Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August is gone

First, the numbers.

Miles: 459
Hours: 88h 06min
Vertical: 66,400'

2010 Totals
Miles: 4365
Hours: 664h 32min
Vertical: 740,600'

A quick scan of these figures makes me think that nice, round year-end goals would be something like 6500 miles (a convenient average of 125 MPW), 1000 hours, and a million vertical feet of running.  Or at least would be if I maintained roughly the same pace (in all three areas) that I have averaged for the first two-thirds of the year.

This past week I eclipsed the mileage figure that I achieved for the entire year of 2009, and I still have four months to go.  Jocelyn has commented to me that it seems I finally figured it out this year.  "It" being how to balance my running volume with my body's breaking point so as to maximize day-to-day happiness and race performance.  This is not easy.  Running is a tricky game because as runners we must repeatedly condition ourselves to ignore the little internal voices that implore us to stop, sleep in, walk, skip a run, so that when it comes time to actually listen very acutely to what our body and those little voices are saying ("you know, this tendon is a little bit sore...better back off here" etc., etc.) we're not very good at heeding their advice any more.  But, I think I'm starting to get it.

For the past 10 days since Leadville, I've been resting.  I've had a couple acupuncture sessions, my longest run has been 31min/4mi and I've done a run as short as 10 minutes.  After a long spring/summer of training and racing, my head tells my body that I need it even though my body doesn't seem to think so.  My legs have felt the best they ever have after a 100 mile event.  Duh, you say, you didn't run 100 miles!  You only made it 81!  Yes, but last August when I only made it 78 miles I was absurdly sore the first 3-4 days afterwards and tired for about two weeks.  I don't feel any of that this year, and, of course, that has me thinking quite animatedly about what my running plans might be for the remaining months of the year.

Right now, it's tough to say.  With the end of August comes the end of summer, in my mind.  Fall is likely my favorite season of the entire year.  The weather is perfect and the trails are still largely snow-free.  For these reasons it is tough to convince me that it is an appropriate time of year to take some serious down-time.  Now that I'm back in school, I do know that my running will mostly remain quite close to home, as in, from my front doorstep.  Chautauqua and all of its spiderwebbing trails are now a mere seven minute jog from my porch, so I imagine that Green Mt and very likely Bear Peak will once again figure quite prominently in my daily running scenarios.  (Over the summer, Green had fallen a bit out of favor--only making it to the top 3-4 times per week instead of my usual 7-8--because there was so much high-country to be explored.)

As for racing, I only know for sure that I am interested in heading out to Marin in early December for what has become the yearly end-of-the-season showdown at the North Face 50 mile Championships.  The prize money always attracts healthy competition and typically assembles a field whose depth can really only be rivaled by the Western States 100 in June.  Considering how much fun I had there this year, there's no way I want to miss out on the action in the Headlands this December.

Before that, I'm keeping my schedule flexible, but am thinking of taking a crack at a couple of the more classic 50 mile races on the circuit: Firetrails and Mt. Masochist come to mind.  Denver hosts a Rock 'n Roll Marathon in October as well, and seeing as I haven't run a proper road marathon in four years, it could be fun to pound the pavement for a couple hours.  And, before the snow really starts flying, there are a couple of high-country loops that I've been eyeing all summer but haven't had the chance to get around to just yet this year: the Four Passes Loop in the Elk Mountains near Aspen, CO and the Buchanan-Pawnee Pass Loop closer to home here in our very own Indian Peaks Wilderness.  No matter what, the change in seasons will certainly bring a change (even if only subtle) to my running.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lessons Learned at Leadville, 2010

Here is an article I wrote for Running Times.com this week that offers a little more reflection on my race at the Leadville 100 this year.                                                                                                                                          
Not even to the top, yet: A pretty accurate depiction of the suffering that was occurring on Powerlines this year for me at Leadville.  With pacer, Alex Nichols.  Rob O'Dea photo.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Leadville 100 2010 Race Report

I've got my report from this weekend's Leadville Trail 100 up over on Running Times.  Hopefully it helps clear up some of the apparent confusion about what happened on Saturday.

Also, congratulations to 2010 champion Duncan Callahan who ran a patient, steady race and earned his victory through admirable, dogged perserverance, and to the 362 other successful finishers.  Leadville is a special one and you should all be proud.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Balance Interview

Here is a short interview I did with Newbalance.com earlier this week regarding tomorrow's racing of the Leadville 100.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Weekly Summary: Aug 9-15

Mon-AM: 35 miles (5:41) Indian Peaks/Continental Divide, 6500'
Parked at Hessie with Scott and headed up to Devils Thumb in a pretty steady rain at 7am. What can you do? Just hunkered down in our lightweight shells and went for it. Above treeline the precip stopped and the sun came out intermittently for perfect weather at 12,000' on the CD.  Ran 9 miles south essentially free-form cross-country right on the CD at 12k' the whole time--hummocky grass and some talus--to Rogers Pass and then descended the SoBo Creek drainage to the Forest Lakes Trail at 9600'.  Ran that up to Rollins Pass Road where it started raining again and then hailing very hard (pea-sized) but only a little thunder and no visible lightning.  Popped over the tunnel ridge and then tempoed it to Corona Pass through intensifying rain, hail, and thunder.  Ran the King Lake Trail back down to Hessie to complete the loop. Another inspiring day in the mountains, for sure.

Tue-AM: 15 miles (2:16) Green Mt up back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Easy and slow after yesterday.
PM: 7 miles (1:01) Creek Path+2.5mi barefoot
Slow, easy run with Jocelyn.

Wed-AM: 17 miles (2:38) Green Mt. and Bear Pk, 4200'
Good run on my favorite loop in the hills here. Looking forward to making this a daily run after I move into a new apartment much closer to Chautauqua next week and it turns into a duration of something closer to 2hr.
PM: 5 miles (:42) City Park in Denver
Quick spin with Jocelyn before hitting up the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros show at the Ogden. Which was incredible.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:13) Green Mt up back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Easy run and late morning after a late night. Ran into a plethora of folks all out enjoying the trails: Jeff, Brandon, George, Tim, and Tim. Finished up with a swim in Boulder Creek.
PM: 10 miles (1:53) Green Mt up and down Bear Cyn, 2500'
Started from Bear Mt Drive trailhead with Jocelyn...mellow pace with her, but on the last 1000' of climb up Green-Bear I went ahead on my own and then waited for her at the summit. Most of the descent ended up being slowed by darkness. Incredible sunset--even though it was a bit more than I'd planned, it was totally worth it to get out in the evening and share the run with Jocelyn.

Fri-AM: 15 miles (2:11) Green Mt up back down Ridges/Flag, 3000'
Last run up Green for a couple weeks, I'm sure.  After Leadville I'll probably be hitting this very consistently again as I become more busy with school and the snow starts closing up the high country.
PM: 7 miles (1:00) Red Rocks Canyon, 500'
Great evening run in the Springs with Jocelyn. We love it down there--so many great trails all over the place.

Sat-AM: 16 miles (2:13) Almagre Mt., 2800'
Parked at Rosemont Reservoir and ran up to Frosty's Park then over on 701 to the North Cheyenne Creek trail, up to Stratton Reservoir (which had zero water in it) at 12k' and finally over to Almagre's extremely scenic summit at 12,350'-ish (it sits southeast of Pikes Peak, across the drainage). Descended the FS road. This is a great run in COS where the only people I saw were a few rednecks camping near the reservoir drinking beer and shooting off really really loud guns.  The climb up Cheyenne Creek to the reservoir is fairly ridiculous: ~1600' in not much more than a mile on a very very little-known awesome reach of tiny half-track.  I was following Alex Nichols' Inov-8 X-Talon footprints the whole way as he had run it only two days earlier...plus he's one of I'm sure very few people who actually use this trail. I love it.
PM: 7 miles (1:00) Palmer Park with Jocelyn, 500'
Another example of the endless options for fantastic trail running in Colorado Springs.

Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:13) 7 Bridges-701-Buckhorn Mt., 3000'
Jocelyn and I slept in the Roost on Gold Camp Rd just below the upper parking lot (10min from downtown COS), so that's where I started the run. Went up 7 Bridges (one of my favorite trails in the Springs, it climbs 1600' in ~2mi to 9100') and then continued up the N. Cheyenne Creek drainage on the secret trail to 701 which I then traversed (at 10,000-10,300') over to the Bear Creek drainage and ran the classic 667 trail down to the ridge and Buckhorn Mt and back to the Roost. It looks like the dirt-bike club has done a ton of much needed work on the trail between 666 and the beaver meadows: rock water-bars, re-vegetation, bridges...good stuff. I don't mind the dirt-bikes since they do this kind of significant trail work.  Didn't see a single person this entire run. Awesome.


-Miles: 164
-Hours: 25h 01min
-Vertical: 26,000'

2010 Summits (Day 227)
Green: 198
Bear: 14
SoBo: 4

Summer is nearing an end.  When I was down in the Springs over the weekend, the clearing of the clouds in the afternoon revealed a lightly snow-dusted eastern face of Pikes Peak.  As such, it must be time to race the Leadville 100!

If I had more time, I might give some more thoughts on the end of summer, running and racing, etc, but as it is I haven't done a thing to pack for Leadville yet, so I should probably get on it.  Nevertheless, the plan will be to stay relaxed, not worry about splits or time, and just enjoy the experience and spectacle of competing hard in what will be--in terms of participation--nearly double the biggest trail 100 ever held in North America.  I'm looking forward to it.

(Me and the savvy Leadville crew chief. jLu photo.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekly Summary: Aug 2-8

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:23) Green Mt up back down Bear Cyn, 3000'
Everything was less sore by the end of this very slow recovery run.

Tue-AM: 13.5 miles (2:07) Green Mt up/down backside, 3000'
Sleepy run in the dark at 4:50am before catching a flight to SLC.  Ran into George and Jeff on the way down and felt bad because I was basically falling asleep while talking to them without having the stimulation of running to keep me awake.  Somehow made it to the airport intact and then passed out for essentially the entire flight.
PM: 3.5 miles (:28) Salt Lake Running Company group run
NB was hosting a fun gathering of folks at the store so I had the pleasure of meeting very many SLC-ians and talking shoes/running with a lot of people.

Wed-AM: 13 miles (2:04) City Creek Canyon to Radio Towers, 2000'
Hit the singletrack (Bonneville Shoreline Trail) and headed UP to the closest, highest point I could find.  It was a nice little summit and the trails were excellent with the last pitches being extremely steep.
PM: 4 miles (:33) Treadmill Uphill Challenge, 1000'
Notched 1.92 miles on the death machine and got smoked by Timmy Parr.  Ended up finishing 4th overall behind Max, Timmy, and Rickey.  Which was fine with me; I'll never be able to beat those guys in a 2mi race and was mostly just happy to have not gotten "lapped" (beaten by more than .25mi) by Max. Definitely tweaked the right hammy when I finally cranked the pace up to 9-10mph the last 90sec or so.  Accomplished my one goal of not vomiting on any spectators, but I did finish feeling as if I was drowning in my own perspiration. Part of me sometimes wants to modify my training just a little so as to be more competitive/versatile at the shorter hillclimb/mountain races...but another (very big) part of me doesn't really care.  Plus, a treadmill race isn't a mountain race...
This must've been early because Timmy still has his singlet on and I'm not yet staring directly into the monitor with my head down in full-on suffer-mode.  Rickey Gates photo.
Later in the evening at the Brooks party with Jenny, Dean, Rickey, and Scott. Rickey Gates photo.
Thu-AM: 10 miles (1:16) City Creek Canyon
Nice early morning singletrack where I had lots of energy. Really excited about the shoe developments we're working on at NB.  I think we're gonna have the perfect shoe nearly dialed with this next iteration, and I'm also really excited to start hearing some more widespread feedback on the Trail Minimus.
PM: 14 miles (2:00) Green Mt up front down ridges, 3000'
Up in 2nd-best time of 31:39 (6:30, 12:30, 15:00, 18:40, 22:15, 29:05), which was 10sec off PR.  I'd really like to get this under 31min before the snow starts mucking things up.  I was experiencing a little bit of an evening-run energy boost so I decided to go for it, but I ended up forcing it too much the whole way as opposed to just letting the trail/mountain come to me (which is what happens on the best/fastest runs).  OSMP has done a lot of appreciated trail work on this frontside route removing big rocks, rehabbing washed-out sections, and closing off various areas of mild route-cutting.

Fri-AM: 18 miles (2:39) Green Mt. up Flatirons down Red Lion, 3000'
Nice alternative route this morning with Scott, both up and down. Pretty dehydrated by the end, though.
PM: 5 miles (:40) Creek Path

SAT-AM: 18 miles (2:37) Green Mt. & Bear Peak, 4200'
Up front of Green in 31:41 (6:45, 12:45, 15:10, 18:52, 22:18, 29:10) then West Ridge of Bear in 23:40 (15:50, 4:05, 3:45). Felt pretty good on the climb up Green--not as high of an effort as on Thu. Caught Darcy on the steep last 500' of Bear and then we chatted for a long time on the summit just enjoying the about-to-get-very-hot, beautiful summer morning.  Footwork was dialed on the technical Fern descent (18:50) and I felt good all the way back home.
PM: 8 miles (1:01) Creek Path+2mi barefoot at Kitt
Results from Sierre-Zinal today. Kilian barely took an EXTREMELY close race in a time a couple minutes slower than last year (16sec margin of victory) with Joe Gray 7th and Megan Lund won (!!!) the women's race with Brandy coming in 4th.  Megan's winning time of 3:09 was the slowest in a few years, but that was mostly a function of Anna not running for the first time in many years, who basically always breaks three hours. Definitely a must-do race on my list, even though it's only 31K.  Sweet to see some Americans starting to represent over there (but don't forget Rickey's stellar 4th place run there last year).

SUN-AM: 16 miles (2:15) Green Mt. up front down Bear Cyn, 3000'
A very mellow 34min ascent so as to rest the legs a little bit.
PM: 8 miles (1:03) Creek Path+1.5mi barefoot at Kitt

-Miles: 144
-Hours: 21h 06m
-Vertical: 22,200'

2010 Summits (Day 220)
-Green: 193
-Bear: 13
-SoBo: 4


This was a really busy week with the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show out in Salt Lake City.  Which is a weird phenomenon that always leaves me with mixed feelings.  Part of me is excited about certain aspects of product development and support for the sport, and another part of me is extremely turned off by the blatant commercialization and commodification of nature.  I can't help but feel at least somewhat complicit in this--with being a sponsored outdoor athlete--but I like to think that hopefully some of this is balanced out by my being more focused on inspiring people to value certain things (i.e., the land) and do healthy things with their lives.

In any event, sometimes all you can do is put some worthy art out there and let people decide for themselves how they'll be affected by it:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Alpine Binge

Last week I was presented with the opportunity to get out and spend some significant time in the high mountains.  This is my favorite type of running to do, hands down.  The powers of precipitation only allow running travel above treeline for a few short months out of the year, so I always make a concerted effort to cram in as many miles as possible up there while I can.

The highlight of all this was a 50ish mile long run on Saturday (that we had intended to be 40ish miles).  Scott and I planned a "Super-Loop" of sorts up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just west of Boulder.  Neither of us had much, if any, experience with these trails, so we were both eager to see as much as we could in a single day.  With that in mind, I devised the following admittedly ambitious route:

(Starting and finishing at Long Lake in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.)

The start would be at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area at ~10,400'.  From there we would head up and over 12,550' Pawnee Pass down to Monarch Lake at 8400'.  Next would be a hump up to the Strawberry Bench and the High Lonesome Trail/CDT, which would take us to Junco Lake.  From there we would continue climbing up to Caribou and Arapahoe Passes back at 12,000', drop briefly to 11,200' and then climb again to the day's high point of 12,800' at the Arapahoe Glacier Overlook.  An enormously long descent would deposit us down at the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station before we made our final 2000' climb of the day up and over 11,500' Niwot Ridge to drop back down to our starting point near Long Lake.  On the map it looked bold, but doable.  Of course, none of this was even remotely appropriate as a "taper" before this past weekend's White River 50 mile USATF National Trail Championships, which we both ended up running.

(A fairly intimidating profile.)

Scott was gracious enough to carry a camera all day, and it was completely worth it.  The breathtaking scenery and fantastic singletrack were the defining characteristics of this day's run.  Also, the stark difference between what a plan looks like on a map and the nature of the actual felt experience. 

There were at least two moments worth noting during the course of our eight hours and ten minutes of running.  After about four and a half hours of running time I topped out on our third 2000' climb of the day at Caribou Pass.  As I sat on the edge of the thin piece of singletrack carved directly into the rock mountainside, sucking on a gel and gazing out into the spectacular basin that spread out before me, I finally "got it".  This is why Boulder is a special place.  For the past year I've had a hard time accepting why Boulder garners so much more praise and hype as an outdoor mecca when someplace like, say, Colorado Springs had the nearly incomparable charms of Pikes Peak going for it.  Well, these mountains had to be it.  The Indian Peaks are as rugged, steep, remote, and scenic as anything I've seen in the San Juans or Tetons, two of my upper-echelon contiguous 48 states mountain standards.  Eventually Scott joined me and we trotted over to Dorothy Lake at 12,000' for a quick alpine dip before continuing with our run.

The second moment was more of an existential, despair-inducing episode.  Scott and I had just climbed to ~12,800' to a perch on the ridge overlooking Arapahoe Glacier when I pointed out to him the Niwot Ridge trail snaking over an alpine meadow waaaay over there.  We'd been running for over five hours at this point and I was trying to convince him--and myself--that we were only ~12 miles and two hours away from the crest of that final climb.  Of course, we were way off on the mileage and it would actually be another full three hours of running before the day's work was complete.  But that's a big reason why we were out there: to see a lot of country and in the process callous our minds and bodies to the demands of running all day.

The rest of the story is better told in pictures:

(Looking down the magnificent drop on the west side of Pawnee Pass.  Monarch Lake can be seen way off in the distance.  The only other place I've seen trail constructed on such precipitous terrain is in the Grand Canyon.)

(Scott, utterly dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape on the Pawnee Pass drop.)

(Who would've thought this was back there?)

(The High Lonesome Trail: where it seems only elk dare roam.)

(Wow. Sitting on Caribou Pass with Arapahoe Pass and South Arapahoe Peak in the background.)

(Scott cruising over to Arapahoe Pass.)

(A late-in-the-day desperate descent off of Niwot Ridge after not being able to find the trail back down to Long Lake.)

(We came straight down that.)

(Finally, back at the Roost, killing mosquitoes.)

(Scott expressing his love for Forest Service mileages after a longer-than-expected day.)

Weekly Summary: July 26-Aug 1 and July Stats

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:28) Mt. Elbert, 4500'
Great run back on what still feels like one of my home mountains/trails.  Despite limited acclimation (compared to the perfect acclimation I had living in Leadville last summer) I ran to the top a full minute faster than before the White River 50 last summer. Bruised quad was decently improved.
PM: 9 miles (1:11) Area 57 in Leadville, 1000'
This is an exceptional area (between 5th and 7th St on the east side of town) of somewhat secret singletrack that eventually climbs up to 11,000'. It was designed by mountain bikers, so it's a bit sinuous but still really nice stuff for running. Legs felt great and kept a clipping pace. Love the running in Leadville.

Tue-AM: 15 miles (2:16) Wason Park from Creede, CO, 3000'
Perfect singletrack right from main street Creede that climbs to a huge tundra meadow at 11,700' just below the Continental Divide and in the La Garita Wilderness. Love this trail, but after Inspiration Point at 11,000' it looked like hardly anyone else had been on the trail since I ran it last summer.
AM2: 8 miles (1:10) San Luis Pass, 1500' vertical
After running at 4:50am I was ready for the second run by 10am, especially since I knew I'd be driving back to Boulder all afternoon/evening. Parked near the Equity Mine (where I was placing a precipitation collector) at 11,000' and ran up to the 12,000' pass on the Continental Divide and then continued on the CDT/CT to the "north" to a high point of 12,500'.  Legs felt great.

Wed-AM: 15 miles (2:09) Green Mt. up back down NE ridge, 3000'
Cruised easy but the legs had lots and lots of pep.
PM: 8 miles (1:02) Creek Path
Got in about a mile of barefootin' while Jocelyn was hanging out in the law school.

Thu-AM: 8 miles (1:07) Creek Path with Jocelyn
Random running of errands. Trying to get in a (very) small taper here before White River on the weekend.

Fri-AM: 8 miles (1:03) Creek Path
Cruised around the Goose Creek loop with Jocelyn on her bike before hopping a plane to WA. Legs felt great and ready to race.

Sat-AM: 51 miles (6:33); White River 50 in 6:25:29
New course record against a surprisingly deep field. One mile cooldown. 9000' vertical.

Sun-PM: 5 miles (:42) Creek Path
Just an easy shakeout after a long nap. Legs actually felt really good--last year I could barely walk the day after WR and tonight my upper hamstrings were just a bit tight and my quads a little sore. Total recovery should be quick.

-Miles: 142
-Hours: 19h 41min
-Vertical: 22,000'

2010 Summits (Day 213)
Green: 187
Bear: 12
SoBo: 4

July Totals
-Miles: 501
-Hours: 74h 23min
-Vertical: 77,700'

2010 Totals
-Miles: 3906
-Hours: 576h 26min
-Vertical: 674,200'
I came into this week half-contemplating the thought of racing White River this weekend and by Wednesday night--after seeing that Jocelyn and I were, indeed, going to be capable of moving out of apartment by the end of the month--Scott and Jenny had talked me into it so I bought a plane ticket, instituted a super-quick, two-day "taper" and went for it.

I'm obviously pleased with the way this week turned out after not deciding to race White River until Thursday and going into the race with a 50 mile run and nearly 200 mile week in my legs on top of a pretty volume/vertical-heavy first half of this week.  It was a bit of a gamble to go to a championship event with a top-notch field not fully rested, but I felt this was an important week of training headed into the August 21st weekend of racing, so I didn't want to rest too much.  Thankfully, it all worked out.

This coming week I'll look to fully recover from White River in the next day or two, hopefully get in a couple nice mountain runs in the Wasatch while in SLC for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, and then hit a solid seven-day or so stretch of training before one final taper this summer.

In the meantime, may this induce some foot-tapping: