverse back across the base of the mountains on the Mesa Trail, it was time for the crux of the day's run: another ascent of Green Mountain.

Somewhere over the course of the previous four and a half hours and 6000+' of vertical, my legs had lost a little of their early morning pep.  I struggled through the dry trail in Gregory Canyon, but still managed to get to the cabin in a respectable 16:40 from the trailhead.  The sun's warming rays, however, had transformed the Ranger trail from ice into slush and my legs were not happy.  I tried--in vain--to channel the strength and power that I'd felt during last weekend's four-lap endeavor, but ultimately it was all I could do to eek out a 38:55 ascent, 25 seconds slower than the initial climb with Jeff earlier in the morning.  Down the hill, a couple miles of barefoot around Kitt, and another successful long run was in the legs.

(Those four successive 700' climbs in the middle ain't trivial, especially when bookended by my 112th and 113th 2010 ascents of Green Mt.)

This morning was one of those pleasurable days where you get more than you'd orginally bargained for.  I woke up feeling starved (not unusual the morning after a long run), but neglected to even tuck a gel into my shorts, thinking that my legs would be satisfied with nothing more than a typical ascent of Green Mountain.  Happily, the combination of the absolutely fantastic weather and the usual post-long run boost (tomorrow will be when the fatigue truly hits) was enough to convince me it was a Three Peak Day.  I certainly paid for my lack of food or water on this run (however, there was plenty of snow to eat up on South Boulder Peak), but all was made right with some Teahouse French Toast with Jocelyn and my visiting college buddy, Martin (fresh off a respectable 2:37 outing at the L.A. Marathon a few weeks ago), after the run was over.

(Three Peak Sunday: Green, Bear, and South Boulder.)

Due to the casual nature of this morning's outing, I did bring a camera, though:

(Self-portrait on Bear Peak's West Ridge Trail.)

(Glacier travel on the West Ridge.)

(Looking confused on a bluebird day on 8549' SoBo Peak.)

(Running down Shadow Canyon is often more of a controlled fall.)


(Excellent trail leaving Shadow and heading back over to the Mesa trail.)


Mon-AM: 14 miles (2:13) Green Mt., up Back/down Greenman, 2800'
Drunken sloth pace today. Getting passed by women pushing babies in strollers on the Creek Path. 42min to shuffle up the hill, and then nearly fell asleep on the summit rock. But, what else should I expect after a 60mi/16,000' vert weekend?
PM: 6 miles (:53) Creek Path+barefoot at Kitt w/ Jocelyn

Tue-AM: 15 miles (2:16) Green Mt., up Back/down Greenman, 2800'
A bit peppier this morning, but still tired and sleepy. Lots of graupel on the mountain after the early-morning storm. Finished up with 2mi of barefoot on the Kitt Fields. Knee was a bit twingy/achey towards end. That, combined with lots of class/school-work, meant it was time to be careful and take the evening off. The old me would've probably soldiered on and made things worse.

Wed-AM: 15 miles (2:08) Green Mt., up Back/down Greenman, 2800'
Felt good this morning. Rest finally kicked in. 39:30 up the hill but that was slowed a minute+ by the 2-3" of new snow up there.
PM: 8 miles (1:02) Goose Creek+2mi barefoot at Kitt
Legs felt great, but I should've been doing homework instead.

Thu-AM: 20 miles (3:03) Green Mt. and Bear Peak+barefoot, 4500'
Awesome run; this is what happens when I decide speedwork is dumb. 35:15 up the Front of Green, but I was on PR pace without trying before I hit the postholes and snow on the Greenman trail. West Ridge of Bear had seen only one other runner since it snowed yesterday, but it was never too bad until the last 10min through the rocks. Descended Shadow instead of Fern because I was worried about traction. 2mi barefoot at end. Watch said 4700+' climbing, but I only count 4000' with the big climbs...not sure if I want to start counting the 100-300' rollers on the Mesa trail as legit vertical...they certainly sting enough.
PM: 8 miles (1:00) South Boulder Creek+1mi barefoot
Nice jaunt with Jocelyn, Alex, and the Mold-sauce.

Fri-AM: 15 miles (2:14) Green Mt., 2800'
Up Back down W. Ridge-Flag Rd-Gregory. Ran easy with Moldy, but of course his shoes were slipping everywhere on Ranger so we bailed onto the road. Great to catch up and chat with him.

Sat-AM: 43 miles (6:16) Green-Walker-Eldo-Mesa-Green, 9000'
Had to run to the grocery store afterwards for some Nutella so I could refuel.

Sun-AM: 20 miles (3:04) Green-Bear-SoBo Loop, 5000'
Up Back of Green in 38:15; 24:10 for West Ridge of Bear.
PM: 6 miles (:51) Creek Path with Jocelyn and Martin

-Miles: 170
-Hours: 25h 00min
-Vertical: 29,700'
2010 Summits (Day 101)
-Green: 114
-Bear: 4
-SoBo: 1

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I awoke this morning to a layer of fresh snow reflecting the rising sun in through the bedroom window.  I wasn't really expecting that.  Jocelyn, with her SoCal roots, sees this sort of thing and rolls over in bed.  (Not that this makes Jocelyn a wimp.  She's actually one of the more consistently tough runners I've known. In shape or not, Jocelyn knows how to suffer.  This can't be said of a lot of (very fast) runners; I think she's probably just secure in the level of toughness in her constitution and doesn't feel the need to validate it to herself all the time with silly macho gambits like running in all kinds of terrible weather.  Like I apparently tend to need to...) 

I, on the other hand, grunt and groan, kick around the apartment for a couple minutes and prepare to run.  As I put my shirt on, Jocelyn comments that I'm getting too skinny.  Where did those hip bones come from?  Why are there ribs in your back? she asks.  Jocelyn always lets me know when I'm finally getting fit.

(Late season frosty Flatirons.)

The snow actually lended a playful aspect to the run this morning as I danced up and down Green Mountain with a little extra cushion on the path.  I imagined this to be one of the last few crystalline window-dressings of this type, so I was sure to bring the camera along and snap a couple of pictures.
(Looking back down Gregory Canyon towards Chautauqua and Boulder.)

For the past couple of weeks, I've definitely had a paradoxical relationship with my feelings toward continued snowfall.  The alpine hydrologist in me and my interests in water resources all know that Spring-time snows in the Rockies are essential to securing a healthy snowpack, which the Front Range and most of the western United States relies on for its water, via the Colorado River, specifically.

(Stairway to heaven: above the 4-way junction on Green Mt.)

However, the mountain runner in me selfishly wishes that the blasted snowpack was gone yesterday.  I want trail X and secret path Y to be melted out now because I've been slipping and sliding through the white stuff since October and I'm tired of carrying Microspikes in my waistband and dulling them on the rocks that are now poking through and I'm tired of having to plan my long-run routes with postholing and bullet-proof ice in mind and I'm tired of gloves and I'm tired of shirts.  Bring on summer and tan lines and double-fisting water bottles and S-caps!

(Green Mt as seen while descending the Greenman trail.)

Nevertheless, obviously, there is a nexus in my interests and personality where the environmentalist/hydrologist  and the mountain runner are actually one and the same.  I wouldn't be the environmentalist I am if I weren't a mountain runner and vice versa.  So, let it snow.