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.