Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fortnight Ending February 24

Week Ending Feb 17

Mon - 4 miles easy on Bluesky.

Tues - 4 miles easy on Bluesky.

Weds - Off. Travel day.

Thurs - 4 miles easy on Isla de Ometepe w/ Yassine, DJ, and Alex Kurt. A very casual jog around town and down a couple of sandy dirt roads dodging cows, horses, and dogs. Awesome views of Concepcion, the larger of the island's two volcanoes.

Fri - Off. Somehow didn't find the time to get out and jog a few.

Sat - 62 miles (9,000) race. Fuego y Agua 100k.

Sun - Off. Mainly boozing, but a spot of beach time too.

Total: 74 miles (9,000')

Week Ending Feb 24

Mon - Off. Waited for a ferry all day that never came. Costly flight change, then to bed.

Tues - 3.5 miles easy in Managua w/Eric, Yassine and Alex. All four of us were running topless, which I guess is something of a cultural no-no in Nicaragua. Wolf whistles, cat calls and general guffawing by pretty much everyone who passed us. An odd run. Legs felt decent after 15 minutes or so.

Weds - Off. Travel day. Came home to a snowstorm - total 360 from the heat on the front end of the day's journey.

Thurs - 7 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth north summit via north gap. Broke tracks on Audra and under Horsetooth. Decided to go up my north gap climbing route, which probably wasn't my best decision of the year so far. Super sketchy on icy rock, but got up safe enough after a few lengthy pauses.

Fri - 7 miles (1,900) easy. Horsetooth north summit on the standard route. Southridge/Audra. Slopped around in the snow a bit, but generally good footing.

Sat - 24 miles (3,600') easy/steady. Horsetooth north summit via Spring Creek/Wathan at a steady clip on the Wathan climb, then back down Rock trail to TH and on to Redstone Canyon via 38e for a full 13 mile out and back at a steady effort. Back home easy via the Grim Reaper. Legs felt great the whole way around, although fatigued a touch towards the end. Apparently no lingering effects from 100k the weekend prior.

Sun - 12 miles easy on the bike paths. Had plans for 16 on Centennial, but it hadn't been plowed and the wind was raging, so opted for bike paths with the few who showed up for FCRC Horsetooth Half training run. Best of a bad situation, I guess. Hiked a bench loop with the kids in about a foot/foot and half of fresh powder up at Horsetooth in the afternoon. So good to finally have a snowfall worthy of mention. Need more, much more.

Total: 53.5 miles (7,400')

I feel pretty good about the race last weekend, although somewhat disappointed with how lazy I got 45 miles in once the race was essentially won. I had a lengthy moment out there under the blazing sun questioning my sanity with regards to the four 100 milers I have coming up this summer. I know in each and every one of those races, I'll have that same moment many times over ... there's no getting around it, so this was a good reminder that I need to build a bit of mental fortitude before I get to the start line in Squaw. You always push on, but the trick is to be able to push on at a hard effort when every bone in your body is telling you to take it easy. I have a few monster workouts planned between now and then that should help with the mental number, plus of course another three months of training.

Really looking forward to Salida in a couple of weeks - always a great early season test of fitness with a good little field to keep the race effort honest. Not sure what kind of snow they got in the valley, but I know that Monarch got a foot and a half over the weekend, so I'm assuming they got a good bit down there too. Expecting less-than-stellar conditions, but that's part of the deal with a March race in Colorado, I guess.

Oh, and just for the record, I did not become a member of the Twitterati last weekend, despite the best efforts of a certain Brit to convince people otherwise.
All Mine! Pic: Amy Perez.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fuego y Agua 100k

It was hot when we touched down in Managua, like outrageously hot. For a pasty English boy coming in from Colorado, the potential for a meltdown at the weekend's Fuego y Agua 100km run on the twin-conned volcanic island of Ometepe was significant.

In Managua, I met up with Yassine Diboun and Dave James, in addition to a couple of others who would be participating in the Survival Run, a 70km event with a host of natural obstacles and challenges that needed to be overcome in addition to the running.  

The still-active Concepcion. Pic: Sharmantor
The day after our arrival in Managua we were off to Ometepe where the pace of life was serene, the brews were flowing, and the hot tropical sun was tempered ever so slightly by a pleasant lake breeze. A short run after lunch on a sandy dirt track confirmed that, yes, indeed, it was incredibly hot. The views of Concepcion, the largest and most symmetrical of the isalnd’s two volcanoes, were huge and somewhat intimidating. Not intimidating because of the size and grade of the vertical relief necessarily, but more because of the strength of the sun and the exposed nature of the slopes.

Life on the ground moved slowly. Elderly ranchers on horseback looked on in a bemused manner as our little crew of lunchtime runners dodged cows, horses and dogs in the lane. Meanwhile trash and slash piles would smolder gently, releasing an odor that comes to typify the nose space of Nicaragua, and one that exists thanks to the non-existent garbage collection services in the country.

Yassine checking out a burn in Managua. Sharmanator
Some good meals, more than a few Tonas – Nicaragua’s omnipresent brew of choice – and all of a sudden, alarms are blaring telling me that it’s three O’clock on Saturday morning: time to race. My roommates for the trip – Dave James and Alex Kurt – are milling around performing their pre-race rituals: some nip lubing here, some pocket stuffing there and sunscreen slathering everywhere. Dave has come in from a stage race in Costa Rica a couple of weeks before and is sporting an Adonis-like tan so opts for the topless racing option. Ginger-Alex and I on the other hand favor more modest racing attire as we prepare for a day battling the tropical sun.

In terms of participant numbers, the race is really quite small. Between the 50k, the 100k and the Survival Run there aren’t much more than a hundred starters lined up for the 4:00am start; nonetheless, the race is a big deal for Nicaragua, and for the island’s businesses especially this is one of the busiest and most important weekends of the year. For Josue and Paula, the race organizers, the challenges of pulling off the four events are significant to say the very least.

Given the incredibly relaxing pace of island life to this point I have little to no anxiety as I stand on the start line waiting for the starting gun. Quite comically, the survival runners start their day carrying a chicken for the first five miles, and not surprisingly they are all immediately left behind as the race gets underway. Alex, Dave,Yassine, myself and a few others form a lead pack as we head out of town, working together to find course markings in the dark of night. We roll on the sandy dirt track we had previewed a few days previously, enjoying the mild pre-dawn temperatures as we settle into a steady race rhythm.

Race start: Sharmanator
After four to five miles of dirt road we find ourselves on the brick road that circles the island connecting the volcanoes and surrounding towns; it is a road that we will see intermittently throughout the day. A few faster paced miles on the road and then it is a right turn onto a rocky dirt road heading down to the beach. Dave is up ahead being molested by dogs, I’m stumbling around kicking rocks, while Yassine and the others have chosen to take their foot of the accelerator in anticipation of the long, hot day ahead. As Dave and I hit the beach for the first time, the sun is still yet to come up, and it continues to be something of a struggle to find the course markings. A couple of miles down the beach and we hit a dead end with an unmarked dirt road heading off the left. Dave wants to take it, but I’m pretty sure we’ve missed a turn. A couple of islanders on horseback come trotting by and after a broken conversation and much gesticulation it is semi-confirmed that I am right. Not long thereafter, a Guatemalan runner catches up to us and fully confirms after a brief conversation with the locals that we are indeed too far down the beach. Kindly, the herders lead us to the turn we should have taken some 15 minutes earlier.

Getting off course has become such a regular occurrence in my racing history that I’m barely phased by the turn of events. I’m running through a banana plantation on a volcanic island in a country that I’ve never visited before: life is pretty damn good and by crickey I’ve got all day to catch back up to those that passed through while we were wandering around on the beach. Dave seems a little more anxious however and  I can sense that he wants to catch back up as quickly as possible after being informed by locals coming the other way that we’re about five runners back. So, after a mile of faster-paced running I let Dave get on with it, slowing back down to my all-day pacing effort.

It is still dark as I pass through the aid station at the Ojo de Agua natural spring on the isthmus connecting the two volcanoes. Coming out of Ojo, I am soon back on the brick road and almost as soon I am accompanied by Ian Sharman who is squeaking around the race course on a rented and beaten up old pedal bike. Sunlight is just starting to illuminate the shoulder of Maderas, our first volcano of the day, and I can see that it is shrouded in a dense cloud above about 1,000 feet. Ian shoots a couple of pictures before I am quickly directed back onto the beach for a couple of the most stunning miles of running that I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

Pic: Sharmanator
The sun is now breaking over the horizon behind Maderas, I am running on sand beautifully packed down by the gently breaking lake waves, while headed straight for a lush and mysterious volcano obscured by a cloud of its own making with the sounds of monkeys and tropical birds pulling me in. Even better, I will soon be climbing 4,500 feet of vertical relief to the caldera at the top of the volcano; I can’t help but holler out in joy. I can see Dave a third of a mile ahead up the beach, but I’m not sure if I can make out any other runners beyond that. Either way I am not in the least bit concerned as I figure I’ll make up plenty of ground on the ascent.

Soon after being directed off the beach I make a left turn which marks the beginning of the Maderas climb. It begins on a wide double track trail, which quickly leads to the Porvenir aid station. I take my time hydrating at the aid, as I've decided to maintain the one-bottle MBS Twitch setup that I’ve been using up until now, so I can keep both hands free to help with the steep, slippery and rooted climb ahead. As I pull out, I’m surprised to hear that the lead pack of five is just two minutes ahead and running as a group.

Ah, yes. Pic: Sharmanator
Immediately upon exiting the aid station, the terrain becomes very rocky, and no more than a kilometer up the mountain I take my first – but by no means last – digger of the day on what would end up being an unusually clumsy run for me. Just below cloud level before hitting the jungle proper there are a couple of metal benches set out, so I take the time to look back to check out the views of the isthmus and the lake, which predictably enough are gob-smackingly stunning. I roar again and the monkeys yell back; good god this is fun.
No more than a fifth of the way into the climb I catch sight of Sean Meissner, with Yassine a quarter mile ahead of him. I quickly go past Sean but lose sight of Yassine as we re-enter the thick canopy. Then I hit a junction, make a wrong turn, run out of trail, retrace my steps, make the correct turn and then five minutes later re-pass a bemused Sean. Ho hum. The trail has really steepened up by this point and it‘s into full-on, hands-on-knees power-hike mode.

It takes me another 20 minutes to pick up Yassine again, and as always he is in great spirits clearly enjoying his morning as much as I am. He lets me by but matches my pace, so we work up the mountain together checking out the monkeys and relishing this wonderful experience. As we ascend, the air thickens with moisture and the ground turns to mud, while the roots become somewhat treacherous underfoot. As we go past Jamil Coury, running in the 50k race, I decide to err on the side of caution and let Yassine take off while I watch him put his northwest mud running chops to good use.  

After some good slogging, I hit the rim of the crater and drop into the caldera marveling at the dense forest and beautiful crater lake. Yassine is just pulling out of the caldera aid area as I slide in. I take my time hydrating, filling my bottle and chomping on fruit and chocolate, all the time eyeing the bottle of rum quietly calling to me from the tree branch it is set up on. I think better of it and scuttle up the other side of the crater in search of Yassine. At a break in the trees on some good exposed rock I catch back up and once again Yassine and I navigate together seeking the rim and the traverse section through the aptly named 'jungle gym.'

The roots and branches up here are so thick there is zero hope of running. We are now crawling, jumping, swinging and ducking our away along the course; once again the fun level is raised to new highs. It takes some time to work our way through the thick, thick canopy but eventually we begin to descend and once again I let Yassine do his thing through the higher elevation slip and slide terrain. I am grabbing onto branches with every step to stay upright, negotiating massive step downs cautiously and beginning to wish for dry trail. After about 1,500 feet of descent things dry out enough that I finally regain some confidence in my foot placements and begin to let it roll.

Nearing the bottom of the steep stuff, I catch back up to Yassine and once again we go stride for stride on our way to the 50k turnaround on the beach at ‘monkey island.’ We see Nick Coury coming back at us as we approach the 50k finish, followed a couple of minutes later by Dave. We roll in a full six minutes behind Nick, 5:15 into the race after taking just under three hours to negotiate Maderas. The sun by now is high enough in the sky that the morning has become legitimately hot and it is clear that the remainder of this race will mostly be about heat management and dogged perseverance. Running in this kind of heat and humidity is rarely pretty and almost never fast. I pick up a second bottle, chomp on a banana, hydrate aggressively and then get back to it.
50k Finish, 100k turn. Pic: Sharman

Running out of Medina, the small town we are now in, there is absolutely nowhere to hide from the sun, but Yassine and I seem to both be rolling well, surging past each other every ten minutes as our staggered sugar highs kick in gel hit after gel hit. Within two miles we are already reeling in Nick, and then another mile down the road Dave comes into sight. He stops at the turn we had made to get on Maderas earlier in the morning  amid a bit of confusion with the course directions. The four of us regroup and figure out that we’re supposed to head straight to the beach, and soon we are back on that beautifully hard packed sand running away from the volcano with the sun at our back.

The Survival runners are there heading towards Maderas dragging or floating logs along the beach as one of their additional challenges. Meanwhile Yassine and I begin to build a lead at the front of the field. Again, our pacing is somewhat erratic and we surge on and off with the spikes in our blood sugar. I begin to crave the natural pool at the Ojo de Agua spring that is now just a few miles down the track. We pull off the beach, run a mile of road, return through the cow pasture, jig through the banana plantation and then jump into the gloriously cool Ojo pool. I take my time, making sure to really bring down my core body temperature. This allows Dave to catch back up, and he and Yassine get out of the aid station a good minute or two before me. Again, I am not concerned.

Leaving Ojo I find myself back on the brick road, really quite unsure where exactly I am headed. I can see Concepcion off in the distance, but have no idea how long it will take to get there or indeed what the route will be. It takes about 20 minutes to catch back up to Dave, and another 10 to pick up Yassine. Dave is not interested in latching onto my pace, but Yassine and I once again fall into the same funky rhythm we’ve been hitting on and off since the turnaround, surging past each other all the way to the next town down the road. There is a small aid station set up in a little park and again I hydrate aggressively, eating fruit and letting Yassine take off first.

I figure that the Concepcion climb is nearing so plan on trying to build a real lead there. As it turns out, I would pass Yassine once and for all a few minutes past the aid station and he would end up calling it quits at the next aid station due to kidney pains that thankfully turned out not to be serious. The road to La Flor, the penultimate aid station, is one that I am in no hurry to ever see – let alone run on – again; in fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s the dictionary definition of ‘endless.’ Slogging away on this beastly road in the intense late-morning sun with shade to be found nowhere, the runner has a view of Concepcion that somehow never seems to get any closer. I am now reduced to a pathetic shuffle desperately trying to conserve what little energy and drive I have left for the 3,000 foot climb up to the aid station on the shoulder plateau of the Concepcion ridge that I am endlessly being taunted by.

Aid station location is on the hump. Sharman
Finally, and I do mean finally, the aid station materializes. I check the watch and note that I’m 7:18 into the run, meaning that I have 3 hours and 40 minutes to get up, down and back into town if I am to breach the 11 hour barrier that I have arbitrarily set for myself as a time goal. But I’m not that motivated. It’s just too hot to find motivation and that section of road has almost sapped me of my will to live. I am just thankful that the racing aspect of the run appears to be over. Nonetheless, the change of grade – from gradual to ridiculous – on Concepcion is welcome, as is the canopy and breeze, so I steadily make my way up the mountain and to the ridge aid station where I am welcomed by a very strong wind. I take some time to get in a couple of oranges and bananas, somewhat dreading the very steep descent down the mountain in the direction of Moyogalpa and the finish line, which is clearly visible from this great vantage point on the volcano. In my tired state, it looks ridiculously far away.

The descent is loose, steep and incredibly bruising. The course transitions back into the trees, onto singletrack, then doubletrack, I see a house, two, trash on the side of the road, concrete, town, the finish line banner … oh, thank the sweet baby Jesus. I cross in 10:35 for a new course record, but find more satisfaction in the cold Tona that is promptly thrust into my hand. My post-race stomach is in unusually fine fettle and I eat a slice of pizza, drink another beer and then just like that I am back to reality and loving life again.
Pic: Sharman
Thank you Josue, Paula, and everyone on the island of Ometepe. Agua Y Fuego is a truly unique event that is about so much more than racing 25, 50, 75 or 100 kilometers; it’s about community, bridging cultures and promoting travel opportunities in a beautiful country with a very kind heart. Go visit Nicaragua! You’ll be glad you did.  
Tona! Pic: Amy Perez (International Superstar) 
Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1s
Pearl Izumi Ultra Shorts
PI Elite Tall Wool Sock
Ultraspire MBS TwitchCell
Ultraspire Isomeric Race bottle
First Endurance Trucker Hat 
Highgear Axio HR
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp


3 x First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot Flasks (1,200 cals, Kona Mocha)
2 x EFS sports drink (250 cals)
12 E-Caps
5 x banana
6-7 x oranges 
4-5 slices watermelon
2 slices pineapple
10-11 cups of Tang
Bottle Ultragen post race

Paula, myself, Jamil, Alex, and Nick hanging at the 100k finish. Sharman.
At packet pickup. Sharman.
Ferry ride over. HAIR! Pics: Yassine
Checking out Ometepe
Killing time waiting (all day) for a ferry that never came. Pic: Margaret Schlacter 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week Ending February 10

Mon - Noon: 7 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Audra/Southridge/north gap up and down.
PM: 5 miles (1,100') easy. Falls loop. Bumped into Elijah in the parking lot and circled with him.

Tues - Noon: 11 miles (2,900') easy. Horsetooth north summit. South/Audra/north gap, then Westridge - Spring Creek - Herrington - Stout - Spring Creek - Falls. Slept through my alarm clock this morning, thus missed my regular Tuesday morning workout. Figured I'd head down to Redstone and knock out a tempo run as a replacement effort, but as it was such a gorgeous day I chose to spend some time rolling around in the park instead.
PM: 5 miles (1,100') easy. Falls loop.

Weds - Noon: 7 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Up/down South/Audra. Tired legs: slogging.

Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. The usual 5 mile out and back on Centennial. As always, we went out at a casual and social effort (this morning w/ Celeste, Ziggy, Slush, Mike, Sarah, Mary and Jen) followed by a hammer drop on the way back. I've been trying to keep these workouts at a true tempo effort over the past few weeks, but got a bit carried away this morning after a more aggressive start up North Dam hill put me at - or close to - PR pace. The North Dam hill mile went in 7:10 (I take the split at a downed reflective T-post right before the turn onto Soldier Canyon Dam, which is actually 1.1 miles), then 6:04 (cattle grate, right on a mile), 6:22 (sign past outhouse, 1.03 miles), 5:18 (right before turn off Spring Canyon Dam, .96 of a mile), 4:49 (Maxwell, .93 of a mile). 29:45 back, 45:00 out. Run is right on 10 miles, but the split distances are a bit random and pace is obviously impacted by grade (although I typically try to keep the effort even). One of the best workouts in town.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') easy. Towers in 36:30. Jogged up with Little Nick on a calm and beautiful evening. Huffing and puffin a bit for the effort; definitely tired from the morning session.

Fri - PM: 7 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Up/down South/Audra. Felt  pretty good given Thursday's exertions.

Sat - AM: 18.5 miles miles (5,500') hills. Horsetooth Trifecta: south summit (up/down) via Southridge/Audra/Slush's Slit, middle summit (up/down) via Rock Trail/Middle Chimney (caked in bird crap), north summit (up/down) via Falls/Spring Creek/Wathan/North Gap, home via the Grim Reaper. Kept the effort easy but consistent on this one and felt great the whole way around. From the upper lot, total run is a bit under 17 miles with 5,200' climbing. My in-the-park time was 3:09; with a good effort this one could probably be done in the 2:45 range. Might be fun to get a group together one of these days and push the effort a bit to register a time worth shooting for. Made it home just as the snow was starting to fly: perfect timing.  

Sun - AM: 11.5 miles (1,900') easy. From home to Indian Summer junction on Bluesky and back. Legs were tired from yesterday's Horsetooth trifecta, but loosened up a bit as the run progressed. Cold headwind coming home made things a touch unpleasant, but the final 650 foot climb on 38e/Grim Reaper felt good and smooth, which was a nice way to finish out the week.

Total: 89 miles (21,300')

Got in the hills a little bit more this week, with seven Horsetooth summits and various other bits and pieces. I'll reverse that next week with next to no vertical and just a limited amount of running as I get ready for the Fuego Y Agua 100k, which includes at least two decent climbs up and down the two volcanoes that essentially form the island of Ometepe.

I found some time yesterday to look at a couple of race reports from previous years, and by all accounts the climb/descent of the first volcano, Maderas, will be pretty wild, while the second volcano - the active one - should be a bit more tame. According to race director Josue, 11 hours is the standard to beat, and while this trip is really not about setting things on fire (bada-bing), the goal - on paper - seems doable, but you never know until you get into the thick of the terrain. Really though, I'm just super geeked to be heading to a country I've never been to before in a part of the world I really don't know that well. Fly out Wednesday.

Not your average Colorado trail.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chubster Results, Pics and Other Stuff

Well, it's been a little while since Chubby Cheeks, but since it's an ultrarunning event, two months to get results and pictures up seems pretty reasonable. As I remember, we had a pretty good turnout and a fun little gathering afterwards in my always-cramped kitchen/dining/living room. We got in a little bit of trouble with the Powers That Be, but that's all been smoothed over and we've even gained permission for a fourth annual running of the Chubster in 2013. Hope to see some of you there.



Johannes Rudolph - 5:40 (CR)
Trimbolli - 6:09
Bryan Williams - 6:10 (33 miles)
Sam Malmberg - 6:16
Frank Antonelli - 6:23
Pete Stevenson - 6:23
Mike Neal - 6:26
Jaime Yebra - 6:40
Rick Hessek - 6:44 (masters champ)
Sarah Hansen - 6:45 (CR)
David Ponak - 7:09
Ryan K - 7:15
Rob Erskine - 7:20
Drew - 7:20
Kyle - 7:20
Kristel Liddle - 7:20 (a very short-lived CR)
Cat Speights - 7:32 (masters champ)
Dustin Krajewski - 8:10


Nick Clark - 4:31:00 (CR) 
Tony Krupicka - 4:31:01
Brandon Stapanovich - 4:33 
Andy (ish) - 4:58
Joe Grant - 5:00
Aaron Marks - 5:15
Dan Vega - 5:25
Brad Williams 5:45
Scott Slusher - 5:50
Corey Dean - 5:51 
Kris Klotzbach - 5:59 (female winner)
Brad Berger - 6:02
Dave Seabeck - 6:10
Jon Teisher - 6:15
Al Wesir - 6:20
Brad Bishop - 6:29
Katie Robinson - 6:34
Laurie Lang - 6:58
Ellen Silva - 6:58
Jessie Wilburn - 7:00
Chris Grove - 7:27
Jenn Malmberg - 7:30 (lost / alt route)


Josh Gray - 4:55
Jay Rawlings - 4:56
Victoria Funk - 5:16 (CR)
Felix Wong - 5:40 
Lane Eskew - 5:47
Laura Backus - 6ish (alt route)


Steve Folkerts - 4:08 (23 miles) 
Cherilyn Sackel - 4:15 (18 miles) 
Alex May - 2:18 (9 miles)
Mindy - ?2:?
Rosy Perez - course record ?

Pics (mainly Ponak & Timko, but a sprinkling of others, too):