Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week Ending August 29

Mon - 1.5 miles. Aborted mission with very sore legs.

Tues - Noon: 6 miles easy (500') valley trails. Legs still sore, but definitely good to go. Cruised coming back which felt good.
PM: 6.5 miles (1,200') easy with the FCTR crew at Reservoir Ridge.

Weds - Noon: 9.5 miles (1,200'). Overlook/Valley. Ribs really hurt on this one to the point that I had to stop and catch my breath a couple of times.
PM: 5.5 miles (500'). Milner Mtn loop. Super easy. Tried not to focus on my ribs and felt much better than on the noon run.

Thurs - Noon: 9.5 miles (1,200'). Overlook/Valley. Wow, ribs hurt again and struggled again to get sufficient air, especially in the stifling heat.
PM: 7 miles (1,800'). 34:10. Up and down Towers at a moderate effort. Took a pain killer before heading out for this one. Made things a little less excruciating. Probably should have just bagged the run, but I'm pig headed like that.

Fri - Noon: 9 miles (2,600'). Found myself in Boulder, and just happened to have some running gear in the back of the truck, so went from Chautauqua up Gregory - Ranger - Green - Bear/Green - Bear Canyon, Mesa. Super easy. Ribs felt moderately better, but still not great.

Sat - AM: 24.5 miles (5,100'). ~5:00. Comanche Peak Loop. Big improvement on the rib front, although that was aided by dropping a pain reliever pre-run.

Sun - AM: 21 miles (2,400'). 3:13. Blue Sky to Devil's Backbone from home w/ Indian Summer add-on outbound. Bumped into Jen Malmberg at the trailhead, so ran much of the route with her and Cherilyn, although ratcheted up the effort a bit coming home to get a good six or seven faster miles in on tired legs. Hot out but felt awesome. Ribs better again, but still felt like I needed to take a pain reliever before the run in order to get sufficient air. Pretty sure I'll be pain free by Wasatch though.

Total: 100 miles (16,500').

The plan for Monday was to go long on the back of the Pikes Marathon the day before. That didn't happen and was a completely unrealistic expectation given the abusive nature of racing down Pikes Peak. However, I was able to build the mileage through the week and come in with the kind of numbers I wanted with less than two weeks until Wasatch. I haven't run 100 miles in a week since before Western States, so this week was a good mental boost. With Pikes added in, I ran close to 25k of vert and 130 miles in the last eight days.

The legs felt great towards the end of the week, so with 11 days of easy running/no running upcoming I am confident that they'll be good to go for their last long outing of the year in Utah. In no way am I as prepared for Wasatch as I was for Western, but I am quietly confident that I can still push out a strong run. Dakota was telling me on Saturday that only four guys have gone under 20 hours at Wasatch (Geoff Roes, Karl Meltzer, Kyle Skaggs & Nate McDowell), so I kind of have that in the back of my mind as a time goal, in addition to hopefully being competitive against other runners in the field.

I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently I must have landed my ribs on a rock or something on one of my diggers from Pikes last weekend. The pain has been pretty intense through the week, especially when trying to fill the lungs when working hard (problematic for a runner), but it seemed to reach a crescendo on Thursday and has since tapered off a bit. I'm pretty confident that it will be background noise at worst for Wasatch.

Looking forward to some rest.

Comanche Peak Loop

Enjoyed some high-country running through Roosevelt National Forest, Comanche Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park with recent Fort Collins arrival Dakota Jones yesterday. From the Pingree Park area, our route would take us on an initial five to six mile, ~2,400' climb up to 11,335' Mummy Pass from where we circled Fall Mountain (12,258') and Comanche Peak (12,702') to the south and west through the northern boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, before tagging Comanche and shooting back down on a ridge to the north of the mountain and then circling back around to our starting point.

I borrowed the idea for this route from Rob Erskine, who also has a trip report with GPS data/maps over on his blog. Mike Hinterberg was also up there exploring a few weeks back, so more over at his place.

Checking the map before taking off.

Dakota popping up above timberline on the way to Mummy Pass.

Twin Lake Reservoir and lower elevation peaks to the east from near Mummy Pass.

Mummy Pass.

The tundra running above timberline was supreme and the views of the Mummy Range from the north outstanding. The trail was somewhat intermittent once within RMNP, but still easy to follow.

A peak from the Mummy Pass Trail.

Looking southwest on the Mummy Pass trail from the pass.

The trail dropped back into the trees as we circled southwest around Comanche Peak on the Mirror Lake trail, before shooting back up above 11,000' on a sharp two-mile, 2,000' climb to the peak (12,702') on the Comanche Peak trail. The trail faded to cairns above treeline, and we dropped to a hike as the scattered rocks increased in size and frequency. Comanche Peak itself was relatively unexciting, so we reposed for just a bit after scrambling around on a couple of summit piles that looked to have equal claim to being the high point, and then headed west across the tundra, skirting another peak to the south before hooking in with the cairns that defined the Comanche Peak trail, which, for the most part, was non-existent up high.

Looking southeast from Comanche Peak.

A vertical cliff face on the western edge of Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake with Mummy peaks behind.
Dakota was excited about the climbing opportunities on the slab above Mirror Lake.

Continental Divide out to the west.
Yours truly checking out Mummy Pass and the awesome backside views of some of the Mummy peaks.

Once we were hooked into our ridgeline descent on the Hourglass trail from the Comanche trail, the route became gradually more defined, and once we were on trail proper, our 2,000'+ drop to Comanche Reservoir kicked into high gear through some fairly loose and technical footing. Having been pretty hesitant on all downhill work since crashing hard on Pikes last weekend, I felt like I got some good mojo back on this descent and was able to let it fly a bit in places.

From the reservoir, we made a couple of wrong turns, adding some mileage to the day, but eventually got on the Beaver Creek Trail which took us back to the Emmaline TH and Dakota's truck. We racked over 5k on the morning with just over 24 miles, having a blast in the process.

This is an absolutely awesome loop and just one example of the almost infinite and nearly always incredible lower elevation routes within striking distance of The Fort. It's a bit of a hike to get out to Pingree (an hour from my place), but there are plenty of similar options a little closer in. Why people spend their time getting frustrated with the crowds on the 14,000' peaks around Colorado continues to puzzle me when there are so many other fantastic above-timberline peaks just waiting for exploration. Very, very rarely will you see others on these lower peaks.

Just a few more weeks in the high country before the running is shut down for the season. Get it while you can!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Week Ending August 22

Mon - 4 miles easy/hard on the bike paths. Got caught in a wicked electrical storm with stinging rain. Wow! Was actually a little fearful about getting struck. Easy pace turned into a sprint over the last two miles.

Tues - 4 miles (800'). Easy with FCTR at Reservoir Ridge.

Weds - 5 miles (1,800'). Decided to get after it a bit for no particular reason other than I felt like it. Went straight up Horsetooth at what would probably be considered LT pace: working, but in total control. Ended up on top in 27:20, which was just a minute over my fastest time to the summit. Maxed out, I would have destroyed my PR. HUGE confidence boost for Pikes, and just what I needed. Well worth the exertion with 3.5 days to race day.

Thurs - 6.5 miles easy with the FCTR crew at Pineridge. Beers and yummy homemade veggie burgers at Alex and Ean's after the run.

Fri - 4 miles easy (700'). Falls loop at H'tooth.

Sat - Never did find the time for a run, which is usually a no-no for me on the day before a race.

Sun - 28 miles (7,800'). Pikes Peak, plus a couple warming up.

Total: 51.5 (11,000').

Really glad I got out for that harder effort up Horsetooth on Wednesday as it really helped put me in a positive fame of mind for Pikes on Sunday.

Started a run yesterday (Monday) and turned it around after a half mile as things felt way too sore in way too many places for me to carry on with the planned six miles (last week, I was thinking of back-to-backing the Pikes effort with a 20+mile mountain run on Monday in a bid to kick start a week of 'training' for Wasatch - ha!). Got out for six at lunch today and despite feeling moderately sore in the usual places, I was cruising comfortably. The ease of my stride had me thinking about goals for Wasatch, which is coming up in less than three weeks. I have told nearly everyone that has asked me that I'm planning Wasatch as no more than a fun run in the mountains to cap off a very long season. No one believes me, and now we're getting a little closer and all other races are off the calendar, I'm not sure I believe me.

I've had wins at 50k, 38.5 miles, 50 miles & 100k this season, so it would all feel very symmetrical if I could cap it with a win at the 100-mile distance. Hmm. Of course, there's a field of strong competitors who'll have more than a few things to say about that, but I've got to think I've got a shot.

Planning to double the rest of the week from here with a heavy weekend of miles and vertical coming this weekend. Then it's time to taper again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pikes Peak Marathon 2010

Photo: Mike Selig

Well this race was a game of two very different halves - the up and the down, the good and the ugly. Typically I consider myself a stronger donwhiller than climber, and running well on Pikes in the Big Boys race is as much about the down as it is the up, but boy was the down painful for me today.

Anyway, the weekend was thoroughly enjoyable on many different levels. On the Saturday morning I got to hang out with my son and some good running buddies at 14,000 feet while watching some incredible mountain runners bust out one of the faster Ascents in the race's storied history. Situated just above the Golden Stairs, we had an absolute blast cheering people through the last grunt to the finish from our perch on a rocky outcropping. A whole slew of running friends and acquaintances were up there with us and a good laugh was had by all as we cheered on a very international field of runners, including two Brits who finished in the top 10.

After a pretty solid night of sleep, it was up at 5am for coffee and nibbles before heading down to the start where I mingled and got ready to race on what was setting up to be a beautiful morning. A short warn up with the boys and then down to business.

Photo: Charlie Woodcock

From the gun, I settled into a very comfortable rhythm, finding myself in twelfth place as the positions started to settle in up Ruxton Ave. My first time-check at Hydro was within seconds of my Ascent split from last year, which was encouraging as I felt like I was working at a much easier effort. On the short steep section of dirt road up to Barr Trail I took the opportunity to swing around a couple of people, and I believe I was in eighth or ninth as we hit the trail proper.

Mountain running is all about rhythm and effort output. The effort has to be under control for a long ascent like Pikes, and you have to take what the mountain gives you as far as corresponding speed is concerned. Push too hard early and you will be in a whole world of hurt higher up the mountain. Thankfully for me, the mountain was blessing me with good climb karma on this day. Working the first couple of switchbacks on Barr Trail, I knew I was in a good place; my pace felt good and the effort was well and truly under control.

Moving up the steep switchbacks of the section known as the 'Ws' I could tell that I was gaining on my buddy Justin Mock and another guy running a few ticks behind him, and about half way through this section I had eased past the pair of them putting myself in sixth. Of the five guys ahead of me, I figured that Matt Carpenter, Daryn Parker and Timmy Parr were gone, and then there were also a couple of Spaniards from the Pyrenean region of Catalan who were unknowns and also out of sight ahead of me. I figured I had a good shot at catching them, but that it probably wouldn't happen until the air started getting really thin up above 12,000 feet, so I just settled in and focused on rhythm and effort.

Approaching No Name Creek, I started getting some visuals on Timmy in fifth. This was not entirely surprising to me as he'd had a (really) bad day defending his title in the Ascent the day before, so I had to assume that whatever was going on with him Saturday had carried over to Sunday. But any which way, as I edged past Timmy somewhere on the flats up to Barr Camp, I figured that this was a once in lifetime for me in any race shorter than 50 miles. This put me in fifth overall, and with the ease of effort up to this point I was feeling good for more scalps as I progressed up the mountain. With that said, I had a third Catalan, who had been sitting 10-20 seconds behind me the whole climb to this point, and he was still hanging tough and seemingly running a steady race.

I went through Barr Camp two minutes up on last year and got my head down for the grind up to A-frame and the real work above treeline. The breeze coming through the trees was nice as the morning was really heating up, but I could tell that it was pretty gusty which would mean an added challenge up above treeline. Up to A-frame, I was focused on keeping the effort steady and not chasing down places. The race opens up with regards to visuals once you're above the trees, so I knew I would get a read on what was going on ahead of me soon enough.

Immediately on getting above the trees, I saw a runner a few switchbacks ahead, but he probably had at least four minutes on me given the long and deceiving nature of the early switchbacks above treeline. The third Catalan (behind me) was still right there and seemingly content to pace off me from a distance. I hit the two-to-go sign with 2:01 low on the clock, which meant the sub-2:30 goal for the ascent was still alive, but it was definitely going to be close, especially with the wind gusting hard.

Probably my favorite section of the whole race occurs shortly after the two-mile point when the long sweeping traverse across the face of the peak opens up and you get a reliable read on who's ahead of you and within striking distance. I saw both Spaniards and they were both mixing some hiking in with the running. Fuel.

By the Cirque, I had caught Castaner (the stronger on paper of the three), and I was closing fast on the second, but I just couldn't shake the third who was right where he'd been for the last two hours. Somewhere before the 16 Golden Stairs, Matt C came shooting through and Darren wasn't far behind. With the big step-ups on the stairs, I started getting the wobbles in my calf, meaning the cramps weren't far behind. I dropped to a hike through the big step-ups to stave off a full-on cramp. I got some great encouragement from those assembled in the very spot that Alistair and I had been bellowing from the day before, and I chuckled to myself at the fatigue I was beginning to feel given the heckling we'd been giving those who'd been walking here just 24 hours earlier. I took a quick peek at the watch and saw 2:26 high. Having counted off numerous lead runners in the Ascent on Saturday at about three minutes from that spot, I knew I was still in the hunt for the 2:29, but I also knew that it was going to be touch and go - a matter of seconds.

Push! push! push!. No cramp! no cramp! no cramp!

I bumped into the third-place guy and came to a dead stop at the penultimate switchback, just as I was trying to get a read on the summit clock: 2:29:30. I knew I had it as I got the wheels back in motion, making the summit turn in 2:29:48. Goal number one achieved. Now for the drop.

Photo: Mike Selig

Top 12 at the Turn. Vid: Charlie Woodcock

Within a quarter mile of the technical stuff I was right on third and waiting for a spot to pass. As soon as we were through the Golden Stairs, I zipped past and put the hammer down. Time to go. I blazed the first two miles of the descent, but I was beginning to feel the sun and getting very dry in the mouth department, but worst of all my shadow was still right there. I simply couldn't shake him.

After the first two miles, I started catching the top of a few rocks and had a few very close calls with superman'dom. By A-frame, my Catalan shadow was right on my shoulder and I was beginning to feel lazy and even more uncoordinated in the legs, which led the muscle between my ears to think that third was now a long shot. Weak. About two switchbacks after my brain flopped on me, I overshot a turn and Jordi from Girona was through in a shot. However, on the very next switchback Jordi also overshot and I was able to muscle back through after a bit of shoulder to shoulder stuff that brought back some fleeting memories from my rugby days - running is not often a contact sport.

Jordi stuck with me for the next mile, maybe two, but I could tell he was just biding his time. I made it easy for him, however, catching a rock and taking a nasty skin-scraper on my right shoulder. I was straight back up after some serious profanity, but the wind had been knocked out of me pretty good. In situations like these where there is no serious damage, you just try to shake it off and get back on with it, but I knew immediately on getting up that the game for third was up. Jordi was out of sight within minutes, and I was now beginning to feel like I was slipping into survival mode with a good eight miles of joint-jolting descent to come.

After another couple of stumbles, I went down hard again. This time I took it on the knees, thighs and hip with a pretty hefty head-to-gravel thud thrown in for good measure. Getting back up from this one, I decided that it was time to shut it down and get back in control of the situation. At the next aid, I stopped and took down three cups of water and probably two gels worth of EFS Liquid Shot from my gel flask. Within a quarter mile I was feeling a little bit of life in my legs, but was again massively dehydrated. I also managed to turn my ankle for a third time somewhere in here and would do so again for a fourth and final time a few miles later.

I took two more cups of water at No Name Creek and started looking at the watch. I figured I needed just over six-minute miles for the last four miles to get under four hours. That seemed highly unlikely, but I still tried to push out the best effort I could. With two to go, I was down to 5:30 miles - definitely not going to happen - and to add insult to injury the guy I had passed early on the descent had caught right back up to me and zipped through. His back represented $100, but I just didn't have the means to respond.

With one to go, my watch read 3:54:30, which was a huge surprise. Wow, I was back on the road and all I needed was a downhill 5:30 mile to hit my goal. By golly, I may still have a shot at this. I started winding it up and actually felt like I was moving well, but unfortunately the feeling of speed is relative to energy levels and prior speed. Yes, I was moving faster than I had been, but unfortunately that only translated to six-minute pace. As I rounded the last turn, the clock was already reading 4:00:xx. Bugger! I crossed the line with a head of steam anyway, missing my goal by a scant 35 seconds.

Photos: Charlie Woodcock

Chatting with the amicable crew of Catalans after the race, I learned that the guy who pipped me for fourth was from a village of 25 people in the Pyrenees and was a childhood friend of Kilian Jornet who grew up in the same village. For those not familiar with Kilian, he was the dude who I ended up racing through the last two miles of the Western States 100 earlier this summer. He ended up beating me for third by a minute.

If I ever find myself in that village in the Pyrenees ...

So on balance I am really happy with my run. Sure I'm bummed I missed my goal by less than a minute, but I am super stoked to have gotten up the hill in under 2:30. Mike Selig has a comprehensive list of guys who've gone under 2:30 from the race's 55-year history and while I can't remember the exact number, I think it was less than 150 (edit: 136 after 2010 races), so pretty rare air.

With my top-10 finish, I get a free entry for next year. While I can choose the Ascent or the Marathon, I think it's going to take me quite some time to think that running the Marathon again is a good idea. While I retain the right to reconsider, I'm gonna say right now that the Pikes Peak Marathon is the toughest race I have ever undertaken. By comparison, the Ascent last year was child's play.

I'll add some pics later, but for now check out this one of me and Jordi crossing right below the summit.


Hydro: 8:47
Top Ws: 28:44
No Name: 42:31
7.8: 57:29
Barr Camp: 1:13:44
A Frame: 1:45:45
2 to go: 2:01:09
1 to go: 2:14:02
Summit: 2:29:48
Descent: 1:30:47

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pikes Peak Thoughts

I couldn't resist getting out for a harder effort to the top of Horsetooth yesterday. It's only 2.5 miles (with ~ 1,800' of climb), and I was in the mood to run a little harder than usual, so I threw caution to the taper winds and pushed out what would probably be considered a lactate threshold effort. I was definitely careful to keep the run under control, never getting into that gunk-building zone, so was exceptionally happy to record a summit of 27 minutes, less than a minute off my PR.

This was a nice little confidence builder just days before I take on the Big Hill. Prior to this run, I was in a pretty negative frame of mind with regards to Pikes, thinking I would be lucky to summit in the 2:35 I managed last year, and almost certain that a sub-4-hour run was not going to happen. With the return to mental positivity, I am once again confident that with a good run I can dip under 4:00.

What will it take? An absolute minimum of 2:35 on the up, which would leave 1:24:59 for the down - a number that may or may not be realistic. Having never raced the down, I just don't know. Given that Mock has gone down in 1:28 (a time that included two stops for shoe adjustments), I have to think 1:25 is doable, but I doubt there's much more room to be made on the down. However, I honestly believe that with a stronger run above treeline than last year I can run a 2:30 ascent or better. If I hit that number on the climb and fail to break 4 hours I think I'll come away disappointed.

So anyway, I have a couple of races within the race going on as well. While I have already taken the five-race series against Senor Burch this year, there is still some talk (on Burch's part) of lifetime cumulative head-to head times, a number he apparently owns due primarily to a very poor run I had a couple of years ago at the Blue Sky Marathon. I'm not exactly sure what the cumulative time differential is, but I think it's in the 5-10 minute range. If I do finish ahead of Ryan, I doubt it will erase my deficit, but it will at least be another little dent in the right direction.

Ryan and I on Crosier last year.

The second match-up is the direct head-to-head with Top American/Last Ass. This one is a classic match-up between someone with significantly more road speed (2:29 vs 2:43) and someone who thinks he has significantly more trail and mountain chops than his adversary. Quite frankly, I think I'll have the race sewn up somewhere between A-frame and the summit, but I know Justin will be charging the down once the air gets a little thicker and the trail a little less technical - so there'll be no give up from either of us, a fact that will hopefully spur us both to our shared sub-four-hour goal.

Justin and I at the Western States finish. We won't be working together this time around.

Any which way it shakes out, this weekend promises to be a lot of fun. I'll be heading down with Dana and Alistair on Friday night - staying chez PitBrownie - and then taking the family up to the peak on Saturday morning to watch the Ascent play out, before hanging out in Manitou for the rest of the day to soak up some atmosphere and hopefully eat some good food.

And as a last note, good luck to everyone else running this weekend at Pikes, Leadville or in the Transrockies race, on what is - without a doubt - the biggest trail racing weekend on the Colorado calendar. And the amazing thing about this weekend of racing is that all three events were sold out weeks or months ago. August is simply a great month to be running high mountain trails in this gorgeous state we are lucky enough to call home.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leadville Preview

Just a quick link to a Leadville preview I did for the folks over at RunColo.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week Ending August 15

Mon - 6 miles (500'). Easy on valley trails.

Tues - 5.5 miles (1,000'). Social run at Reservoir Ridge with FCTR.

Weds - 6 miles (500')
. Easy again on valley trails.

Thurs - Noon: 3.5 miles easy
on valley trails.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') Towers hard. 30:04. Went out conservatively and never really caught up the time. Ended up working really hard on the second half and came away with nothing to show for it. Windy on the second half and of course hot. Not exactly a confidence boost for Pikes, but then I had an even suckier Towers TT the week before States, so I'm not sweating it. Splits with PR splits in parentheses: Towers turn: 2:57 (2:49), Stout: 8:49 (8:30), Loggers: 13:27, Herrington: 16:35 (16:25), Top 30:04 (29:27).

Fri - 6 miles easy (500'). Valley trails.

Sat - 4 miles. Rat Race 5k.

Sun - 11 miles steady (1,900'). 1:39. Loop of Bobcat Ridge.

Total: 49 miles (6,100')

Kind of a ho-hum week. Not really feeling that rested yet, and some blah harder efforts on Thursday and Saturday.

Will go super easy this next week before heading out to Colorado Springs with the family on Friday after work. Up the mountain Saturday morning to watch the Ascent unfold, and then some hanging out until Sunday morning.

The plan on race day is to go out easy from the gun, uncorking the run gradually to Barr Camp, before unleashing the dogs of war from there to the top and back down. Or, an entirely possible - even probable - alternative is to get caught up in the adrenaline fueled sprint through town, hammer the W's, bomb the flats and then blow up at A-Frame.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rat Race - A Baby Jogger 5k PR

Alistair is by no means a baby, in fact he just celebrated his fourth birthday, however, this morning he was relegated to the baby jogger as daddy was adamant that he needed one last hard workout before Pikes.

Despite trying to focus my energies on running a little faster post Western States, everything I do in that regard has generally been feeling labored, unnatural and uncomfortably painful. Whereas I was gliding up Towers in under 30 minutes off a diet of heavy mountain mileage prior to Western States, I suffered as much as I think I ever have on the hill this Thursday for a thoroughly dissatisfying 30:04.

With a gifted entry into the Rat Race 5k this morning, therefore, I was looking for a bit of a confidence boost, but with nobody to watch Alistair, I had to go with the only option available to me which was to borrow my neighbors rickety old baby jogger and push. I figured anything under 18 minutes would qualify as a confidence booster.

However, on arrival in Ault, where the race was taking place, I promptly threw time goals out the window when I realized how windy of a morning it was. Chatting with Jenn Malmberg at the start line, I figured sub-19 would in fact be a worthy effort on the morning.

I felt borderline ludicrous lined up at the front of the race behind the wheels of the baby jogger, but I had to do it that way to avoid taking people down from behind in the mad scramble that is the start of a 5k race. To reduce aggravation for all involved I made sure to line up at the far left of the field in hopes that I could get away quickly enough that I wouldn't block people behind me and that I could also avoid clipping heels in front. I think I caught one pair of heels, but that was the worst of it.

With the first mile being mainly downhill, I was able to hang on to the chase pack with relative ease, splitting a 5:40. Even more amazing was that I was able to negotiate the tractor ditches through the farm fields at a sub-6 pace, while not tipping the stroller. The second mile, which was not only cross country, but also included a stop to readjust Alistair's dragging blanket, split at 5:56. However, the third uphill mile into a strong headwind just about killed me. That kind of wind is bad enough when trying to cut one's skinny frame through it, but pushing a not very streamlined stroller through it was just painful. The last 1.1 miles of the race split at 7:33. Ouch.

I gave myself an A- on effort overall with a note suggesting that I 'could do better'. With a well-oiled stroller that doesn't have an evil pull to the right on a course without too many turns and entirely on asphalt, I think I could get within 30 seconds of my PR while pushing. Today, however, I was faced with a few too many challenges so had to settle for a 19:10, which by default becomes my baby jogger 5k PR.

Alistair was pretty geeked about the whole deal as we were driving out to the race in Ault, but by the third mile into the headwind he had thrown his blanket over his head, suggesting that he just wanted it to be over. He had a much better time in the kids obstacle course race.

The marathon world record holder in the baby jogger division (2:32), Zac Freudenberg, goes up the Big Hill next Saturday in the Ascent. I'm thinking those baby jogger workouts will work in his favor, hence I have him in my top 10 for the Pikes Peak predication contest over at RunColo. Go check it out for a chance to win some shoes, a Highgear watch and other cool gear.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week Ending August 8

Mon - 9.5 miles (1,200'). Arthurs/Overlook. Easy.

Tues - Noon: 6 miles up tempo (500') on valley trails. 41:30. Still a little sore from Speedgoat, but pushed the run a bit anyway.
PM - 6.5 miles (1,200') easy with FCTR at Reservoir Ridge.

Wed - 9.5 miles (1,200'). Arthurs/Overlook. Easy

Thurs - Noon: 6 miles up tempo (500')
on valley trails. 39:25. Similar effort to Tuesday, but legs coming around. Still feeling kind of slow, but these workouts should help with the rolling section on the way to Barr Camp in a couple of weeks at Pikes.
PM: 6.5 social miles with the FCTR crew at Pineridge.

Fri - Noon: 5 miles (1,500') with Alistair to top of Horsetooth and back. Alistair hiked the whole way up and then ran (his choice) parts of the down and hiked the rest. He'll be four this Wednesday. Proud father.
PM: 6.5 miles (1,600') - Same route as with Alistair, but from home.

Sat - 15.5 miles (4,600'). Flattop, Hallett, Otis , Taylor, Andrews Glacier from Bear Lake TH.

Sun - 20 miles (4,200'). 3:20. Granite Pass (12,000') from Sprague Lake, then down Longs Peak Trail to Storm Pass and back to Sprague. Met early with Top American for this one and we went steady the whole way. The last mile or so up to Granite was hard work with a pretty heavy cross/head wind, but other than that the run was a lot of fun with a good mix of paces and some good BS'in. Dropped Top American towards the top of both climbs, but he claims to be lulling me into a false sense of security for the big showdown in two weeks. We'll see. Ran with a couple of moose through the woods in the early going, which added a little fauna fun to the morning.

Total: 91 miles (16,500')

Week ended up being right about where I wanted it, with a couple of turnover sessions on rolling terrain complemented by some fun climb days at altitude over the weekend.

As Pikes is something of a goal race, I'll be looking to go easy over the next two weeks in a bid to regain some zip and freshness after a really lackluster and confidence-denting run at Speedgoat last weekend. I doubt I'll run much over 50 miles this coming week, but will still look to get some good turnover work in. Having had a good week this last week, I feel that the 3:5x goal for Pikes is back on the table and well within reach. For that to happen though, it will be essential that I get there rested and feeling fresh.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flattop, Hallett, Otis, Taylor, Andrews Glacier

Went up to Rocky with Mike and Aaron this morning to take down a few peaks on the Continental Divide around Glacier Gorge. This one got my juices flowing for a full-on Glacier Gorge assault sometime here in the near future. Great to be in the high country, off trail and enjoying a beautiful, if somewhat windy morning.

Run up to Flattop was a bit windy and cold, but things calmed down measurably once we were off Hallett and on our way to Taylor, basking in the sun. Had a blast glissading down Andrews Glacier once we'd bagged Flattop (12,324'), Hallet (12,713'), Otis (12,486') and Taylor (13,153').

Was high on life and all things good, until we dropped off Andrews Glacier to rejoin the trails in and around Glacier Gorge TH and Bear Lake TH; an incomprehensible zoo of humankind. As we were leaving the park at noon, the backup of cars waiting to enter on Hwy 36 was off the charts. Wow!

Otis, Hallett, Flattop with Mummies off to the right. From Taylor.
Hallett from Flattop trail.
Chaos Canyon with Lake Haiyaha at bottom.
A well camouflaged ptarmigan.
Sharks Tooth, center left. A 5.4 climb supposedly. Taylor to right.
Sharks Tooth.
Taylor and other Divide peaks from Otis.
Top Andrews Glacier.
Bottom Andrews Glacier, feeding its tarn.

Mikey Mike posing by the tarn.

Sky Pond, Glass Lake from Taylor.
The Loch.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Week Ending August 1

Monday - 8 miles (1,900'). Horsetooth/Audra short. Low 90s at noon for this one. Felt great. Some days the heat zaps you, some days it just feels good. I got a good one today.

Tuesday - 15 miles (5,000'). Longs Peak.

Wednesday - 7 miles. 4 mile w-u/c-d. 5k race.

Thurs - 10.5 miles (1,800'). Towers w/ 3.5 mile w-u. 32:18. Another great turnout for the Towers TT, including six high school cross country runners from Loveland. Good stuff. Had to push a touch to keep from being high-schooled.

Fri - Zippo. Travel and no desire to run once in Utah.

Sat - 32 miles (11,000'). Speedgoat 50k.

Jan: 252 (33,700')
Feb: 189 (33,500')
March: 488 (70,000')
April: 482.5 miles (72,700')
May: 439 miles (79,500')
June: 334 miles (49,000')
July 279.5 miles (64,400')

2010: 2,463.5 (402,800')
Avg: 352 (57,542')

Sun - No time or desire with tenant move out/move in madness going on at one of the student rentals. Legs good for the most part, but sore right above the knees and in the quads a bit.

Total: 72.5 miles (19,700')

Not quite the week I had wanted on the mileage front with the two days off, but there was plenty of quality stuff in there. Hopefully I didn't totally overdo it and shoot myself in the foot with regards to Pikes.

I need to remain focused on quality and not sweat the mileage as I get ready for Pikes in these last three weeks before the race. Plenty of sharpening that can still happen, so will be looking to get some recovery by cutting some junk, but remain keyed-in on power and speed workouts with a couple longer weekend runs to stay long-run sharp. Looks like the mileage will be up slightly this week on last, so I'll probably institute a short (for me) two-week taper for Pikes with half an eye on Wasatch in September.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Speedgoat 50k 2010

The back of the race T-shirt reads: "Speedgoat 50k, a Meltzer Designed Course," and as one might expect, a Meltzer-designed course is no walk in the park, rather it's an endless slog up a lot of long steep climbs. If Lake City is the 'mini Hardrock,' then the Speedgoat 50k is the mini Hardrock's little brother - with attitude.

The day before the race, Nick Pedatella and I drove the seven hours to Snowbird where I enjoyed a good night's sleep at the resort's Cliff Lodge after a long soak in the jacuzzi. What a treat. On the way out to the race early Saturday morning we bumped into Becky Wheeler who was back racing after her strong sixth-place run at Western States. The three of us made the short drive from the lodge to the race staging area where we got to hang out a bit with our running peers. Nicolas Mermoud introduced himself, and I learned a bit about the 'outside-the-box' Hoka shoes that he's been a partner in developing, in addition to UTMB for which he sits on the race committee.

Clearly, getting Karl on board in promoting the Hokas has proven a masterstroke. I was amazed at the number of people walking around before and after the race shod in the odd-looking shoes. Meltzer is a one-man marketing machine in the Salt Lake area, it would appear.

After a few words and last-minute race directions from the Speedgoat himself, we were off to a chorus of goaty bleats.

Vid: Matt Hart

Luke Nelson led the charge up the first climb of the day - one that would eventually take us to the top of Little Baldy by way of Hidden Peak and 4,000'+ of climb. Luke appeared to be a man on a mission and I had to debate whether or not I wanted to be sitting on him at such a strong early pace. Inevitably I decided to hang, regretting all the way my decision to run Longs Peak and a 5k race the Tuesday and Wednesday before. Dumb.

After a short downslope, where Nicolas came charging through to briefly take the lead, I jumped out in front and led the lead runners in a strung-out train through sections of service road, dirt singletrack, and cross country, before we were up above the trees on a section that would probably best be described as talus singletrack. This section had Hardrock written all over it: steep, loose and rocky. Ultimately, we popped back out on a rocky jeep track for the final push up Hidden Peak, by which point I had just Luke and Kevin Shilling for company.

On the last grunter to the summit aid station (11,000'), Luke came charging by me as if the finish line were at the summit. Not quite sure what to make of Luke's sprint, I let him go and continued my plod to the top where I got a refill on water before making my way out to Little Baldy.

Vid: Matt Hart

I was soon back on Luke who explained that he'd thought there was a $100 prem for the first one to the summit - no such luck. He let me through and I resumed my position at the front of the race before we tagged the top of Baldy and screamed down the back side. There was a section here that was deemed steep and loose enough to need ropes, which I briefly made use of. Fun stuff.

Heading up to the Hidden Peak summit. Pic: Sandy White

Most of the run down to the next aid was on a washed out jeep track that needed pretty focused attention. I put a minute or two on Luke and Kevin here, zipping straight through before hooking into a section of trail that was heavily overgrown and - duh - steep. After a brief section of cross country the course joined a game trail which led to a fork with one way heading down into a valley and the other to the top of the ridge. Neither way was flagged. Obeying the mantra that if in doubt, I should be heading up, I opted for the ridge, and after a few hundred feet caught a flag. All was good.

I was soon up on the ridge and heading back down the other side through more cross country to another service road, which would lead us on a screaming 2,500' descent to the turnaround aid station. About half way down, there was a confusing three-way with flagging suggesting a right, but with yellow caution tape stating otherwise. I waited at the three-way a minute or two for Kevin who was confident that we needed to keep heading down, although he seemed a bit perplexed himself. Nonetheless, the flagging soon resumed and we were back at it, running hard all the way down to the turnaroud where we were greeted by Roch Horton and his band of merry volunteers.

As it turned out we had apparently come the wrong way down to the turnaround, although neither Kevin nor I had the remotest idea where we'd gone wrong. After climbing the full 2,500 feet back up to the ridge, we were finally back at the fork where I'd decided to take the high road - as had everyone else who'd gotten there before the marshal - and of course this was the missed turn. As it played out, the two routes to the turnaround - which would have constituted a loop if done correctly - were pretty much a wash in terms of distance, with the out and back we took being just under a half mile longer.

Anyway, by the time we were back to the fork it was just Kevin and I with what seemed like a sizeable gap on the rest of the field. The climb back from the turnaround had definitely been a slog for me and I was beginning to feel like this might not be my day. If there hadn't been $500 up for grabs I might have thrown in the towel but, as it was, Kevin seemed content just to follow my pace so I kept at it, grunting away but expecting the inevitable pass at any minute.

On the second-to-last climb, which took us up to a tunnel connecting the back side and front side of the Snowbird ski area, I was just barely hanging on. It was patently obvious that Kevin had more power than me on the hike grades, and he put 30 seconds to a minute on me by the tunnel. I earned that back on the next 1,000' drop and in fact led us into the brutal final climb up Peruvian Ridge to the top of Hidden Peak.

On any other day, this would have been a glorious run or hike, as the ridge with its steep drop-offs and un-obscured views of the peak is quite stunning. However, with 25 miles and 10,000' of climbing already in the legs, this grinder was a monumental kick in the balls. I knew Kevin would soon tire of my sloth-like pace and once he was past me, I was pretty much powerless as I watched him out-hike me up the unrelenting grade of the ridge.

It's all slow motion when you're race hiking, but Kevin's lead nonetheless grew quickly and by the time I finally circled the peak on a brief section of moderate service road heading to the final summit grunt, he was a good two minutes up on me. Hitting the summit aid station, I knew I still had a chance of getting back into the race, especially with the last three or four miles being downhill, but I also knew it was going to be a tall order chasing down a dude with the smell of five bills wafting under his nose.

Approaching the last grunt to Hidden Peak. Pics: Sandy White

Making the turn.Grunting.

Half way down the drop there was a long switchbacked section of service road and I caught sight of Kevin, who appeared to be at least three minutes up on me. I knew then that the game was up. I ended up running two hours slower than the last time I ran a 50k in the Salt Lake area, which is testimony to how ridiculous this race is.

The post-race was fun, with pizza and PBRs all around. I won a pair of Hokas for coming second, so I'll get a chance to see what it feels like to run on stilts. I'm curious.

While - I think - I had a great time romping around the Snowbird trails, I was certainly a little too casual in getting ready for the race. Next time, I'll take this one a little less for granted and hopefully give myself a fighting chance. Hats off to Kevin for hanging tough and basically running me into the ground. My legs may have been tired, but I definitely gave it all I had on that particular day. It just wasn't enough.

Two more races left this year: Pikes and Wasatch. To be honest, I'm pretty burned out on all the racing, but I'll still see it through. My competitive drive will get me to Pikes ready to race, but maybe not as prepared as I would like, and then Wasatch will just be about having fun and hopefully not suffering too much.

There's a breaking point with racing too much, and I'm pretty sure I'm close to mine, so I'm looking forward to resting up through October and November and getting the batteries recharged for 2011, which will involve way fewer races and hopefully a stab at a long-standing ultra record.