Sunday, February 23, 2014

Feb 17 - 23

Mon - Green Mountain (1:17, 3000')
It's been a long time---six weeks, exactly---since I've done anything both weight-bearing and cardiovascular. So today's excursion up and down the front of the mountain was both unexpected and profoundly mood-altering. A solid week of freeze-thaw has turned much of the usual routes into treacherous water ice, but it also meant that I could finally get in a dry scramble on a Flatiron. After such a long time away from this (I haven't been on a flattie since early November) I just stuck to the moderate, mostly 4th Class terrain of the 2nd Flatiron before continuing on to the summit of Green. I was pleased to negotiate the downhill with basically no pain in my leg, and on my bike ride back home I was overcome with a sense of well-being that has been notably missing so far this year. I have 10 weeks until UTMF; if the past is any proof, it's enough time to be ready to race. Most importantly, though, is that even amidst my labored rasping and wheezing and unfit legs, I was just so happy---in some kind of deep, visceral way---to be back out on the mountain.

Tue - Green Mountain (1:24, 3000')
I did another lap on the mountain this morning; today I was wearing a pair of the forthcoming New Balance MT110v2. The development process on this pair of shoes has been quite long and full of a few more than the usual twists and turns, but today I was really happy with the final product. Great grip with the slighter deeper lugs and new sticky rubber and really on-point lateral stability. I'm psyched to have a durable, everyday mountain shoe
          When I got back from my run UPS had dropped a giant box at my door, full of a variety of custom-built NB shoes. This is an (obviously) huge perk of working with NB, and the continual tweaking of my footwear is a tinkering process I really enjoy. I feel really lucky to have a company that will modify the stock model to meet my wide-ranging specific needs. Right now, I'm replenishing my stock of Winter 110s (but with a hyper-aggressive outsole) and building a racing shoe specific to the technical (sticky rubber and extra-supportive forefoot rand) and typically sloppy (fell-racing studs) demands of an upcoming Skymarathon.
          This time around, though, I had somehow forgotten to specify what sort of midsole heights I wanted on my Winter 110s, so the factory seemingly defaulted to the traditional 12mm drop of a generic running shoe (it's complicated to explain why, but on these particular shoes I had requested an old-school, super-simple, cut-sheet EVA midsole versus the more typical injected EVA midsole).
          At first I was chagrined and chastised myself for my boneheaded oversight, but then I realized it wouldn't be a difficult modification and--after a gym climbing session at Movment with Joe--biked down to McGuckin's Hardware for the necessary supplies: a pair of C-clamps, a hack-saw, and some industrial-strength bonding cement. Browsing the tools at the store, I had a few pangs of happy nostalgia for all the construction projects I completed with my Dad growing up back on the farm, but, most importantly, when I was slaving away over my shoes later that evening I was actually taking pleasure in using my hands and some ingenuity to rectify the mistake rather than just being disappointed that I'd committed it in the first place. Craft is important, and not something I so tangibly touch upon often enough.

Dammit! Previous custom version on right, current version I flubbed on the left.
Wed - First Flatiron (:49, 1600')
This morning was my first scramble on the First Flatiron in almost three months. It was awesome; an over- and mis-used word for sure, but truly, this proud rock always inspires awe in me. It was my 135th lifetime ascent of the 1000' face, and the full-body engagement of scrambling is something that never ceases to deliver a more heightened level of joy and presence than what occurs during mere bipedal movement. I was equally pleased to find that, even after three months away (mostly conditions/weather-induced), my hands and feet located the regular holds nearly as effortlessly and comfortably as always.
          To be clear, this was technically only a half-lap on the rock. In an effort to accommodate the messy and variable footing on the trails right now, I wore a pair of shoes with super-aggressive lugs this morning (see above pic). The reduced surface area of pointy lugs doesn't offer nearly enough security on the bottom 400 feet of the First, which requires a lot of precise friction on relatively thin holds. As such, I hopped on the slab half-way up and took the still-classic Baker's Way route to the summit.  In the afternoon, jLu joined me for a quick lap on my favorite climb in Eldorado Canyon--the 6-pitch Rewritten on the Redgarden Wall (though I led it in three pitches)--and we had the route all to ourselves, a true gift on this uber-popular classic on such a pleasant weather day.

Thu - Green Mountain (1:22, 3000')
A dusting of snow overnight was enough to hide all the ice, making the trails a terrifying mess today and precluding any scrambling. In the afternoon, I had a pair of sensory enhancement appointments--first, I learned about hearing aids and was set-up with a demo pair, then it was off to get my eyes examined in order to renew my contact lenses. It's been a little depressing over the last couple of months coming to terms with significant permanent hearing loss at only 30 years of age, and, quite frankly, my initial experience with the hearing aids was a bit underwhelming. Tinny-sounding and itchy, and still feeling like I'm not catching everything in a conversation. Plus, it's never good to be getting electronics wet…I may not be doing much running with these buggers, especially in the summer. Bottom line, preserve your hearing for as long as you can (not that I had any say in this situation). Medically speaking, we certainly haven't gotten the ear as well-sussed as the eye.

Fri - I took today off from physical activity. Reluctantly, and full of angst. I went so far as to get suited up and even did a test jog down the street (amidst nearly 60mph wind gusts), but ultimately decided that my upper leg hurt just a little too much. This injury has proven to be far more stubborn than I would've guessed in the beginning. Instead, I spent much of the day plowing through Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. The Nobel Institute apparently voted this the Greatest Book of All Time, and at 1000 pages it has the literal heft to go along with such a literary accolade. I, however, am unconvinced. After more than 700 pages, I feel like the narrative has acquired a certain redundancy---here is Quixote engaging in yet another farcical, absurd altercation!---that is rapidly eroding my enthusiasm. I'll finish it, of course, but like whenever I get to the end of most classics of the literary canon, I'm afraid that I won't have absorbed everything I should've. I almost always feel like I'm missing something. 

Sat - First Flatiron (:47, 1600')
The wind was finally more reasonable today. After more waffling over my coffee this morning---how does my leg feel? will getting out do more harm than good?---I finally hop on my bike and head up to Chautauqua. I run most of the uphill to the base of the First (uphilling doesn't hurt my leg) and despite a bit of an audience on this weekend morning, begin the scramble. Even after an extended spate of warm weather, a bank of snow gathers at the base of the First, so in the winter my traditional start to the climb shifts a couple dozen feet to the north, at the top of the stairs at the base. A modest ridge here offers good holds for my right hand, and after I step onto the face I spend a long time wiping the soles of my shoes onto my socks and the rock itself, trying to rid them of moisture so that I have the best purchase possible on the sandstone. It's my first time climbing the full face since early November, so I have a little apprehension about feeling comfortable on the frictiony slab.
          Within a few seconds, however, any nerves fade away and I'm almost instantly in a really pleasant flow state. All of my time in the gym over the last couple months makes the 55 degree slab feel even more shallow than usual, and I move up the rock with little effort, really glad that I decided to get outside. Once I join the North Arete, I pop over a bump in the ridge and am surprised to see a helmeted climber in the corner below me, fiddling with placing a stopper. I ask him if it's fine if I just jump over him (my usual tactic on this small ramp), he obliges with a smile, and a couple minutes later I'm seated on the summit, surprised that it's only taken me 14min. This is a typical time when I'm hitting the First regularly, but I thought I would be more rusty today.
          After the short downclimb, I decide to just hike back down to Chautauqua instead of running. My leg still hurts on downhills and I don't want to push it. The successful scramble mostly tempers my frustration, though, and all in all the short outing leaves me in a positive mood.

Sun - Second Flatiron
In the morning, Boulder is cloaked in an icy inversion layer, which serves to thin the crowds up at Chautauqua. The fresh dusting of snow deters me from the First and I enjoy a spicy scamper up the Second Flatiron's Freeway route instead.
          This weekend, the Track and Field Indoor National Championships have been taking place down in Albuquerque, and I've been following the action on-line. I've been a hyper-geek about almost every aspect of the sport for almost 20 years now, but over the last decade--as more and more of my attention has been occupied by mountains--my interest has waned to a certain degree. Pure athletic performance inspires me, but there just seems to be less personality and compelling story-telling on the oval and the roads. I know that a certain one-dimensonality is required for success at the highest levels, but most of the sport's top athletes seem content to be portrayed as little more than generic robots.
          As such, I'm a bit torn when some fairly significant drama occurs during and after the women's 3000m (finally, a story with a little depth! but it all seems to just be a bunch of juicy gossip, too). more than covers it---and, in my opinion---embarrasses itself a bit by continuing to position itself as the sport's leading tabloid (by being misguidedly convinced that they're merely "asking the hard questions"), but not even this can remove the fact that there does, indeed, seem to be a pretty glaring---daresay, even corrupt---double standard within USATF decisions at this track meet. Free Grunewald; she was clearly the best runner in the race yesterday.

Finally, I know I'm several years late to this bandwagon, but after owning literally only one of their songs for a few years ("Wet and Rusting"), I've really been enjoying Menomena's full catalog lately. A nice trio of tracks here: