Sunday, December 26, 2010

Switch Stance

Cold weather, epic snowfall, ice, snowbound trails and sketchy road runs all indicate that winter has a strong grip on the Yampa Valley. The Steamboat Ski Area is off to one of it's best seasons ever with over 160" of snow so far and it hasn't been difficult to make it a "powder day in the 'Boat." If you're not afraid to hike a little out-of-bounds to get some once the Mountain gets tracked up. Then, there's Buffalo Pass, which NEVER lacks massive amounts of snow, a veritable playground for shredders that have access to a snowmobile. Yes, sir. My love for snowboarding certainly isn't going to diminish this winter.

On the other hand, it's a great time for the trail runner to go underground and start rebuilding for next year. For the past two months, I've reduced my weekly mileage substantially keeping my runs down to 5 - 8 miles only 3 to 4 times a week in order to facilitate fresher legs when I get a chance to go snowboarding. I've also been incorporating leg weight training into my schedule, hitting the gym for an hour or so after a run or snowboarding. Leg lifts, curls and extensions. Low weight, high repetion to build endurance and I will occasionally hit the treadmill for up to an hour to let my legs turnover a little faster than they can on the sketchy ice conditions we have. My outdoor runs have been fun though in the cold, winter air. I'm usually clad in long, waterproof pants, a shell or jacket over a short sleeved wicking layer, beanie and gloves and shoes with good traction. I've been rotating between wearing Salomon Speedcross 2s, Inov-8 315 GTX and Salomon XT Wings, depending on the weather. If it's below 20F , I have to make sure I switch my water bottle from hand to hand to keep my fingers from getting too cold. Still, it's strangely refreshing to run when it gets really cold. Particularly, when it's dark.

Really, nothing too major on the training front. Mostly, I'm just trying to have fun on my snowboard which has really been bolstered this season by the conditioning my legs recieved this past summer. I've been making some superb turns in fantastic snow conditions punctuated most recently by a Christmas Day descent in Fish Creek Canyon where I was able to link up a super fun, steep and deep ride through the trees with the entrance to the Keyhole, a massive boulder field flanked by two cliffs so there is literally no other way in. The snow was perfect and hardly touched.

Happy Trails for 2011!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Into the future (future..., future...)

Since Run Rabbit Run and my last post which was well over a month ago, I've curtailed my running quite a bit in order to let things heal. It's been a great last couple of months despite not getting out on the trails as much as I'd like. Personally, I was ready for a change of pace to regroup mentally as well as physically. Between all the running, travel, work and starting a new relationship, it's been the busiest summer I've had in a few years and it's been nice to rest a little and just retool my running and think about the past summer and what next summer's running calender might bring.

Quite frankly, I couldn't believe how well I ran in my races this year with regards to time and placing. Even though I felt mostly injury-prone (still in this phase, a bit) in the late summer, it was nice to see I was capable of some fast running when I'm healthy. To that end, I plan on using some weight training and cutting back on the running this winter and, instead, getting on the splitboard as much as possible and maybe trying skate skiing and classic cross-country for the ol' cardio. I'm going to need some strong bones and joints for next running season because the races I'm thinking about for next year are going to be challenging.

- 15th-17th Desert R.A.T.S. Trail Running Festival, Fruita, CO or 16th, Zane Grey 50, Pine, AZ
- 1st Collegiate Peaks Trail Run
- 31st Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival, MAINE
- 18th San Juan Solstice 50, Lake City, CO or 18th-20th, Chattanooga Stage Race, TENNESSEE
- 25th Old Gabe 50K, Bozeman, MT or 26th Chattanooga River 50K
- Local races and running
- pace at Hardrock 100, Silverton, CO
- 6th HURL Elkhorn Endurance Run, Helena, MT
- 21st pace at Leadville 100, CO
- 28th Silverton Alpine Marathon, Silverton, CO
- 5th Breck Crest Mountain Marathon, Breckenridge, CO
- 19th Run Rabbit Run
- 25th Golden Leak Half Marathon, Aspen, CO
- 3rd Ouray Trail Run

There will be some fun decisions to be made in most of these circumstances as I whittle this list down to the 3 or 4 races I will actually get to do. I still don't think I'm ready to go for a 100 miler, yet. Pacing duties only at Leadville and hopefully, Hardrock. Instead, next summer I think I want to try some really challenging 50K and/or 50 milers and maybe a stage race. I also want to do more exploring in the great state of Colorado and climb a couple of 14'ers with Katy. It will be an ambitious 2011, that's for sure.

In the meantime, I started running again a couple of weeks ago, just going out every other day and doing 4 to 6 miles on Emerald Mountain or on Spring Creek. I love being able to run to the trails from my doorstep! I've been keeping the effort mostly light, running for an hour or so after work. I've done a little up tempo running but I'm still feeling some tenderness in my feet when I sit for too long so I know I need to keep it easy. For now, I'm feeling good but still not 100% healthy. It wouldn't be bad if the weather wasn't so stellar lately. The cold mornings and 60 degree afternoons are perfect for really long runs in the mountains. Within the next few weeks, it will be snowing and I'll be thinking about surfing the mountain rather than running it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Randall's Run Rabbit Run Race Report

Perfect weather and beautiful fall foliage were hallmarks of this year's 4th edition of Run Rabbit Run, our local trail ultramarathon here in Steamboat. More than 150 runners (they say it sold out at 190 runners, but a few didn't make it to the start), including myself and a determined Katy Taylor, who had decided to do the race TWO days before, toed the starting line at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area at 6 a.m. This being only my second attempt at 50 miles, there was just enough doubt in my mind about finishing to keep me a little anxious. I felt healthy and well trained enough though and was hoping to finish in a decent race time, while still enjoying the scenery and having fun out in the woods.

The first 6 miles of the race is a 3400' climb to the top of Mt. Werner (a.k.a. Storm) which I did, mostly, with Katy. As we started off in the pre-dawn darkness, the temperatures were cool, in the 40s (F), and we alternated between running the flatter sections of Why Not Road and hiking most of the way up the mountain. We reached the top in about 1:30 and while Katy stopped at the aid station, I pushed on to the next 6 mile section, Mountain View Trail. On the outbound, this trail of technical single track, gradually decends several hundred feet over a couple small hills as it works it's way down to Long Lake. I decided to stretch my legs a little and ran the downhill sections with a guy named Mike from Ft. Collins. Uncharacteristically, I kept hitting rocks with my rearward foot causing me to trip (and fall and roll once!) many times. It continued throughout the day. I noticed I was not the only one, however, and even Mike tripped at one point. Still, we kept the pace quick. It felt good at the time but, in hindsight, I should've eaten at the aid station and run slower in this section and saved more for later in the race. We arrived at the aid station at Long Lake (I think it was in less than 3 hours) and I had my water bottle refilled as I grabbed a little to eat (some fruit) and pushed on.

From the lake, on Fish Creek Falls Trail, the next section started with about an .8 mile of meandering and up and down single track, first across a meadow and then back into the forest. The trail then crosses paths with the Wyoming Trail (heading North/South) which runners proceed south on, as they pass Lake Elmo, then Fishook Lake, on the way to the Base Camp aid station. During this part, I found myself starting to struggle a bit. Looking back, I was behind on calories even though I was staying well hydrated and taking a gel every hour. I should have been starting slower and eating earlier in the race.

As I passed Base Camp, I knew it was going to be a trudge out to Dumont Lake. My hamstrings were getting tight from the climbing and I couldn't find a rhythm in my running because I was constantly getting tripped up. At least, I had run this section of trail many times in the past and knew all it's twists and turns (and there are many) very well. I found comfort in my familiarity with the trail even though I was starting to feel pretty bad. As we came out of the woods and started along the shoreline of Dumont Lake, I passed Goeff Roes as he was heading back from Rabbit Ears. I looked at my watch and I think it was 4:40. It was about a mile more before I reached Dumont Lake aid station.

I was super stoked to see my friends, JD, Derek and Ross, who had brought me a cooler with some food (hamburgers I made the night before), ice, water and some chocolate milk. (I ended up not drinking any of the chocolate milk, even though I love it after a run.) I changed into a short sleeved shirt and grabbed a couple gels, refilled my water and took off again. I'm not sure why I was ignoring all the signs that I really needed to eat more but I just kept pressing toward the turnaround at Rabbit Ears Peak. About a mile up the road, Katy caught me, looking fresh as ever. I forgot how steep the hills are up to the Ears but I was really slowing fast and we only hung together for about a half mile before she took off ahead of me. I was super proud to see her looking so good and doing well. She was running a really smart race and her IT band didn't seem to be bothering her. After I (finally) hit the turnaround and started back downhill I caught my last glimpse of Katy about a half mile ahead of me on the dirt road. She was flying.

I was so hungry as I hiked back into Dumont Lake. When I got there, I announced to my crew that "my girlfriend was kicking my ass!" They laughed and acknowledged its truth. I ate half of an avacado and tomato burger and drank a bottle of water, while I sat down for a minute. It was great to clown around with the guys for a few minutes and they were having a great time hanging out at their first ultra. It was a cool scene. I wanted to press on so I hastily took the second half of the burger with me and started on the trail. Just a couple hundred yards down the trail, I saw my friend Bronwyn (Katy's crew leader from Leadville) who offered me some watermelon (technically, cheating) and encouragement. She's awesome. I told her I was fading but hanging in there and she let me know she would be volunteering at the Base Camp aid station so I would see her there. (Cool, nothing like seeing some familiar faces along the way.) I pressed on again, knowing I was in for some decent hills and descents before I would see Base Camp. I just kept my head down and kept doing my best to run the downhills and any flats that I could. I found myself hiking much more than I had anticipated. I was having to dig deep to stay in the game mentally. As I ran the half mile of dirt road to Base Camp under the noonish sun, I could hear a volunteer from the aid station rather annoyingly cheering runners on. (Really, I'm all for the encouragement but this bitch was annoying.) I was glad to see Bronwyn again and chatted for a little while, finally realizing that I needed to take a little more time at the aid stations than I had been. I did some light stretching of my hamstrings and made sure that I drank and ate sufficiently before leaving. I thanked all the volunteers and started down the next downhill section. "Just make it to Long Lake." was my mantra and I just kept on striving.

I started to come back from the dead in this section. I'm sure it was because I had finally eaten something and I made the most of it by running as much as I could. My feet were getting pretty sore but if I put that out of my mind, I was able to keep my pace up. I hiked into the aid station at Long Lake feeling much better mentally even though I was pretty run down physically. I saw a guy (Greg) that I ran with at Spring Creek earlier in the year volunteering at the aid station and we talked briefly. I stretched again and took the time I needed before heading onto what I knew would be the hardest part of the race, the uphill return on Mountain View Trail.

Initially, I was feeling quite good. I managed to run the first couple miles back up Mountain View. Then, in waves, I went through periods of feeling really drained and beat to feeling better (although still in considerable pain) and managing some running. As I hit the last mile and half of the trail, I started seeing a few more runners and by the time I got to the top of Mt. Werner, I was in a train of seven runners. It was cool to press up that final section of trail with a other miserable companions. Finally at the summit, I knew it was a final 6 mile downhill to the finish. I knew I was going to finish and I knew it was going to hurt getting there, so I filled up my water bottle grabbed a handful of fruit and started off. I looked at my watch and it was just about the 10 hour mark. I decided that I could muster a 6 mile run in under an hour to finish under 11 and I proceed to give my quadraceps a nice, long thrashing as I snaked my way to the base of the ski area. Hurt as it did, I was able run almost the entire way down and crossed the finish line in 10:53:14.

At the finish, I was stoked to see Katy (who had blazed a 10:06, one minute faster than last year and 5th Female) as well as a bunch of good friends (JD, Derek, Jason, Becca and Kiarra) who had come down to check out the masochism first hand. All in all, it was another humbling day in the mountains. I didn't run nearly as fast as I'd hoped but the effort was there and lessons were learned. Start slow. Eat early and often. Good times!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pre-Rabbit Thoughts

Well, it wouldn't be a week away from a 2010 race if I wasn't dealing with a running injury. So far, I've been able to toe the starting line at every race this year by NOT running the week before the race. Ironically, I can't help but feel like it's because of the racing that I've been taken out of my overall rhythm with regards to trail running. As I've mentioned before, it's the day to day running, not the races, that really keep me stoked and although I am really jazzed that Run Rabbit Run is finally here, I will be very happy to put the self-imposed pressures of racing in the rear view mirror for a while, do some adventure running and start thinking about snowboarding!

I do feel race ready though. Last night, my left quad felt good enough and I did 5.2 easy miles (800'+) up to the quarry on Emerald Mountain with faithful dog Benihana. Today, it aches only mildly. I may run the next couple days but will keep it to an easy 30 - 45 minutes at a time as I rest up for Saturday. I expect to start the race feeling completely ready to go in both mind and body.

JD has agreed to "crew" for me and is going to post up at Dumont Lake with a cooler, chair and canines. I'll see him at miles 22 and 28 before and after running to the Rabbit Ears. Some ice packs, Honey Stinger gels, chocolate milk and a sandwich will help keep me going on the trip back. (Thanks for being there, man! Bring friends!) Other than that, I plan to eat and drink at the aid stations, as needed, and will carry one hand held 21 oz. bottle of water and a couple of gels as I run.

My last run to the summit of Mt. Werner gave me a good idea of how conservative my pace needs to be for the first six miles of the race. After that first big climb, it will be important to keep my pace slow and even in the first half of the race to save some strength for later in the day. I definitely learned that lesson at North Face 50 last year. Start slow! Pace in the second half of the race is strictly TBD by how well my body is holding up. It would be nice to finish in the 9 - 10 hour range but my mindset will be to run a relaxed, conservative race and to finish healthy under the 15-hour cutoff.

On a personal note, this race is a big deal to me because it represents a major change in my life. I decided to run this race a little over a year ago and have been preparing for it ever since. I'll never forget running into Katy on the mountain and wondering why this beautiful woman was out running these rugged mountain trails that I was so fond of. When she told me she was going to run a 50 mile trail race, the challenge of it sparked something in me I haven't felt for many years and I felt the need to experience the same adventure. I've run many hundreds of miles in the intervening months in alot of cool, interesting places and made alot of major changes in my life to facilitate running even more miles in the future. The fulfillment that running has brought me is worth celebrating and I'm going to honor it on Saturday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slow and Dirty with some Altitude Adjustments

It's been a real pleasure to get back to some solid, regular running since Leadville. With all the races I've done this summer, I've discovered that I don't particularly like having to taper my running so much just to be healthy on race day. That, coupled with the foot overuse injuries I've been dealing with, curtailed my running through August. It's the day to day running that I REALLY love and missed throughout the last month and it's been great to get back out there and feel my legs turning over. The lack of regularity in my conditioning has caused a couple more frustrating leg issues to pop up (right upper hamstring and left inner quad) but I've decided to not cease running in order to heal but rather to slow down my pace and mix it up with more hiking (and swimming) to not beat my legs up so much. As a result, my other muscles are staying conditioned, my injuries are adapting to "healing on the run" and I'm staying happier because I'm still getting out on the trails. Consistency, I feel, is the key to being a strong and disciplined runner and human.

That said my last two weeks have been very productive. I don't have the numbers on my runs with me but I logged around 70 miles for each of the last two week, doing 6 - 12 miles after workdays, a 20 miler at altitude (10,400-11,600') on the Wyoming Trail on Saturday of last week and 30 miles on the Steamboat 50 course this past Saturday.

I started last week of August by doing an easy run on Mad Creek trail out to Elk Park to get myself back into the groove on an easy and familiar trail that I always enjoy. Mad Creek has such a great mix of gradual uphills and downhills, open meadows and forests to run. Nothing terribly steep, though. Later in the week, I went up on Rabbit Ears Pass and ran an 8 one day and a 14 miler out to Lake Elmo the next to get some time in at 10,000'. I went for an easy run from the pool to home on Friday (I think) and then did a couple more miles with Benny. Last Saturday might have been one of the sickest runs I've ever done as I drove up to Summit Lake on Buffalo Pass and ran 20 miles, first on the Wyoming Trail (heading north) then a loop on the Crags Trail down to Lake of the Crags and Luna Lake and then back up Luna Lake Trail to the Wyoming to run back out. The run started at 10,400' and never went below that. It was amazing to run along the Continental Divide in the wild, open tundra. I passed a couple bow hunters and one hiker but otherwise was happily all alone for the entire 4:48 run. The Lake of the Crags was one of the most amazing views I've ever seen while trail running. Incredible hanging alpine lake at the foot of an 800' foot wall of rock. A small island, just big enough for one pine tree dotted the lake To the north, I could see Hahn's Peak and Farwell Mountain. Truly, a stupendous view and I really wish I had brought my camera on this run.

The next week, I resumed my normal mileage on trails and good tempo run (10 miles @ 8:00/mile) on the road to get my legs spinning for a little while. I developed a little hip flexor pain in my left leg after that but I've continued running and after a week it's still there but feeling much better. I'm sure I will be completely healed for Run Rabbit Run. Speaking of which, I prepped for the race this past Saturday by running the first 15 miles of the course out to the Wyoming Trail and then back to get 30 miles in about 6:06. It was a good "dress rehersal" and I feel really confident about my finishing the race in around 10 hours. It would be nice to try and run faster but with all the aches and pains I've been dealing with the past couple months, I'm going to stay relatively conservative with regards to effort.

The last few days, I've been running Emerald Mountain or Spring Creek Trail since I can leave from the new house and get a great workout (6-11 miles, 1000' vertical) on either run. All in all, the last couple weeks have me feeling very prepared for the 50 miler. I've had a good combination of altitude, long distance and shorter recovery and tempo runs to keep my running balanced and my body (somewhat) healthy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Leadville Trail 100 Race Recap

Katy and Bronwyn, her crew chief, tried to leave for Leadville on Thursday night but got vehemently denied by a combination of mudslides and one badly running RV. Instead, we headed south the next morning, me following in my truck. After the heavy rains the day before, it was a beautiful morning and we made it to Leadville in plenty of time for Katy to do her pre-race medical check-in and to sit in on the race briefing and crew meeting. 800 runners had registered for this year's race, it's largest field ever and about 750 made it to the starting line (362 finishers) Saturday morning at 4 a.m.

We awoke around 2:30 a.m., got ready and drove to the start. Even in the dark, cold morning, the energy at 6th and Harrison was palpable. Bronwyn, myself and other crew members, Johnathan and Laura, watched on as Katy and hundreds of other runners, streamed down the road, headlights beaming, beginning a grand adventure. We then loaded up into the Suburban and made our way to the first aid station, May Queen, where we would resupply Katy after the first 13.5 miles around Turquoise Lake.

Due to the incredible volume of people crewing for runners, the roads were a madhouse all day. At May Queen, we parked about a half mile from the aid station, assembled and loaded a gear chariot and towed Katy's supplies (food, extra clothing, etc.) down to meet her. Katy arrived at May Queen looking calm and relaxed in about 2.5 hours. Her first question, "Did you bring the blue bag?" was met with befuddled looks from the rest of us. Immediately, John bolted into a run back to the Suburban. As a crew, we were now batting 0 for 1. Still, there was no big hurry to get Katy out on the trail right away and she ate a little and stayed warm until John returned with her gear. The next leg had an aid station about 10 miles from this point but we wouldn't meet her until Twin Lakes, about 27 miles away. She packed and wore a running backpack with enough supplies to get her there. After a brief stay, she rejoined the race and began the trek up the Colorado Trail towards Hagerman Pass and onto what would become her toughest stretch.

After leaving Katy, the rest of the crew went back to our campsite to prep food for later in the day and I tried to start mentally preparing myself to pace. We left for Twin Lakes and arrived there a couple hours before we expected Katy to arrive. The little "town" was all abuzz and the front runners were already starting to trickle through. When she finally arrived, Katy complained that the IT band (connective tissue running along the quadracep from the hip to the knee) in her left leg was giving her problems and locking her leg up when she tried to run flats or downhills. The pain had started around mile 18 and wasn't getting any better. John, our masseuse, worked on her for a few minutes as she ate and got ready to climb Hope Pass. I think everyone was little nervous at this point but Katy was determined to keep going. A few minutes after she left Twin Lakes, she called from her cell phone to tell me that she had passed the leader, Anton Krupicka, going the other way (Unfortunately, Anton ended up not finishing the race after "bonking" around mile 80) and to say her leg was locking up again. Still, we stuck to the plan and John, Laura and I went to Winfield to wait for her.

After a dusty and slow drive out to the ghost town of Winfield, we anxiously waited a few hours for Katy's arrival. There was well over a thousand people at the turnaround and it was really quite a spectacle as masses of people gathered to spectate and support these incredible runners. As it got later and later passed the time we expected her to show up, we knew Katy's injury was getting the best of her. We started to think that maybe she had turned around and headed back to Twin Lakes but with a scant 45 minutes to go before the cutoff time, Katy came rolling into Winfield. Her IT band had definitely taken a turn for the worse but she was determined to continue as long as she could. After another massage and conferring with a doctor at the medical tent (who recommended she NOT continue), I joined my beautiful and persistant girlfriend back down the dusty road for 3 miles before heading up the south side of Hope Pass.

We tried to run on the road but it was just too painful for her. However, once we reached the trail she had no problem with the uphill hike. On the contrary, we began passing many people on the climb. Most were just having trouble dealing with the altitude. I know it was frustrating for her that we had no problem passing 20 or so people on the uphill knowing that the downhill would be excruciatingly slow. We reached the Hopeless aid station (complete with 30 or so llamas that had brought in all the supplies) just as the sun was going down, around 8 p.m., and ate a cup of noodles and stood by a fire for a couple minutes. It was getting cold and we were a little underdressed since we had planned to do all this section in daylight. Still, we trudged on downhill, into the dark woods. After about an hour more, we reached the first of several, cold water crossings. These, combined with some cold mud, made the last mile fairly uncomfortable. Just after 10 p.m., we reached the Twin Lakes aid station, 15 minutes after the 9:45 p.m. cut off time. Katy's run had covered 60.5 miles in 18 hours. Not her desired result but very impressive considering her physical condition. Mentally, she did not let down at ANY time. She's a champ.

After a few hours of sleep, we awoke to cheer on some of the final runner's along the part of the course that went by our campsite. Around 9 a.m. we all went to the finish line to watch the last people who would make the 30-hour cutoff (and one that wouldn't). The street was lined with a couple hundred people and the finish was a very emotional scene, especially for these final runners who had fought the course longer than those before them. Particularly moving for me was one man who was in the 70-79 year age group who finished with about 10 minutes to spare. The crowd roared as he came through. Amazing. Chances are very good that Katy and I will both attempt the Leadville 100 next year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is running 50 miles any way to impress a woman?

Maybe, but probably not. Especially when she's running one hundred and you are basically a tourist tagging along for a few miles. In 100 mile ultramarathons, runners are given the opportunity to run with a pacer (either chosen by the runner or, if you'd like, provided by the race staff) after a designated point in the race. Usually, some time after the 50 mile mark. As the 100-mile racer approaches 12-14 hours of running and is looking forward to another 12-14 hours, a pacer might join them for a leg or two of the race to guide them and keep them on track with regards to hydration and food intake. At another aid station, another pacer might jump in and run the next leg with the runner and provide the same guidance. Ideally, a runner might have a pacer at each aid station towards the end of a race and have a fresh person to run with to the finish. A fresh set of legs and a new point of view. Not a bad idea. Then, you have the over-zealous, ultrarunning newbie that just can't seem to get enough. Since Leadville allows pacers from the 50 mile turnaround, I enthusiastically agree to be Katy Taylor's one and only pacer for the entire return trip. I figure that it will be an incredible experience for me before I try my first 100, as I will be there first hand through the toughest hours of the race. Also, it is an excellent last long run for me before I run the Steamboat 50 next month. I will feel alot better going into that race knowing that I have a 50 mile run (at night, no less) under my belt already. Beyond that, it's also pretty important that I come out of Leadville fairly healthy so that I can continue running and training until Run Rabbit Run on September 18th.

I've determined that my Achilles pain came from me not breaking into my minimal shoes more gently. They were comfortable so I wore them too often and gradually stressed my Achilles tendon because it was stretching that tiny amount more than it was used to in my cushioned shoes. I noticed an immediate difference yesterday when I started go for a run wearing my Inov8 295s. My Achilles began to hurt to the point I wasn't sure if I should run at all. I switched into my Nike Free 5.0, which are my most cushioned shoe (I wear for road runs) and I felt so good I ended up running 8 miles. Today, I wore my Salomon SpeedCrosses and felt good. Hard to believe a few millimeters makes a difference but I felt it. So, I can still wear the Inov8s, I just need to train my feet to do so gradually.

I've been able to run short and light this week without much pain. Icing and stretching seem to be, at least, keeping my tendonitis and plantar from getting worse. Actually, better each day. I will run a day or two more this week before catching some rest before Leadville. All will be good to go by then. As Katy and I stood at Twin Lakes last weekend looking up at Hope Pass, it really hit me that you have to bring your "A" game to Leadville if you want to get up and over these mountains in under 30 hours. Lord knows what the weather is going to be like. (Probably rain and snow with our luck!) The two of us have been battling some injuries in the last couple weeks but have been cross training and we are both bouncing back strong. Physically, we will be prepared and a good and positive attitude will be no problem. I can't wait to see Kate finish her first 100! (F*ck, I'm nervous!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mount Werner Classic Race Recap

This past Saturday, I ran in the 16th Mount Werner Classic trail run. There are 5 and 12 mile versions of the race and I participated in the 12'er, which starts at the base of the ski area and climbs 3,400+' to the summit of Mt. Werner before a two mile run descent to the finish at the top of the Gondola. A few weeks ago, I thought this might be my best race of the season but injuries to my feet in the past two races had me thinking otherwise. In the week preceding the race, I should've returned my normal training runs but, instead, I had taken a week off from running and went on two very light, short trail runs during the week. The Achilles tendon on my right foot remained slightly sore to the touch and my plantar faciitis in my left foot seemed to be neither better nor worse. Neither ailment really affects me while I am running but I certainly feel it post run and first thing in the morning. Waking up Saturday morning, I was unsure if I would run the whole race or if I might even hurt myself further if I even ran. I decided to run very slowly to the start (only a mile or so from the house) and see how I felt when I got there to decide whether or not I would race.

I got my race number and lingered at the start at the base of the Gondola, watching other runners file into the area. I was struck at how fit everyone looked and it occured to me that this being such a tough race, it was bringing out the more serious crowd of athletes. On top of that, the race had sold out it's 125 entries for the first time in the history of the race. There were some good runners in this crowd. It may have just been the fun, pre-race atmosphere, but I immediately felt well enough to run. Saying "hello" to the other runners, watching people stretch and warm up, it really got me into the mood to get out there with like-minded people on what was already a beautiful, sunny but cool Steamboat morning.

I decided to go out very easy and only run uphills if I really felt good. My goal if I had been completely healthy was to finish in 2 hours, so I decided that 2:15 was a reasonable goal considering my foot issues. If I really felt good, I thought I might run back down the mountain and back home. I wanted to run slow and easy enough to do this.

After a quick run down of the course by the race director, we were off at 8:00 a.m. This race is essentially a 10 mile climb to the top of the mountain with a 2 mile descent. The climbing starts from the very beginning, although gently, and we all started snaking our way up the ski area. I fell into a relaxed pace, making sure to breathe through my nose only, ensuring I kept it nice and easy. (I did not want to blow up! I kept on thinking about pacing Katy at Leadville in two weeks.) By the time we had completed the first .75 miles up to the bottom Thunderhead I had found a comfortable groove and started to really enjoy myself.

The next couple miles up to the Gondola, first on dirt road and then on the Valley View trail, I felt energized and happy. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling good. Much like the Spring Creek race, I was running on trails I was very familiar with and knew what to expect as we climbed higher. I had plenty of water in my handheld so I passed the first water stop at Snowmaking.

At one point, we passed the game trail that I run up from Whistler Park and I couldn't help but feel like I was right in my backyard. I spent a little bit of the climb talking with a cool local guy named Ryan. I was in such a great mood thinking about all the previous times I'd been on this trail as we cruised up the aspen strewn mountain side. After about 4 miles of steady climbing, I hit the Duster cat track and ran with Brian, a dude from Orange County, for the relatively flat 2 miles out to Rendezvous. He was fun to run and talk with and made the race alot more fun. He was primarily a mountain biker but had done some cool adventure runs like the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. He and his girlfriend were on vacation by travelling and mountain biking or trail running at various places. We filled our water bottles at the Rendezvous water stop and I left first but felt nature's call and pulled over on the side of the trail to relieve myself. Here, Brian passed me and so did one other runner (Roy Cardwell of Vail). I knew the next section was a 2+ mile long climb to the summit so I just hung back and did a fair share of hiking to take it easier on my feet. I passed Brian after a while and then checked the GPS. Once I knew I had 3 miles remaining in the race, I began to run again and decided to run the rest of the way to the summit and cruise the downhill to the finish. Roy and I pushed each other to the top and started downhill. His shoe came untied and I ran past him as he cheered me on. (Nice guy!) I opened up my stride and cruised the switchbacks on Storm Peak Challenge, passed the Four Points Hut and finished up strong on a short climb back to the Gondola. I ran in easy to the finish and the timer said I looked like I didn't even break a sweat. I ended up being the 8th finisher in 2:06. I hung out at the finish to see a couple of the other guys I had run with finish. I ate a little at the finish tent and socialized for a couple minutes but I felt so good I decided to do the run home. I ran another 5 miles down the mountain and back to the house to finish with about 18 miles and 3 hours of running for the day. My feet were definitely sore afterwards and I've decided to only run in the pool for the next two weeks until Leadville. Speaking of ...

Katy and I went down to Leadville this weekend so that she could show me some of the important points in the race. We walked a couple of the trails and drove over the road sections and looked at the places where some of the aid stations will be located. It made the upcoming race all the more real and looking up to Hope Pass (12,600') from Twin Lakes (9,200'), all the more epic.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Racing Doldrums

I've had a few days off lately to take stock after the first few races of this summer have passed and I await the "serious" part of the racing season to begin. It's got me thinking about the pros and cons of my racing schedule. First, I'll start with the downside: overuse/abuse injuries. I've been taking these few days off because, frankly, I've hammered the hell out of my feet in the last couple weeks. Left foot: aggravated plantar fasciitis. Right foot: Achilles tendon soreness and soreness in ligament or muscle on the top of the foot from the big toe back to about mid-foot. Not good but not the end of the world. I've been swimming and running in the pool with Katy the last few days and light hike/running in VFFs and expect to be running again in a day or so. Still, it's an eye opener and education in the fine art of training vs. racing and pushing the body to new limits.

In the early season, I did a great job of staying injury free and got a good base of mileage (However, I will say that I wasn't as consistent with my running schedule as I could have been.). My first race this year, Collegiate Peaks 25, I used as a training run, so I didn't run hard, just maintained through the race and kicked at the very end. In my last two races, I turned up the effort quite a bit (with great results time/place-wise) and it has cost me the foot pain that I'm now trying to recover from. Particularly at Spring Creek, because it was a short race, I finally got some race pace running in and pushed myself into the low 5 min/mile range, something that my body is just not used to. It's been a long 15 years since the last time I ran that hard and I shouldn't be surprised that my feet are reacting. Also, I've been training for and running at ultra-distance pace: that's about 10-12 minutes/mile. Way slower and way easier on the body. The fast running was a shock to the system.

I suspect that a pair of my trail running shoes might also be to blame. I recently started wearing Inov8 shoes, which I LOVE. I have two pair, Roclite 295s, for training runs and X-Talon 240s, for racing. They are lightweight and slipper-like fitting with great traction. And they wear out fast (at least, the 240s. After two training runs and two races, they've almost worn through on the outer edge of the toebox. Damn!) But they are minimal running shoes with very little underfoot support. Lately, when I've laced them up, I can feel the pain in the top of my right foot return. When I wear my Salomon SpeedCrosses, which are more built up underfoot, no pain. This is also true for my Nike Free 5.0 road running shoes, which also have alot of underfoot support (even though Nike markets them as minimal shoes). I don't have a problem returning to the SpeedCrosses but it would really suck if my Inov8s caused my foot pain because they are SO comfortable. I don't know why they would cause any pain. Then again, maybe it's just because I ran my ass off in Tahoe and at Spring Creek.

Aside from that, racing this summer has been become a really incredible time in my life. I truly enjoy being out on the trails, for any length of time. My diet is the best it's ever been. I'm eating nuts, berries and other fruit, on a daily basis as well as tons of vegetables and occasional seafood and meat for protein. I still indulge occasionally, but wanting to be fit in order to run some more usually keeps that in check. The training and races have got me doing a little more travelling this year, which has been great. It's kept me busy, although sometimes this feels like a negative because you don't feel like there's enough time for everything. Then you remember: There never is. Oh well, at least I'm devoting much of my time to what I love doing.

Now, I'm gonna geek out and talk about the runs I have coming up. First, next Saturday, I'm doing the Mt. Werner Classic. This is a 12 mile, 3400' climb from the base of the ski area to the top of Mt. Werner and back down to the Gondola. This race is, quite literally, in my backyard and is going to be super fun. I'm hoping to finish in sub-2:15, without pushing too hard. I would love to run faster but with the Leadville 100 only a few weeks away, it is imperative that I stay healthy. In fact, right after the race Katy and I are going to Leadville to do some last training runs on the course.

Which brings us to the Leadville Trail 100. Holy shit. One of the most celebrated races in American mountain ultrarunning. What an experience that is going to be! I have to say, I'm glad it's Katy going for it all and I get to run as a pacer. Sure, I want to do a 100 miler but I'm not ready yet. I think Katy is though. She's been going to Leadville for the past couple months and running parts of the course with great success. I've run with her enough to know that she will absolutely finish. She might even get a buckle (finish under 25 hours). I'm actually a little worried that I won't be able to keep pace with her in the late miles when she gets her second or third wind and I start fading. If she's pushing for that time because she's close and I can't keep pace, I'm going to feel like a real jerk! (I keep thinking that I should've elected to pace her for 40 or fewer miles but I wanted the full 50 miles on the course. Smart!) So, I've put some pressure on myself to run well at Leadville and it will be an EXCELLENT long run for me before my biggest race of the year: Run Rabbit Run.

Even though I'm new to sport of moutain ultrarunning, I already know that the Steamboat 50 will be a defining race for me. I fell in love with trail running on these same trails. It's where I started connecting with my girlfriend. It's where I run with my dog and where I've camped with my friends. It's the mountain I snowboard on in the winter. It's the place I love to call Home. And as such, it's the race I always want to bring my "A" game to. I've learned that there is already a small but strong contingent of talented ultra runners in the Steamboat area. On top of this, the race just became part of the Montrail UltraCup Series, meaning it will attract some of the best runners in the sport. Geoff Roes, who just won this year's Western States 100 and has never been beaten at 100 miles, is registered to run this year. Only in it's fourth year, the race is gaining stature and it makes me all the more proud to be a part of it. September 18th. Mark it on your calender.

Beyond that, I'm still thinking about going to San Francisco in December to run the North Face 50 again. Ultimately, that will depend on whether or not I can AFFORD to go but the runner in me want's a piece of that tough-ass course again. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. All day long. A monster. (Geoff Roes ran that course in 7 hours. I did it in almost 12.) Again, whether I can afford to.

So, just a little mindless blathering from a pool-running trail runner. You can probably tell I'm antsy from not running by how long winded this blog entry is! Hope you enjoyed it. C'mon feet! Feel better!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spring Creek Memorial Trail Run Race Report

I can't believe I've been neglecting the Steamboat Springs Running Series for so long. If the other races they put on are as well organized and fun to be at as this one was, then I'm going to be a regular (at least, for trail races)!

I parked my truck at Steamboat Springs High School and ran a little more than a half mile to the start/finish to pick up my race number. It was cool and sunny at 7:30 a.m., perfect weather for a run. I saw Katy, who was volunteering as a 5K timer, picked up my race number and walked around to stay loose. There was a great turnout. Katy told me that the race had sold out: 100 runners. A few minutes before the start, I made my way to starting line and chatted for a minute with a guy visiting from San Francisco (yeah! Big up, S.F.) Last minute instructions about course markings (which I should've listened to better!) and we were off.

I was really pumped to be running my shortest race of the year. Knowing that I would be done in a little over an hour (I was shooting for 75 minutes), instead of 6 or 10 or 12 hours, made the run seem all the more casual. I felt healthy enough to run a fast time but didn't want to go so hard that I might hurt myself.

The run starts off with a very short climb and descent and then runs ever so slightly uphill along the creek for about a mile. Here, I settled into the second pack of runners and watched the fast guys go blazing ahead of every one else. I felt really comfortable and smooth. We made the short but steep climb up to Spring Creek Trail (proper) and started off into the woods. About 100 yards later, we cut hard up the hillside in a drainage that went up, up, up. I didn't even bother trying to run it. I noticed the woman in front me trying for a while but she just got tired. My hike was plenty fast enough and I stayed behind her for a few more minutes before making a move past her and the next two runners. I picked up the pace and felt good as we neared the 2.5-3 mile mark. It was very thick forest with lots of chest high grasses, branches, roots, mud and downed trees everywhere. Super fun ascent! Ahead, I could see the last two runners of the chase pack about 100 yards ahead of me. I was certain I'd be able to catch them at my current pace.

About a minute after thinking this, I missed a race trail marker and made a wrong turn up a game trail and into the woods. About 20 or 30 seconds later, when I didn't see any more markers, I knew I had made a mistake but had no idea where the trail was. (Oh shit!) Then, I see two guys following me...uh oh. I yell back, "I'm not on the trail!" About that time, I hear, "The trail's over here!" coming from another runner. (Ahhh!) I started laughing and bushwacked my way back across to the proper trail. (Rats!) I wasn't upset, though. On the contrary, I thought that little miscue made the race that much more fun and adventurous. I had to be the only person who was laughing as they climbed up that steep, forest trail.

Still, I lost a few minutes and had to pass a few runners on the tight, uphill trail to regain some running room. Once I settled into this position, I didn't see any other runners for a couple miles. I finished this first big climb and opened up my stride on the next downhill. This was a fast mile-plus on a primitive wide trail. Mostly forested but punctuated with one nice meadow. As I ran down to a dirt road, I saw a water stop and passed it, making a left turn. I asked and the girls at the stop told me the last runner came through about 20 seconds ahead. The course came off of the Tatanka Ridge property and turned onto Buffalo Pass Road right after here and I began the uphill, mile or so run up to Dry Lake on the road. At this point, a runner comes up behind me and we talk a little. (Well, I talk alot but he seems pretty winded. Can't blame him, though. That climb was intense.) I run ahead of him at Dry Lake and begin the sweet 4 mile descent down Spring Creek Trail. I passed the aid station saying, "Thanks for volunteering!" to the person manning the table and they shout back an encouraging, "Have fun!" I do.

Once on the downhill, I just let gravity do it's thing. I let the trail pull me down it's meandering course. I cruise through the woods, over the rocks and across 13 man made bridges that span Spring Creek. You should have seen the frickin' smile I had on my face. I was so aware of it! It's a sublime feeling to just let your mind and legs go and spin downhill. At times, it's like I'm not even there. Only the trail exists.

I passed one runner around the 5.5 or 6 mile mark who reeled me in again with about two miles to go. I started talking to him to see how winded he was and he was happy but didn't want to talk too much. I took this as a sign of fatigue and pushed the pace to see if he wanted to run with me. He didn't take and over the last couple miles I pulled away from him. I looked at my watch earlier and saw I wouldn't make my 75 minute goal and just tried to run hard at the end. As I neared the finish line, I heard her voice and looked over and saw Katy at the finish line with a big smile on her face. I crossed the finish and gave her a big hug. I didn't bother listening for my time or placing because I didn't care at the moment. I had just had so much fun, I just wanted to tell Katy all about the race and talk with some of the other runners. (For the record, I think I finished in 79:13 (9th place!) so 75 wasn't a bad guess. Maybe if I hadn't made that wrong turn...)

It was so much fun to run a race on a trail that I get to do all the time. I saw a few familiar faces and made a couple new acquaintances. The race seemed to have a real hometown vibe to it. Katy said a family finished 1 through 5 in the 5K. How cool is that? I'm going to volunteer to work at some the races I don't run in order to get more involved in the local running community. There are some great people involved in it and they definitely showed up today at Spring Creek!

Earlier in the week, to tune up for this race and recover from the last, I did a VFF run on Spring Creek on Tuesday (6.3 miles, 1:02), then a fast 8.2 miles, 1:12 on Wednesday. I did have some new pain on the top of my right big toe at the end of TRT, now it's worse. So the recovery part didn't go so well. I'll have to take a couple days off from running to avoid a more serious overuse injury. Need to go swimmin'!

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Tahoe Rim Trail 50K Race Report

I packed up the dog and a long weekend's worth of supplies and started driving towards South Lake Tahoe around 4 a.m. on the morning of the 15th. This is the part I will skip next time. A plane ticket and a couple of bags in exchange for 32 hours in a hot, cramped 20 year old Toyota pickup with 282K miles on it. I suppose I could look on the bright side and say that I did a crash course in heat acclimation by driving on the freshly blacktopped asphalt of I-80 in 103F degree heat. Then, did some sleep deprivation training on the drive back by leaving at 7 p.m. and driving through the night to get home. Apparently, ultrarunning and family are labors of love. :)

The race was amazing. Jay dropped me off at the satellite parking for Spooner Lake State Park and I chose to run the half mile down to the start as a warm up rather than take the shuttle. I already felt light and nimble and ready to run. A crowd of around 400, that consisted of both 50K and 50 mile runners, amassed at the starting line a few minutes before the 6 a.m. start. The 100 mile racers had left the start an hour prior. After picking up my race number, I spent a few minutes snapping photos of the runners. The Race Director went over some pre-race info (like only doing the Red House Loop ONCE and avoid the mountain lions and bears that are known to visit the Rim Trail.) I jockeyed for a spot near the front a minute before the start, eager to run the best race I could. I think I heard someone say "Go!" and we were off.

The temperatures were coolish at the start of the race but everyone knew it would warm up to near record temps as the day progressed. I heard someone say that it was 20 degrees warmer this year than last. The first part of the race would be a 6 mile climb up to Hobart Aid Station, from Spooner Lake at 7000' up to 8500'. Without trying to go out too fast, I was able to work my way up into what I felt was the first 20 or so runners in the first miles as the trail meandered and slowly climbed a forested hillside. We started out on a double track road, but after a couple hundred yards we jumped onto a single track and the runners spread out into groups of people running at similar pace. Still not trying to run too fast, I found myself slowly working my way past runners for the first 3 or 4 miles.

The climb was fairly gradual over the entire distance with a couple of flat sections. The early trail was in the trees the entire time, the surface kind of a mix of sandy and rocky with some soft dirt sections, as well. Once, I arrived at Hobart, I decided to pass the first aid station without stopping since I still had a full water bottle and a half (I was carrying two)and had eaten one Honey Stinger gel.

The next leg was a longish traverse and climb (with a tiny section of snow) and then descent down to the Tunnel Creek Aid Station.

By now, I felt really warmed up and ended up chasing a really strong runner down a multitude of switchbacks in the forest. This 2 or so mile long downhill was one of the most fun parts of the race for me. The other runner kept a fast pace and I didn't have any trouble staying with him and no one was gaining ground on us. Towards the end, I backed off a little bit to save some for later in the race, as the other guy pressed on ahead. I coasted into Tunnel Creek feeling good and pumped for the next section, the infamous Red House Loop.

At the aid station, I had both of my water bottles filled with ice water and grabbed a handful of fruit and nuts to eat. I lingered just a moment and then started a climb out from Tunnel Creek. I think I ate my second gel about this time but don't really remember when. I brought 5 and ate one about every hour. I hiked alot of this section because it was pretty steep.

I think we were about 12 miles into the race by now so I knew I shouldn't try to run any uphills at this point. Too early. After the climb was a gnarly steep downhill. I figured this would go on for a while because of the reputation of the loop. About this time, I started seeing 100 mile race runners coming up from the Red House. A few were still rather upbeat but there were a couple who were really not liking that climb out. I had to slow myself down for some of the descent because it was so steep but I still made great time down to the bottom and the turnaround water station.

I only lingered for a second and started out of there quickly. The climb out wasn't that bad for a little while and I caught the guy I had chased down to Tunnel Creek and we both mostly ran this section. I liked his pace so I was happy to just hang behind him for a while. We passed a bunch more 100 mile racers and I tried to encourage all of them to have a great day (and night!) when we passed. Once we hit the steep part of the climb, I switched to hiking and started passing everybody I encountered all the way back up to Tunnel Creek. I was surprised how well I was climbing but it seemed like all my mountain running at home was really paying off. At Tunnel Creek, I took a few pictures, got some cold water and a few things to eat and took off again.

The next section was going back up the hill I had chased down earlier. The race started getting really tough in this section. Here was another big climb and the temps were starting to crank. I kept pounding water and steadily hiked everything steep. I eventually caught up to a cool guy named Mike from Phoenix, AZ. We started talking and it helped me take my mind off how my hamstrings were starting to hurt from the uphills. Turns out he is a fairly experienced ultrarunner and went to CU-Boulder. I was grateful for his company on the climb. As we crested the hill, we were treated to another great vista of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe and we saw a couple mountain bikers who had stopped to take in the view, too. I almost ran on but when I saw Mike stop and ask for them to take his picture, I had to do the same. It was a beautiful spot. Shortly thereafter, the two of us hit Hobart.

At the aid station, I spent a couple minutes talking away with the volunteers. Man, they really made the race. All the people are so nice and helpful. Filling water bottles and getting you food and salt tablets or whatever. Giving you info on the course. So helpful. They even had a bar set up at this aid station and assured me I could have a shot of Jameson, if I wanted one. (I declined but apparently a couple of 100 milers didn't earlier in the day. I can't imagine.) I was curious what place I might be in because I kind of felt like I was doing pretty good. One of the volunteers said I might be in the top 10. "Really?! I better get going!" I was so surprised. Based on my goal time of 6 hours, I thought I might be doing pretty well but this was still a shock. I left the aid station and headed out noticing that Mike had already left maybe a minute or so earlier. I took off down the sandy trail and passed a group of kids walking to the aid station who told me I was in 12th. "Cool!" I thought.

The next few miles were a gradual climb up to Snow Valley Peak and the aid station there. Mike got away from me on this leg and I was content to run alone for awhile. While in the woods, I got passed by another runner as I stopped to take a picture of some really cool moss growing on a dead tree. It was a luminous green color and it just stopped me in my tracks. So cool looking. When we climbed out of the forest, I could see him every once in a while, only about an eighth or a quarter mile ahead of me. I just plugged along, put a little more snow in my hat and stuck to my steady uphill pace. As I ran down to the aid station, I could hear the volunteers cheering for me by name. I thought this was so cool. When I ran into the aid station I said, "I didn't realize I had so many friends here!" I had my water bottles filled with ice water and grabbed a quick orange slice and darted out for the next 5.5 mile downhill. At the aid station, I had managed to catch up to Mike and the other guy but I also saw a woman who had snuck up behind me. It didn't matter, the next leg would be my best running all day.

From Snow Valley Peak, the single track trail does a nice gradual, traversing downhill for about a mile or so before heading down into the woods. I was feeling so rejuvenated I just took off at about a 5:30 to 6:00/mile pace. I flew past Mike and caught the other runner in front of him about a minute later. Now, I was feeling really jazzed and kept a steady fast pace down the trail. I could see myself gaining on one more runner about an eighth of a mile down the trail and within 3 minutes I caught him and passed. I could hear him struggling a bit with the downhill and knew he wouldn't try to chase me. Once I hit the treeline, I just maintained my pace. The problem with my strategy was that when I left Snow Valley Peak, I didn't know how far it was to the finish or the next aid station. All I knew is that it was all downhill from here. I was gambling a bit but betting on myself. I looked at my GPS watch and saw my run time was 5:40. I decided to run the fastest pace I could maintain for the next 20 minutes and see where I was, hoping beyond hope that it was at the finish line.

I had the time of my life running down this trail, feeling good. I passed a couple groups of day hikers that were hiking up the trail and most of them cheered me on. A few looked puzzled. It was a great boost because I was starting to fade. I ate my last gel, kept pounding water or dumping it on me to stay cool and just hammered every step I could. At 5:58, I hit the final aid station, just a water stop, at Spooner Summit. I had my water bottles filled again and asked when the last runner came through. "The first woman left about 5 minutes ago." Rats. Wouldn't catch her. How far to the finish? 1.7 miles. "Oh, I got this!" I said as I ran off.

The last section was relatively flat as it worked it's way around Spooner Lake. The trail was heavily treed, so it was nice and shady but I couldn't see or hear the finish and I was SO ready to stop running. Still, I ran a steady pace and really felt like all my long runs this year (especially the day long outings with Katy) had really prepared my legs to keep running even after 6 hours. I was stoked. Finally, I turned the final corner and just burst into a near sprint. I could hear my sister yelling and saw her and my niece and I felt like a million bucks. I waved at them and crossed the finish line. Then, I sat down. Damn, that felt good.

A couple of other runners were still sitting at the finish and confirmed that I had finished 10th. I still couldn't believe it. I just walked around, stunned for a couple minutes, trying to soak in the whole experience. Checking the results online after getting home, I found out my official time was 6:11:13. I also found out that I had been racing against some pretty seasoned ultrarunners, including Tim Tweitmeyer (former record holder for the ENTIRE 165-MILE TAHOE RIM TRAIL), who finished 4th, about half an hour ahead of me.

I am really happy (obviously) by how the race played out. I think I can attribute my good run to several factors: 1. Several good long, slow runs after an early season of gradually rebuilding my mileage 2. Lots of hill work on my shorter runs and pushing it on those up and down hills 3. Resting when I needed to 4. Eating lots of nutritious, natural food and cutting back on sugar 5. Good lovin'!

This coming weekend, I really get to have some fun and run fast. I'm doing the Spring Creek Memorial 9 miler here in beautiful Steamboat Springs. It's my first time doing a race in the running series and I'm looking forward to it. Gotta represent at home!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Adventure Running and the Art of Denial - Part 2

The one good thing about getting shorted on the previous day's run was fresher legs for the next. And the July 5th run we had planned, while a sight shorter at 15 miles, would still require substantial leg strength. The plan was to run an epic loop plus an out-and-back in the Zirkel Wilderness with elevations ranging from 8400' to 10,700'.

We arrived at the Slavonia Trailhead in the early afternoon. I think we were both a little fatigued from a long 4th of July the day before, but I was looking forward to getting some redemption and running with dry feet for once. The parking lot was full as several groups, dayhiker pairs and soloists were out enjoying the coolish but beautiful mostly sunny day. Also, just breezy enough to keep the bugs at bay, it was a perfect day for a mountain trail run.

We began the climb up Gilpin Lake Trail and I took the lead. The aspens were full-on green and the early season wildflowers were in full bloom. I felt strong immediately, despite a nagging groin pain that would come and go, and worked on keeping a steady pace at first but bumped up the pace as the trail dictated. We passed a group of day hikers first and then, later, a group of backpackers on the way up to Mica Basin Trail, 1.2 miles uphill from the trail head. From here we were going to climb 2.6 miles to 10,400' and check out Mica Lake sitting in an incredible basin in the shadows of Big and Little Agnes. Then, return to Gilpin Lake Trail and run 2.5 miles up to Gilpin Lake and return 6 miles on Gold Creek Lake Trail. A fine tour of North Routt County's alpine lakes, creeks, waterfalls, wild flowers, animals and, of course, epic mountain peaks.

Climbing up Mica Basin Trail, I was blown away by the rugged beauty of the land. I've posted more pictures on my Facebook page. The climb was fairly technical, switchbacking and rocky. Fun to run. Once the we ran into the basin the trail began to flatten out and became easier to run. At about the 2 mile mark up the trail, there was a fun, barefoot-required water crossing.

As we climbed higher into the basin, the view became even more magnanimous as Little Agnes (11,497')and Big Agnes (12,059')peaks revealed themselves as guardians of the region. We took a couple more photos and, starting to get hungry, I looked forward to reaching the lake and eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich I was carrying. I ducked under a fallen tree as the trail worked it's way uphill and a streamlet of water ran down the middle of the single track. I got excited as I figured we were within a half mile of the lake. I looked back down the trail for Katy just in time to see and hear her fall, dazed, into the water running down the middle of the trail just under the fallen tree. She clutched the top of her in pain and I helped her out of the water. Damn. As she ran up the hill, she kept her head down and was wearing a visor which blocked her vision. She had run smack into a broken branch stub and paid for it dearly. Blood ran from the wound and, of course, we stopped there to care for her. She was clearly dazed and dealing with a little shock. I took a bandana I was carrying and soaked it for her to press against the wound and help the blood clot. I ate a little food and encouraged her to eat or drink, if she felt inclined. I didn't want her malnourished since we were now going to have to hike it back down to the trail head.

She was a champ about getting out of there as we hiked back down hill. We took it slow and easy and sat down whenever she needed to. We made it back to the truck and drove back home, brutally denied but undeterred to run again when the wounds have healed.

Between these two runs and my incomplete through-run to Fish Creek Falls trail head a couple weeks ago, I'm learning some hard but important lessons about mountain running and it's hazards. It's easy to imagine some things going wrong on the trail, quite another to deal with them. I think that dealing with these adversities on the trail is a natural part of the activity and that dealing with them is how you grow as a mountain runner. It's your "opportunity to excel." For me, it is interacting with nature and the elements that is the real buzz in trail running. It's Life: you don't know what the trail is going to throw at you but you will have to deal with it when it comes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Adventure Running and the Art of Denial

Life is fraught with challenges. Tests. Someone I served in the Navy with once called adversity an "opportunity to excel." That's kind of how I feel about running long distances on mountain trails because on a good run, you will be tested. Your body will, at times, ask you to put forth more effort than you might have thought was possible. Your spirit will wane from fatigue and your body may ache. You might bleed and you might suffer. And you might have to remind yourself that you WANTED to do this and, therefore, can blame no one but yourself for your suffering. Indeed, running is life and on a good day, you will experience a microcosm of all life has to offer.

Katy and I made plans to run a route I had drawn up that travelled from Clark to Steamboat on a dirt road, wilderness trails and county roads on the Fourth of July. I could only estimate the mileage from the maps I had and the run would be just over 30 miles. This was my last long run before going to run Tahoe, so I was excited for the big mileage.

The morning of the 4th was beautiful here in Steamboat Springs and I spent it with Benihana and some of my best friends, the Buschmanns, watching the annual parade of locals down Lincoln Avenue. After that, I went over to the Tread of Pioneers Museum (Steamboat's historical epicenter) to see Katy (In costume! She works at the museum.) and enjoy the block party, music, food and revelry that was part of the museum's annual festivities. The morning weather was sunny and slightly cool. "A perfect day for a run.", I kept telling myself. Benny, being the beautiful husky that he is, drew a lot of attention from kids to grandparents, and I some met wonderful people that morning. Katy and I met up a little later and packed food and gear until we were ready to leave for the trail around 2:30 p.m. About that time, the weather started to change and clouds started to roll in. The forecast had called for a 30% chance of afternoon thundershowers, which usually means fast moving storms at the end of the day. We staged Katy's car in town for the end of the run, then I drove us north to Clark's Greenville Mine Road to start our run. By now, there was a nice, uniform layer of clouds darkening the sky and I was doubting how fast this front would move through. We were in good spirits, though, and felt prepared for anything, so we started off down the dirt road to meet up with Roaring Fork Trailhead some eight or nine hilly, winding miles later. Early on, I felt like I had eaten too much in prepartion for this run and it took me a few miles to hit my stride and come correct. Katy was running very well, particularly on the uphills. Around the 6 mile mark the road begins a steep half mile, 400' descent down to a small, hidden valley. This is one of my favorite place to go camping in Routt County. Through the middle of the valley runs Big Creek, which was still running a little quick (read: dangerously) and which we had to de-shoe and cross in order to reach the trail head. Just after we crossed, about 2 hours and 9 miles into the run, it began to rain. Steadily. Straight up, the weather got gloomy.

Roaring Fork is a tough trail. It is 3.4 miles long, ending at Swamp Park, and gains 1400' of vert, most it in the first mile and a half. The beginning of the trail is also overgrown with raspberry bushes (which are delicious later in the summer). On this day, the overgrown foliage just soaked and stabbed at us. On this section, we passed a single hiker with a dog whose truck we had passed at the top of the valley. "Nice day for a run." he says as we pass on the trail. At the time, I was able to offer a chipper reply and smile. His dog looked cool with his little pack on. We trudged evenly, with minimal rain gear on, higher up the mountainside until the trail finally started to flatten out a little. Downed trees littered the trail for it's entire length. Some were very large. This ruined any kind of consistent pace we might've achieved. We both had thoroughly soaked feet and the cooler air temperatures had us running to stay warm. We stopped to eat briefly after a couple miles but I was beginning to get irritated with the rain and just wanted to keep moving. After a much welcome downhill, about 11 miles and 3.25 hours into our run, we reached the open meadow known as Swamp Park, and the trail we were on came to a complete dead end. At that point, I think it began to rain a little harder.

We both stood at the edge of the park, perplexed and dissappointed. We should have met up with Swamp Park Trail here, which is a major artery through the Zirkel Wilderness, and by all rights, should have been a very distinct trail. Instead, we saw nothing. No evidence of a trail junction. No signage. Just a vast meadow of green plants with 2 inches of standing water in it. In hindsight, the trail junction should have come a little uphill of where we ended but we still should have seen it. How we missed it, I still have no idea. Considering the weather and fact that it was now 7:30 p.m., we agreed that turning around was our only option. To spend time trying to find the trail and then make our way 9 miles through the Wilderness Area to our drop bag at Mad Creek was just too risky. Even after that we would have had to run another 10 miles of trail and road back to town.

On the reverse leg of Roaring Fork, we re-encountered every downed tree and puddle all over again. At least this time around it wasn't a surprise. We managed to keep our spirits up by joking about our misery and accepting the situation and kept moving through the worst of it. Like all the low points in life, this one had it's end and after an hour or so we arrived back at the trail head, which gave us a much needed morale boost. We didn't bother taking our shoes off crossing Big Creek this time. Once we were across and running, the weather finally gave us a break from the rain. We ran another mile and then began the climb out of the valley. By the time we reached the top, darkness was falling. Fortunately, Katy had packed her headlamp and a hand held lamp because I had left my headlamps in the drop bag at Mad Creek. The running in the dark together was actually good prep for Leadville, since we will be running through the entire night together at that race. Just for a little extra challenge, Mother Nature threw in some dense fog at this point and we ran in a cloud in the dark for the next hour. Although we ran in silence for many stretches, as the run demanded it, we were still able to laugh and joke through it all. When we finally descended below the fog, we were relieved to run the final mile-plus back to my truck with a focused view of the road in our lights. My legs were tired but I could have easily sprinted to the truck at the end. I don't think I've ever been more relieved to have a run behind me. 21.9 miles, 4:48 running time and over 4000' vertical.

A good run has all the elements of life in it, the good and the bad, and this run certainly had them all in spades. And as miserable as I felt during parts of the run, it will stand out as a memorable experience for the joy we got to feel and share, as we overcame the rough spots together. (Thanks, babe. Couldn't have done that one without you.)

Then, there was the next day...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wrapping up June

I've opted for some shorter than usual runs during the past few days. I didn't go out last Saturday and ran up to the Gondola via the Whistler Park Trail and Valley View Trail on Sunday afternoon. I pushed the pace and had a tremendous climb up to Valley View on the game trail (recently modified for mountain bikes). The trails were a little dusty and dry and the temps have been warm, mid to upper 80s, the past week. Fortunately, the majority of this climb is in the trees, so it stays nice and cool while your quads burn on the uphill. I ran the Thunderhead hiking trail to lower Zig Zag to the Base Area for the descent. I love to run trail downhills and chose a quick pace for the remainder of the run, which concluded with about a mile or so on the road back to the house. 9.74 miles in 1:48 with about 1000' of vertical.

The next day, I put on the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) and just hike/jogged through the park and up a few hills with Benihana for a while. Just a little active rest. On Wednesday, I, again, opted for a relatively short run up Mad Creek Trail to the Wilderness Area boundary while pushing the pace the whole way. It has become typical for me to really increase the effort when I am running anything under 10 miles. While I really enjoy slow paced ultra-distance running, I would like to retain some speed in the shorter distances because it is just so fun to run fast in the mountains. I often think about snowboarding when I am running a fast downhill trail because they both require you to think ahead and pick a good line down the mountain. The faster you run, the more this is true, lest you wind up in the bushes, slammed against a rock or tree, or (he cringes at the thought) spraining an ankle with a misstep on a smooth stone or root. All of which have the potential for really ruining your day. Mad Creek was fun, dry and ran fast and I saw a few hikers out enjoying the afternoon. A pleasant 7.5 miles in 1:01. A very trail-quick 8:17/mile pace overall meant I ran in the 6:45-7:00/mile range on the return run which felt like 85-90% of my race pace for under 10 miles.

Didn't go out on Wednesday and did another tough, fast run up Valley
View from the park on Thursday afternoon. An afternoon thundershower soaked the trees, bushes and ground pretty well. So, it wasn't at all dusty, but this trail has heavy vegetation that grows across it in many spots and I ended up soaked from the torso down from the recent deluge. I probably would have run up to the Gondola had my feet not been completely wet but decided, instead, to take Valley View down to the base area and run home. Since turning my GPS off the evening before this run, it won't turn back on. I need to get ahold of Garmin so they can warranty it. As a result, I don't have exact mileage on this run, but it's around 8 miles and I ran it in 1:15.

Capped the work week off by running up to the Rabbit Ears with Katy on Friday afternoon. It rained for maybe 15 minutes before we arrived so the double track 4x4 road was wet and slippery with a few big puddles in it. The rain cooled things off and there was also a light breeze. I ran in my VFFs and had terrible traction but still enjoyed a relaxed pace but quick tempo as we ran at 10,000'. After 3 miles, we finished the climb up to the Rabbit Ears and lingered to enjoy the view for a few minutes. One of the most rewarding things about mountain running are the views from a summit and the view from Rabbit Ears is an amazing one, indeed. Add to that, lingering rain clouds with partial sun shining through and a beautiful girl with an incredible smile and I was a very lucky and happy mountain runner. It started to get cold so we hustled back down. The run out was very pleasant.

As we were close to finishing we passed three people hiking up the road. I looked at them to say "Hi" and noticed the older woman in the front was staring, mouth agape, at my feet. She was, apparently, mesmerized by my footwear. I admit, the Vibrams do look odd on your feet and I found her reaction very amusing.

This run is just over 6 miles but I didn't time it. Forgot to start my chrono. Didn't matter, this was more of a fun run than a training run, although it was good to be at this altitude.

This weekend will be a blast (excuse the pun) as Katy and I go for a 30 mile dirt road/single track/mountain trail/dirt road/road run on the 4th of July. We will probably finish that run around 10 p.m. so I am hoping we are running close to town when the fireworks go off. That will be followed by a 15 mile excursion into the Zirkels and, hopefully, up to and around Gilpin Lake on Monday. After that, I am going do my first Running Series race, the Howelsen Hill 8 miler, on the 10th and then run light the next week in preparation for Tahoe Rim Trail 32.7 miler, on July 17th. The following weekend after that, I'm doing the Spring Creek Memorial (9 miles). [Wow. Didn't realize I was racing three times this month. Damn. That's cool. Hope I do alright.]

I'm looking forward to going to Lake Tahoe immensely. I've yet to visit there (even to snowboard) and, even cooler, I'm meeting up with my sister, Sommai, and her husband and kids, Jay, Sophie and Kyle, who are coming up from San Francisco. Right now, my plan is to drive to Tahoe on Thursday, rest Friday, race Saturday, rest Sunday and drive back home on Monday. I even get to bring Benihana since we're renting a house. [Only Katy will be missing. (Sorry, babe! You know I'll miss you. I'll run fast!)] This already epic summer just keeps getting better.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to my boy, Noah Moore, who is running his first ultra this weekend, the Qu'est que c'est 12-hour in Charleston, SC. Crazy hot! Have a great time, man. I'm thinking about you, bro. Stay hydrated.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 21 - 26

I've had a lot more on my mind this week than running but the running has been superb lately as the trails dry out and the long mountain miles get more accessible. I'm also very happy with my body conditioning as I'm running stronger each week, recovering faster after long runs and staying injury free thanks to all the miles I've been putting in the last few months. At this point, I'm running about 10 miles a day during the work week and 15 - 25 miles a day on the weekends but haven't been afraid to take a day off here and there to rest and recover. This seems to be working pretty well for me and I am looking forward to my next race, Tahoe Rim Trail 50K on July 17th, to see how well I do.

After the super run up to Rendezvous on Monday, I took Tuesday off (although I can't remember why right now) and Wednesday I did a 3 mile speed run from downtown to the shop that was purely for fun.

Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of running Spring Creek Trail out and back with Katy. It had been a sunny, warm day but one of the nice things about Spring Creek is that it is almost completely shaded and crosses the creek more than a dozen times, so it stays cool. We enjoyed a sublime run that was definitely more like playing than a workout. I pushed the pace on the middle and late uphills and ran a few quick downhill sections. 10.2 miles, 1:45.

Friday, we had planned a run in the Zirkels but that fell through at the last moment. Instead, I decided to attempt my first run of the year to the top of Storm Peak and then, out Mountain View Trail to Long Lake and then down Fish Creek Canyon to the trail head where I would get picked up. I started out before 7 a.m., taking the Whistler Park route up to Valley View and made great time reaching Valley View in well under an hour. I followed the same route I had run on Monday up to Rendezvous and then got on Pete's Wicked Trail, which I would stay on until the summit. Technically, Pete's is supposed to be closed but I ran it anyway because it has some amazing views of the valley. I summited in just over two hours covering 9.5 miles and 3000 vertical feet. I took a short (10 min.) break at the summit to eat a couple bananas and some cashews and almonds and take in the view. I felt great and ready to tackle the next 6 mile leg on Mountain View Trail.

I started traversing the back side of Storm Peak and followed the trail up and down as it snaked the ridge. It didn't take long for me to start encountering rogue patches of snow, some 4 feet tall but only 10 - 20 feet wide, but I was able to find the trail without any trouble. After a couple miles, my feet were wet from the snow and I was starting to feel the miles and effort working me a bit. As I ran down into a forested plateau, the trail became completely lost to me. Snow in the trees here was easily 2 - 3 feet deep and fairly widespread. I moved to higher ground to see if I could pick the trail back up but it was useless. The thick pine trees,two small ponds (you should have heard all the frogs!)and ground snow made it impossible to see any kind of track or route through the woods at this point. I had only run this trail once last summer (in the opposite direction) and I didn't recognize any landmarks. More than a little frustrated, I was forced to turnaround and run 3 uphill miles back to the top of Storm. I had no trouble voicing my dissatisfaction with the situation although there was nobody for miles around to hear it. I stopped for a few minutes again to change my socks, eat a little more and call my ride to tell them I couldn't make it through to Fish Creek. Once I had regrouped, I was finally able to enjoy some downhill running and I cruised the 6 miles of dirt roads and single track back down to the base area in well under an hour.

Despite not being able to get the through-route I wanted, I ended up getting (pretty much) the same mileage, just over 21. Vertical: +/- 4000'. Run time was 4:25. Still a very good and challenging run, not for the faint of heart.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer's First Love

The 3 mile uphill approach to the Valley View mountain bike trail from Whistler Park is no joke. Running from the house and across the park is a nice enough warm up, about a mile of flat grass fields, rolling single track and some small climbs. Then, getting on what is essentially a game trail, the trail climbs from 6700' to 8400' in roughly 2 miles. Today, I surprised myself by running the entire climb and making it to the Valley View junction in under an hour. Once on Valley View, the climbing continued at a mellower rate on a meandering, tree covered mountain bike trail up to Moonlight and Elkhead and finally Duster, where the trail is mostly flat for a mile or so, just barely inclining all the way to Rendezvous Restaurant at 9322'. The views of the valley from Duster were breathtaking today! I felt a sense of accomplishment being up so high up and overlooking our beautiful region. I hit the turnaround at 1:25 and picked up the pace for the happy 2600' descent.

I cruised back down Duster, feeling amazing, then headed a little further uphill to the Gondola. From there, I jumped back on Valley View and ran a fast, fast section down to lower Valley View. I kept the pace fast but eased up a bit for the remainder of the descent to the base area. From there, I took a lap around Mt. Werner Circle to add a couple more miles after checking my GPS which read about 12.6 miles at this point. The rest of the run, I mixed between the roads and the bike path and cruised back home to make the whole run 14.69 miles in 2:27.

I am really happy about this run on so many levels. My effort was on point the whole run and I feel like I absolutely killed the climbs. I ran all the flats and downhills fast and in control. The weather was beautiful, both sunny and shady, from time to time. The mountain flowers are becoming more numerous and forest smelled so rich and organic. It was just so fun cruising around the mountain again, reminding me why I love this place and this activity so much.

On a personal note, ah, nevermind...I can't talk about it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 14 - 19, Whatchutalkin'bout, Willis?

Running, by it's definition, and like life, is a state of transformation. The changes in the body are fairly obvious: weight loss, increases in energy levels, muscle toning and growth, aches and pains from time to time. But when the subject of running comes up in conversation with me (as it often does), it's always the power of running to transform the soul, mind and spirit that I want to talk about. So outwardly physical, the act of running itself doesn't leave much to the imagination of the observer. But for the runner, and at it's core, running is a manifestation of the mind: one must DECIDE to run before one will run. Even if that decision is made subconsciously, out of fear or fancy, there was an impetus to run and the body followed the mind's decision. To me, the fascinating thing about ultra-running is the decision to continue to run and run and run and the internal battle to continue that motivation for hours on end. Possibly days. And possibly a lifetime. And so I wonder, what is the driving force behind that decision?

A large part of my Running Life was the absence of running for about 10 years. My early Running Life was my early teens to early 20s, when running was just a part of training for other sports and endeavors, but I never ran just for the sake of running. Although going for a run, and particularly, running a race, was fun, it was scheduled and regimented and competitive. It lacked a spiritual side.

I, more or less, stopped running after getting out of the Navy in 1995. I would occasionally go for a run over the years, but it was almost more punishment than pleasure because I wasn't doing it regularly. Four years ago, when I started trail running (which evolved out of long, solo hikes) my new Running Life was reborn but it was now a direct product of all I had learned in the intervening decade about treating myself rather badly. Now, the running was a catharsis. It was a time to feel good about myself and lucidly absorb the world around me. My running had finally developed the spiritual element it had been lacking.

Now, my Running Life has become my Running Lifestyle. So much do I believe in it's ability to transform the soul and reinvigorate your passion. So, what is the driving force? For me, it's the transformations. The Changes. Sure, I want to run some ultra races and do massive destination runs in my lifetime but what the Running Lifestyle is teaching me is that simple things, like the act of running, are the most important things in life. Eat and drink well, get plenty of rest, have a positive attitude, challenge yourself occasionally and listen to your heart. Along your route, things will change and your running will allow you meet those changes head on.

All that said, I did run for the soul this week instead of "training." Monday, after Sunday's long run, I went out on the road and made up a route as I went along, paying no attention to distance or pace. I did wear a watch and ran for 1:33.37 along Hwys 40 and 14, up into a private country club and across the greenbelt to Whistler Park. Fun. Tuesday, I rested and just walked Benihana in my VFFs, jogging occasionally. It was a nice day!

Wednesday was time to go a little harder and I got off work around 2:00 (we've been DAMN slow this year!) to do a push up to the Gondola. I ran from the house and made it to the top of the gondy in 1:01, which got me super stoked since I was starting from Thunderhead last summer to get that same time. It was a sunny but very windy afternoon and about a minute before I started down Valley View, a huge tree was blown over and onto the trail. It made me a little nervous knowing I was going to be running in the woods the entire descent and the thought of a tree crashing onto my little brown body was not at all appealing. I decided to charge the downhill and ran the 4+ miles of trails in :35. Overall, 8.95 steep miles (up and down), 1:36. Not too shabby.

Thursday (off early again) I drove up Rabbit Ears to 10,000' and Dumont Lake to see how well the high country is thawing out. I ran without a watch or GPS along the shore of Dumont Lake and crossed the feeder stream at the west end. The first shady treed section still had about 2' of snow and the trail was buried immediately. I turned around and ran back to another road, then single track, then game trail until I was standing in a meadow in the middle of the woods. It was a cool spot but I had completely lost the trail. Back tracked out of there and ran back to the trail head and decided to run up to the Rabbit Ears. The road was mostly dry, some puddles in spots and a couple creek crossings flowed quickly. After a couple miles, the road was still buried in snow and I opted for the steep foot trail up to ridge. A cold wind was blowing at the top of the ridge and my wet shirt started super-cooling me quickly. I didn't linger long, ate a gel and booked it downhill and a couple miles back to the truck. That day, I ran in a new pair of Inov-8 Talon 240s. High top running "boots" that I am loving. So light, great traction, good support, roomy toe box. Sick.

Friday, I mowed the lawn. I think my neighbor was checking me out but that's OK because she is HOT. Didn't really feel the need to go running after that.

Yesterday, I decided to run all my errands. Put on the Camelbak and ran to town, checked the mail and ran into a couple of friends. Beautiful morning. I walked down Oak St. for a second and checked out the Mustangs lining the street for the Mustang Rally. Amazing looking cars. Ran to the west side of town and hung out with Christian for 10 minutes and then ran back through town to Staples. I met a guy in the parking lot who said he had seen me on the other side of town earlier. I felt a pleasant satisfaction in knowing somebody had seen me running, literally, all over town. From Staples, I ran up to the base area to see my hot neighbor and flirt with her, touch a snake, check out a mechanical bull and almost hit a little girl with a 19th century toy. Ran home from there and completed a super fun and productive 15.31 miles in 2:53.

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Not Father's Day Father's Day Run

Sketchy weather has been de rigeur here in Steamboat this spring, so it was really no surprise when last week's warm, sunny and dry weather gave way to this weekend's rain, snow and thunderstorms. Still, some of us had plans we didn't want to change. In my case, a long, fun adventure run in the mountains outside of Silverthorne, Colorado, with my partner in running, the talented Katy Taylor.

The original plan was to double loop Eccles Pass, around Buffalo Mountain, but the route would have taken us over 12,000' and the snow is still just too deep. Instead, under rainy/snowy/sunny skies, we decided to tackle the Mesa Cortina trail and link it up with the Gore Range Trail and do an out-and-back 30ish-miler.

We hit the trail head right around 8:00 a.m. and knew immediately we were in for a day that would entail wet feet. I wore Gore-Tex running shoes and gaiters to stave off wetness as long as possible. Air temperature swung from the mid 40s to high 50s throughout the day and the trade off between light snow and sun was just as prevalent. Starting in a high Silverthorne neighborhood, the Mesa Cortina trail rolls uphill for 2.7 miles through fairly dense pine tree and aspen stands and occasional meadows. The trail was extremely soggy in spots and between all the running water in the trail and the downed trees we had to climb over, the early pace was hardly a run. Evidence of a previous forest fire was evident along the entire trail (although the forest had bounced back nicely and a carpet of green plants was in full effect). We met up with Gore Range Trail (which actually runs 29.6 miles through Summit County) and ran 1.7 miles of gradual climbing to the next trail junction, Salmon Willow Trail. Here we did a 4 mile out-and-back jaunt, climbing up to about 11,000' to check out some alpine lakes. The views of Buffalo Mountain were spectacular once the clouds cleared. Already a couple hours into the run, we took a break here and ate and talked before heading back down to Gore Range again. Once back on the GRT we enjoyed a series of short uphill climbs followed by gradual descents as the next leg took us 5.3 miles further north to a junction with North Rock Creek Trail. The GRT was fairly technical in spots that would go one for a mile or two with tons of roots and round rocks to keep you "on your toes." Between these spots, you could find stretches of smooth, pine needle covered trail that went on equally long. Water crossings were abundant and the trail was super well maintained with many log bridges set up along the way. We made short stops periodically for photo ops and to eat or just take a breather. Both of us agreed that we could feel the altitude. Living and running at 7000' doesn't equate to running at 10,000'. The air was noticeably thin for the entire run and an eye opener for the altitude we would be enduring at Leadville.

We turned around at the junction after another short break to change socks and regroup. On the return run, we enjoyed going mostly downhill and clipped off the miles with relative ease and certainly faster than the way in. My only physical issue was tenderness in my right big toe from running in wet shoes, which showed up about 19 miles into the run. Other than that, my legs felt great and I could have easily run another 10 - 15 miles at that pace. Speaking of pace, we did well. Katy's goal at Leadville is to finish under 25 hours, which means maintaining a 15 min/mile pace for the entire day. Our pace for this 27.4 miles was 13:50 min/mile, which felt quite leisurely and I'm fairly sure we could have held onto it for 50 miles. Of course, it's the second 50 in the 100-miler that really test you and even with an hour-plus cushion I'm sure it will be hard to hold pace all night.

Overall, another amazing outing on a day that turned out to have many moments of raw, natural beauty as the weather went through it's many moods. Long runs can get lonely so it was a joy, again, to run with someone as fun and engaging as Katy to make the run even better. It hardly seems like work when you are laughing and cutting up the entire time you are out running (maybe THAT'S why we were so out of breath!). A great day of running sure has a lot in common with a powder day!

Oh, and as for the title...on the drive home, Katy tells me that it's Father's Day. Swears it is and tries calling her dad. We stop at a gas station and I decide to call my dad to wish him the same. When I do, he gives me this strange, "Ok." reply. Katy gets ahold of her old man a little ways down the road and he informs her that, no, it is NOT Father's Day yet. We have a huge laugh about it and I understand why my dad's reaction sounded so befuddled. He must have thought the long run made me crazy.