Sunday, June 29, 2014

6/23 to 6/29

6/23, Monday - Green Mountain, 10 miles, 2,800ft, 2:25

Got back at 4:30 AM from Italy (obviously in the dark) and thus didn't get to see the Flatirons. After 4 hours of sleep I arose and headed up to Chatauqua. Uphills were a real struggle, not that even the downhills felt any better. Jet lag in full effect but I was happy enough to be back that it didn't bother me too much.

6/24, Tuesday - AM: 2nd Flatiron, 3 miles, 1,300ft, 1:03:48

I woke up around 2 or 3 in the morning so I killed time until there was enough light to head out. Low lying clouds provided a mysteriously themed scramble in ~17 minutes. I felt horribly uncoordinated most of the time, whether it was my legs, sleep schedule or being my first climb in my Altra Lone Peaks' I couldn't say. Saw some deer and got above the clouds, so it was a good morning.
Atop the 2nd Flatiron above the clouds

PM: 2 x 1 mile, 5.5 miles, 100ft, 39:40

Went out again after work feeling surprisingly well for being awake for around 15 hours at that point (coffee, coffee, coffee!). Did some interval miles: 1 mile warm-up (7:44), 1 mile hard (6:30), 1 mile easy (8:15), 1 mile hard (6:18), 1.5 mile warm-down (8:00 pace). Feels good to feel horrible sometimes. Almost angry at myself for finding such pleasure in a type of workout I normally consider myself to despise.

6/25, Wednesday - AM: 2nd Flatiron, 3 miles, 1,300ft, 52:42

Nearly fell asleep on the move today, I actually took a break at the base and then another half-way up the climb. Lazy scramble in 19 minutes, but I felt much more coordinated on the rock than I did yesterday. PM: Grabbed another easy 3 miles after work with some friends along the creek path.

6/28, Saturday - AM: Mt Sherman (14,035), Mt Sheridan (13,748), 8 miles,  3,400ft, 3:37:02 | PM: Collegiate Peaks Tour, 10 miles, 2,300ft, 2:49

Slept at the trailhead in the midst of a fairly strong wind hoping it would subside by morning. It didn't at all. The morning was cold, cloudy and even more windy. I scrunched up my face and headed up the trail. Should have waited longer to start, so the snow could soften as I ended up having to ascend a fairly steep snow field that was nigh ice. In the end I remembered a technique I read about using small rocks as makeshift ice tools, it works amazingly well actually. First headed up Sheridan where I was completely engulfed in a cloud and even more wicked winds. The cold screwed up my camera battery, so I only got one picture from the whole outing: this one from the summit marker on Sheridan.
I was hunkered down behind a rock wall. I wish the picture could capture the wind!
I was sort of apprehensive about getting disoriented in the cloud and descending the wrong side. so I constantly made myself point back down to the saddle. I danced down the scree back to the saddle and started up Sherman. After turning a corner and being slammed with winds that seemed could blow a 130 pound dude off of a mountain I turned around. After descending the snowfield I was looking back up and decided to just go up the scree on the less windy side. Made it up, finally. A few things regarding Sherman: it is not fun, it does not have good views, it does not have any geological form (in other words its Cameron's best friend). Whatever, another one to add to the list.

After a sandwich I decided I wanted more!

Leaving from the N. Cottonwood trail head near Buena Vista I did a rambling tour of some of the Sawatch Range. I thought about going for a summit, but these guys are pretty big and even the smallest would denote at least 4,000ft of gain. After 4 miles of beautiful and well maintained trail (seriously its beautiful), I climbed up a bit of scree thinking to summit Mt Harvard, but I got up the first part and another blast of wind nearly blew away my prized "Best Rental" hat. I also was needless to say quite tired at this point. I bumbled my way back down and ran into an old acquaintance from the dorms last year. It's so cool seeing people you know out in the wilderness. Definitely a stellar training day with 18 miles and 5,800 ft of climbing at an average elevation of around 12,000ft. I was at altitude a while in terms of time too, 6 hours of activity, but I slept at 12k and never really dipped below 10k all day. I'll be back in this neck of the woods for sure.
These guys are big. I also now realize I was dressed like a hunter (Bright Orange & Camo)
Tired feet with the crisp dirtline.

6/29, Sunday - Marshall Mesa, 5 miles, 400ft, 43:52

Thought about heading for the hills again, but I'm glad I didn't. It would have been a wasted drive up because there is now way I could have gotten up anything at all after yesterday. It was a hot and shade-less venture. I seem to always have my most exhausted moments all in a certain area of South Boulder. Weird.

I'm really happy with my legs right now. It seems like they are finally coming around and realizing that 10k vert a week is normal. Still can't quite touch 15k yet, but I suppose its a progression (or an injury, my pick). Totals for the week were 45 miles and 12,000ft of vertical, feeling pretty good.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Tuscany: 10 miles, 900ft, 1:24

First run after a week off. Essentially being at sea level did wonders for my speed. The calculated average pace may not totally reflect that, but I was stumbling around twisting farm roads which often lead to nowhere or onto someone's farm, so there was a lot of "navigational" pauses. Pretty cool area to run around nonetheless.
It's pretty nice

Croda del Becco Seekofel (9,219 ft): 17 miles, 5,400ft, 4:45.

Going into Italy I had only one plan set in stone regarding running: something mind blowing in the Alps/Dolomites. Prior to arriving in Cortina I had only ran once over the last 10 days: an exploratory run meandering over rolling farm roads in Tuscany for a fun 10 miles of sightseeing. Three days later, emerging from a tunnel the scene was immediately set for an extraordinary adventure.
View from the hotel
The Alps are starkly different from the Rockies in three ways: steep, green and culturally. Ridge lines of pointed teeth pierce the clouds while merciless near vertical faces stare down at the relatively insignificant creatures below. Trees and alpine meadows prosper at the comparatively lower elevations. Lastly, the entire landscape is sculpted by a very different history. A well maintained network of trails, refuges and well signed junctions defines the Alps. A long history of sustained living distinguishes this area from the miners and commercial ski industry which have (or had) a hold in Colorado. A quick 6 mile jaunt the first night was tantalizing - I needed more!
Andrea, his girlfriend and I set out bright and early...or scratch that. We feasted like kings on the wallet burning inn's breakfast which we had already paid for. Not to waste a penny, I had croissants, donuts, rolls, juices, cheeses and meats. I mean you can't not! We got to the trailhead at ~10. The view from the car:
Summer is decidedly more present here than back in Colorado
After picking my jaw up off of the ground we set out as a group of three casually walking a half mile before Andrea and I broke off. The run began with brutally steep, yet groomed and runnable switchbacks for a few miles gaining just a bit under 1,000 feet. Subsequently, we found at ourselves at the first lake of the day.

The following 3 miles contained dispersed though frequent uphills. We were able to run near everything but we didn't hesitate to slow down when we needed to. The trail eventually brought us to our primary objective for the day:  Refugio Biella. 
From left: Refugio Biella, Andrea, Croda del Becco Seekofel
It didn't take long for our eyes and thoughts to drift over to the nearby summit which according to the map is "Croda del Becco Seekofel". "That actually doesn't look too bad at all, let's do that real quick" we decided. Perhaps arrogantly I thought I could power myself to the top in a few minutes without any extensive effort. It didn't take long for me to eat my words. The summit was much further away than we expected and at least for us, too steep to run for the majority. Still, our new objective would not be set aside. 
Tons of crucifixes and crosses in these hills. This one at the base of Croda del Becco Seekofel
It's moments like this where I know that had I turned around it would have weighed upon me heavily until I made it back - which in this case was likely never. We pressed on. Some steep trails and residual snow later we found ourselves atop a "mom-worrying" cliff. I would estimate it was 3,000 feet down myself. It was capped by cornice which appeared days from collapsing. Views fulfilled my goal: mind-blowing.
Oh yes...
The cliff amounted to be the biggest thrill of the climb as the true summit was a mound distanced from any geological wonder. I ate my American Cliffbar and Andrea ate his honey, raspberry jam and bread rolls, really. When small snow flakes began swirling in the wind, we figured we should get going before our shorts and T-shirts got the best of us. 
Summit cross
Descending I realized how worn my shoes are. I might as well have worn Tom's or even socks. If you want to know what every sharp rock on that trail feels like, contact my poor feet. We met his girlfriend at the refuge at the base of the climb. They hiked for a bit as I ran down ahead and climbed up a grassy slope which ended up being a rocky face instead. Typical. By the time I was back down Andrea caught back up and we jogged back down some steep (noticing a trend) steps passing a few beautiful, crystal clear lakes. 
Andrea dropping back down to Refugio Biella
Back on the main trail, Andrea meandered up a bit to meet his lady and I went off on another spur to add some more miles and vert. The steepness of the Alps are unforgiving on legs that are already at 4,500ft on the day. It was all I had to get to 5,400ft before turning around as rain began to fall. Opened up the downhill hard until I rejoined the crew and we finished together, just as we began the day.
Heading back down

Castella de San Vincenzo, Mt Mare (6,552): 13 miles, 4,800ft,  3:48

Two days later, we are nestled in a small house in the range. Arriving at dusk, silhouettes mask the true form of the mountains on the horizon. Sunrise brings with it the realization of how prominent these peaks stand themselves, though in a completely different climate from Boulder or the Alps. The ground is saturated with water and undergrowth blanketed by a canopy of trees until timberline.
Wet and Humid and Green
A morning study of the map, a quick breakfast of honey and bread, and Andrea and I are jogging down the kilometer of road before the trail begins. I'm quick to learn from Andrea and discover for myself that this is a less popular national park and this receives minimal funding for trail maintenance. A mess of fallen trees litters the first 10 feet of the trail and not long after we are carefully crossing a steep gravel slope where the trail had collapsed down to the gorge some 40 feet below. Weary from days past we avoid stops in fear that we may realize we are too tired. In any event we ended up feeling rejuvenated by the movement rather than drained by it. Perhaps 100 muddy, scarcely marked and steep switchbacks later we emerge out of the trees for our first glimpse back at the castella de San Vincenzo reservoir 3,000ft below us at which we started.
Looking back down. We came up through the "V" starting at the lake just beyond.
Looking up to Mt. Mare from timberline.
Above stretches a grassy ridge line which appeared to be one of the "way bigger than it looks" or actually not too bad. For probably the first time ever, it actually wasn't too bad. At this point the trail was no more, so we trudged up the wet grassy slope. Summited in 2:20. We ran next to nothing going up as it is pretty steep, but it is certainly possible to run most of this route. Still 4,800ft is a long time to push hard. 
Andrea on the last feet to the summit.
Some darker looking clouds were gathering around nearby peaks so we didn't linger on the summit. Andrea began his descent as I quickly scampered across to a cairned sub-peak  and thereafter began my own trip back down. The steep slick grass provided little purchase, especially now considering a down word momentum. I caught back up at tree line and we bushwhacked our way through nettles and thorns to the faint trail leading back to the valley. What took eons previously we were able to zip down while carefully leaping and juking over and around nature’s arms reaching across the trail.
Typical section of "trail"
Andrea toyed with switching from a heel to forefoot strike and was greeted with the excruciating lower calf soreness which accompanies the switch. Returning to pavement, we elected to run directly into the lake. It wasn't necessarily hot (though it was humid); the day's efforts were washed away in the cool blue water.

Friday, June 6, 2014

6/1 to 6/7

6/1, Sunday - Mt Bierstadt (14,060ft), 2:22, 7 miles, 2,800ft
Up at 4AM and on the "trail" at 6. Cool to bag another 14er, but this really wasn't anything too exciting; I had way more fun on Quandary yesterday. I forgot my watch and Strava (used the iPhone app) likes to shave off the time that you weren't moving, but I think I was up in ~1:20, chilled on the summit for ~10 minutes then down in ~50 minutes. Pretty bummed that the snow wasn't soft enough for another glissade, but it was nice to have the impenetrable surface going up. Able to maintain a run for probably 70% of the distance so that was a plus. If this place wasn't so crowded in the summer it would be an awesome one to try and push a hard run, and without snow you could run 100% of the way. I would probably wait till September on a weekday to do that, so as not to be the jerk barreling through everyone.
On a rare stretch of dry dirt looking up
Well the summit was nice as usual
6/2, Monday - South Boulder + CU XC Course, 1:40, 13 miles, 400ft
I could tell there wasn't much (or likely any) vertical capabilities left in my legs, but I felt like draining the tank tonight and I hadn't done a full South Boulder loop in almost a year. The South Boulder paths have got to be some of the most pleasant trails - ever. They're not comparable to a epic mountain singletrack, but they have an ambiance to them that is undeniably beautiful. Anyways, held 7:15 min/mile for the first 5 miles before my legs remembered the last two days and posed more resistance. Plodded along through about a mile of periodic ankle deep water (rivers are roaring with snow melt) before pushing again at 7:20 pace for another 3 miles and finally throwing in the towel with a light jog before walking the last half mile for warm down. Oh, and my Ambit couldn't find the GPS (first time its ever had trouble) for the first mile and half, so I'm estimating the first mile, but I felt pretty consisted in my pacing so I'm counting it as a 7:20. 13 miles is fun, I think I might try and enter a half marathon for sometime in early July.

I felt pretty depleted at home after this - weird digestion, headache, bodily systems etc. Probably a combination of being awake for 20 hours the day before, a 51 mile/13,000ft/11 hour last seven days and not eating enough calories. I like living somewhat (or very, depending on who you ask) cheaply and simply, but I'm coming to the realization that a single can of beans for lunch and bowl of cereal for breakfast isn't nearly enough nourishment for what I'm doing.

6/3 - Easy Barefoot, 30 minutes, 4 miles, 200ft
After having no appetite at all last night, I actually made a burger for breakfast. Debated even going tonight, but after sitting in a windowless room at work all day, I really just wanted to get some fresh air. Still noticeably recovering from last night, so I didn't push it at all.

6/4 - Pie, 25 minutes, 3 miles, 100ft
Didn't really feel like running, but its National Running Day or something stupid so I felt obligated. I ran to the farmers market grabbed a pie a sample and ran home.

6/5 - Freeway, 36:19, 3 miles, 1,200ft
Woke up early and felt like putting in a 100% effort up Freeway. PR'd on the initial approach 6:56 and was at the base of the 2nd Flatiron in 11 minutes - right on schedule.I could tell right away that I hadn't scrambled in a while, but my hands and feet moved almost with a mind of their own to familiar ledges and holds. Per usual to most any timed event, I began to lose focus at about the three fourths mark on the climb and finished with a downright terrible 13:33 for the climb (24:50). I accidentally paused my watch at the end of the climb instead of lapping it so from piecing together elapsed time and when I paused I got a "run-back-down" time of 11:29. From the last bit of data after I unpaused the watch, I had the last half mile at 5:10 pace (its a serious downhill though, so I basically just opened it up all the way). Happy with the effort - sub 40 is no small feat, but this can definitely be improved. Specifically the climb felt or rather was bad - I should be no where near 4:30 off of by PR, maybe 2 minutes given the hard approach. The running splits were where they needed to be, just need to dial in that climb. Fastest time still to my knowledge is a 32:50, I have a lot more respect for that time after today!

Went back after work for a more than lazy 2 hour jaunt playing choose my own adventure on the flatiron. Just enjoying the outdoors a bit.

Heading off to Italy this weekend so Friday will be busy with packing and preparations, no time for running. Pretty happy with where my health has progressed to right now, I'm feeling near 100% healthy right now. May finished with 105miles with 43,000ft of gain (400ft per mile), rising from April's 48miles/21,000ft (440ft per mile). Things are starting to come together for the summer I was hoping for (meaning not being injured on the couch). But I still need to be careful and hopefully a 2 week vacation with little running - and lots of Italian food - will resolve any potential problems and I can return to dry-ish trails at full power.

In closing here is short video of my raft trip from a week ago where things got interesting...