Saturday, April 25, 2015

Recovery, Reflections and Plans

Apparently, a week has passed since I raced last weekend? Huh, the days have been blurring together with the culmination of finals. I felt basically normal on Tuesday aside from slightly lower energy levels. I took Sunday and Tuesday completely off; I did do Green with RMR on Monday, but since Sage was in Boston and Smith is on his taper, there was no race-horse leading the charge. Looking back, I guess I'm somewhat bitter that I didn't go faster. I was able to give the last mile a 7 minute-ish effort without too much resistance. Its hard to grapple with mentally, but at miles 22 through 28, I need to understand that there isn't that much ground left and I get give more gas. Not to say I'm disappointed at all though, just thinking.
Before I slowed down to 2nd
Oddly, the race has left me feeling somewhat empty. I don't have anything (running/scrambling/hiking-wise) on my schedule until the high peaks melt. The past few days I've gone back to the typical schedule of a flatiron and Green a day. On a shorter day last week I managed the 1st Flatiron car-to-car in 47 minutes, taking the downhill casually. I split 17:30 on the rock with a 2:45 downclimb. In a true concerted effort I want to break 40 minutes, maybe I could manage that by the end of 2015. I'm not sure what the rules are for Satan's Minions (besides no falling), but I do admit I use some tricksy routes to eliminate some switchbacks.

This morning I did a longer effort doing two full laps of Green via the 1st Flatiron and downclimbing the 2nd in a huge PR of 8:08 on lap two. Its fun, really fun actually. The only thing missing is a sense of adventure and remoteness that I really can't feel in Boulder much anymore. Bear Peak and its surrounding scrambles are definitely less trafficked and quieter but they are just far enough away that running from home is about 14 miles minimum so its much easier physically and logistically to just go to Green. I generally refuse to drive unless I'm running errands after or taking people. No need to add to the smog or waste money on gas (don't even get me started on parking in Boulder). These are also the easiest miles I get on my routes, so they are a nice warm up/down.
CU and Boulder from the slabs
Races in the end are most significant as an evaluation of the training. Well, sort of. I view my training as for fun. If I really wanted to get fast I wouldn't eat family size boxes of cinnamon toast crunch and mac n' cheese so often. I do eat a lot of fruits and veggies too, but I binge on the junk all too often. What's life without fun? I could do intervals and fartleks a few times a week and get noticeably better, but I'd rather go on group runs and spend my mornings negotiating flatirons than puking in a track-side trashcan to save 10 seconds in a race I paid too much for.

The last few months have been the best of my life with respect to running. There is as much value in repetition as there is exploration and experimentation. On a singular mountain this translates to an understanding of topology and therefore a greater ability to navigate to anywhere desired. Conditions can change a 1:45 run into a 3 hour slog. Dark nights, early mornings, blizzards, heat, ice and snow all become so interesting.
On the road for mountains last summer
So, summer? That's right around the corner, huh? I suppose, firstly, I need a job or something. Other than that, the world (or state more realistically) is open. I'm still set on Chicago Basin, having instantly convinced my friend Jack to join me when I brought up the subject. Other than that, some ideas are the Grand Teton (Owen-Spalding, 5.4), Bells/Crestone/Little-Bear-Blanca Traverse (all 4th or easy 5th), Vestal Peak (Wham, 5.4), Glacier Gorge or Wild Basin (easy besides Pagoda West Ridge, massively exposed 5.6), Cables on Longs (5.4). So that's "some" ideas. No way I'll do all of those, but they're all on my radar right now.
The Tetons
I found a 100 miler I'm interested in. It has a 50 too, but I feel a big draw from a 100. I really have know idea, and I'll need to get some advice from those more experienced before I jump into something like that. I just remember being at 40 or so miles in the 50, its a unique place mentally (and of course physically too, but that's just predictably painful). Really the main drawback is cost. It would be in September on labor day weekend, just before school really starts. Its on my mind.
Trails in the area of the "maybe" hundo

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rattler 50km

Since the snow has melted, my runs have included less and less running as my routes of choice gravitate towards rock scrambling and speed hiking up steeper than reasonable running grades. I ran around 10 times a legitimate run where I didn't have to downshift to a lower gear to spin up hills. Still, I'd put in a ton of miles and vert over the last 4 months. I had more than enough fitness for a 50km distance, but did I have the physical and mental fortitude to push for 4 to 5 hours?

The weather report was looking terrible, or fun depending upon your perspective. 50 degrees and raining; which I thought played into my favor remembering a great run I had on Pawnee-Buchanan in similar conditions (which may be the best run of my life). The race setting was Palmer Park which is sort of a peculiar area as it is a full on mountain environment with super technical trails, but its in the middle of Colorado Springs, a decently large city.

View of Pikes Peak from the park, unfortunately we did not run on this nice smooth dirt road.
Race morning came and it was thankfully a perfectly cool and dry morning - shorts and a t-shirt with gloves and arm sleeves which I took off an hour in. The start was super informal, no one even got out of the warmth of their cars until 3 minutes before the start. I think a lady just said "3-2-1...go!" and off we went. I ended up taking the lead for the first couple miles, going a bit fast with a 7:50 first mile which included a 200ft climb. Oops!
The very small start...and oh my god, a heel strike. Shame. First place was the guy in the grey tank on the right.
After the first aid at 5 miles we a hit some pretty bad mud which supplemented your shoes with a couple extra pounds. At this point we had a group of 3 (or 4, but the fourth fell off at some point). Even about this early, I could tell that the guy in front of me was running very strong and the guy behind me was just hanging on to the back. Some miles on and we began climbing what allegedly is referred to as the "mini-incline". I hiked half of this, which felt finally natural versus all the actual running. From here it is a net downhill to finish the first 25km lap so we let gravity take hold as the three of us exchanged leading.
Getting more spread out heading into lap 2.
Heading into lap 2, two of us ended up getting a decent gap between us and third. 5 miles in I was 15 seconds back. My second trip through the mud took a huge toll on my hamstrings and I slowed considerably. 6 miles later I was 7 or 8 minutes back. I still couldn't see 3rd behind me, but I didn't want to risk it, so I focused on picking up my pace any time I felt it faltering.
Coke, chips and get out. I ended up not carrying any water (which was awesome) due to the cold temps.
I came into the finish at 4:34:10, good enough for 2nd place. I was 8 minutes behind 1st (I think). 3rd came in another 8 to 10 minutes later, followed closely by 4th. Strava says 30.1 miles with 4,300ft, This was by far the hardest I've ever pushed a long run (something longer than 10 miles). I think I could have maybe pushed a little harder (but when isn't that true), but I'm not sure I quite had enough to have had a chance at getting first. From the brief conversation I had with 1st place, he will be running Western and Hardrock, which are two weeks apart. Yikes!
Finishing up.
Chatting with 1st and catching my breathe just after the finish.
It was a small race without an overly competitive field for sure, but I'm pretty happy with the results. The course, while not having a lot of vert on paper, is almost always going up or down short rocky steps in the bluffs, making for a tougher course than one would initially believe.
Hooray for sodium!
Example of a safe, reliable and responsible way to transport a mattress heading back to Boulder.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April 5 - April 12

4/5, Sunday - Easy - 4 miles, 200', 0:39
Really, really slow recovery from the "Sanitascides". I've found its super helpful to get out and just move around a bit after big days. It was a nice quiet run around campus, plodding at 9:30 pace.

4/6, Monday - Green Mtn - 10 miles, 3000', 1:40
RMR Monday run up Green went surprisingly well, I was able to maintain a total run aside from the stone steps in Gregory and at the top of Ranger. Sage Canaday and Josh Arthur both showed up, which meant the guys up front were totally out of sight. Sage can climb a hill pretty darn fast without much visible effort; of course, he was filming for his YouTube channel again (video below).
Sage coming down Saddle Rock
Josh Arthur "getting his running legs back" or something, out of shape pros still keep up pretty handily though.

4/7, Tuesday - Flagstaff Mtn - 15 miles, 2600', 2:02
Met up with some friends and did 4 x 10min intervals on Flagstaff Rd with 2 minutes rest. Got my butt kicked, but they were able to drag me for an 8:10 min/mile average on a tough route.

4/8, Wednesday - 1st Flatiron + 2nd Flatiron - 10 miles, 3000', 1:50
Super sore legs today I so took it relatively easy. After jogging to Chautauqua, the quads couldn't quite handle the 15% grade on the trail so I hiked a lot getting to the 1st before a lazy 34 minute scramble. The trail seemed pretty crowded tonight so I downclimbed the 2nd in a PR 10:24, which is getting dangerously close to my ascent time on that route.

4/9, Thursday - 2nd Flatiron x 3, 1st Flatiron, W. Face - 5 miles, 3600', 2:16
I drove to Chautauqua today since I desperately needed to get some groceries after, so I missed out on the free 3.5 miles there. Met Jack and we did a one easy lap of the Freeway. He took the trail and I downclimbed in a PR 8:56 before we did one slightly quicker lap in 10:44. Our friend Kory was going to meet us then but ended up being stuck in line at the DMV. So we ran back up and I scrambled the 1st in a PR 18:40 ascent and PR 3:47 descent. I was only able to downclimb a tiny bit of the Freeway before Jack's head popped up and we finished up with the Dodge Block route then the W. Face. Fantastic morning of surprisingly speedy scrambling.

4/10, Friday - 1st Flatiron + Green Mtn - 7.9 miles, 3200, 2:10
I don't normally record such significant figures, but after I had taken just about every shortcut I knew about to get on Green, it sort of became my goal to see how little ground I could cover. Generally an easier effort today.
Looking down to Boulder from the North Arete of the First Flatiron.
4/11, Saturday - Stairway to Heaven, Hillbilly Rock, Regency, Royal Arch, 5th Flatiron, Lost Sentinels, 2nd Flatiron, 1st Flatiron, 2nd Flatiron - 8 miles, 4600', 3:58
Big outing of scrambling this morning. I started off by  heading right into Skunk Canyon and enjoying the super long Stairway to Heaven. Hillbilly Rock went reasonably quick thereafter. The shwack to the Regency isn't so nice, it might actually be faster to take a roundabout on-trail route. I breezed past the crowds from the Regency and Royal Arch and took a route up the center of the 5th. It felt about the same as my usual South side route but with an easier approach (thus superior). I really don't know how you assign grades for half this stuff, its just "flatiron rock". I reluctantly took the keyhole off the back for the descent. I was going for the hammerhead next, but I wound up on a parallel slab just north that is about half as long. It was a bit harder, characterized by a few bulgy step-overs that Roach deems as 5.4. From there I did a slog up Freeway before dodging ropes up the first. I elected to simply downclimb Freeway rather than slog up to Green to keep it under 4 hours (I hadn't brought any water or food).
Slabby slabs are slabby. From Stairway looking at Satan's Slab, the Rainbow, and Archaen Pronouncement (I think).
4/12, Sunday - Trails - 8 miles, 1700, 1:29
I felt super tired this morning so I did a super easy jog/hike around Gregory Canyon. Apparently I wasn't the only one going easy this morning as I saw Tony walking....going downhill.

Week Totals:
60 Miles

Just about where I want to be heading into a race. I think. I race so infrequently that I really have no idea what I'm doing, but this seems right. Saturday was one of the best scramble linkups I've done in terms of efficiency on all of the rock. 50k next Saturday!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

March 22 - April 4

3/22, Sunday - Utah - 3 miles, 1200'
After the long drive over, I needed to stretch out my legs a bit, so I roamed around Mt. Holmes, which from our vantage point seemed completely impossibly to summit without a massive face climb. I gained a ridge for recon purposes and confirmed my prior hypothesis. I later read that there is class 2+ ridge from the other side of the mountain.
This is by far the most remote place I have ever been, we saw a few cattle ranchers and zero recreational users over the couple days in the Henry Mountains in Utah
3/23, Monday - Mt Pennel - 9 miles, 3200', 3:32
We took the longest possible way to get there, but eventually we were at the base. There is 4x4 road that goes basically all the way to the top, but we were in my CRV, the trail was covered in snow and hiking is way cool so we walked. After the postholing began, most of the group bailed, so me and one other pressed on. Aside from gloriously expansive views, it was the worst mountain, route-wise, I'd ever been on. We bailed once we gained a saddle a couple hundred feet below the summit as we couldn't bear carving our shins on the icy crust much more. Of course, the post-holing only worsened on the way down.
High above the desert. The far right side is noticeably warped from a poorly taken panorama.
3/24, Tuesday - Hanksville-ish - 4 miles, 500', 0:45
Woke up early and ran the 4x4 road we drove in on. After a couple miles I was jogging along the highway - or rather the "scenic byway". We were about 30 miles from any town or official campsite, so I wasn't surprised when an old man pulled over to ask me if I was okay when I was running with no food or water tens of miles from any civilization. I could easily see the campsite from the road, so I cut cross-country straight through the desert to get back.
Mt Holmes. A good reference for the immensely open terrain is trying to find our bright yellow tent.
3/25, Wednesday - Driving
For roads like these in a barely 4-wheel drive vehicle it shouldn't count as a rest day. Ah, but it was natural beauty at its finest!
A very, very, very long dirt road that weaves in and around a canyon system draining into Lake Powell.
3/26, Thursday - Regency - 4 miles, 1600', 0:52
Good to be back in Boulder, but feeling a little sick today. By the time I had made it up to the Royal Arch I was pretty beat so I jogged along home. Better to cut it a little short than push too far and exacerbate the sickness.

3/27, Friday - Sickly - 4 miles, 400', 0:43
I set out with intention to do something a bit substantial (I even brought water), but my plans were thwarted by my poor choice of breakfast. Apparently 4 slices of sourdough bread and a hundred or so snap peas make for a pretty miserable experience. The bouncing became so terrible that I just turned around and walked home. It was a pretty embarrassing and deflating experience, though retrospectively the whole debacle did certainly give me a chuckle.

3/28, Saturday - Ward/Lyons Bike - 69 miles, 5600', 4:34
My roommate pointed out that I hadn't ridden the road bike that occupies a quarter of my broom-cupboard bedroom in like a year, so it was time I gave it some use. I donned my spandex and brain bucket and clipped in my special shoes to my special pedals and pedaled on up (keyword up) Lefthand Canyon to Ward. I stopped at the general store and bought a couple cookies and then headed down to Lyons. The rolling hills back to Boulder had a significant headwind, so I was stifled quite a bit by that. Its always nice to get up high. The views of the Indian Peaks showed that there is still a lot of snow, and we're still a long way from any reasonably quick travel on foot.

Not even totaling this week since it was so weird and inconsistent. Biking doesn't hit those little balance muscles, it hits the big muscles and really puts them to work. I haven't legs this sore in a long while! Time for 10 or so days of hard training for the 50k!

3/29, Sunday - Green Mt - 12 miles, 3200', 2:52
I took Bear canyon up but found my legs to be thoroughly depleted from yesterday's big ride, so I ended up just treating most of the ascent as a recovery hike, which ended up being really pleasant. There were throngs of people out today so I took the social trail to the 2nd and downclimbed the Freeway to dodge the crowds.

3/30, Monday - Green Mtn - 10 miles, 3000', 1:40
I lost track of time and didn't leave until 5:20 and ended up cranking the 1.8 miles up baseline road relatively quickly only to find the group still chilling in the parking lot. Trails are generally dry at this point, so we made pretty good time. Sage Canaday was there hiking, running and filming for his YouTube channel so I might show up in that - edit, I did. I chatted with him a bit on the run back to the parking lot, he seems like a cool (and fast) dude.

3/31, Tuesday - Easy - 3 miles, 100', 0:25
Gah, the quad soreness keeps on, so I cut it short this morning and just did  a simple loop around campus. Hopefully, a day without vert will fix em' up.

4/1, Wednesday - Creek Intervals - 8 miles, 300', 1:08
The goal was 3 x 1 mile. I was able to get the first mile in 5:39 but I wasn't able to find much gas left in the tank afterwards. My hat was blown off my head twice by the wind on #2, so that one was a bust. On the third I wasn't even close to sub 6 which was massively disappointing. I think the long break from running over spring break got to me. But this was bad, really bad. However, several hours after this run, my legs felt really good, like they just needed to be woken up. Weird.

4/2, Thursday - AM: 2nd Flatiron + Green Mtn - 9 miles, 3000', 1:55 - PM: Mt Sanitas - 11 miles, 1700', 1:36
Slow up the 2nd, then according to my GPS, a quick pace up to Green. I'm really convinced now that my forte is power hiking up super steep or kamikaze downhill-ing steeps. Ryan Smith took my CR down Saddle Rock on Monday. He wins actual races and sets actual course records, so I reclaimed my virtual unofficial record. I met with some RMR for a Sanitas tag in the evening as a break from studying. We for some reason blitzed up the swoop loop, while snow blowing sideways froze to my legs (it should have been a tights day).

4/3, Friday - Bouldering
Jack and I retreated to the climbing gym in preparation for Saturday's nonsense.

4/4, Saturday - Mt Sanitas x 10 - 35 miles, 13,600', 9:04
So yeah, that was a lot of Sanitas -- and I don't even really like Sanitas anyways! Good stupid fun with the RMR, we had a makeshift aid station in the parking lot, so I didn't carry water or food while "running". I easily consumed more water than I ever have in the past (probably a little over 100oz), and found that Hydra from CarboPro works very well for me (watermelon flavor is gooood) . Laps 1-3 went smoothly, 4, 5 & 6 were definitely the low point and somehow for laps 7 to 10, I felt pretty good. I followed Ryan Smith's advice and went with CarboPro, Coke and chips for calories. As he says "Science has no answer for chips and coke". We had a crew of about 10 people who did all 10 among many others who came out for pieces of the fun. We ended by cheering in the finishers and hanging out in the parking lot with some beers and the remaining food we had for an hour or so afterwards, which was a fine closure of the outing.
I ended up splitting the GPS activity into 2 pieces, but here is the second which gives a good flavor of the day.
Finishers, with the dog standing in for the three who had left.
Week Totals:
88 miles

I knew Saturday was big, but I didn't expect quite that much volume from this week. A proper week for sure. Its been really fun getting whooped lately by guys in the Rocky Mountain Runners, its both humbling and enlightening. I mean, I definitely wouldn't have gone for Coke had it not been thrust at me when I looked like death.