Saturday, April 24, 2010

I finally got out on Mad Creek trail today and it felt wonderful. It was still pretty cold all morning and even around the house a little snow still lingered from yesterday. The clouds gradually cleared as the day progressed. I waited until around 1 p.m. and hit the trail with Benny. I knew the first couple miles were going to be runnable but didn't know how much snow I would encounter further up the valley. People must've been jonsing to get out on the trail, there were a few cars in the parking lot. I saw a few hikers and two trail runners out getting their cure for spring fever.

The weather was perfect and cool and partly sunny. As I expected, the first two uphill miles to the barn were very runnable with only a couple small sections of snow. The next couple miles after the barn to the Wilderness Area boundary were very runnable too but super, super soggy and muddy. The spring runoff is in full effect and I resigned myself to running with wet feet for a while. From the Wilderness boundry to the junction with Elk Park trail was pretty dicey. The trail was fun enough, technical, rocky and switchbacking, in spots, but also with knee deep snow in many spots. I commited myself to going further than anyone else had gone on this trail this year and kept charging well past the last foot prints I saw. At the Elk Park trail junction, the trail was completely loss to me under the snow. According to the signage on the trail this point is 5 miles from the trail head but the topo map says it's 4.5 miles. I was hoping to make it to the next trail junction, which is Red Dirt, 2 more miles up trail, but I'll have to wait for another time for that to happen. I felt amazing after the run back out, legs slightly tired from earlier in the week but ready for a much longer effort once I finish my taper. I spent 1:56 on the run and with the slow, easy pace I chose, I could have run quite a while longer. Feeling good for next week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The difference between running in the mountains and everywhere else? April 21st - to run I wore shoes, socks, shorts and a long sleeve tee. April 23rd - I wore waterproof running shoes, two pairs of socks, gaiters, waterproof pants, long sleeve tee, waterproof wind jacket, gloves, beanie and a headlamp. Mountain running is the shit.

I ran in a wet blizzard today. Snowing sideways, at times, I ran from the house to Tree Haus and down River Road, back to Hwy 40 and home for the six mile loop at an easy pace. Finished running after 1:04. Ten minute miles or so. My legs are still somewhat thrashed after running Howelsen Hill the other day, so I didn't run yesterday and just hiked with the dogs. Tomorrow or Sunday should be my last long run before CPTR but I think I'm going to opt for easy, middle distance running and begin my taper. I think I've been ramping up fairly hard and I could use a little more recovery before next Saturday. I just looked at the race course on Google Earth and it looks pretty legit. Better to err on the side of being too rested than overtrained and injury prone.

The more I think about HOW I want to run the race, my line of thought goes something like this: I want to FINISH running but I don't really care if I run the entire race. I'm sure I will hike any of the steep hills. Primarily, though, I want to limit any walking to the first half of the race. I'm going to run very easy to the first Aid Station and gauge my pace at each subsequent Aid Station. Downhills I will probably run fast because I always do. (I can never contain myself. It's fun!) I don't have a concrete goal time-wise. My last two marathons were over 15 years ago and I was about a 3:40 marathoner back then. This is my first trail 25-miler, it's at an average elevation of 9000' and has 4,700' of elevation change, so I think between 4 and 5 hours is realistic. If it looks like I can break 4 hours, though, I will race hard to try to accomplish that. It's hard to know how I'll run those last 10 miles. By comparison, I finished my first 50 miler in 11:48 but that race had close to 11,000' of elevation change. The NF Endurance Challenge had 10 climbs of 1000'. Collegiate Peaks has only 1 climb that big. How will I do? Idon't know, but it's going to be fun finding out!

After this race, I have two months of fastpacking/free running on my weekends before I race again (Tahoe Rim Trail 50K, July 17th!). I have three runs in particular that I hope to accomplish in those 10 weeks. First, in Silverthorne, I want to summit Ptarmigan Peak and back to the trailhead (8 miles and +3500')and then, in the same day, go circumnavigate Buffalo Mountain (about 13 miles of rolling treed wilderness). Next, I want to do an epic 2 day, 40+ miler in the Mt. of the Holy Cross Wilderness near Vail. Finally, outside Aspen, I'm going to run the Conundrum Trail up and over Triangle Pass and down to the Gothic Wilderness Area on the Crested Butte side, and back, in a single day. That's a cool marathon distance that goes over 12,000' with natural hot springs to soak in along the way. Right now, I expect to do these trips solo, but I'm down for anyone to join me! If you want to hike and meet at designated points to camp or run along, let me know and we can make some plans. The scenery is guaranteed to be off the chain.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Breaking down and building up

Ten days until CPTR and my training is going along as well as I could hope. This week marks my longest and toughest runs in this cycle and while a sight shorter than marathon distance, I'm really happy to be feeling injury free and getting stronger adding mileage each week without any difficulty.

Yesterday, I started out running in the park with the dogs, Benihana and Marvin. Right away, I could see this wasn't going to work. Still, I took them around the park and on a hill climb and trail run to wear them out a little. Added up to a couple miles of warm up running for me and I took the little guys home and took off on the road. Ran the hill road route up Bear Dr. to Apres and over to Ski Trail and then around Mt. Werner Circle. I just ran and didn't bring a watch so I have no I idea how long I was out. Sometimes, I just want to run. Not train, just run. My mileage came out to about 8 miles, accordig to Map My Run. I kept the tempo quick and worked all the hills up and down.

Today, I ran the 4 miles down to Howelsen Hill along the old Yampa River bike path. Overcast skies kept it cool and a little breezy. I, then, surprised myself by running up and around the backside of the Hill hitting some major renegade snow and mud on the climb. I kept my pace steady, heart rate also steady at 164 bpm. After the steep ass 440' up to the top of the Hill, I stayed long enough to look at my watch (:48 from the house!) and , then down the steepest part of the face, under the T-bar, in half snow and half mud, slipping much of the way. So damned fun! Ran back at the same way I came, bike path, running 90% of it on the trail again, and kept the pace strong. Finished the 10 mile(ish) loop in 1:27 and jogged it off for a few minutes. That was good for an 8:42/mile average pace, including the climb and descent (took 4 minutes!) of Howelsen Hill. If I can maintain that pace (or push it) I could break 4 hours for the CPTR! Chances are, though, that I will start to crumble in the late miles since I haven't done any running longer than 3 hours this year. But the thought of breaking 4 hours is exciting though.

My race strategy, if I have one, is to run aid station to station and refuel hard each time, stopping as short as possible. There are five, so I'm just going to go for five 5 mile runs that day. I want to run light, gearwise, hand bottle only. I'd like to carry my camera, too, but the jury's still out on that one.

I drove by Mad Creek trail head this afternoon to check on it's run-worthiness and I'm stoked to see it good to go. I'm going to run up there tomorrow after work! Hope to have a great trail report to follow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hey everybody, the book reviews are in!

I had the opportunity to read a few books while I was vacationing this past week. Amby Burfoot's (long time editor at Runner's World magazine) The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner by Dean Karnazes and Great Races, Incredible Places by Kimi Puntillo. Being a "running nerd" now, I thought I'd give a few thoughts on each as well as some thoughts on trail running. Unless you consider yourself somewhat of a "running nerd", too, you may want to bypass this blog post.

I'll start with adventure runner, lecturer, journalist and 2-time Guiness World Record holder, Kimi Puntillo. Great Races, Incredible Places, the title pretty much tells the tale. Puntillo gives you the low down on races from Tanzania to Hong Kong to Antarctica to Kentucky to France to, well, you get the idea. The races range in distance from 5K to Marathon and even a few relay races. The book was an entertaining and a quick read as she broke down each race succinctly and often with short, interesting stories. Some of the runs are themed (like the Rock-n-Roll Marathon and Half Marathon series held throughout the U.S.), others are tributes (like the International Peace Marathon of Kigali held in Kigali, Rwanda, the In Flanders Fields Marathon in Flanders, Belgium and the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City). The wierd (races in gorilla suits) and the transcendant (Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Marathon or the Everest Marathon, anyone?). Even teams are covered with the Nike Hood to Coast Relay (197 miles) in Oregon, The Klondike Trail of '98 International Road Relay (110 miles) in the Canadian Yukon and the Myomed Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage (187 miles)in Washinton State. I hope to begin travelling to interesting and challenging races like these in the years to come as part of my running journey. Even prior to reading this book, I've already started scoping out races and runs that I want to do in places like Moracco, Peru and New Zealand. It's going to take alot of work and money! This book serves as a great guide (along with "Extreme Running" by Kym McConnell and Dave Horsley, which chronicles the world's toughest and exotic foot races) to the limitless options available to the modern adventure-seeking runner.

Speaking of adventure runners, Dean Karnazes might be the most well-known, if not the most commited. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, chronicles the life of Karnazes from his formative years growing up in Santa Cruz, CA and through his amazing career of ultramarathon finishes including 9 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Runs (a mountain trail race with over 33,000' of vertical change), multiple finishes in the Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon from Death Valley to the trail head of Mt. Whitney (in the middle of summer) and the inaugural Antarctica Marathon. The latest edition also included a great section where Dean gets into nutrition for ultrarunning (a subject I hope to tackle in future blogs). All-in-all, I found the book an enjoyable read and found Karnazes story fascinating, courageous and heartfelt. The man's limitless energy is an inspiration in and of itself.

Amby Burfoot was the winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and has been a world class runner for 35 years. He has also been an editor at Runner's World magazine for a couple decades. But what Burfoot discusses in his brilliant The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life has nothing to do with the accolades, it has to do with the insight that one can achieve through running. He discusses both the boldness and humility that one can feel from the run and applies those very lessons to life. This book gets my unequivocable runner's nerd thumbs-up. Must read.

Finally, I was just hoping to preserve some thoughts I had on trail running versus road running after spending the last few days running the streets of Tallahassee. I really enjoyed the challenge of running hard there in the warm, humid climate. It was so different from the high and dry air of the North Central Colorado Rockies. What struck me the most when I was driving home today was the the thought of the solace of the trail run. I spent the last four days dodging cars and pedestrians and pounding asphalt and it gave me the deepest appreciation for running quiet mountain trails with only my dog for company. I happily welcome sharing the trails with mountain bikers and hikers and love seeing other people in the woods. But it's the other 99% of the time when I'm cruising up and down over rocks through streams and hurdling trees that I feel most connected to not just the world but also myself. Unseen, I cover mile after mile and I can't help but feel, well, natural. I'm not saying you don't or can't feel this way on a road run, you can and I have. I just want to avoid some traffic and go explore some unknown mountain wilderness.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tallahassee Times

Thursday morning I woke up to cool and cloudy skies here in good old Tallahassee, the capital of the Great State of Florida. Well, the "Great" part is debatable. How about the Good State of Florida? (Sorry, Floridians. I'm a mountain guy and your state is flat, hot and humid.) Before breakfast, I kissed Mom and went on a 9.3 mile road run. I'm spoiled by my country living and low traffic, as I had to run much more aware of what the drivers were doing around me. The humidity was a bit of a surprise, too and I should've brought some water with me. Pretty much just freestyled this one (and all my runs here) and made it up as I went. I lived here a decade ago, but the city has changed quite a bit and I hardly recognized the area. I cruised next to the sidewalks, running in the grass and dirt and zig-zagged about until I ran out of road at Interstate 10. Made the run an out-and-back and finished comfortably in 1:13, pace in the sub-8:00/mile. 140 - 170(!) bpm on the ol' heart rate monitor. Stretched and cooled down and called it "Good!"

Friday, we drove down to the coast to do a little sight seeing around St. George Island, but I didn't get to run on the beach as I had hoped. Just didn't work out, but I had a nice day with my folks taking in the views of the Gulf. I waited until evening and did another road run with some trails in the San Luis Mission Park. I brought water with me and rightly so. It was much warmer and I could feel my strength being zapped as I cruised. Traffic was so much worse in the evening that I was getting really put off by it. Seriously, I'm a trail runner and running next to heavy traffic was really bumming me out. Still, my effort was good and I enjoyed the run the majority of the time. 7.75 miles in 1:04, 8:30/mile. 138 - 144 bpm.

Saturday morning and I wanted the LSD. That's a Long Slow Distance run (which can also cause hallucinations if you go long enough!). Left the house just before 7 a.m. to beat the heat and slowly made my way down towards the State Capitol. Started out with a straight line 3 miles down Tharpe Ave and turned right on Monroe St (?) by Lake Ella. My tour took me down by the neighborhood I used to live in with my ex-wife, although I didn't remember the area very well. I also forgot how hilly it is around the Capitol and I got a great workout on the hills. I still ran in the grass as much as possible and looked for every unconventional line I could run (up or down) to make my run harder even though I was running a slow pace. I looped around the Capitol and made my way onto the Florida State University campus and just ran around rather aimlessly, taking in the sights. About an hour in, I ate a gel pack I had for an extra energy boost and kept hydrating throughout my run. I had to remind myself to slow down and not race at one point as a coed cutie ran alongside and passed me. (I guarantee she wasn't running for 2 hours.) I found a bike path I vaguely remember from the old days and gladly ran it under a canopy of trees for awhile. Another turn took me by a friend's old house and I reminisced a little to myself about good times gone by. Cruised along a little longer before working my way back to the park near my parent's house and ran trails for the last mile and a half. A really enjoyable but taxing run. I refilled my water bottle once I got home and downed it, along with a bowl of pineapple and some dried fish. Still, just before showering I stepped on the scale and my weight was down a half pound, from sweating, I'm sure. (Whew! This southern running ain't no joke!) The numbers: 13.1 miles, 2:05.51, 9:30/mile and heart rate in the 144-160 bpm range.

The best part of the day came later when I took my mother's Thai cooking class. I learned how to make Pad Thai noodles and Tom Kha Kai, a coconut milk and chili soup, with my new friend and classmate, Helen. The class kicked butt and we ate well afterwards. Big Up to Mom!!!!!!

Sunday morning, got up early to run in the pre-dawn coolness. Still not used to being soaking wet from sweat after only a mile. Quite frankly, I don't care for it much but I do appreciate running in climate so different from what I'm used to. Keeps things fresh. Put on the headlamp and did a 10K loop. I pushed the pace at times to see how I felt, but I could feel yesterday's run in my legs and overall, I was moderate to slow. The smell of flowers and foliage was refreshing in the morning air and I occasionally closed my eyes to engage my sense of smell a little more. Again, I ran in the grass mostly, avoiding pavement as much as possible, as well as running a few tangents up hillsides and back down. Finished with a strong kick and took it to the house in :53.57, 8:42/mile. After a short walk to cool down, I noticed a beautiful red cardinal perched on a power wire. I haven't seen a cardinal for many years and was captivated by the little bird's striking color and sweet chirping song. Enough to make this note and hold it in my memory a little longer. Nice one, little guy!

Heading back to Steamboat tomorrow morning. I don't think I'll run this evening as my legs are a little tender now. I'm happy with the 36.2 miles I've gotten in while I've been here but part of me wants to go out and get another 4 miles so I can call it an even 40. It doesn't really matter, though, it's only a number, I think the effort is what really matters.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weird run this evening after work. Not so much strange, but I can't figure out where it came from. After running doubles yesterday, I was going to run at an easy pace for an hour and just see what happens. Today felt like a really long day at work and I was tired when I got home. Being an automotive mechanic/technician is not easy work, mentally or physically. On the contrary, it's very physical (obviously) and tons of step by step problem solving to keep my mind engaged. Even routine maintenance needs to be done conscientiously. In short, it's rarely the run at the end of the day (or beginning, or both) that is so tough, it's the 8 hours proceeding it!

I thought it was just a little fatigue from yesterday, coupled with the days work that was making me feel lethargic. Still, it wasn't that hard to find the motivation and I was actually relieved to be going running. Beneath the soreness, I could feel my legs were getting stronger, so I was eager to let loose. I laced up and started out slowly for my one hour road run. I got on the shoulder next to Highway 40 and decided to just run along the road for half an hour and then turn around and run back and make sure that I stayed out for an hour. The course was so flat and air was nice and cool, I had no trouble settling into my pace after the first mile. I ran with my mouth closed and breathed through my nose. My rhythm was quick and light. Heart rate fairly steady at 140 bpm. I thought about the Africans I watched running the Rotterdam Marathon yesterday. The top two charged their way to sub-2:05 finishes, just a couple minutes off world record pace. I imagined myself having their grace and fleet footedness. The long, straight, flat run agreed with me today and I was surprised to find that I fairly effortlessly ran 8 miles in exactly one hour, about 7:30/mile.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

part deux

Couldn't contain myself and sealed the deal with the afternoon 6 miler. As I walked Benny yesterday, I couldn't help but think it would be fun to run up the same long winding hill. So that's what I did. Home to Meadow Ln. to Bear Drive to Apres Ski Way, up and back down Laurel Ln., right turn on Ski Trail Ln. and back onto Apres Ski to loop back home. :56.51, 9:29/mile.

The most notable thing was the lack of people, anywhere. I ran by million dollar home after million dollar home, each vacant and most with a For Sale sign in the yard. I'm so glad these pretentious assholes tore up this once lovely hillside and elk and deer habitat, to put in a road and mega homes and NOBODY lives in them. American excess at it's finest.

Anyway, the views were great and I could see a big crowd at the free concert at the base of the ski area. Looked cool. My winding road run took me up and down several major hills so I got in a few good climbs and some fun downhill running. Now, my legs are a little tender! Total miles for the day: 13.3, 2 hours 14 minutes of running. Rewardingly soaked in the hot tub for a few minutes after getting home.
My mom has been planning, for some time now, to teach Thai food cooking classes out of her house in Tallahassee, Florida. Last week, she taught her first class of 6 and she tells me it was quite a success. Many other people have already expressed an interest in other classes. I'm super happy and proud of her but better yet, she's happy and proud of herself. She's always been an amazing cook and it's good to see her going after her dreams. Way to go, Mom!

Also speaking of Mom, I'll be leaving the Rockies for the Florida Panhandle next Wednesday to see her. She and my stepfather live in Tallahassee, which can be as hot and humid as you can stand in the middle of the summer. Mid-April should be tolerable. I'm sure it reminds my mother of Thailand. Sorry Mom, but the Son likes the air cool and dry. I digress but it's my blog, so, I can. Anyway, can't wait to get in some long, easy sea-level runs. Going down 6700' in altitude will make my lungs very happy. Tallahassee is a cool, scenic town but I'm making it a point to go to the beach and run. It's been a while. I'm expecting warm temps, low 80s, high 70s, and the usual humidity, so I'll carry water everywhere this mountain man goes. Other than that, eat some good Thai food, maybe get a tattoo (shhh...don't tell Mom), probably not much else. As for the last couple of days...

Friday, I went for the easiest 1.6 mile run I could muster after Thursday's leg crusher. It felt great, actually, I could have run much longer. I talked to myself as I ran (crazy guy!) to keep the pace very slow, about 10:16/mile. I could tell the soreness I was feeling was just muscle fatigue and not damage because once I got moving and blood pumping to my muscles, the soreness subsided. Saturday, I was still tender and decided to not run so that I might get more out of today's workout. Instead, I took Benihana for a long walk through the neighborhoods on the mountain. Nice and slow and plenty of hills. It was a great break for my legs. I think it was a smart move and I woke up this morning feeling quite strong.

This morning, I ran a road loop from the house out to Hwy 40, to RCR 14 (River Road), across the bridge at Tree Haus, up Mt. Werner Circle to Village Dr. and then, down Whistler to Walton Creek and home. Cold but sunny. Nice, relatively flat 7.3 miles, that I did in 1:08, at a 9:18/mile pace (avg.) and then another half mile cool down. To make the run more challenging, I played a game where I ran on asphalt or concrete only when absolutely necessary. Eventually, I allowed myself 10 steps to cross streets. This essentially made the whole run a trail run as I ran on mud, snow, grass, dirt and rock over the course of my journey. Slowed me down, too, which is what I need to do. Gotta keep working to develop that slow-twitch muscle fiber! Technique was solid and just had a blast on the run. Met another guy running on River Road and we exchanged Low Fives as we ran by each other. I thought that was cool. Some "I'm out here gettin' miles, you're out here gettin' miles, and we're both runners who love running" comraderie-type shit.

One last note, today is the last day the mountain is open this year, closing with just over 260" of snow for the season (weak!). I went up to ride yesterday and it was so slushy and grabby I left right away. Today, I'm just not feeling it and I'm going to miss my first Last Day on the Hill since moving here. Too bad, it's always fun and sunny with everyone goofing off, wearing costumes and all that on the hill. Good times. So, if you were up there, hope you had a great time. As for me...I might just stretch and go for another run!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It was sunny today and most of the snow from the last storm has melted already. I left work at lunch and decided to go for a long run instead of going up on the hill. I've owed myself a long run for about three weeks now, but I've been putting it off to go snowboarding and didn't make the two hour mark while in Moab. In that respect, I'm a couple of long runs behind in my training schedule.

It's definitely wet and slushy out and I ran alongside the bike path in the snow, so I wore my Salomon Gore-Tex shoes and trail gaiters, to keep my feet somewhat dry. Running in the snow made my trip more challenging and forced me to slow down. I have a bad habit of running too fast when I'm on road surfaces and I wanted to make sure I got in the full two hours.

From the house, I ran from the start of the bike trail to it's end on the west side of town. I crossed over the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge (it's the real name of the bridge!) over to 20 Mile Rd. and back towards town. For a little extra challenge, I went up the back side of Howelsen Hill and ran in the snow down through where the snow park was. The run gained and loss a couple hundred vertical here but was otherwise only very slightly hilly. I was able to maintain an even pace throughout the run but started to really feel it in the last miles. I did a good job of conciously monitoring my foot strike (mid-foot, baby. no heel striking!), arm swing, body position (a little forward lean) and breathing. My tempo was even and I felt very relaxed. I'm glad I carried a water bottle and came home with it nearly empty. As I quickened my pace to finish, I finally glanced at my watch, thinking to myself, "That HAD to be 2 hours!", and it read back 1:51. Damn, I gotta run another nine minutes! :) I slowed my pace and continued around the neighborhood and around Whistler Park to make up the extra time. Finally stopped at 2:00.17, a little over 12 miles plus the trip around the block, pace about 9:15/mile, my first two hour run of 2010 in the books.

Legs are a little pissed at me this evening. Knees and calves, a little sore, but should be fine tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will either go for a short, easy run or rest altogether, if the soreness persists.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The 5 a.m. snow report informed me that 16" had fallen at mid-mountain in the past 24 hours, 21" at the summit. In the past five winters I've lived here, I would have heard a similar snow report five, maybe six or more times during the course of the season. For Twenty-Ten, however, the Snow Gods have only called for it this one time, and, fortunately, I was ready.

I started snowboarding in 1992, while going to college in Washington, D.C., and since then have always managed to get a few days a year (except winters 97-99 when I moved to Florida) of snowboarding, no matter where I was living. But it wasn't until 2004, when I moved to Steamboat Springs, that I was able to start living it as a lifestyle. I had learned over the years that if you really want to be a dedicated snow rider, you must be WHERE the snow is WHEN it falls. Problem is, you might know WHERE, but you don't really know WHEN that is going to be. It's this unpredictable nature of Nature that makes the deep powder snow riding experience(s) so rare, unique and special. And when it finally happens, you can be stoked AND humbled at the chance to have been there and floated your way to ecstasy at that moment.

Yesterday, Bob and I decided that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to close the shop for the morning and get a little skiing done. We couldn't have planned it better. I jumped on the bus at 7:58 a.m. and saw Derek a couple of stops later. We got in the gondola line, fairly good positioning, and waited in eager anticipation with alot of local faces for lifties to start loading people into the cars. The two of us got packed into a car with SEVEN other people (the capacity is 8). Nice folks, though. From the top of the ol' gondy, we raced down to Storm Peak Express, each of us taking a different lines through the trees. I have a fun, meandering line under Burgess Creek chair and through the trees that I love to take and was able to claim first tracks on it today. Huge smiles on our faces as we met up at Storm and waited with the couple of hundred other people super happy about the new snow. As we're in line, I see my roommate and his fiancee already on the chair going up, even though they left the house after me! (Found out afterwards that they had gotten on the Christie Peak Chair to get up so fast. Good for 'em! No friends on a powder day!) Derek and I were both stoked that we had switched up and were riding our powder boards (snowboards with a wide nose/skinny tail taper for better float in deep snow) because it was certainly deep enough and it made for way easy turning and catching big air. As such, we decided to launch some cat tracks, under and to looker's right of Four Points lift. We were there early enough to catch it with all the landings still very deep and soft with new snow. It felt great to sail 20+ feet through the air before landing and making huge power slashes all the way down the run. Derek, as always, was ruling it with much style, speed and power, making cat-like leaps into the air off of any sized rock he chose. We cruised up Four Points lift next and took a run down through the trees on skier's left of Rainbow, crossed Duster and rallied the next pitch down to Moonlight. Incredible, deep snow in the glades and plenty of fresh rock drops.

Now at the bottom of Sundown Express lift, we met up with our friend Maggie, and the three of us went up to find some more goods. We were talking about going over to the backside of the mountain, up Morningside lift and hiking out to The Gates. Signs said the opening of Morningside was delayed, so our trio ripped a fun, long line through Two-Thirty trees , laughing, hooping and hollering the whole way. Again, we showed love for Sundown but this time heading down High Noon, cutting over at Rendezvous and hitting up Westside trees. Another fun run so we all got back on Sundown again and went back up to check on the status of Morningside. At the top, we ran into Ross, Eric and Megan. We decided to all rally down to South Peak lift and we split into groups and took different routes to get there. It didn't really matter which way you went, the snow was top quality everywhere. I rode mostly mellow trees and a couple of groomers, then we took South Peak up to ride one of my favorite areas on the mountain, Broadway Trees. Again, steep, deep and untracked for most of my lines.

Now back at Sundown, we headed up again and once at the top, went down the other side via Hot Cakes to Morningside. The scene at Morningside was like a parking lot after concert with everyone trying to leave at the same time. There must've been 250 people there. It took a little while to finally get on the chair, but our posse made it up and decided to hit up the Chutes, instead of hiking up to the Gates.

This proved to be a wise choice. At the bottom skier's left of Chute 1, Eric pointed out a snow covered rock with a 30ish-foot drop on the other side of it into a powder field. Charging, he took a relatively straight line off the apex of the rock and flew 40-50 feet to a powder landing. Next, Derrick started a good 100 yards uphill of the rock and ripped a superstar line down to the kicker. He took flight and landed, not missing a beat. Ross was next and showed that rock how they do it in NorCal as he popped off the right side into the air. A few seconds later, he lands and rides away clean. Finally, I sack up and charge my way down. I actually thought I wouldn't hit the rock (it was big!) but I could hear all the guys cheering me at the bottom, and, well, peer pressure's a mother fucker, so... Just as I set up to ollie off the rock, I spot my landing and it looks so fresh and untouched. I pop into the air and watch that spot all the way to the ground. A wave of elation rushes over me as I ride away and that moment becomes a memory that I will never forget.

We continued from there and rode down to the short hike to the top of Pony Express. The sun came out at this point and I suddenly remembered that it was April 7th, not January 7th, as the temperature climbed quickly. The remaining four of us (sorry, Maggie!) shredded Fool's Gold and continued to the bottom of Thunderhead lift. This was my last lap, so I parted ways with the guys at the top of Thunderhead and made my way down through the trees and the snow continued to not disappoint. Ross had decided to leave, too, and I spotted him as I was coming out of the trees and he was racing down Betwixt to catch me. We cruised down Lower Concentration, trying to hit every jump and powder stash our legs would allow, before finally making our way down to Headwall and the bottom of the Gondola. High Fives were happily exchanged when we were finished (I prefer the High Five to The Pound). At this point, I was happy to go to work for a couple hours and turn wrenches. It's this work/play duality that makes me love living in Steamboat so much. Sometimes, that line is so blurry, it doesn't even exist!

It was easy to go for a run this evening after work. The sun was out and I was still high from snowboarding this morning. My legs have been feeling great lately and I must've been excited because I tried to run easy and ended up finishing 4 miles in :31.17, good for a 7:45/mile pace.

Earlier this week:

Yesterday, in the epic snowstorm, I ran with the dogs up to Second Vista. Holy shit, that was a tough run. Charging up several hundred feet of vertical in deep, punchy snow had me breathing hard and heart racing above 140 bpm. Made it to the vista in about :40, paused for just a moment and began the run down, which was every bit as tough as the run up, as my feet slid into post hole after post hole, even while wearing crampons. The footing got so bad, I was forced to walk much of it. To make matters worse, Benny catches scent of something and runs off into the woods. (Marvin stayed with me. Good, Boy!) He came home several hours later. Total run time in heinous blizzard - 1:00+, mileage - unknown, pace - none.

I didn't run last Sunday because I felt a little tenderness in my right calf, so Monday I started off my week with a road 9 miler down to Howelsen Hill and back. The cool thing about running to Howelsen is that it's a place where Olympians train. So you don't take it easy and you don't run slowly when you are going by there! I was very pleased with my effort though, as I left the house thinking I would run much less, but my body felt great, so I just listened and kept it up. (Improvement is fun!) Time: 1:15, pace 8:20/mile.

As April begins, I feel like my running is getting more consistent than it was for February and March. Actually, more than last summer when I was running strictly trails. It's helped that I've embraced the road run to get a handle on mileage and pacing. I know this will translate into better trail running.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My first trail marathon is less than a month away which means that trail running season is here. Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature because it's been snowing here for the past two days and is supposed to continue for a couple more. Just when I was feeling optimistic about the trails thawing out. Funny. Regardless, I haven't been getting in my long runs and I might end up paying for it down in Buena Vista.

I recently finished "How to Run Faster From the 5K to the Marathon" by Brad Hudson. I found the book very useful as a guide for self-coaching. Hudson is a coach of many elite runners and a proponent of "progressive training," the basic idea being that you build your run training around a long run, a threshold run and hill training (to build strength). The remainder of your weekly runs should focus on "specific endurance", runs geared toward your race distance. I'm racing alot of different distances this summer, from 8 to 50 miles, so my weekly runs should be just medium mileage (anywhere from 4 - 10 miles with intervals, hills, recovery, trail and road runs all mixed in). For threshold runs, I want to build to 2 hours of hard running and my long run should be 4+ hours, by mid-summer. One of the things I like about Hudson's approach is that you create a schedule but make small adjustments according to how you feel. For me, the important thing is to continue running for years, not just push myself through a set training schedule so I can run a bunch of races. As I get older, it seems like an extra day of rest does more good than pushing through a workout too tough for my body on that day. So, flexibility in training but sticking to certain building blocks to improve specific endurance.

That said...

Yesterday, I went for a :40 trail run with the dogs in the afternoon. There was a partially sunny break, in an otherwise snowy day, when I got home from the shop. I took it nice and slow, to help my legs bounce back from the harder run the day before. Did the long uphill to First Vista, while maintaining my heart rate at 138 - 144 bpm the entire climb. Even tempo on the downhill. At the bottom of the hill, one section was so punchy, I postholed to my knee every other step. A little extra workout I wasn't quite ready for.

Today, BA and I went up on the mountain late morning and rode for a couple of hours while a blizzard pounded the top of Mount Werner. Storm Peak, Four Points, Sundown and Sunshine lifts, were all closed. Still, B took me through some sweet old school stashes on the skiers left side of Pony and we were loving it. Deep snow the whole way down so we decided to do it again, this time with his homie, Eric, who we met up with in the lift line. After that, we went down to Thunderhead, where the weather was great. Calm and lightly snowing, we did a lap through the trees and did the short hike behind the teepee on Vagabond. Killer turns here and deep until we got lower. One more lap on Thunderhead, through the trees near Ted's Ridge, through the mini park and we called it a day.

I ran a road loop around River Road and Mt. Werner Circle and up to Apres Ski Way and home this afternoon. Running on the road feels so damn long. I ran 9.5 miles in 1:27, 9:15/mile and it felt like a two hour run. Two hours on the trail is a pleasure. Can't wait for summer. I think for my long run next weekend, I may go down to Boulder, where it's a little more thawed out, and find some trails and possibly set up a tattoo appointment.