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.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

End of May/June recap

I've been without a computer for the past few weeks, which is reflected in my lack of blog posts but I have been out hitting the trails as they finally dry out. Above 9000' is just about to open up, although a storm this weekend could drop a little snow, just to keep things damp.

I finished the month of May in fine fashion starting with a 4.5 mile night headlamp run the day after the 7 hour blast with Katie. Still feeling strong, I followed the next day with 11.46 miles. May 31st, I finally claimed Spring Creek Trail end to end. Made that run 13.17 miles in 2:10 to close out a nice 15 day streak of running.

I took June 1st off and came back the next day to run 6.33 miles of trails on Howelsen Hill, chasing mountain bikers for 1:22, then went home and ran a couple miles in the Vibram Five Fingers. June 3rd, I commuted to and from work by running and totaled 13.03 miles for the day, 1:49 of running and zero gasoline burned. Nice.

I relaxed again on the 4th and got up early on the 5th to drive down to Boulder. I ran the excellent Hall Ranch Loop, just outside of Lyons about 10 minutes north of Boulder. A great trail run with a couple of beautiful meadows and an amazing view of Longs Peak. Trails were single track and half of the run was on pedestrian only trails and I shared the trail with a few mountain bikes on the return. Super fun and fast 10.0 miles in 84:00. On Sunday, the Steamboat Marathon was going on but the weather was so nice in the morning, I had to go do my own mission and missed cheering on my friends who ran the half. Instead, I cut up Spring Creek again and then added 6 more miles up on Buff Pass. Ended up with a nice 16.7 miler in 2:38 and really felt strong the entire run. Free ran a couple miles on Monday with Benihana and went to Red Dirt Trail to run a 4 mile hill climb on Tuesday afternoon. Calves were already a little tender beforehand and I was going to run easy but the run soon became a challenge as the climbing would not end. Finally cresting the ridge in just over and hour, I booked it back downhill and finished 8.04 miles in 1:32. Whew. Last night, strange as it may sound (for me), I wanted to do a road run. I did the familiar out and back on Hwy 40 towards Rabbit Ears Pass and turned around at The Timbers. Beautiful, cool evening and I made it back home just before dark to make my run 13 miles in 1:55. Today, I just free ran a couple miles with Benny again in the VFFs.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to run Creekside Trail with Katy and then we are going down to Silverthorne on Sunday to attempt a double loop of Eccles Pass. Should be interesting as a cold front moves in on Friday and heavy rain is forecast for Saturday. High water from the spring melt already has me wondering how doable the creek crossings are going to be, the rain may complicate things. Either way, we're going to make a go of it. Even if we don't claim the route, there are enough trails in the area that we shouldn't have trouble getting 30 miles.