Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fortnight Ending September 25

Mon - 4.5 miles easy

Tues - 6 miles (500') easy. Valley

Weds - 4.5 miles (800') easy. Falls loop.

Thurs - 7.5 miles (700') easy on the Bluesky Trail with Eric

Fri - 4.5 miles (800') easy. Falls loop.

Sat - 50 miles (7,000'). Run Rabbit Run.

Sun - 0 miles.

Total: 72.5 miles (9,800').

Mon - 0 miles

Tues - 0 miles

Weds - 0 miles

Thurs - 7 miles (700') easy with Bryan S on Bluesky.

Fri - 4.5 miles (800') easy. Falls loop.

Sat - 7.5 miles (1,000') easy with Slush. Soderberg TH - Towers - Stout - Loggers - Mill Creek - Link - Valley - Soderberg TH. Measuring Scott's Runners Without Borders course.

Sun - 17 miles (6,700'). Mummy Traverse.

Total: 36 miles (9,200')

Not much going on really on the running front. Took a bunch of days off after Run Rabbit Run 50, and then didn't do much else other than the Mummy Traverse on Sunday, which while a solid butt kicker, felt really good. Probably keep up with this easy theme for at least another week and then start thinking about the North Face 50 in December, which I'm kind of leaning towards doing.

The downside of all this non-focused jogginess is that JM is probably going to give me a severe ass whooping at the Silent Trails 10 miler in a couple of weekends. He claims to be in great shape right now and reckons his 2:27 bid for the Cal International Marathon is on. If I beat him of course, then it will brought up at every possible opportunity for at least the next year. All the pressure is on Justin then - just the way I like it.

Lots of friends running in the local trail marathon this weekend, with lots of predicted finish times and placings to watch out for. I hope to be able to make it up for the finish, but will have to hot foot it from town after presiding over the Rolland Moore 4k, which will kick off the 2011/12 Tortoise and Hare series. So if you're not running or volunteering at Bluesky, consider coming out to run Rolland Moore.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mummy Mania 2011

Chapin, Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild
Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild, Hagues (barely visible), Mummy
The stars aligned today for an awesome morning out in one of my favorite mountain ranges. I consider the Mummies my local high alpine playground and today I had them entirely to myself. For the five hours it took me to traverse the six peaks that when connected make up what has come to be known as Mummy Mania or the Mummy Kill, I saw not one soul.

The day began three-quarters of the way up the Old Fall River Road from the Chapin Pass Trailhead at first light, right around 6:30. Two years ago when Chad and I did this route, we managed to run right by Chapin, summiting Chiquita as our first peak, and therefore failing in our mission to establish a fastest time for the route. Today, I was supremely careful to make sure I made the right-hand cut necessary to hit Chapin, the shortest of the day's six peaks at just 12,454 feet.

As with all the Mummy peaks, Chapin has a dramatic cliffed-off southerly face with a more gradual northwestern slope. Chapin's south face drops over 2,500 feet to the Fall River below, and from the top the peak offers immense views of the Longs Peak massif. What Chapin lacks in stature, it makes up for in views. Pretty inspiring stuff with the sun low in the sky and a full morning of peak-bagging ahead.

From Chapin it is a short drop to approximately 12,000 feet along the cliff line between Chapin and Chiquita (13,069'), followed by a stout 1,000 foot hoof up to the Chiquita summit. The route between the two peaks benefits from a faint trail, which makes for reasonably surefooted and fast progress. The rest of the traverse is entirely off trail and littered with rocks - and lots of them.

Ypsilon from Fairchild.

Chaquita to Ypsilon (13,514') is also quite straightforward. A short 400 foot drop to the saddle, again along the southeastern cliff line, and then an 800 foot hoof to the summit. I stopped on top of Ypsilon for a few minutes to get down some calories and admire the awesome ridgelines that surround Spectacle Lakes some 2,000 feet below. And then it was off to Fairchild (13,502'), which for me is the crux of this route.

Ypsilon from en route to Fairchild.

Again, the almost too logical line is to follow the cliff some 700 feet down to the ridge that cuts northeast over to Fairchild. On approaching the ridge, things become a little less obvious, but the route - or the one I take - follows a line at about 12,300 feet on the southern side of the ridge across a large talus field that continues all the way up to the crown of Fairchild. Getting up to Fairchild's benign rounded summit is hard work and a little bit sketchy. The route up is not an obvious one, and really the best course of action is to scramble as best you can up the southern rocks, which is mainly class three terrain, and then follow the ridge up.

By the summit, I was beginning to feel the morning's effort, but still had plenty of perk left in me.

Fairchild from below Ypsilon

Fairchild from halfway up Hagues Peak

It's a long rocky descent off Fairchild down to the saddle between it and Hagues, but with pep still in the legs I was running all of the rocky saddle before dropping into hoof mode for the strenuous 1,200 foot ascent of Hagues (13,560'), the high point of Larimer County and one of Rocky Mountain National Park's more impressive peaks. The ridgeline to the summit, viewed from Fairchild is one of my favorite sights of the whole traverse. I mean, what a line.

Hagues Peak

From Hagues, which involves some class three action near the top, I followed the ridge towards Mummy Mountain (13,425') and then again cut a line a few hundred feet under the ridge for a lengthy period of serious rock hopping. The legs were still good so I was able to make rapid progress to the northwest ridge of Mummy Mountain before getting the head down for the last grunter of the day.

From the summit block, the route off the traverse involves a little more easterly progress on the top of Mummy before a sharp and rocky descent on the southeastern flank of the mountain down to a drainage that leads all the way down to the Black Canyon Trail at 11,000 feet.

The intimidating south face of Mummy Mountain (from Trail Ridge Road)

From there it is a quick right for maybe a half mile before the intersection with the Lawn Lake Trail. A left at Lawn Lake and then it is a touch under six miles downhill to the trailhead and the end of the route. I must have been tired as I tripped and fell twice on the way down, but I got there in one piece in exactly 6:30, a full hour quicker than two years ago even with the addition of an extra summit. A most satisfying morning.

This isn't a hugely traveled route from what I can make out, and when it is, it is not typically done for time. The fastest time I have seen for the route - Peter Bakwin, I believe - is 7:45, so I'll throw that 6:30 out there as a current standard for the trailhead-to-trailhead traverse. With some extra focus, no camera and less lingering on the summits, I'm pretty sure I could take it under 6:00, but that will have to wait for another season.

17 (ish) miles, 6,800 feet of vert and 9,100 feet of descent.

The traffic from Lawn Lake heading up the Old Fall River Road on this beautiful fall day was heavy, so it wasn't long before my thumb procured a lift for the final nine miles back up to the car.

Fall in the Mummies (from the Old Fall River Road).

The route


Chapin: 39
Chiquita: 1:03
Ypsilon: 1:34
Fairchild: 2:45
Hagues: 3:57
Mummy: 4:49
Lawn Lake Trail: 5:39
Lawn Lake TH: 6:30

Monday, September 19, 2011

Run Rabbit Run 50

The man, the myth, the legend: Bill Duper. All race photos: D.Bow.

"What was I thinking?"

I must have said those words to myself 50 times on the outbound section of Saturday's Run Rabbit Run 50 miler. Once the heavens opened up, 28 miles into the race, I forgot about my stupidity in signing up and focused on surviving the three-hour torrent of freezing, hypothermia-inducing rain.

More than one person I spoke to after the race feared for their life out there this weekend, but thankfully everyone found their way off the mountain safe and sound, testament to the great race direction of Fred Abramowitz and his army of hardy volunteers. Thanks to each and every one of you for being out there under such horrendous conditions.

But for as ugly as it got, the race started out very innocently. Yes the weather forecast was calling for a 50 percent chance of rain, but the conditions at the pre-dawn start at the base of Mount Werner were just about perfect. I know I was fooled into not taking a jacket - a rookie error that almost came back to bite me 30 miles later.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

From the gun, a lead pack of Zeke Tiernan, James Bonnet and Mark (Horsecow) Lonac pushed the early pace as we began the 3,500 foot ascent of Storm Peak. I opted to let them go and settled in with Bill Fanselow. We chatted a bit about the pace off the front as we watched Horsecow drop James and Zeke, both of whom were beginning to come back to us as we transitioned into the steeper second half of the climb.

I know Horsecow from the Fort Collins road running circuit, and I was pretty sure this was his first 50 miler. Given that he typically runs his 5k races in the high 15s to low 16s, I figured that the early 50-mile pace probably felt a little pedestrian, but 50 miles is a long way to run, so I was fully confident that he was coming back. James, I knew, had run a fast 50 miler in winning Leona Divide earlier in the year, while Zeke, a former all-American at Colorado University, had a couple of strong Leadville podium finishes to his name. And with Bill - a former US mountain running team member - for company and Burch and Corey Hanson in close proximity behind, I could sense that this was going to be a tough race requiring a full-on effort for the win. I was already betting against myself.

After topping out on Storm Peak, 6.5 miles into the race, it was time for the real running to begin. Almost immediately the gear changed from grind to freewheel as we made our way down the short descent on the early stretches of the Mountain View Trail. The overnight rain had left the trail a little soggy, but by and large conditions were decent: tacky in places, sloppy in others.

Within minutes I was passing Horsecow, who later dropped with a hip issue. And then I heard the all-too familiar thuds of Ryan's downhill stride behind. I have raced Ryan so many times over the last few years that I know full well how much he loves to rip the descents, especially early in a race, so I was more than content to let him go by, knowing that I would likely be back on him as the course assumed an upward trajectory. Less than a minute after he was by me, Ryan was around Zeke and into the early race lead. A few shoulder checks confirmed that Bill was still in close proximity behind and that, indeed, I was in for a tough, competitive day of racing on a pair of pins that just wanted to go back to bed.

Soon after aid station two at mile 13, I eased past Ryan and assumed a position behind Zeke who appeared to be moving well. I was in absolutely no hurry to assume the lead as the pace was already at the upper end of what I felt I had in the tank for 50 miles on that day. And so we rolled all the way through to Lake Dumont, the mile 22 aid station, where my ever-patient wife handed me a fresh EFS gel flask and a fresh water bottle before telling me to get after it. As nice as it was to hear my wife dishing out race advice, I was generally feeling lackadaisical, sorry for myself and wishing that I wasn't racing. I had no real giddyup and as a result no great desire to follow Dana's directions in getting after it.

Nonetheless, I was quicker than Zeke through the aid and assumed the lead for the 1,000 foot pull up to Rabbit Ears, the rock formation that gives the pass into Steamboat Springs its name. Zeke didn't take long to catch up, but for as crappy as I was feeling, I was mildly energized to hear from his breathing how hard he was working. Rather than try to keep pace, I just let him go, figuring that my one gear was either going to be good enough through the latter stages - or not - but I knew that I didn't want a late-race suffer fest induced by mid-race over exertion.

By the time we were back at Dumont, now mile 28, Zeke was a minute - maybe two up on me. Again I was quicker through transition, and again I got the giddyup order from Dana. Leaving the aid, I was no more than 30 seconds behind in second as we began the 16 miles of rolling singletrack back to the top of Storm Peak. Bill, Burch and James had all been within five minutes at the turn, so there was still plenty of pressure from behind.

Race order coming into Dumont at mile 28. Teirnan, Clark, Fanselow, Burch.

Then the heavens opened up and unleashed a torrent of misery. Immediately I was transported 21 days back in time to the miserable first three hours of UTMB. By the time I got to the Base Camp aid station at mile 32 we were completely socked in and subject to a full-on downpour. The trench-like trails filled instantly with water, the temperatures dropped, and just like that concerns for safety became paramount and the race secondary.

Within minutes my fingers were numb and lifeless. I was forced to tuck my water bottle under my arm so I could get both hands into fists under my drenched gloves. Next to go were my feet and toes. Fortunately my legs responded to the situation by finding a new lease on life, which allowed me to up the tempo the notch or two I needed to get the internal furnace burning a little harder. In combination with my hat and arm panties, the new-found gear was just enough to fend off any serious considerations of hypothermia. Now I was merely cold, wet and miserable.

I caught no sightings of Zeke on the five-mile stretch of singletrack between Base Camp and the Long Lake aid station, but heard very faint cheers as he was (presumably) coming in. I got there about five minutes later, so figured that I was set in second for the rest of the race. However, on the last few miles to the final aid station, I could sense from the ever-fresher footprints that I was catching Zeke and catching him quickly. By mile 42 or 43, the prints were looking really fresh and for as hard as the rain was coming down that meant that I was getting close. And then, at the end of the final godforsaken seven-mile stretch of trail between Long Lake and Storm Peak, just as I caught site of the aid station tent through the mist, I heard the cheers for Zeke.

With 6.5 miles and 3,500 foot of descent left to the finish, we were off to the races. This was going to be painful.

Within the first five or six switchbacks I had caught and passed Zeke, and we were moving. There was no need to look back as I could hear the splosh of Zeke's footfalls. He wasn't capitulating, as I had desperately hoped he would. We were now moving at a highly unsustainable pace - easily sub-six minutes per mile - on fried, cold legs.

And then my left shoelace came untied. Bugger! And then my right. Double bugger!

I figured we had four miles to go. Could I race out four miles with untied shoes? If only I was a believer in - and practitioner of - the barefooting movement. I could just toss the shoes aside and run free. I knew I was going to have to stop and re-tie. But dammit, I had no feeling or dexterity in my fingers. Maybe I could call a timeout?

The day after at Brandon Fuller's house, GZ shows me how I should have tied my laces. Pic: JV

As I fumbled with my laces, Zeke went blasting by. He wasn't interested in a timeout apparently. I took what seemed like forever in getting my shoelaces retied and by the time I was back working with gravity Zeke had disappeared into the mist. I pushed hard for 10 more minutes but never got the visual I wanted. As the base of the ski area came into sight, I slipped it into cruise and reflected on a long, long season of ultra racing.

A well-deserved win and slot at WS100 next summer for Zeke.

It's been a year that I will not soon forget, and Steamboat was a great way to cap it all off. As in all of my races this year, I put forth an effort that I can be proud of. I didn't have a whole lot to work with - clearly fatigued from a long summer and a tough UTMB just three weeks prior - but I did the best with what I had. This year has been an interesting one. I have raced way too much and as a result I have run a lot of races sub-optimally. Some would probably criticize that, but what do I care?

I have fun when I'm at the races and I've been highly fortunate to race in some amazing settings this year. For that, I am indebted to my wonderfully supportive wife, to Pearl for helping me get around the country and across the Atlantic, to all the amazing race directors who work tirelessly to let us romp through the woods and up and down mountains in a controlled and safe manner, and to the thousands of volunteers without whom none of these races would happen. It's time for me to refocus a bit and start repaying some of those debts.

So congratulations to Zeke. From the sounds of it, he'll be claiming his ticket to the Big Dance next June. I think he'll go well there. And congratulations also to everyone who got the job done on Saturday, or indeed to those who had the sense to call it quits when the shivering kicked in. It was a very tough day to be running at 10,000 feet.

The Steamboat 50 is a great race and Fred puts on a really fun event (the post-race beer and pizza party is worth the price of entry alone), but Fred, next time I e-mail you begging for a late entry, please tell me to go take a hike. Or better yet, tell me to come out and volunteer!

Write-up in the local paper.


Storm Peak (6.4): 1:07....................Finish (50.6): 7:26:30 (40)
Long Lake (13.4): 2:04 (57)............. Storm Peak (44.2): 6:46 (69)
Base Camp (18.5): 2:45 (41)............. Long Lake (37.2): 5:37 (49)
Dumont (22.3): 3:21 (36).................. Base Camp (32.1): 4:48 (37)
Rabbit Ears (25.3): 3:52 (31) ............ Dumont (28.3): 4:11 (19)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week Ending September 11

Mon - 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Horsetooth summit via hiking trail - then Wathan - Spring Creek - Soderberg - home.

Tues - 10 miles (2,000') easy with Mike E. 38e - Bluesky - Towers - Secret Trail - Westridge - Rock - Soderberg - home. Beautiful sunrise.

Weds - 4.5 miles (700') easy. Falls loop.

Thurs - 10.5 miles (1,200') progression. Bluesky out and back via Indian Summer. Early a.m. with Eric B. Out easy and then tempo over last four from Rim Rock back to the TH.

Fri - 4.5 miles (700') easy. Falls loop.

Sat - 10.5 miles (2,000') easy w/Slush, Sarah, Nicole and Alex. Sunrise from top of Arthurs. Valley - Arthurs TH - Arthurs Rock trail to summit - Howard - Mill Creek Link - Valley - Bluesky.

Sun - 12.5 miles (4,500') easy w/Dakota and Ryan to top of McHenrys from Glacier Gorge TH.

Total: 60 miles (12,900')

Nice easy week enjoying some miles with friends.

Got the Hardrock appo in the mail this week, so we'll see if that bears any fruit come December. Got a feeling that it will be a pretty crowded lottery for next year's race, so I'm definitely not banking on getting picked, but with (I think) four tickets in the lottery my chances are decent. If no Hardrock, then it's on to plan B.

Starting to think a bit about winter races, and the marathon once again seems somewhat appealing. Training to run on roads makes me feel like a 'real' runner, not just a long distance mountain jogger, and while I definitely prefer being the latter, I also enjoy feeling fast (all things of course being relative). I figure that if I can go under 2:30, then I'll finally have the marathon distance expunged from my system and can then go about jogging in peace. New Orleans again might be an option in February, but I guess it would be nice to run a race where I'm more likely to have company to work with. Running solo at New Orleans for 21 miles certainly didn't help my cause. That would probably mean having to run one of the bigger spring marathons, so I guess we'll see on that.

Also looking at the North Face 50 in December, but that would require some pretty focused training to get in shape and I'm just not sure I'm ready for all that yet. I figure I've got until October to make a decision about whether or not I want to commit to the training.

Awesome to see so many friends kicking tail in Albania and The Netherlands this last weekend. Andy Henshaw is a road running monster, and wow, Max King World Mountain Running Champion. Love it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

McHenry's Peak RMNP

McHenry's. All photos: Burch

It's peak-bagging season up here in the Rockies, and on tap for yesterday was McHenry's Peak (13,327'), with the option for the three other summits that surround and form the Black Lake basin: Arrowhead (12,387'), Chiefs Head (13,579') and Spearhead (12,575').

Macca from Black Lake

The four peaks form part of the headwall of the iconic Glacier Gorge, a rift that lies at the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. I am yet to summit all ten peaks that make up the full Glacier Gorge Traverse, but yesterday's jaunt up perhaps the most scenic of them all has me hungry for the full link-up: Flattop, Hallett, Otis, Taylor, Powell, McHenry's, Chief's Head, Pagoda, Longs, and Storm.

I've done the first four in a morning, followed by a descent of Andrew's Glacier, but those first four peaks (all walk-ups) are very much the warm-up for the crux sections between Powell and McHenry's, and between Chief's Head and Pagoda.

For the shot up McHerny's, Dakota, Ryan and I had a perfect morning. We were at the Glacier Gorge trailhead (9,200') just after sunup and on our way running by 6:30. We took the shorter climbers' trail up to Mills Lake and hit Black Lake within an hour.

From Black Lake, it is a short 500 foot hoof to the upper section of Glacier Gorge, which sports climbing faces aplenty, jagged ridgelines in abundance, and burly peaks galore. A true alpine gem. The route past Mills Lake (10,000') and Ribbon Falls by way of Glacier Creek ain't too bad either.

Ribbon Falls
Spearhead from Black Lake.

Once above Black Lake, the route hits open tundra with some pretty heavy willow action in and around the drainage. There are routes through the willows by way of game trail and open rock slab, but wrong turns will have you tangled up pretty quick - as I found out coming back.

Stoneman behind Burch and I, with SE Ridge of McHenrys to the right.

Our route took us by way of Stoneman Pass, named after the phallic rock formation that sits at the pass, and then up the south face of McHenry's, which involved about 1,000 feet of class three climbing on pretty solid talus with some class four stuff thrown in depending on route. The views from the summit were, quite simply, astounding. The high points of the Glacier Gorge traverse are nearly all visible from the top, as are the mounds of the mighty Mummies. Two classic and brutal Rocky Mountain traverses in one shot. In fact, just about every peak in the park is visible from the top. Phenomenal.

Given the panorama, the three of us spent a fair bit of time at the top picking out peaks and dreaming of future routes. I was under strict orders to be home by 1:00, so we had to forgo the three heads (Chief, Arrow, Spear), but the single summit was reward enough.

Picking out Peaks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fortnight Ending September 4

Mon - 6 miles easy to Les Bois.

Tues - 6 miles easy to Les Bois.

Weds - Off.

Thurs - 4 miles easy w/Matt, Dakota, and Bryon.

Fri - 90 miles (30,000'). UTMB to Trient.

Sat - As Friday

Sun - Off

Total: 106 miles (30,000')

Mon - Off

Tues - 3.5 miles (800') easy. Social run and beers with the Fort Collins Trail Runners.

Weds - Off

Thurs - 8 miles (1,000') easy with Slush, Sarah and Brian S. Towers - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Mill Creek - Arthurs - Valley - Soderberg. It felt so good to be back running at Horsetooth with my Thursday morning crew - it's been too long. We were out and up high in time to see the sunrise over the eastern plains and above the reservoir; it was truly spectacular. The Alps are cool and everything, but (cliche alert) there really is no place like home. Running in familiar places with good friends is fantastic for the soul, I found out today.
January: 440.5 miles (45,850')
February: 304.5 miles (39,200')
March: 469.5 miles (67,100')
April: 427 (62,000')
May: 509.5 (92,500')
June: 323 (54,900')
July: 303.5 (79,700)
August: 297.5 (70,000')

Total: 3,075 miles (511,350')
Avg: 384 miles (63,918')
Fri - Off

Sat - 9 miles (1,500') easy. To top of Horsetooth via Hiking Trail and back via Audra/Southridge, then 2 miles hiking with Alistair and Stella to waterfall and back.

Sun - 3.5 miles (1,000') hiking with the family to Gem Lake.

Total: 24 miles (4,300')

Considering how physically defeated I felt at the top of Col Forclaz some 85-90 miles into UTMB, I was pretty surprised to wake up Sunday morning able to walk with relative ease. It's still a little hard for me to believe that I dropped so close to the finish, but that's where it unraveled for me, and so it goes. It's been nice this last week to get out and run as and when the mood dictates. That's how I see the rest of my year going.

Moving right along. So a couple of dates have been finalized for December running fun in The Fort. The Chubster is set for Dec 10, while the year-end Towers finale will happen the following Thursday on Dec 15.

For anyone in the Laramie area on the weekend of October 8, the Silent Trails Memorial race will be taking place then. This is an awesome race in a beautiful location for a very reasonable price ($20). The event is held in remembrance of the 8 University of Wyoming cross country runners killed by a drunk driver on Hwy 287 while on their way to a cross country meet in 2001. The trail running community up in Laramie is very close knit and this is a very special event for everyone involved. This year is the tenth anniversary of the accident (and the race) so it would be great to see as many runners as possible from the local area out supporting.

Hardrock applications went live recently.

I am hearing on the wires that the folks who now own the Leadville 100 will be looking to bolster their field for next year. Considering they are going up against UTMB, I would have to assume that part of the strategy will be a cash purse. If so, I'd be interested to see what kind of field they can put together. Having never raced it, I know I'd be tempted. Leadville has long had the name recognition, especially since The Book was published, but has never really attracted that strong of a field. Not quite sure why. I have also heard that a stretch of singletrack is being constructed to alleviate the nastiness of running to and from the turnaround at Winfield on that horrendously dusty stretch of forest road.

Really been enjoying the cooler weather here in Colorado the last week or so. I heard that the snow was flying up at Cameron Pass a few days ago. Won't be long now until the high country gets shut down for the season. Got to make the most of the next few weeks.