Friday, March 30, 2012

Tarawera Ultramarathon

Careening into Rotorua, NZ, on edge and twitchy from driving on the wrong side of the road and having to shift with my left hand, potent whiffs of sulfur pouring in the open window of my rental suddenly transport me to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  I first experienced Yellowstone's paint pots and geysers with my family on one of our many summertime car camping trips back in the early 1990s.  It's an odd, very distinctive smell, and one that the residents of Rotorua live with every day.  New Zealand in general is extremely volcanic and geothermal, situated as it is on the Pacific Rim, and Rotorua is especially so, with innumerable geysers and naturally-occurring hot pools.  It is also home to the Tarawera Ultramarathon.

Tarawera Ultramarathon founder and Race Director Paul Charteris picks me up from the rental car agency and we drive to his house on the edge of town where final, frantic preparations are underway for the race 36hrs hence.  The passion Paul has for this event and trail running in general is obvious in his attention to detail and his contagious enthusiasm.  Two-time race champion Kerry Suter greets me in the driveway.  He's only running a relay leg this year but is picking up slack by extensively volunteering for Paul and assisting in the production of a short film about this year's event.  He would later whisk me away to picturesque Blue Lake on the 100K course for a short interview (and run something like an extra 40K on race day following the 100K leaders with a GoPro Camera).

Chatting with Kerry Suter at the Charteris (with gym bag) residence. Photo: Paul Petch.
Paul introduces me to Ruby Muir and Kristian Day, two up-and-coming NZ trail runners who exude a kind of quiescence and affability that I would come to find is pretty much standard for Kiwis in general.  From them, I learn that Paul's sunny and sparsely-furnished bachelor pad is the de facto runner's hostel in New Zealand.  It seems that at least half the runners I will meet this week have crashed for a night in Paul's spare bedroom, on the two giant neon-green beanbags in his living room, or camped outside on his backyard lawn.  As K-Day cracks the first of many brews and we chat over nutella sandwiches in Paul's kitchen, the vibe is overwhelmingly mellow.

After my interview at the lake, we head over to the Redwood Center for the pre-race Fun Run--a relaxed 7.5K jog on cushy trails that course through the redwoods and surrounding commercial forest.  Following the Fun Run, many of the runners stay to enjoy a screening of Unbreakable in maybe the coolest venue I've experienced yet for it--out under the stars beneath the redwoods with the audience seated in the forest duff. Perfect.

Striding out at the Fun Run. Photo: PP.
Some DVDs, some redwoods. Photo: PP.
The Fun Run is the kick-off to a weekend of activities that essentially establish this event as nothing less than a trail running festival.  Besides the 100K, 85K, 60K, and 85K relay on Saturday, there is an extensive pre-race expo at race registration on Friday afternoon and everything is wrapped up Sunday morning with a well-attended and cozy awards gathering ("prize-giving" in Kiwi-speak) at the uber-hip Abracadabra Cafe in downtown Rotorua.  Rotorua is known as "Rotovegas" by Kiwis, not because of its casinos or neon lights (thankfully), but because of its renown as an outdoor recreation haven--hardcore fun, Kiwi-style.  Paul's still-fledgling event is certainly already contributing to this reputation mightily.

After the film has ended, Paul has plans to introduce me to a little local flavor, so a handful of us pile into a pair of cars and head ~20min south of town to the "secret spot" for some starlight soaking in one of the local hot pools.  Mixed with candle light coming from the riverbank walls, a few brews, and great company, life doesn't get much better. Once we're all sufficiently pruny, the majority of us head back to Paul's where running-geek chatter continues well past midnight (Kerry is particularly indefatigable) before we finally all crash out.

The Friday afternoon expo is where the anticipation for the next day's race really begins to build, and I have the pleasure of meeting and chatting with dozens of the ultra trailers--mid-packers and frontrunners alike.  Early in the afternoon I'm sitting in the hotel lobby, idly ultrasounding my gimpy shin, when the Dunedin Salomon duo of Matt Bixley and Anna Frost arrive.  Bixley is known among locals as the "Mouth of the South" due to his encyclopedic (he's a statistician by trade) and vocal knowledge of all things mountain/ultra/trail running in New Zealand and globally.  His nerdy spectacles and small stature are offset by a deep, thick accent that, for some reason, reminds me of Christian Bale's (I know, he's Welsh, not Kiwi).  Bixley is a veteran of 24hr races (having represented NZ at the World Champs), set the 4 Summits record at Taranaki earlier in the year, and clearly, specializes in suffering. He's entered in the 100K.

Frosty is known to most North American runners as the winner of the last two TNF50 mile Championships in San Francisco, this last year putting many a top male competitor in her wake, too. However, those two big paydays are the only ultras on her resume (she's an accomplished veteran of short-course mountain and skyraces), so--keen to learn more about the sport--she's here as support for Matt and Mick Donges, a freshly minted Aussie Salomonite who many people are picking as the likely winner on Saturday.  I first met Anna at the Leadville 100 last year where she was pacing and supporting Ryan Sandes to his win there before tearing apart the Transrockies course the following week (with Rickey Gates).  Dubbed "Frosty Three Lungs" by some (referring to both her exceptional running engine, I imagine, and the fact that she talks non-stop) she's no nonsense--and, as one might deduce from all of this support work--selfless and tireless.  Based on nothing more than our initial meet last August, she's offered to be my tour guide for the mountains of the South Island the following week.

Getting the rundown from Frosty and Bixley. Photo: PP.
Paul has succeeded in attracting a sterling field for this year's 100K--the marquee event--and Bixley is of the informed opinion that it is likely the deepest, most competitive field ever assembled in an NZ ultra. That afternoon I have the chance to meet many of the contenders---Kiwis Marty Lukes (3x Kepler Champ, all under 5hr; 6:46 100K, yep, legit as they come) and Vajin Armstrong (2x defending Kepler Champ; as Bixley said, "For us, Kepler is like Western States for you guys--everyone wants to win Kepler."), and Aussies Dave Eadie (speediest man in the field with a 29:06 10K PR), Mike Le Roux (Mike is only entered in the 60K, using it as an early season training run for his attempt at the Grand Slam in the U.S. later this year, but is the Aussie record holder for 100mi on trail with a 15:38), and Mick.  The Trans-Tasman competition is going to be fierce.

After an extreme session of cat herding, Team Salomon finally gets their crap together and we depart for the starting line in the redwoods where--after a brew or two--Mick, Bixley, and Frosty bed down for the night, meters from the starting archway.  Trail runners are pretty much the same the world over, it seems.

Start-line campsite. Photo: PP.

I'm injured, and haven't been able to train consistently in months, so on race day I'm relegated to a leg on a local NB relay team.  My fellow relay members have graciously given me what is roundly seen as the best section of the whole 100K course--Leg Three from 37K at Okataina Lodge on the shores of Lake Tarawera to Tarawera Falls at 60K.  This also allows me to watch the competition unfold throughout the day, albeit not as intimately as I'd originally hoped to, unfortunately.

The first access point on the course is only 4K in where the trail emerges from the dark forest near a giant water tank and runners drop their headlamps (the race starts at 7am and is essentially light on the starting line, but the initial bit of forest is so thick that many runners carry headlamps, or "torches" in the local parlance).  Kerry is setting a torrid pace with his lead-off relay leg, but only a short time later 60Kers James Kuegler and Le Roux come tearing through.  Kuegler is pulling double duty on this first leg--also participating as part of a relay--and seems fine with sacrificing his 60K chances in order to stay competitive in the team race. Maybe a minute later, all of the usual suspects--Mick, Vajin, Hiroki Ishikawa, Eadie, K-Day, Bixley--in the 100K contest come trotting through looking comfortable.

Hiroki, Dan Scarberry, Vajin, a relay runner, and Mick in the early miles. K-Day, Eadie, and Bixley obscured. Photo: PP.
Martin Lukes is notably absent, however, and when he stiltedly ambles by a bit later, Frosty ponders, "Hmmm...what's Marty doing? Looks a bit heavy, don't you think?" As it would turn out, Marty would actually be in the midst of writing yet another amusing chapter in the considerable lore that surrounds his running career.  Moments after he passed the water tank, he pulled to the side of the trail with cramping quads. After letting the entire field stream by, he turned around and started walking back up the race course to drop out. There was one final straggler, though, who, upon seeing Marty, told him that if he could walk, he might as well turn around and walk towards the finish line.  Despite having lost nearly 30min on the leaders at this point, he did turn around, gradually things improved (though at the 60K mark he had to run circles around the aid station in order to keep the cramps at bay whilst resupplying), and he stormed back through the entire field of runners to secure a third place finish.  Inspiring stuff.

Frosty completing a hand-off with Mick early in the day. Photo: PP.
When I begin my leg a couple hours later at Okataina Lodge, I receive the team timing chip (Paul had chip timing for all of the events--organization for the whole weekend was superb) 5-10min back from the lead 100K runners.  I go into the run with zero expectations and have even been considering hiking significant portions of my 23 kilometers in order to baby my shin.  Thursday evening's jog under the redwoods had not been encouraging.

The lakeside trail is absolutely immaculate, though, and after a bit I find a reasonable rhythm, rolling up and down under the jungle-like foliage.  There are no significant climbs on this section of the course, but my altimeter would clock 3400' of vertical, pretty much gained in ~100' chunks.  It's been an exceptionally wet summer in New Zealand and early on the trail passes through 30 or 40 yards of knee-deep water. Obviously we're close to the lake, with majestic views of Mount Tarawera (another volcanic caldera, of course) visible on the opposite shore.  I'm starting to feel the groove of the trail and I catch up to Le Roux and Kuegler, still together and duking it out for the lead in the 60K (they would finish in a tie).  Shortly thereafter I catch Hiroki, who comments that his legs are still tired from the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon a couple weeks earlier. I don't blame him.

A bit later, about 35min into my run, I catch up the trio of Vajin, American Daniel Scarberry (who would win the 85K in a course record and is entered in this year's Western States), and Mick on a technical bit of track.  Vajin is in front and leads us through another submerged section of trail.  The pace is remarkably casual, but with no agenda of my own I'm happy to fall in behind them and enjoy bits of conversation with Mick.  His version of Aussie tends to punctuate each sentence with a slightly drawled-out uptick in pitch, as if every statement is a question. It gives his speech a lighthearted and whimsical tone that contributes to the overall high spirits that come from running with others on absolutely beautiful trail. He and Vajin have apparently decided to run easy until 60K where the course leaves the jungle trail and follows mostly forestry roads to the finish.  I'm a little surprised at this and know that if I were fit and healthy and competing I would be blitzing this technical section, hoping to put a cushion on Vajin, who--as per his victories on Kepler's carpet path--is known to have exceptional legspeed on smooth track (something I tend to lack).

Fifty-five minutes into my leg we come to ~km52 of the course and a remote aid station that is only accessed by boat.  Mick, Daniel, and Vajin all linger here in a Tour de France-style agreed upon truce to empty stones from their shoes.  Only out for a 2hr effort myself, I decide to keep pressing on alone.  The second half of my leg is a blast as the trail becomes quite technical for a few K's before coursing along the shores of the crystal clear, blue-green Tarawera River.  I see a few signs for Tarawera Falls and when the river flows over a series of 20-30' cascades I am suitably impressed and inspired.  Nice falls, indeed.

But then, I come around a corner and the real falls smack me in the face.  A 200' high spout shoots from seemingly right out of the middle of the basaltic canyon wall and crashes down to river level.  I immediately think of other comparable falls I've seen--Havasu in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley--and, of course, promptly catch a toe and hit the deck, dinging my knee.  I chuckle at being reprimanded for gawking off at the beauty, pick myself up, and enjoy the final couple kilometers into the finish at the 60K mark.

Five or ten minutes later, Mick is the first 100K runner through and, unexpectedly, with a clear gap (there was a mix-up at the shoe-clearing stop and Mick thought he was actually chasing Vajin, not the other way around), but Vajin is in hot pursuit only a few minutes back.  Mick would grow this gap to 10 minutes over the final 40K with Vajin keeping it tense all the way to the final few Ks.  Dave Eadie would smoke the last 40K of smooth track to move up substantially and come up only a few seconds short of Marty Lukes' improbable podium finish.

Vajin, Marty, and Mick at the finish. Photo: Matt Bixley.
The finish line scene in Kawerau is as good or better than any ultra I've run in the States.  Paul has a spread of food, pizzas, and endless free pilseners and ales from Croucher Brewery in Rotorua.  The Tarawera River is only 100 yards away and with convenient stairs leading into its waters is the perfect post-race soaking spot.  Mick is a hurting unit, though, and at one point, when Kerry offers a helping hand out of the river, Mick inadvertently pulls him fully-clothed into the drink.

After washing the salt off in the river, I'm chatting with Bixley back at the finish, who, unfortunately had to withdraw from the 100K at Okataina Lodge with a lingering piriformis injury.  He asks me whether this kind of thing--a merry scene of runners and spectators hanging out in the setting sun, trading war stories, drinking beer, hobbling about in contented soreness--is typical of North American ultras.  Of course, I reply, isn't that why we do these things? The community, the camaraderie?  It's not quite as common in New Zealand, Bixley says, but Paul's efforts at Tarawera are definitely making an impact, and with the event's attendance and competitiveness increasing exponentially each year, people are obviously taking notice.  As for me, my short section alone already has me excited to come back next year for the real deal.

Mick with the champion woodware. Photo: PP.
Hiroki, 5th place. Photo: PP.
Vajin, 2nd place. Photo: PP.

The previous night we'd secured housing at a vacation house rented by some friends of Frosty's for the race.  Another Aussie 100Ker--Matt Meckenstock, of crucial rental car ownership--myself, Anna, 100K debutant and 5th placer Andy Howse, and Bixley had stayed up until the wee hours; it seems runners can almost never stop talking about running.  Even once we'd all snuggled into sleeping bags for a slumber party in the basement, Anna couldn't contain herself, within minutes querying in the darkness about the status of everyone's consciousness (which should've been obvious) and who was going to join her for a run in the morning?

We finally make it to the awards ceremony at Abracadabra.  It is packed; as lovely as this venue is, Paul's event has far outgrown the confines of the cafe's back patio.  The only race I've been to with a similar feel is the Leadville 100's Sunday morning awards. It's an enjoyable and necessary-feeling gathering to bring appropriate closure to the weekend's fun.  After retreating to Zippy's--an iconic Rotorua coffeehouse--for brunch and caffeine, I'm left with the Aussie duo of Mick and Meckenstock.  Matt's rental car is our ticket back to the Auckland airport three hours to the north the next morning, so we're left with an afternoon to kill in Rotorua.

Nicola Gildersleeve with her 100K Champ trophy. Photo: PP.
Handing out awards at the prize-giving. Photo: PP.
Matt and Mick missed out on the hot pools Thursday night, so I offer to try and navigate us back to the Secret Spot for some more thermal soaking.  It takes several tries to locate the unmarked pools south of town as it was dark Thursday night and I hadn't exactly been paying attention, but soon enough we're back in the water. Once submerged, we almost immediately realize our fatal error of forgetting beverages, but hot springs have a way of evoking inertia so we're not motivated for quite some time to leave (I'll skip anecdotes about pig-hunters and Americans).  Once we do, though, it's straight to the pub, with a stop by the hotel to pick up Mike Le Roux.

Mike is a triathlete turned ultramarathoner after winning the Ultraman (Ironman distances times two) World Champs in 2010 and entertains with stories of his adopted Australian hometown of Cairns (he's a South African transplant) and swimming with sharks. One pint turns into three and before we know it, Matt is calling in sick for work the next day (he's not even in the same country, afterall), the sun is setting, and we're all a bit too wobbly to make the minimal effort to find some free camping.  Paul has left me with an open invite to his house, though, so we make our way back there.  Despite arriving unannounced after what must be the longest, most exhausting weekend of Paul's year, he welcomes us with warmth and more brews before we finally get around to cooking some dinner.  It's fitting that the weekend closes at Paul's house, because it is only with his vision, bottomless hospitality, and enthusiasm that the weekend's events would've happened at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ben Lomond

Maybe the best thing about living in Boulder, CO is that I think it has some of the best "in town" mountains of just about anywhere I've seen. (This is, of course, ignoring towns of, say, less than 15,000 people.  There are scads of little mountain towns all over the American West that can claim better quality, larger scale run-from-downtown access...but actually finding a job and a community of like-minded people there can often be a little tough.)  Being able to reasonably run to a peak from my doorstep is very high on my list when it comes to determining quality-of-life factors.

Queenstown might take that to a new level with its backyard summits of Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak.  Ben Lomond offers 4600' of vert in ~4mi with the trailhead being only a couple minutes of jogging from the city center.  In addition to the stats, though, is the variety the trail offers.  The start is nestled snugly at the mouth of a major drainage, but quickly climbs out into lush coniferous forest that, at times, is so thick it can be hard to see even at midday.  After ~25min of climbing, though, the route pops out of the trees and into the open grasses that is characteristic above timberline, taking a steep but runnable tack up the slope to Ben Lomond Saddle at ~4300'.  The final 1500' of vert, though, really kicks up, with options for a bee-line to the top even offering some brief but fun scrambly moves on large outcrops of gneiss.  Definitely a world-class daily summit.

Lake Wakatipu, Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak.
Ben Lomond trailhead with the sun rising on the peak itself.
Photo: Mick Donges.
Photo: MD.

At Ben Lomond Saddle, with 1500' to go.

Photo: MD
Photo: MD.
Other NZ posts over at Running Times.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Week Summary: Mar 12 - 18

Mon - lost this day in time zone shiftings on the way to Auckland.

Tue-PM: 2:07, 5600' ~ Mt. Taranaki, NZ
Really nice afternoon summit on the east coast of NZ's North Island.

Wed-AM: 2:34, 5800' ~ Mt. Ngauruhoe & Mt. Tongariro, NZ
Summited Ngauruhoe from the start of the Tongariro Crossing then traversed the South Crater over to the rim of the Red Crater and the summit of Mt. Tongariro itself.  Most of the day the views were largely obscured by thick, low, swirling clouds.

Thu-AM: 1:04, 2000' ~ Mt. Tauhara, NZ
Decent bump on the outskirts of Taupo that started in a sheep pasture but then turned into a fantastic little forest track to the cloud-enshrouded summit.
PM: :40, 1000' ~ Tarawera Ultra 7.5k Fun Run, Rotorua, NZ
This was more a social gathering than anything a couple days before the real race on Saturday.  Excellent jog through giant redwoods and more traditional New Zealand forest on super soft trails before an outdoor screening of Unbreakable at the Redwoods Center.

Fri - off.

Sat-AM: 1:59, 3400' ~ Tarawera Ultra 85K Relay, Leg 3
Ran from Okataina Lodge to Tarawera Falls on incredible singletrack along the shores of Lake Tarawera and the Tarawera River on the Tarawera Ultra course. Spent the first 30min catching up to the lead 100K/85K runners (Vajin Armstrong, Daniel Scarberry, eventual winner Mick Donges, and Hiroki Ishikawa) before running easily with them for the next 20min. After that I moved ahead and ran the last hour by myself to the end of the leg.  While there were no significant climbs on this leg (lots and lots of rollers), the trail itself was a mix of super cushy lakeside singletrack and quite technical, gymnastic stretches of forest.  Really fun section, especially ending near the spectacular 200+ foot falls and the crystal clear turquoise river.

Sun - off. Lots of hot springs soaking in the geothermal area surrounding Rotorua.

Hours: 7h44min
Vert: 17,800'

Mostly I just did what I could last week with what my shin dealt me.  I tried to balance enjoying New Zealand and all of its opportunities with not damaging/worsening my shin.  On all of my summit trips this week there was lots of hiking on the uphills and the downhills weren't too bad, usually because of ample scree for a fast and cushioned descent.

Up next: Queenstown and the Southern Alps.

Mt. Ruapehu, the North Island's highest point at 9177'. Adjacent to the Tongariro group and last erupted in 1996.
My shadow (and halo!) projected into the misty summit crater on Mt. Ngauruhoe.
Northwest aspect of the Tongariro complex.
Tarawera Falls.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week Summary: Mar 5 - 11

Mon-AM: 1:51, 4000' ~ Green & Bear
Ran from Chautauqua at 6am with Scott, Ian, Schlarb, DBo, and Tim. Went up 1st/2nd access to Green's summit before cruising the west ridge to Bear and dropping down Fern Canyon and back on Mesa. Legs didn't have a lot of pep, but the shin was solid. Upper 60s later in the day, yup!

Tue-AM: 1:49, 2800' ~ Green Mt+19min barefoot
Up Greg-Ranger and down 1st Saddle. Another early and sluggish morning, but still totally worth getting out there, esp when temps were nearly 50F before the sun even came up. Shin felt really good on the barefoot at the end. Brilliantly sunny and nearly 75F later in the day!

Wed-AM: 2:14, 4400' ~ Bear & Green
Ran to Chat to meet DBo and Joel at 6am before heading across on Mesa for an ascent of Fern Canyon. Bopped over Green on the way back, encountering some fairly treacherous icy conditions (freezing mist/drizzle all morning) on the 1st Saddle descent. Legs still have no pep on the uphills, but really psyched to get through this length of run with the shin feeling good.

Thu-AM: 1:33, 2800' ~ Green Mt.
Up Gregory-Ranger, down ASG with Scott. Ugh. Really easy ascent with lots of hiking and then actually a lot of hiking on the descent, too, but that was more because my shin was sore.  Crazy icy conditions out there this morning.  Leg felt a lot better jogging on the streets, but generally a shitty day where I was reprimanded for increasing my longest run by almost 25min yesterday.  Stupid me, I can never get a break.

Fri - off.

Sat - off.

Sun-AM: :10 ~ Streets
Did a little test jog to see how the shin was feeling.  Not bad, actually; I think hiking Green this morning would've been totally fine on it, but I still had to pack for NZ. Never a bad thing to rest it an extra day, either.

Hours: 7h37min
Vert: 14,000'

Lotsa fun getting out with the visitors to Boulder in the first half of the week, but it seems I slightly over-stepped my bounds on Wednesday morning, so I played it safe and just took the rest of the week off so that hopefully my shin is feeling better by time I get to NZ on Tuesday.  I don't think I did anything too nasty to it and am optimistic that I'll still be able to enjoy everything I have on the docket over the next three weeks: Taranaki and Tongariro, Rotorua and a short relay leg next weekend at the Tarawera Ultra, portions of the Kepler and Routeburn Tracks on NZ's South Island and then to Auckland, Melbourne, and Singapore for New Balance appearances and the Down Under launching of the Minimus Zero.  I hope to have a few updates from abroad.

Green summit Monday morning: Torrence, Scottie, Schlarb and Tim. DBo behind the lens w/ shadow on the rock.
Tue morning.
Green summit w/ Bear behind. Tue morning.
Thursday morning magical frost on Green's summit.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week Summary: Feb 27 - Mar 4

Mon-AM: 1:30, 2800' ~ Green Mt+9min barefoot at BHS
Up and down 1st Saddle. 32:57 up/16:13 down for a 49:10 roundtrip from Gregory. All running except for the steep stuff on the uphill (which meant I hiked most everything except for Greenman). The downhill was already way icier than yesterday even, so just cruised it without pressing. On the way home I swung by Boulder High School to get some sans shoe time on their fake turf.

Tue-AM: 1:37, 2800' ~ Green Mt+9min barefoot
Up 1st Saddle, down 3rd access. Had to go early before a conference call with NB, so I wasn't quite as perky on a 33:37 uphill. Saw Homie for like the third morning in a row; dude's getting after it. Descending was an adventure with lots of shoe-skiing on a frozen, Spring-like snowpack. A couple inevitable spills garnered me some raspberries on my hips not to mention bloody shins from breaking through the crust. Acupuncture later in the morning.
PM: 1:17, 2600' ~ Green Mt.
Up and down 1st/2nd Access from Chat. Warm-ish afternoon punctuated with a snow squall here and there. Strong legs but I bonked pretty badly on the way down. I've really missed getting up the mountain in the afternoons, good to get back out there. All hiking.

Wed-AM: 1:32, 2800' ~ Green Mt+9min barefoot
Up and down 1st Saddle. Another windy-as-hell day on the mountain, but the shin felt solid and I ran into Carney, Benita, Tyler, Glowney and Hudson getting ready for a track workout at BHS while I was doing some barefoot. Didn't recognize Glowney w/o his doctor clothes.
PM: 1:04, 2400' ~ Green Mt.
Hiked up 1st Arete and down 1st Saddle with Jeff. Always good to get out with JV, seems like it's been a few weeks. All hiking.

Thu-AM: 1:48, 2800' ~ Green Mt+13min barefoot
Up Gregory-Ranger and down 3rd access. This was all running. I've definitely lost some proficiency on the not-quite-as-steep uphills.  That, or I was just tired.

Fri-AM: 1:43, 2800' ~ Green Mt+16min barefoot
Up 1st Saddle and down 3rd access. Shin felt good this morning; happy to not see the predicted fresh inch or so of snow. Acupuncture.

Sat-AM: 1:20, 3000' ~ Bear Pk+12min barefoot
Biked to Cragmoor TH. Pretty tired ascent; I'd wanted to hit two laps but just didn't have it physically for some reason. Stopped off at Kitt Fields on the bike home for the barefootin'. Another crazy windy day.

Sun-AM: 1:47, 2800' ~ Green Mt+19min barefoot
Up Gregory-Ranger and down 1st Saddle. Really good run. Had surprisingly good energy and the shin was maybe the best it's been all week. Gonna force myself to not get out for another summit this afternoon even though it's such a gorgeous warm day.

Hours: 13h38min
Vert: 24,900'

Nice progress this week.  I tried really hard to not get ahead of myself and just stay in the 1h20-40 duration all week.  Mid-week I got out for a couple of afternoon hikes, but otherwise this week was all running (with the odd bit of running-intensity hiking on the steeper stuff) and I had the discipline to only get out once per day.  Not sure if re-introducing a little bit of barefoot running has been helpful or just coincidental with my shin's recent cooperation, but I enjoy it either way and have really missed it for the past year.  I also started using an Exogen Ultrasound Bone Healing System this week (20min, 2x/day at 30 millwatts) on my shin; I think it's a little early to say whether it's been helping, but it certainly hasn't been hurting.

  • I've been trying to follow along here and there all week with Geoff's efforts at the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska.  While hardly really even a running race, I find the scope of this event staggering in a way that I imagine most people on the street find racing 100 miles in the mountains to be almost inconceivable. It's been interesting to experience that perspective and all in all what they're doing up there is pretty inspiring stuff, even if they're mostly toiling in obscurity; actually, probably because they're toiling in obscurity. 
  • Hit my 600th lifetime Green Mountain summit on Thursday morning, March 1st.
Quick vert, Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Jeff Valliere.
Greenman Trail. Photo: JV.
Photo: JV.