Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I'm not a fan of the term 'elite' in the sport of running, or in broader society for that matter, so I felt a tad embarrassed this evening to be lining up with a small crowd of skinny fast dudes for the elite race in the Freeman Myre Corporate Challenge.

Justin Mock had talked me into running this event a few weeks back, noting that Pearl Izumi was a sponsor and that I'd probably be able to get a comp entry. Well, I'm a sucker for free stuff, so enter I did. And that's how I found myself toeing the line in hopes that I'd both PR and not come Dead Freakin' Last.

Some of the faster roadies on the Front Range. All shots: Aaron Kennard. A great photo recap of the two races at Aaron's website.

Quite unusually for the Front Range, it was pretty humid out, which for us dry-air folk is probably equivalent to sea-level folk getting trucked up to 6,000' to race. Anyway, the course was a criterium style three-lapper with six 180-degree turns to negotiate; a slight uphill one way and a slight downhill the other.

I stayed with the lead pack for, oh, 10 seconds and then started to feel the burn in my quads from the effort on Longs yesterday. The race was quickly beginning to register a very low reading on the fun meter. Not a zero, but close. Within a quarter mile I had assumed a position three or four from the back of the field of ~20 and proceeded to hold that for the duration.

Andrew Letherby (Aus) defends his title (14:36), beating James Boitt (Ken, 14:45)

George and I were just there to pad the numbers.

The fourth-best burro racer in the world appeared to be running well and he was up on my shoulder for the first half of the race. We switched positions a couple of times, but other than that I was well and truly locked into place. I'm not quite sure why, but the women's race went out a minute after the men's race, and given that there were a couple of Olympians running, there was a not-unrealistic chance that I would get caught from behind. That didn't happen, which on a technicality means I am still yet to be chicked this year.

Some very fast ladies: Benita Willis (Aus record holder 2k, 3k, 5k, 10k, marathon), Nuta Olaru (Rom, 12th in 2004 Olympic marathon), Fiona Docherty (NZ, World Trail Running Champ, 2:37 London), Nan Kennard (Local speedster looking to qualify for 2012 Olympic trials at the Batimore Marathon this fall), Michelle Suszeck (another fast local runner).

With no mile markers, it was hard to get a read on pacing but I knew that I was mainly fading - as is typical for me in 5ks - so I was surprised to see the clock just tick over to 17:00 as I hit the finish chute. I finished in 17:06, although I wasn't surprised to learn from the Garmin-adorned runners that the course was a bit short (between 3.01 & 3.07).

Contemplating where it all went wrong!

I guess the secret to running faster road times is to actually run fast in training, but that doesn't sound much like fun, so I guess the running fast thing will have to wait. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I'm off to the Wasatch Mountains on Saturday to run at a very slow pace for 5 - 6 hours over the course of 31 miles and ~12,000 feet of elevation gain. Gimme a race and I'll run it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Longs Peak Revisited

Despite already having two races on the calendar for this week, plus a hard effort up Towers scheduled for Thursday, I was still feeling like I needed to head back up to Longs (14,215') for another stab at Kraig Koski's fastest known ascent of the popular Keyhole route. I e-mailed Aaron Marks last night asking if he was interested in going up, deciding that I would let his response make the decision for me. He emailed me back within minutes in the affirmative. Decision made.

Longs from Twin Sisters

We got to the East Longs Peak trailhead (9,400') shortly after 6:00 and, as last week, were pleased to find the parking lot just minimally overflowing with cars. Aaron got a jump on the morning, leaving me in the facilities to contemplate the run ahead.

"Hmmm, go out hard on the six miles of running to the Boulderfield and try to hold on through the high-altitude muscle-burn sections of the Trough and Homestretch, or try for a more evenly paced effort?"

"Whatever, just get off the stool and run!"

Soon after getting started, the perceived effort was already feeling a little harder than last week with my breathing again being pretty labored. The legs weren't feeling too spry either. I caught Aaron a few miles in and was soon feeling the moderately strong wind that was now blowing unobstructed above treeline. The legs still hadn't kicked into gear, so I knew this one was going to be a grinder.

Splits to the Boulderfield:

Goblins Campground (1.2 miles, 10,120'): 13:47
Battle Mtn trail junction (2.5 miles, 11,000'): 30:16
Chasm Junction (3.5 miles, 11,800'): 41:26
Granite Pass: 54:33
Boulderfield wind shelter/outhouse (6 miles, 12,760): 1:11:38

I pretty much knew the game was up when I saw the 1:11 at the Boulderfield, as I was off Jeff Valliere's 1:52 pace by three minutes and didn't like my chances of making back that time on the technical sections, with both Jeff and Kraig being way more accomplished mountaineers than me. With that said, I felt like I got across and up the Boulderfield in a fairly efficient ten minutes, but the traverse to the Trough was slow, and once I started up the Trough, I didn't feel like I had much power and it was all a bit labored.

I hit the top of the Trough in 1:45 and knew there was no way I was going under 1:49. Nonetheless, I plugged onwards and upwards, hitting the summit, after a decent assault on the Homestretch, in 1:55. If nothing else, it was at least a PR and another good 14,000' workout for Pikes.

I think I'm done with Longs for a while, but I might take one more shot towards the end of summer if I can find the time and inclination.

Splits from Boulderfield to Summit:

Keyhole (6.25miles, 13,150'): 1:21:56
Top Trough/Start Narrows: ~1:45
Summit Rock: 1:55:18

I actually felt pretty beat at the top, so decided to go easy on the descent, which I knocked off in a very clumsy 1:45 for a RT outing of 3:41. Kraig's 1:49 is pretty darn stout, in my humble opinion, but it's definitely within reach on a good day.

Kraig's splits, Aug. 12, 2000, 6:15AM:

1st switchback to left- 6:04
Bridge- 23:10
Chasm Lake Cutoff- 40:54
Granite Pass cutoff- 53:49
Boulder Field Privi- 1:10:46
Keyhole- 1:20:22
Top of Trough- 1:40:14
Summit- 1:49:04

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week Ending July 25

Monday - 2 miles (500') hike/jog at Horsetooth with A-dog.

Tuesday - 16 miles (5,000'). Longs.

Wednesday - 9 miles (2,300') easy. Horsetooth/Audra loop.

Thurs -

am: 6 miles easy on valley trails

pm: 6.5 miles easy with FCTR at Pineridge, followed by beers, kebabs, and tear-inducing jalapenos at Alex's house.

Fri - 10 miles (2,000') easy in searing heat. Horsetooth - Westridge - Towers - Bluesky - 38e - home. Heat killed me. 95 degrees out at midday.

Sat - 11 miles (1,000') easy on Picture Rock trail near Lyons. I was down in Lyons to satisfy my trail work requirement for Wasatch. Got there early to sneak in a 90 minute run before the 8:30 trail-work start.

While I'm glad I was able to get out and perform some trail maintenance as a means of giving back a little, and also as a way to get a better understanding of what goes into creating and maintaining trails, I resent somewhat being required to do this in order to run a race I'm paying good money to run. In my mind, voluntary work should be just that: voluntary. Being a father and husband, volunteer time is hard enough to come by as it is, and so I've had to find opportunities to volunteer in the running community where it's possible to involve the whole family. Directing the Fort Collins Running Club's Tortoise & Hare series has worked well in that respect. Trail maintenance is definitely not a family activity if you've got young kids. Anyway, rather than bitching, I should probably just avoid such races in the future. Western States has a similar requirement, but they were at least willing to accept the work I do for the FCRC as satisfying that requirement, which was greatly appreciated.

Sun - 20.5 miles (4,400'). 2:50. Towers interval workout with Jason Ostram. Hard effort on the 1.3 mile, 750' climbs up to Loggers, then easy around and down on Sawmill and Valley trails x 5. Loop is just under 4 miles, and those last couple of climbs up Towers were real grinders, especially with the morning getting progressively hotter. Towers splits went: 11:06, 11:21, 11:19, 11:23, 11:13. Recovery splits: 20:34, 22:03 21:31, 21:50, 20:58. Swan Johnson: 4:20, 3:37. This one hurt, but I was happy to get up at a consistent pace for all five climbs. Wanted a fastest effort on the last one, but the combination of fatigue and extra heat left me a few seconds short. Probably try and crank out another one of these on slightly more rested legs in two weeks as one of my last long, hard workouts before Pikes.

Total: 80.5 miles (15,200')

This was a solid week with a couple of really good longer climb workouts in there. I still don't feel particularly zippy, but I do feel strong. To go under four hours on Pikes, I figure that I'll be able to get it done with, at worst, a 2:35 climb which was my Ascent time last year. I feel fairly confident that I'll be able to get close to a 1:25 on the down portion with my longer distance strength and strong, reasonably zippy down-legs. With a 2:30 on the up, which I also think is possible, the A goal is 3:55. Others seem to think I'll be lucky to get under 4 - and that's why we run 'em.

Next week is going to be busy and potentially exhausting. Justin Mock talked me into running a 5k down in Louisville on Wednesday as the first leg in our three-part head to head. Quite comically, I will be running in the 'elite' race, so I am simply hoping to avoid coming DFL in addition to finally posting a 16:xx. I think I got it in me this time. Might just try and hang on to Justin for as long as possible and then hope to not die too badly through the last mile. That way I can at least say I tried to make a race of it.

Anyway, the day after the 5k will be the biweekly romp up Towers, which I will probably end up running harder than planned. And then Saturday, it is Karl's hike-a-thon out in Utah which features a whopping 12,000' of climbing over 31 miles. I like my chances better there than I do on the roads on Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Longs Peak

Longs Peak dominates the Front Range skyline up here in NoCo-land, so given the ease of access from tourist haven Estes Park, it's no surprise that it's probably the most hiked/climbed mountain in the state. As a local who also enjoys the trip to the top, the trick therefore is to go early in the week when the crowds are at their least annoying.

After an email from Dan Turk late last week about potential interest for today, and a bit of work shuffling, I signed on and contracted recent FoCo arrival Aaron Marks for the trip too. We got to the trailhead soon after 6:00 and were greeted with a choice of parking spots at the small (for RMNP) parking lot. On weekends at 6:00, one typically has to park a good half mile down the road, so this was a very good sign.

I was unsure if I wanted to push out a hard effort or just take it easy and fully enjoy the outing, so I figured I would just let the run come to me as it progressed.

As far as fastest known times (FKT) are concerned, the only records I could find on the tubes list Kraig Koski as the ascent record holder via the popular 7.5 mile (`5,000') keyhole route. His 1:49 dates back to 2000, and while certainly a solid time on what is a potentially dangerous route if moving carelessly above the boulder field, it seemed like a time that would be within reach.

I actually e-mailed Kraig a couple of days ago to inform him that I might be chasing his time (as that apparently is FKT protocol), and Kraig responded with an e-mail claiming no knowledge of the fact that he held the FKT! I figured therefore it might be fun to put a time out there for people to chase, presuming of course that I was good for a sub-1:49. Bill Wright holds the RT FKT at 3:35, according to details here.

From the off (9,400'), the breathing felt a bit labored as is typical with uphill starts at altitude. I was settled in to the workload and altitude after 10 to 15 minutes, but didn't much feel like pushing things after the pounding at Barr Trail two days prior. All bets were soon off anyway as I managed to head straight through in the wrong direction at the Chasm Lake 4-way. By the time I knew for sure I was going in the wrong direction I was a good two-thirds of a mile down the trail. I turned around and headed back just in time to meet Dan, who figured I'd lost a good 15 minutes. Buggery!

Pushed on and forgot about times and such like. The traffic was definitely thin given the ideal conditions, however there was the usual bottlenecking beginning at the boulder field, which I hit in 1:20. The keyhole (1:34) was as calm as I have experienced it from a wind perspective, as was the rest of the route from there.

I love the quad-burn sensation you get from a hard effort up the trough (~12,500' to 13,500') and homestretch (~13,600 - 14,200') so I had a blast powering up them. Although most everything past the boulder field is non-running, I still consider it a great power workout with all that intense high altitude quad work. I hit the summit rock in 2:08 and immediately turned around and headed back down.

I got off course again on the ledges back to the keyhole, ending up way too high and off to the right, realizing my mistake upon peering over the ridge to a big drop to the Boulder field below. Had to backtrack significantly (and somewhat sketchily) to get back with the bullseye markers (probably lost 15 mins total) and then hopped back across the Boulder field and down at a steady pace on the annoyingly jerky and steppy descent to the trailhead in a total descent of 1:46 and total RT outing of 3:55.

It was a fun outing on a perfect morning, but no damage whatsoever was done to the existing FKTs. Might take another shot next week, being sure to be less careless with the route. Oh, and if anyone has intel on faster times, please post in the comments.

Edits: See comments below for links to Jeff Valliere's 2006 3:23 (FKT) round trip report (Keyhole) and Bill Wright/John 'Homie' Prater's 3:09 report (Cables) .

Week Ending July 18

Mon - 5 miles fartlek (1,000') with hard effort on the ups. Horsetooth/Falls.

Tues - 8 miles steady (2,500'). Twin Sisters. Took my parents on a loop up to Estes, down to Lyons via Hwy 7 and back home past Carter Lake. In Estes, I left them to enjoy Lily Lake with Alistair while I set about tackling Twin Sisters (11,413). From the TH, it is 3.7 miles and just under 2,500' to the summit. From the parking lot, it is probably 4 miles each way. Never really pushed the envelope, but didn't lolly-gagging either, just a good steady effort up and down. Always good to get above 10k and even better to get above 11k, as if I didn't get enough of that in the San Juans a few days prior. Felt like I had good flow and foot-eye coordination descending. I love that feeling. 43 up, 29 down.

Longs/Meeker from Twin Sisters summit.

Weds - 8.5 miles (2,200'). Horsetooth/Adura easy.

Thurs - 8 miles (1,800'). Towers TT w/short warm up. 31:41. Steady the whole way. Despite the heat, we had a record turnout on Towers with 32 runners pushing themselves on the hill. Feels like we've got some good momentum going here on the FoCo trails with the trail running group.

Fri - 6 miles easy on valley trails.

Sat - 6 miles easy on valley trails.

Sun - 14 miles (4,000'). Barr Trail Mountain Race with short w-u & c-d.

Total: 55.5 miles (11,500').

Another moderate week on the mileage front, and that is just fine. Feels great to be pushing a few runs and not worrying about hitting mileage goals - just getting out there and running hard every other day and enjoying the trails. Got some elevation in with a trip up Twin Sisters on Tuesday and Pikes on Sunday. Felt good both times on the aerobic front.

The next two weeks, I'll be looking to get up into the 70-, maybe 80-mile zone, but will continue to be focused more on performance than mileage as I try to build some power and speed for Pikes. Will definitely need to get some longer runs in though to be sure that I'm not losing too much endurance.

Up on Longs today and more RMNP fun planned for the next few weeks. With the WS pressure off, things are definitely setting up for some fun summer runs up in the high country. So much to run, so little time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Barr Trail Mountain Race

Got my ass kicked by Pikes Peak again this morning. I don't know what it is about this mountain, but it seems to do a number on me every time.

This morning was my first time running the 12.5 mile Barr Trail Mountain Race, and my fourth time running to (at least) Barr Camp. And while I seem to be getting a good feel for the mountain, it continues to punish me in ways that other mountains do not. The obvious reason of course is that I always seem to be in a hurry to get where I need to be when running on Pikes.

The stats to Barr Camp are something like 6.3 miles with 3,650 feet of elevation gain to approximately 10,000 feet. The race is pretty much a straight out and back and it has become a classic on the mountain running scene. This year did not disappoint.

Matt Carpenter was, of course, the pre-race favorite given that he's won eight of the 10 times it has been run (and been beaten just once), but this year there seemed to be a sniff in the air that he might be beatable. The usual Colorado/Manitou Springs mountain speedsters were all there, along with Rickey Gates (frequent fixture on the US Mountain Running Team), Martin Cox (top British mountain runner), and there was also some chatter about a 2:12 Kenyan marathoner. As for me, I was just hoping for a strong climb as I've been feeling a bit off with regards to charging up hills of late (very different from ambling up them for hours on end), possibly a top ten and maybe a sub 1:40.

Was up at 3:30 to meet Dan Turk at 4:10 for the two-hour ride down to Manitou. Once there, I jogged the half mile or so to the start and called it a warm up. Saw GZ and a few of the other usual suspects at the start, and then lined up in the second row in a bid to prevent any rabbit-like behavior from the gun.

An absolute herd of people shot out in front of me as we all got into stride, and I stumbled over a few heels as I tried for a clean line of sight. After the first hundred meters, the run immediately got serious on perhaps the steepest pitch of the day just before we hit singletrack. I didn't even bother counting off my position as there were so many people in front of me. I recognized Bernie Boettcher, Megan Kimmel and Brandy Erholtz in and around me, so figured there was no need to be worried about pacing at this point - just getting warmed up, but already feeling a little leaden in the leg department.

On the steep section known as the 'Ws,' I tried to feel out a comfortable pace, something that has eluded me through the first few miles of the Barr Trail in the past, but it wasn't coming. I don't know if it's the grade, which while steep is not brutal, the fact that the steeper stuff comes early in the race, or both, but even at an effort where I felt I was being sensible and backing off, the Ws were still kicking my ass.

Through the first mile or two, I made my way past Megan and Brandy - the lead two ladies - and tried to hang on to Bernie's shirt, a couple of singlets ahead of me. By the top of the Ws however, he was out of sight and I was pretty much locked into position following a red shirt and a yellow shirt with nobody in view behind. As some had predicted, the Kenyan road marathoner did not have a good race and he appeared to be in big trouble when I passed him somewhere before No Name Creek. He apparently did not finish the race.

My legs continued to feel heavy through most of the climb, easing up a bit on the mellower grades, but I was never really feeling it. Even on the fast flat to down sections I was having a hard time pushing. I knew the engine was pumping well as my breathing was okay, but I just couldn't get the wheels to fly. I overtook the red shirt about half way up and then would get glimpses of the yellow shirt from there to the turn. By the .5 mile sign to Barr Camp, the lead runner (who I did not recognize) came flying by and it seemed like an eternity until Matt C came by in second, followed by a procession of guys, including Rickey in third and other familiar faces mixed with less familiar faces. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and finally the yellow shirt. Wow, I was in 15th at Barr Camp, splitting exactly 1:05 with a ton of work to do.

As I made the tear-drop turn, I immediately felt some energy in the legs. Within a half mile, I had overtaken three guys and was gunning for more. Only one of the guys I passed came with me and I was feeling good about maybe picking up a few more guys for that spot in the top 10. Dodging up-bound traffic was much less of an issue than I thought it would be and people were very courteous about giving right of way to gravity-inspired runners. My adrenaline rush from the turn lasted maybe two miles before it was rudely interrupted by the section of flats and ups - which just a few miles earlier had been so welcome as flats and downs - and then it was a grind for the rest of the way. I still heard footsteps behind me, so I was motivated to keep the throttle depressed for a while, but when I finally lost those footsteps at the top of the Ws and was continuing to see no new targets in front, I got lazy and mostly cruised for the remainder of the run.

Sucking air on the drop. Photo: Beth Garner

I finally saw a yellow shirt as we were getting very near the bottom, so put in a final effort through the last few hundred meters, finishing a couple of seconds off 11th in 12th with a time of 1:42:3x. 1:05 up and 37:3x down. To be honest, I was right about where I thought I would be time-wise given that I'm still not really approaching any degree of sharpness post Western States and that speed has been anything but a focus this year. Some years that time would have been good for top 10, some years not.

Both course records were broken with Ryan Hafer (1:29:02) deposing Matt C as champion and course record holder, while Rickey picked Matt off for second somewhere on the drop. Ryan won by a huge six minutes, while the placings through seventh or eighth were very tight. Brandy won easily in the women's race, setting a new course record in the process.

Picking up the 35-39 award. Photo: George Zack

All in all, a good workout, a fabulously well executed race and fun times catching up with friends new and old.

Next time on Pikes, those Ws will be mine.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Towers Handicap 8

Phew, it was a hot one out there tonight, but we still got an impressive 31 runners heading up the hill. A new FKT was set in the women's division, a new Queen of the Hill was crowned, and a good time was, I believe, kind of had by all.

Having run out of width on the previous Towers page, I am restarting here with people's previous best times, followed by this week's times. First, however, a couple of pictures from the top, current FKTs, a list of Kings and Queens, and links to previous data.

A majority of tonight's runners
With the ever-elusive towers in back

Kings and Queens thus far:

4/8: Jonathan Zeif (JZ)
4/22: Laura Backus
5/6: Brian Walter
5/20: Kerry Doyle-Gundlach
6/3: Jeanne Mick
6/17: ??
7/01: ??
7/15: Corrie Stevens
7/29: Jennifer Swanson
8/12: Mary Gilbert

Records (Fastest Known Times):

Sam Malmberg: 28:50 (9/24)
Cherilyn Sackal: 35:14 (9/24)

Bike: Dwight Hall: 26:07 (6/23)

The route

Previous results and misc

Bike times up Towers

Times through 9/24


Adam (2).............................37:25...DNS...DNS...DNS
Alex A....43:00..44:24..41:30.39:04..39:30.38:58.38:07
Alex M...38:14...37:49..DNS....DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS
Brian W.44:55...45:48..DNS...47:29..46:16.47:16.47:15
Brian R...N/A.....42:50...DNS....DNS...DNS....DNS..DNS
Dan T....35:06....DNS.....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Dan J...................................37:18..DNS....DNS...DNS
Jeff S..........................36:02..DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Jen M........................37:17..37:15.36:10!.36:08!.35:14!
Ken Sr.....N/A....43:36...DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Ken Jr.....N/A....35:19....DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Kim........N/A..Mill Creek.DNS....DNS...DNS...DNS....DNS
Mary G...66:10..72:59..70:25..66:58..DNS...68:50..DNS
Mary B...44:58..45:28..42:23..43:41..43:58.47:25..43:16
Mary F...40:57...46:25...DNS...42:00..41:41..DNS...DNS
Matt P...................................39:30..37:10..DNS...DNS
Mike H...33:30..33:17...32:11...DNS...DNS....DNS...DNS
Mike M..80:00...42:40....DNS...42:34..DNS....DNS...DNS
Mike M (HS).................35:26...DNS..DNS.....DNS...DNS
Nick C...29:27!.31:41..32:18...30:04..34:26..DNS..31:21
Nick M............................................37:36..36:12.35:50
Suzie Jr..N/A......HH+....DNS.....DNS...DNS....DNS....DNS


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week Ending July 11 - Barr Trail Thoughts

Mon - 5 miles (1,000'). Horsetooth/Falls.

Tues - 6 miles (1,200'). Reservoir Ridge with FCTR.

Weds - 8.5 miles (2,200'). Horsetooth/Audra.

Thurs - 5 miles (1,000'). Horsetooth/Falls.

Fri/Sat - 30 miles (10,000'). Pace Hardrock.

Sun - Off.

Total: 54.5 (15,400').

Hardrock seemed to take a little more out of me than planned, or I should probably say that I was a little less recovered from Western States than I thought, especially on the downs, and now the hip flexors seem a little tight.

Anyway, onwards to Pikes from here. First test comes this Sunday at the Barr Trail race which goes half way up the mountain to Barr Camp and then straight back down for close to 12.5 miles and 3,600' of climbing. I'm not expecting anything too earth shattering, but I am of course hoping to get a good workout in. This is probably the most competitive short-course mountain race in Colorado, which makes it one of the most competitive short-course races in the country, so a top 10 finish will definitely be a result. According to Justin's RunColo preview, I will not be a factor, but I'm imagining that at least a couple of the guys he's picked for top 10 spots won't get to the start line, and even if they all do I still think I'll be in the mix for the 10 spot. We'll see.

I pushed a few of the climbs this week in training, and generally felt pretty decent. I'll definitely need time to warm up at Barr Trail, so plan to go out easy and work up to race pace and then chew up the down.

Towers Road Handicap TT this Thursday at 6:00pm from the Horsetooth lower lot (Soderberg) if any out-of-towners (or in-towners for that matter) feel like putting in an appearance. Details here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hardrock Thoughts/videos

While I didn't go anywhere close to the full distance this weekend at Hardrock, I definitely got a good enough taste over the course of 30 miles to understand what this race is all about. For a start, the concept of miles at Hardrock is far removed from that of your traditional mountain race. The nine miles from Sherman to Pole Creek took Nick Pedatella and I a full five hours through the night, and while we probably covered somewhere closer to 14 miles (getting lost twice), and took time consulting maps trying to figure out where exactly we were in relation to the course, most others at the pointy end were still taking 3 hours to cover those nine miles. Nick also fell into a creek on this section (about an hour before dawn), causing his body temperature to plummet, which had us both very worried, so while the terrain and climbing was actually a little more forgiving than on other sections of the course, it was definitely Nick's toughest stretch.

The concept of this race as a 'run' is something of a stretch. Most of the climbs are 100% hiking; not only because they are typically very steep, but also because all the work is occurring between 10,000' and 14,000'. Prolonged exertion at those elevations turns 2,000'-4,000' climbs into major grinds, and with nine of them to negotiate (along with countless 'rollers') ... well ... you get the picture. Strong, fit hikers can certainly excel on this course, although I found the relentless nature of the climbing more than a little tedious (and I only did 30 miles).

The terrain, scenery and history on the Hardrock course are second to none. The mountains are incredibly lush, especially above treeline, and the endless vistas of beautifully varied skylines were nothing short of breathtaking. The wildflowers were insanely beautiful, and the fauna enjoying their nutritional bounty were equally as fascinating. The final touch on the uniqueness of the course is the human element. There are snippets of mining history littered everywhere on the 100-mile journey. Silverton is more in the rough-around-the-edges Leadville mold, while Ouray, Telluride and Ridgeline have transformed themselves into stunningly beautiful tourist and outdoors destinations. The more interesting history of the region, however, is found among the dismantled mine shafts and random rusted-out steel cables and rails, which appear with frequency and in some of the most inaccessible places you could possibly imagine. The miners and pack animals of this region were, without a doubt, very tough and resilient.

On balance, I would have to say that while the scenery and history surrounding this race are incredible, it all gets a bit lost in the tedium of the endless climbing and descending. For some, this is apparently a good thing and there are those who clearly love everything about this race; however, for me, the extent of the climbing and the lack of any real running beyond steep descents got old ... fast. Still one for the bucket list, I guess, but maybe later rather than sooner.

Some videos:

Hardrock morning

Topping out on final climb

The final climb to the top of Little Giant from near the top of the second-to-last drop into Cunningham (as shown in the video clip above). The route up Little Giant switchbacked to the right of the waterfall, continuing all the way to the basin at the top of the gulch and then popping over one of the saddles to the right of pointy peak on the right side of the basin. The scree to the right of the basin is shown early in the video clip above. As a ninth and final climb (for Nick), this one was a particularly painful shot to the nads.

Maggie Gulch

Diana Finkel Grouse Gulch

Nick P Finish

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Hardrock Action



Scott J (again)

Off to the mountains to get ready for Nick. Diana looked awesome through Ouray. I'm thinking overall for her!!! More on Saturday.

Hardrock - Telluride

Some pics:

Liberty Bell from Telluride
From Telluride Aid
Diana Finkel (1st Women at Telluride)
Jared Campbell (4th Telluride)

Nick P

More to come. Off to see the guys through Ouray

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moving Right Along: Hardrock 100

Just as I finally feel like I've caught up with work, family, and life in general post-Western States, the train is getting ready to pull back out of the station.

I'm heading out to Gunnison after work on Thursday to stay with my good buddy Ryan Burch, and then Friday morning we'll be heading down to Telluride to access the first crew point (28 miles) on the grueling Hardrock 100 course, which kicks off at 6:00am Friday.

The plan is to catch the early action in Telluride and help out our runner Nick Pedatella with anything he might need, and then head over to Ouray (mile 42) where Ryan will assume pacing duties for the next 28 miles. I'll then head over to Grouse Gulch aid station (50 something miles) to check in on the action there, before driving out to the Sherman aid station (70 miles) from where I'll be pacing Nick into the finish through the night. Gonna be a long day/night.

I'm not really into the Twitter thing, i.e. I don't have an account, but I'll be taking some pics and video from the early aid stations, so be sure to check the blog Saturday (early and late afternoon) for some (almost) live footage, which I should be uploading from Telluride and Ouray once we've helped Nick through those aid stations.

So who's gonna' win? Tough to call really. Meltzer seems to like his chances despite the various injuries he's currently carrying, but I don't see it myself. I'm picking teammate Scott Jaime for the win with a time in the 26-hour range. I'm also pulling for Nick P of course, and hoping that Ryan and I can help pull him through to a podium finish. Last year's runner up Troy Howard is also running, but he had a rough time at Western States two weeks ago, and I just don't see how you come back from that within two weeks to be competitive at Hardrock. I prefer John Anderson for the podium this year. He's a tough Boulder-based mountain runner and I'm sure he'll be ready. I'm also pulling for buddies Brooks Williams and PittBrownie to have great races too.

Top five men: Scott Jaime, Karl Meltzer, Nick Pedatella, John Anderson, Jared Campbell.

In the women's race, I like the head-to-head between Darcy Africa and last year's winner (and course record holder) Diana Finkel. Both are great endurance mountain runners, but I'm definitely pulling for teammate Darcy. Former winner, Betsy Nye should round out the top three.

Stay tuned Saturday afternoon for some footage and commentary from the early stages of the race.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fortnight Ending July 4

A bit of catch up here on the training log after a hectic few weeks:

Week Ending June 27

Mon - 4 mile jog on the bike path in Squaw

Tues - 4 mile jog on bike path in Squaw

Weds - 4 mile jog with Ian T. on bike path in Squaw

Thurs - 4 mile jog with Ian T & Nick L in Squaw

Fri - 4 mile jog with a slew of runners, pacers and crewers.

Sat - 100 miles (18,000'). Western States. 16:05.

Sun - Off.

Total: 120 miles (18,000').

Felt out of sorts the whole week on the running front, but then there is little intelligence to be gleaned from a four mile jog, so I wasn't sweating things. Obviously overjoyed with the race itself, but that's all in the (lengthy) report.

Post-race interview here, if you're interested.

Week Ending July 4

Mon - Thurs: Off

Fri - 5 miles easy (1,000'). Horsetooth rolling. Felt good for the most part. Nothing of note, just a bit of lingering soreness in the legs.

Sat - 6.5 miles (1,600'). Fancied a jog to the top of Horestooth. Kind of corny, but went up to say thanks to the mountain for getting me in such great shape. Park was packed. Felt great climbing, still a little sore coming down.

Sun - 5 miles. FireKracker 5k with a couple miles of warm up.

Total: 16.5 (2,600').

Legs have been feeling good this week with some lingering heaviness and a bit of downhill soreness, but for the most part they feel like they're ready to go again. Will probably begin ramping things up a bit this week on the mileage front to a goal of maybe 70 miles per week within the next couple of weeks as I get ready for Pikes. Obviously the emphasis now becomes quality over quantity, which I'm really looking forward to, especially with this huge base I'm working from.

I've already decided that Wasatch will not get nearly the attention that States got, and I'll likely be somewhat undertrained for it, but I'm cool with that as I'm just looking at it as a fun day in the mountains.

The focus for now is definitely Pikes and possibly a road marathon towards the end of the year if I can find one that works timing- and location-wise. I'd like to post something in the low-2:30s, and think that is possible if I can motivate myself to spend some time training on the roads. Time will tell on that one I guess.

Anyway, off to pace Nick Pedatella this weekend at Hardrock. I've got the graveyard shift from Sherman to Silverton. Hope I can stay awake. Can't wait for that sunrise. Watch for Nick to go top five, or top three if he goes well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

FireKracker 5k

After suffering through a pretty nasty 24hr stomach bug on Thursday, which forced me to bail on a planned jog up Towers Road with the trail running group, I got out for my first post-Western run on Friday with five rolling miles on the local trails at Horsetooth. The legs felt no worse than they might have after a heavy week of training, and felt even better on a trip up to the summit of Horsetooth yesterday (although still a little sore on the way down), so I figured I'd jump into the FireKracker 5k today and join 1,000 other Fort Collins locals in the biggest event of the year for my local running club.

I was surprised to see Justin Mock, my pacer from Western States and this year's top American in London (2:29), milling around at the start as I was helping get a few last minute details for the race squared away. He was one of a few speedy road types who'd been lured to the race by the $1,000 purse. I told him that under no circumstances would this be considered a scoring event in our 2010 three-race series - which is beginning to look somewhat doubtful after the cancellation of the Horsetooth event three weeks ago. Besides, the only one that really counts is on the Big Hill in August, and I'm starting to like my chances there.

After a week of 90 degree temps, the weather this morning was wet, overcast and a little on the chilly side, which was a welcome relief. Just minutes before the off, there was a heavy but short downpour, which made the course a little slick but other than that we had pretty much perfect running conditions.

Having no idea how my legs would respond to the up-tempo speed of a 5k race, I got out at a reasonably conservative pace and settled in about 20 runners off the lead pace. Charles Hilig, a Kenyan guy from Greeley and the eventual winner (Logan Kanode, 15:19) set a strong pace up front and I watched Justin ease off at a pace that looked to be about 10-15 seconds stronger than mine. Once all the early sprinters had faded, I settled in behind Tim Hebert (who beat me at Sierra's 5k a few months ago on a very windy day in Loveland), and it looked like I was sitting somewhere in the low teens overall.

With a goal of going sub-17 (for a 16-hour Western and 16-minute 5k in the span of 8 days), I was a little disappointed to see the first mile split at 5:24, as I typically split the first mile of a 5k 10 to 15 seconds faster than the second two. Moving through the second mile, I knew the sub-16 was going to be a long shot as the legs were working way too hard for what felt like a painfully slow pace; however, it split at 5:38 which meant I was still vaguely in the hunt if I could stay strong and come up with a last mile in or around 5:30. I certainly wasn't giving up on it and pushed hard, but my legs just had nothing to give. The 5:34 third mile was a bit of a surprise, but with the uphill finish, I knew there was no way I was going to close the last .1 out in the needed 24 seconds, so cruised in for a relatively comfortable 17:17.

Although I swear I'm good for a 16:xx 5k, this run actually goes into the books as a 5k PR. So that would be a 100-mile PR and a 5k PR in the space of a week. I'll take it.

Alistair getting ready to race.

To cap off a fun morning, Alistair ran an enthusiastic and smile-filled quarter mile race in the main event, so two finish lines in the last eight days for him too.

Time now to start thinking about the two upcoming races on Pikes.