Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chasing the Sunset

I spent all afternoon sitting in the Bookend Cafe on Boulder's Pearl Street (semi-) dutifully attending to my studies while hunkered in the corner with a steaming cup of spicy chai to take the chill off the brisk October afternoon and legitimize my wi-fi usage.  My running has been feeling a bit sluggish for the past week, so I was surprised when I finally stepped outside at 5pm, walked to my locked bike to gaze at the western horizon (notably, Green Mt.'s summit) and felt a tangible pull towards its upper ramparts.  The sun was moments from dipping behind the skyline and I immediately resolved to bike home, make a quick change of clothes and hopefully charge to Green's summit in time to witness a vibrant sunset over the Indian Peaks.

Clouds concealing the Indian Peaks at dusk.

Running up the street towards Chautauqua there was no magical spring in my stride, but my legs were more or less accepting the effort, which is more than I have recently been able to say about them.  I climbed the Amphitheater trail at a moderate pace, determined not to force an undue effort but definitely interested in what my initial split (the junction with the Saddle Rock trail) would yield: 6:33 it turns out.  Decent, for me, but not blazing.  Despite not feeling any exceptional strength, my legs weren't faltering either and I was surprised when I passed the 1st Flatiron cut-off trail only 5:39 later.  Anything under six minutes for that stretch is remarkably quick for me.  

I kept the effort steady as I passed the Greenman junction in 18:12 and was given a spurt of energy by both the ensuing flatter terrain and the fact that I could now briefly see the glowing western horizon.  I knew I likely still had another 13 or 14 minutes to the summit, though, and would miss the best part of the sunset, but I was also on PR pace for the ascent so I figured I might as well keep on pressing.  I attacked the upper stretches of the mountain with renewed motivation and after passing the upper railing in 28:23 gave everything I had through the upper switchbacks in order to ensure a sub-31min clocking.  Sure enough, I arrived at the summit post in exactly 30:50, 38 seconds under my previous PR.  Maybe if I hadn't been carrying the camera in my waistband I could've found that extra second to break into the 30:40s...

Of course, by the time I arrived on the wind-whipped summit and had regained my wits the sunset had devolved into a slate and ash amalgam of curling clouds roiling over the Divide rather than the orange and purple explosion I had been chasing, so I only took a few moments to snap a couple of pictures before dashing down Bear Canyon in the quickly dwindling light.

First time I've seen Longs Peak in almost a week.

Even though I didn't quite catch the sunset, I did snag a particularly timely and satisfying PR, which isn't a bad consolation prize.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekly Summary: Oct 18-24

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:37) Devil's Thumb, Indian Peaks. 3000'
Awesome morning with some lightly falling snow and zero wind. Ran from the Hessie trailhead at 9000'.
PM: 14 miles (2:03) Green Mt., 3000'
Up the front and down the West Ridge and Flagstaff Rd, plus a trip to the grocery store.  It was raining lightly, but my legs felt great so I charged up the front in 32:11--I was having a great run but the falling darkness caught me on Greenman and prevented the sub-32 effort.  Took the road down because I didn't want to stumble around on the dark trails.  Awesome run, but all the downhill pavement beat up my feet/ankles a bit.

Tue-AM: 14 miles (2:09) Green Mt., 3000'
Up Gregory-Greenman and down Bear Canyon.  Easy day before a long run tomorrow.

Wed-AM: 38 miles (5:41) Almagre-Mt. Rosa-Section 16, 10,000'
Awesome run down in Colorado Springs with Joe.  Parked at 6300' in Bear Creek and headed up 666 to Jones Park to Pipeline to the secret trail up North Cheyenne Creek (extremely steep) to Stratton Reservoir and finally to the radio tower, 12,350' summit of South Almagre.  From there headed down the road to Frosty's Park up 11,500' Mt. Rosa, dropped 4000' down Buffalo Canyon, past St. Mary's Falls to Gold Camp and then up over Buckhorn, down High Drive and then I added on the final bonus 1200' climb/loop of the day up and around Section 16.  The weather was perfect and there was only the slightest dusting of snow on the north-facing side of the canyon, otherwise it was basically summer conditions even above treeline.  Felt strong all day, four gels.

Climbs of 6k' (Almagre), 1500' (Rosa), 800', and 1200'.
The Frenchman cruising Rosa's 11k' ridgeline.
Perched on Rosa's 11,500' summit, looking at 12,350' Almagre (left) and 14,115' Pikes.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:18) Green Mt., 3000'
Up Gregory-Greenman and down Bear Cyn.  I just took it nice and easy today and was definitely feeling a bit worked from the long run yesterday.  Ankle/post-tib is still a bit sore from the road Monday night, so with my accumulated fatigue I skipped the evening run.

Fri-AM: 14 miles (2:05) Green Mt., 3000'
Up the back and down Gregory Canyon.
PM: 8 miles (1:03) Skunk Creek+2mi barefoot at Kitt
Nice rain falling on an awesome fall afternoon. The colors in Boulder are incredible right now.  JB was along getting some footage from the bicycle.

Sat-AM: 16 miles (2:20) Green Mt., 3000'
Up Gregory-Greenman and down Bear Cyn with Scott, Joe, and JB.  JB was getting footage the whole way so there was a lot of back and forth for me, resulting in the extra time/mileage for this loop.
PM: 6 miles (:48) SoBo Creek Path
Out and back from Bobolink with Jocelyn. This was a sweet run completely in the dark and with a spectacularly gigantic and orange rising moon.

Sun-AM: 14 miles (2:16) Green & Bear, 4100'
Didn't get out until late morning with Joe, and after a desultory ascent up the backside of Green we bailed on our plans for a longer run and decided to just bop over and hit Bear as well before calling it good.  Took it really easy and just tried to keep a positive frame of mind while navigating all the crowds on both peaks today. As blustery and brisk as it was up on the peaks today, I really kind of enjoyed it as a break from the perfect sunshine and temps that we've been having. I'm sure I'll get more of the same soon enough, though.

-Miles: 154
-Hours: 23h 20min
-Vertical: 32,100'

2010 Boulder Summits
-Green: 242
-Bear: 25
-SoBo: 4 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Early Season Snow

Joe, heading into the clouds over the Continental Divide.
When I woke up this morning I was surprised to see it wasn't raining/snowing yet (as was forecasted), and the sun was almost shining, so I gave Joe a quick early-bird call and asked if he wanted to cruise up to Eldora for some alpine action.  After about three seconds of waking up/being convinced he jetted over and we headed up to the 9000' Hessie trailhead.  
(Over the phone, however, he had mistaken "Eldora" for "Eldorado" (as in, the fairly low-altitude canyon just south of town), but didn't realize this until we were half-way or so up Boulder Canyon on the way to Nederland.  So, despite being fairly unprepared for above-treeline conditions (only Nike Streak XCs in the trunk, no longsleeve or gloves), he was, of course, still game.)

This trailhead ~30min from Boulder is notoriously crowded in the summertime, but on a grey, gloomy and damp weekday morning we had the trail more or less to ourselves.  The run up towards Devil's Thumb and the Continental Divide was, in a word, idyllic.  Neither Joe nor I had a lot of pep in our legs, so we just bopped along, chatting, jovially surveying the surrounding beauty and expressing delight at the snow and silence falling from the clouds.

A sampling of the scenery as we headed up the basin.

The last 10+ minutes or so of effort in the climb comes in the form of a steep trail up the valley headwall.  This reach of terrain was blanketed in reasonably consolidated shin-deep snow this morning that transformed our running cadence into an arduous pow-hike bee-lining for the ridge crest as we were determined to reach the Divide itself.  Once on top of the modest 12,123' high point on the ridge, we were treated to the usual expansive views down valley and over into Winter Park, an atypical windless calm (ideal for Joe's cotton-clad limbs), and that general sense of rightness that comes only (for me, at least) from gasping for lots of oxygen and gaining a lonely summit.

Joe cruising at 12,000', nearly to the top.
Finding the alpine action I came looking for.
Not nearly as cold as it looks.
Happy at the summit.
The descent unfolded in much the same way.  We blitzed down the initial 1000' drop of elevation only to turn around and see our ridge become engulfed in snowing clouds and then continued on down the valley into more of the same.  

Joe floating the drop.
Two hours and thirty-seven minutes after we'd left, we were back at the car.  There aren't too many more days like this left in the high country, so it was a treat to sneak in maybe the last one of the season for me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekly Summary: Oct 11-17

Mon-AM: 14 miles (2:02) Green Mt., 3000'
Up Gregory-Greenman and down Bear Cyn.  Slow and easy.
PM: 8 miles (1:06) Skunk Creek Loop+Kitt
Really miserable stomach issues on this run.

Tue-AM: 16 miles (2:14) Green Mt., 3000'
Up back and down Bear Cyn. First snow of the year! Got a later start with the rain, and above 7600' or so there was a light dusting of snow.  The cool, crisp, and damp conditions invigorated me and I cruised at a solid pace. Tacked on another 2.5mi down to the bread store and back at the end.
PM: 6 miles (:50) Skunk Creek Loop
Ran late (7:45pm) after class and had some more crazy stomach problems reminiscent of the night before.

Wed-AM: 15 miles (2:25) 2xGreen Mt., 5000'
Did my usual neighborhood warm-up loop and then went up the back and down NE Ridge/Saddle Rock for both laps--37:20 and 35:55 for the climbs.  Felt great on this run and just generally had a blast.  I certainly didn't expect to run that fast on the second one.  It really felt like I turned a corner on this run and that I'm getting back to my old self.
PM: 8 miles (:59) Skunk Creek Loop+2.5mi barefoot at Kitt
Most energy I've had on an evening shakeout in a long, long time. I felt great and kept on just wanting to do more barefoot laps around the field.  Was bummed to bike down to 13th St only to realize that the Wednesday night Farmer's Markets are done for the year.

View of the newly snow-capped Indian Peaks from Green's summit.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:25) 2xGreen Mt., 5000'
Same exact run as yesterday except my climbs today were 37:35 and 35:35. Another beautiful morning with a great sunrise and perfect temps for running hard.  Technical footwork was particularly adept today.
PM: 8 miles (1:04) Skunk Creek Loop+1mi barefoot at Kitt

Sunrise from Gregory Canyon.

Fri-AM: 14 miles (2:03) Green Mt., 3000'
Ran up Gregory-Greenman and down Bear Canyon.  Easy effort before a longer run tomorrow.

Sat-AM: 35 miles (5:04) Green-Walker-Eldo-Green, 8200'
Good long run after not going long for almost a month. Started with a moderate effort up the backside of Green before heading down into Bear Cyn and then cruising over to Ethel Harold via Bison Drive.  Ran around Walker counter-clockwise and was keeping a quick, but relaxed effort that had me rolling up a pack of four serious-looking mountain bikers headed up to Crescent Meadows.  Refilled my bottle at the Eldo Visitor Center (the Eldorado Canyon trail has to be one of my favorite in the county) and then went out Fowler and down the secret trail into town before hooking up into Old Mesa and then Mesa back to Bear Canyon. I still had a lot of good energy headed up the canyon and dispatched the final 1000' climb up to Green with surprising ease.  Descended Greenman-Gregory to home.

Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:11) Green Mt., 3000'
Up the backside and down the NE Ridge to Flagstaff to Eben G. Fine.  Cruised the creek path to Boulder HS where I got in a mile of barefoot on the turf before heading up the hill back home.  Tired legs as expected, but I just bopped along at an easy effort and enjoyed the continued exemplary fall weather.
PM: 8 miles (1:05) SoBo Creek out and back from Bobolink TH
Did the 12min/3.5mi (18min on the way back) bike commute out to Bobolink in order to get a 100% soft surface run and a little change of scenery. Added an out and back on the Cherryvale trail to get the extra mile. Easy jogging.

-Miles: 162
-Hours: 23h 28min
-Vertical: 30,200'

2010 Boulder Summits
-Green: 236
-Bear: 24
-SoBo: 4

Ah, this week my legs finally felt like they knew how to run again.  It's been a while.  Since Leadville, really.  Up until this week, almost any effort on an uphill was labored and my effort levels were not at all commensurate with the resultant splits on my watch.  For whatever reason, that finally changed this week.  Wednesday and Thursday morning's sessions on Green were especially enjoyable in that I actually felt stronger each time on the second lap.  Likewise, on Saturday's long run I was hitting splits on that loop that were very comparable with what I was doing this spring/summer when I was building/at my peak fitness for Western/White River/Leadville.  It was a rough six weeks or so, but at least things turned themselves around.

Here are a few pics showcasing a little late-autumn scenery on Green Mountain.

Golden leaves dapple the upper Greenman trail.
Perfect pine needle tread on a vintage piece of singletrack. Part of my favorite descent route off of Green.
...which eventually leads to this ridgeline fork: left=Saddle Rock, right=1st Flatiron
The rest of the route may redefine your notion of a trail: looking back up at some of the fun I just came down.
Looking downhill at a section that's a little bit more trail-like.
Looking back up at the final stair section on the bottom of Amphitheater.  Running up this can, at times, feel like more of a plyometric workout than anything.

Finally, I'm looking forward to seeing these guys at the Fox this evening:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekly Summary: Oct 4-10

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:12) Green Mt., 3300'
Up the back and down Bear Cyn after an Enchanted Mesa loop with Jocelyn. Still really warm weather for this time of year.
PM: 8 miles (1:04) Creek Path+Kitt
2.5mi barefoot at Kitt.

Tue-AM: 15 miles (2:15) Green Mt., 3300'
Up the back and down the NE ridge plus down Flagstaff to EGF.  Really nice run this morning with good energy in the legs. No evening run because of class.

Wed-AM: 7 miles (1:03) Creek Path+Kitt
Jogged up to Chautauqua and had zero energy, so couldn't motivate to head up the mountain. Ended up going home and then running the long way around to the fields where we did a mile of barefoot before running home. Weird, depressing, motivationless morning before heading into the lab.
PM: 15 miles (2:14) Green & Bear, 4200'
This afternoon there were still fall-like clouds and a great crispness in the air, so my spirits were buoyed a bit. Wore some new kicks that put an instant spring in my step. Charged up the frontside of Green in a one-second PR of 31:28 (6:20, 12:10, 14:40, 18:20, 22:00, 28:55). Jogged over to the top of Bear then and enjoyed the new shoes' grippiness for a 17min descent of Fern. If I hadn't been so wiped by the quick trip up Green I would've tagged SoBo, too, but my legs were not psyched at the prospect of any more climbing.

Thu-AM: 8 miles (1:04) Boulder HS
Cruised 6mi of barefoot on the turf while Jocelyn, jLu, and Jurker hit the track.  Gorgeous morning.
PM: 14 miles (2:06) Green Mt., 3000'
Up the back and down Flagstaff.  Thought I had some decent energy, but the descent was pretty tired with flat legs after yesterday's harder effort.

Fri-AM: 14 miles (2:00) Green Mt., 3000'
Up back, down Ridges to Flagstaff to EGF.  Took it nice and easy, but still somewhat inexplicably tired.  Might get some blood work done and make sure all my bases are covered. Wore a shirt the entire way, so it's definitely fall. Drove through snow going over Berthoud Pass in the evening.

Sat-AM: 14 miles (2:11) Snow Mt. (Winter Park), 2600'
Was up at the Snow Mt. Ranch YMCA near Winter Park for a friend's wedding, so I got out in the morning to explore the area and hopefully find a mountain to run up, which I did.  After bumbling around on some XC ski trails I found the Snow Mt. trailhead and enjoyed its 2000'/35min ascent to 10,800'.  The significant snow/graupel/ice on the top half made the often very steep trail really slick at times and I had to be careful in spots going both up and down, but all in all it was a ton of fun to just step out the door, look for the nearest mountain, and run to the top of it and back.  Legs didn't feel very on, though.  The extra altitude might've had something to do with it.  Coldest run I've done since April; long-sleeve and gloves the whole way.

Sun-AM: 8 miles (1:11) Snow Mt. Ranch YMCA
Really enjoyable group run with a whole bunch of my old CC XC teammates.  This weekend's wedding turned into a mini-reunion of sorts and it was a lot of fun hanging out with a bunch of people that I used to spend a whole lot of time with.  I have great friends.  We mostly just explored the extensive (and, right now, quite muddy) XC ski trails in and around the YMCA at a leisurely pace.
PM: 15 miles (2:28) 2xGreen Mt., 5000'
36:50 and 36:40 up the backside.  Definitely the best run I've had since Leadville.  Runs like this make me feel like I'm ready to get back out there and race again.  Legs felt great right from the first few steps off my porch and the first time up Gregory-Ranger felt like a jog.  Cruised the NE Ridge/Saddle Rock descent with perfect footwork and continued back up the mountain again without even pausing in the Gregory parking lot.  Worked really hard above the 4-way on the 2nd climb to make sure I negative split the run before descending Greenman-Gregory mostly in the dark.  Saw a bear at the mouth of Gregory at the start of the first climb and enjoyed a spectacular sunset from the first summit.  Great run.

-Miles: 133
-Hours: 19h 48min
-Vertical: 24,400'

2010 Boulder Summits:
-Green: 226
-Bear: 24
-SoBo: 4
This was kind of a strange week.  I obviously got back into some real running, but I wasn't draconian about getting in my evening jogs, mostly because I was attending a wedding and because I still seem to be dealing with a bit of not-quite-right residual fatigue.

Those feelings, however, were weirdly juxtaposed with an unexpected PR on Green on Wednesday and a fantastically good run on Sunday evening, so I guess I can't complain too much.  Efforts such as those make me feel like I'm emerging from the funk I've been feeling for the past 6+ weeks and that with continued diligence I'll soon be back in ripping shape.  The Green PR felt like a bit of a token occurrence: it was only a one second improvement and I know I was in better/faster shape in July but I just never bothered to hit it on a day when I was feeling good and rested.  In any event, I certainly enjoyed running this past week more than I have any time since August.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekly Summary: Sept 27-Oct 3

Mon-AM: 4.5 miles (:39) Creek Path+Kitt
1.5mi barefoot. Ran with Jocelyn.

Tue-AM: 4 miles (:31) Leadville
Parked at Ice Palace, ran the Mineral Belt down to the new artificial turf field down by the middle school and did 2mi of barefoot there before running back up to the truck.  That field has to have the best 360 degree view of epic mountains in the state.  Was on my way down to Creede for field work.

Wed-AM: 4 miles (:32) Kitt Field
Ran down to the field, 2mi of barefoot, and back home.  Really had to exert some discipline to not charge up into the mountains today.  Holding out for Oct 1 before hitting that again.

Thu-AM: 4.5 miles (:37) Kitt Field
Down to the fields, 2.5 miles of barefoot, and back home.

Fri-AM: 15 miles (2:21) Green & Bear, 4100'
Great to be back! Took Joe on a nice mellow circuit of my favorite peaks.  Tried out a simple little loop through Chautauqua to get an extra 3/4mi or so of warm-up in before the climb up Green and I liked it, will probably make it a regular thing.  It felt like the rest really did me good.  For the first time since Leadville my perceived effort felt commensurate with the splits I was seeing on my watch, which was a very nice mental boost.  I'm really looking forward to the next couple months of solid training; feeling mentally and physically recharged.

Sat-AM: 15 miles (2:18) Green Mt., 3700'
With Joe again. Ran a warm-up loop up Enchanted Mesa and back on Bluebell-Baird and then went up the back of Green. I need that extra time before getting in the real climbing. Came down some vintage routes on the NE ridge before bopping over Flagstaff and down to EGF.  Joe was digging the technical stuff coming off Green, but in general, we kept today nice and mellow.
PM: 9 miles (1:13) Skunk Creek-Kohler Mesa, 800'
Easy run in the evening. Didn't do barefoot because of all the tailgaters down at Kitt.

Sun-AM: 13 miles (2:00) Green Mt., 3000'
Up the front and down Bear Canyon.  Took it easy today.
PM: 7 miles (1:02) Creek Path
Late, easy jog with Jocelyn.

-Miles: 76
-Hours: 11h 13min
-Vertical: 11,600'

I've run up Green 219 times this year and Bear Peak 23 times.

It was a real pleasure to return back to the trails and mountains at the end of the week.  The hardest thing about getting back into real training is re-realizing that just because my bones and tendons are capable of running a high number of miles that doesn't mean that my fitness level is capable of doing so.  So, by Sunday night my general fatigue was pretty high.  This will mostly mean that I just have to watch myself for a couple of weeks--skip an evening run here and there if necessary, be conscious of taking some days really easy intensity-wise--and eventually my consistency and relative caution will hopefully result in top fitness once again.

Also, I'm ready for a little moisture.  Right now the trails are as dry as I've ever seen them, meaning they're dusty and traction is generally poor.  Not to mention the fact that the fire hazard is through the roof.  On Saturday night there was an ever-so-slight flaking of something that wasn't quite rain (but I hesitate to actually call snow) falling from the atmosphere, and when I was up early Sunday morning to support my roommate at her first marathon (Boulder Backroads) the Indian Peaks displayed a very light dusting (that had then disappeared by time I made it up Green).  So, the real deal probably isn't far away.

Finally, the running in Bear Canyon is phenomenal right now.  Pure autumnal bliss with yellow aspen, red sumac, and dry singletrack.