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2013 Leadville Marathon – race report

Official race photos

In my May-July build-up for the Leadville 100 I’ve chosen 6 long races – 5 genuine ultras and the ultra-like Leadville Marathon – to test my fitness and mind (and to have some fun).  That’s a heavy race schedule for me and there’s no time for resting in between races, as that’s when the “real” training happens.  I’ve made peace with the reality that my performance won’t be top notch for any of the races since I’m not really tapering for any of them and often running long (2-5 hours) on the non-race days, too.

She gets her fanciness from me.

She gets her fanciness from me.

Even so, I’m taking each race seriouslyish, trying to get good food in me every day and enough sleep to recover between runs.  The goal for each of these races is steady forward movement, running as much as I can with focused hiking when I can’t, while limiting wasted time at aid stations and finishing with a hard effort the last couple of miles.  These “training races” have been great for testing out gear (Hokas great for dirt roads, Salomon SpeedCross 3s better for the sloppier, more technical stuff), nutrition (gels as often as I can down them, real food at aid stations), and hydration (single hand bottle sufficient for up to 2-hour segments if it isn’t super hot).

Trying to find out if my BMI can be 0.

Trying to find out if my BMI can be 0. Here’s where I was yesterday morning.

My results have been very average over the 5 completed races.  But, they’ve been great tests of mind and body, with long efforts in big fields almost every week.  A flat (for CO) 50k (Greenland), a rugged 50mi (Quad Rock), a steep 50k (Dirty 30), a wooded, hot, night-time 60k (Capt’n Karl’s at Pedernales Falls, TX), and now what has to be one of the toughest 26.2 races in the U.S., the Leadville Marathon.  The marathon plays out much like an ultra, both in terrain and finishing times.  Out of a field of 517 starters with many accomplished runners in the mix, only 3 broke 4 hours.  That says a lot.  I was pleased to go 5:10, good for 71st overall.

But that’s just part of the story.  You see, trail running, even the racing, is just part of the mountain lifestyle.  The people involved and the situations we get ourselves into all contribute to the experience, which is often ridiculous.  The plan for Leadville this past weekend was to meet running buddy Mike Oliva at the Denver airport, where he was picking up another friend, Maria, who was flying in from Wyoming for the Leadville “Heavy Half” Marathon (a 15.5 mile race that shares some of the marathon course, with the same start, high point, and finish line).  We’d take off from the airport mid-afternoon, make the easy drive to Leadville, and have the evening to relax before a solid night of sleep, waking up 10 minutes from the race start.  Simple plan.  So, it was a bit of hiccup when, 10 miles west of Golden, in the left-lane of highway 70, Mike’s car lost all power.

Fun on the highway at 0MPH.

Fun on the highway at 0MPH.

Nearly two hours of waiting on a tow-truck, hanging out in the grass median, with cars whizzing by at 80MPH 20 feet away, with about 17 trillion angry ants crawling over our flip-flopped feet, unfed, and unclear of what might happen next, we were a bit off schedule.  Ultimately, Mike was able to get the car started again and we drove on back to Denver, grabbed some dinner and drinks, then headed back to DIA to rent a car for the trip.  That didn’t go too well, as we hit stop and go traffic at 10pm heading to the airport, finally getting a car and back to Mike’s place to crash out around midnight.  Maybe 4 hours of broken sleep later, our sorry ass trio dragged ourselves into the rental and made it to Leadville around 7:25am for the 8am start.  All part of the fun.

Cool thing is, we all did well in our races and had a good weekend.  Maria was 3rd female overall in the Heavy Half, an especially impressive feat considering she had no time to acclimatize to the altitude (we ran up to 13,200′) and was coming off relatively little run training.  Mike Oliva was disappointed not to win the marathon, coming in 4th overall (70 MINUTES ahead of me, yikes!).  He’s just a stud – to be just 40 seconds off the podium in a big, competitive race was remarkable after the physical and mental rigors of the previous 16 hours.

There was some plate envy going on.

There was some plate envy going on. (Not pictured: me, without a plate.)

My race was uninspired but solid, no major suffering, steady effort all morning, finishing with a 6:40ish mile 26.  Another good day in the mountains, another step towards being prepared for the 100 on August 17-18.

It has been a huge couple of weeks for my running peeps.  A quick rundown of an incomplete list of awesome friends:

NorthFork 50k – John LaCroix 14th overall

Northfork 50mi – Alberto Rossi 3rd overall

Leadville Marathon – Mike Oliva 4th overall

Leadville Heavy Half – David Roche 1st overall (CR), Maria 3rd female

Mohican 50mi – Ryan Lassen 5th overall

San Juan Solistice 50mi – Silke Koester 2nd female, Ryan Smith 7th overall

TARC 100mi – Greg Salvesen 7th overall

Mt. Evans Ascent 14mi uphill – Matt Wiencek kicked ass, getting “the rock” award for sub-2:40

San Diego 100 – Olga King 4th female

 

 

Capt’n Karl’s 60k Night-time Trail Race at Pedernales Falls

Another whirlwind weekend of family, friends, travel, and trails.  I arrived in Austin late Friday night, crashed hard, and was up for a Saturday afternoon of baking under the Texas sun on a pontoon boat on Lake Travis with Alison, the kids, and some sorely missed Texas friends.  Much of the day was spent driving, to the lake, from the lake, and then, around 5pm, out to Pedernales Falls for the first in the 2013 Capt’n Karls Night-Time Trail Running Series.  The series offers 10k, 30k, and 60k distances at each of 4 central Texas trail systems.

Goofball kid of mine.

Pool shark: Goofball kid of mine.

Without much of a plan and really just looking to get in a long run when I had the chance, I opted for the 60k race, both for the distance and the chance to run with Austin friend/training parter/badass Andres Capra.  I went light shoes, skimpy shorts, one hand bottle, and headlamp – about as minimalist as was responsible given an almost 40-mile run in the woods at night in the heat on trails I’d never seen.

Sloppy fat Nazi-hat wearing loser in on flight to Austin.  Must make his momma proud.

Sloppy fat Nazi-hat wearing loser in on flight to Austin. Must make his momma proud.

I told myself from the start that I’d go easy most of the race and push harder with 10-15 miles left if I was feeling good.  But, with the rare chance to run with Andres, I went out harder than I should have and was still falling back from his pace for at least the first 5-6 miles.  No red-lining but it was definitely more effort than I thought was prudent given another 6 hours of running ahead.  Thing is, I didn’t feel the need to back off and, much to my own surprise, just kept running.  I ran the hills, which seemed short and shallow compared to the mountain training of the last year.  That’s something new to me – running uphill without getting winded – and the further I ran the better I felt.

Story, fresh from the oven, circa January 28, 2012.

Story, fresh from the oven, circa January 28, 2012.

I made a ridiculous mistake at the halfway point (it was a two-loop course), where I doubled back from the aid station the wrong direction.  It was a bit stressful, something of a morale buster, but I only lost about 10 minutes and was physically feeling just fine.  I caught back up with a couple of guys I had previously been ahead of at halfway, including Andres, and just kept cruising.  From about mile 21 until the end I think I only passed one more person; other than that guy I was solo out there for the final 16 miles.  Understandably, late into a longish race, well after midnight when you’ve been running alone for some hours, things get tough.  Not the case this time.  I was proud to finish strong, not letting myself hike, all the way to the end.

Story, as a wrap up this blog post, very happy to twirl and giggle.

Story, right now as I wrap up this blog post, very happy to twirl and giggle.

My finishing time of 6:52:14 was decent, with a 13th place overall of 105 starters (oddly only 64% of the starters finished the race).  But, considering this was my 9th long day of running – at least 3 hours – in the last 16, I’m really happy I felt so strong.  My mid-race error cost me a couple finishing places, which sorta sucks, but this is Leadville training and it shows me that I’m on track.  After 38 miles my legs felt fine and, more importantly, I was almost wishing the race was a little longer.  Some emaciated photos of me (and some random chick?) from the race.

It’s now 5 days post race, with the Leadville Marathon coming up fast this weekend.  Though 12 miles shorter and likely with cool weather and non-technical trail, there will be some challenges:

A lotta ups and downs, all at over 10,000'.

A lotta ups and downs, all at over 10,000′.

I’ll be heading out to Leadville this weekend with Mike Oliva, who has a reasonably good shot at winning the race.  This sort of race is just another training day out for Mike O, whose talent and work ethic are rivaled only by his kindness.  If I finish within 75 minutes of him, it’ll be a good day for me.  Starting late July Mike O. will be doing a 10-day run along the Colorado Trail, a 280-mile stretch through the rugged high mountains in western Colorado.  If all goes to plan, I’ll be joining him for a couple of days before resting up for the Leadville 100.  Mike Oliva is running that one, too, and if all goes well for both of us he’ll be only 8-10 hours ahead of me at the finish.  🙂

Father’s Day Weekend 2013

What an incredible weekend, again, full of adventure and challenge and beauty and melancholy. I got just what I most want out of life – hours and hours of moving through and over mountains.  But, it was without the people who make Father’s Day so special: my dad and my kids (with a big nod to Alison for making both the weekend and kids possible).  Knowing that my pursuits bring meaning to my dad made a big difference, as did the knowledge that my kids were in the middle of a multi-week party that included friends and family and, more importantly, Six Flags and Sea World.

Snuggle buddies. I made these two (with a little help from Alison).

Snuggle buddies. I made these two (with a little help from Alison).

So, with only myself to worry about, I set out Friday for a warm, hilly Boulder run, hitting my go-to semi-longish route that included the iconic local peaks of Flagstaff and Green mountains.  Saturday I was planning on joining a big group run but overslept my alarm by 150 minutes.  Bummer.  But, it gave me a change to get out to the relatively high country just west of Boulder for a solo, solid, steady 20-miler at 8-9k’ along the Switzerland Trail and some backcountry dirt roads.  This was nice, listening to episodes of the Radiolab podcast, actually running the whole route (only about 1800′ climbing but still something), pushing the pace the last few miles.

One of two similar creatures currently walking around in our very small, fully fenced back yard.

One of two similar creatures currently walking around in our very small, fully fenced back yard.

Post-run Saturday I showered, ate, geared back up, and drove the couple hours out to Guanella Pass just up the mountain from Georgetown.  There I met Matt Wiencek, who had earlier in the day run an impressive 2:36 at the 14-mile-all-uphill Mt. Evans Ascent race.  Beers and peanut butter and we crashed out early, him in his shiny new first-ever tent, me in the back of the Toyota Sienna (where I spent 3 nights out of the last 9).  I think this was the first time I’ve slept at 11k’ and I had a bit of trouble with it but after some morning peanut butter and strawberries and a can of Starbucks, I was ready to hit the trails with Matt, whose write-up of the weekend has much better pics.

We started with Mt. Bierstadt (14,065′), my 2nd ever 14er, both of which were in the last week.  I felt really good heading up, running stretches, power hiking, and rock-hopping the rest.  The climb is about 2500′ over 3.5 miles but almost all of it is really over the last 2 miles to the summit.  That’s steep stuff, with a bit of light scrambling and a decent stretch of rocky terrain to navigate about 13k’.  Since the summit is clearly visible from the trailhead and the total round-trip distance is only 7 miles, Mt Bierstadt has quite a bit of hiker traffic. The morning conditions were great and there must have been 200 people on the trail but, other than Matt and me, only 2 others seemed to attempt running any part of it.

So happy to reach the summit that I, uh, want to do a split?

So happy to reach the summit that I, uh, want to do a split?

Mt. Bierstadt summit, 14,065'.  Rocky steep fun.

Mt. Bierstadt summit selfie at 14,065′. Rocky steep fun.

After summiting I was eager to test my downhill legs and pushed all the way back to the trailhead.  The roundtrip, even with stops for pictures, took just 2:20 and only cost me a little skin off my thigh due to my GREATEST EVER FALL, really more of a slide.  I lost my footing on a slick, steep spot, slid, rolled 360 degrees, popped back on my feet, and kept running without breaking stride.  It may be the coolest thing I’ve ever done and I doubt I’ll top it for stuntman-like choreography.  Back at the van, Matt and I regrouped (yeah, peanut butter), then headed out the other direction for another few miles of rolling trail at high altitude.

Big horn sheep scampering down a hill so steep that the trees falls down.

Big horn sheep scampering down a hill so steep that the trees falls down.

All this running gives me lots of time to think.  That’s mostly good.  The thin air and fatigue and endorphins and dehydration and exhilaration really help me focus and reflect.  All the more so with the backdrop of Father’s Day.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a dad who has encouraged me to find my own way, even when the process is scary for him.  I can now, with the benefit of hindsight and my own fatherhood, clearly imagine how he must have felt when, as still pretty much a kid, I set off solo for the uncertainty and adventure of Alaska and Central America.  Or on multi-month road trips criss-crossing North America.  Or even in untraditional, stressful, sometimes questionable business pursuits.  But, he has always been able to remain supportive and strong, not only allowing but cheering me on to take my shots even when – especially when – my aspirations and approach are so contrary to his own.  For that, I will always owe him, big-time, for him letting me be me.  Now, if only I can do half as good a job with my own kids…

Leadville, USA: 3 days of doing it (running)

The last few days have been a whirlwind, a full-on immersion Colorado experience bordering on the existential.  I know I won’t be able to capture it in words or even pictures and that sucks since I’m sure the smells wouldn’t be the way to go.  But I’ll give this a shot and, should I expectedly fall short on the attempt, I strongly recommend you take a look at a proper, beautiful blog post over at super-couple Silke and Ryan’s Dirtproof website.

On Friday morning I headed out to Leadville with Ryan Lassen and Alberto Rossi, where we started the weekend with a run-hike summit of Mt. Elbert, topping out at 14,433′.  It is the tallest mountain in Colorado, second in the lower 48 only to Mt. Whitney, and my first ever “14er”.  Not a bad way to start the weekend, with two super cool mountain runners, sunny cool weather, and the knowledge we were just getting started.

Mt. Elbert summit approach

Ryan in the lead, we’re smiling because this is completely staged – we were able to run for about 10 seconds at a time given the altitude and grade but we figured we’d look better than being hunched over gasping for air. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Three amigos at the top of Colorado, it took us about 2 hours to cover the 4.5 mile climb.  Back down in about half the time.  Credit: Alberto Rossi

Three amigos at the top of Colorado, it took us about 2 hours to cover the 4.5 mile climb. Back down in about half the time. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Back to the Twin Lakes campground for a perfect afternoon nap while more of the crew showed up.  I chose to sleep in the back of the van for the weekend, which was way better than it sounds.  We got up in time to get ourselves ready for Run #2 up in and over the town of Leadville, a 7-9pm social 10-miler along the Leadville Marathon course.  I’ll be running that race at the end of the month so it was nice to see what I have to look forward to.  We followed up the run with a much appreciated home-cooked dinner hosted by recent Leadville transplant, the incredibly hospitable and talented Leila DeGrave.

Day two, more of the same.  16 miles with the whole group, 11 of us all together, testing our lungs and legs at 10,000′.

Lotta runners running Credit: Silke Koester

Lotta runners running
Credit: Silke Koester

It doesn’t happen often running with this group but there were a very few stretches where I got to take the lead, or at least not run from the very back of the pack.  That’s ok – all of these friends are remarkable in many ways but without exception are phenomenal runners.  Many regularly contend for top spots in competitive races around the country and beyond.  So, when I am feeling strong enough to run in front of anyone, however briefly, I go for it.

I'm enormous!  And super fast!  Somehow I sneaked in front of Alberto and Silke but that never lasts long.  Credit: Ryan Smith

I’m enormous! And super fast! Somehow I sneaked in front of Alberto and Silke but that never lasts long. Credit: Ryan Smith

Three runs and 36 mountain miles into the weekend without a shower, we took a dip in Twin Lakes.  Best guess was the water was in the low 40s, which is just about the temperature where one’s balls try to escape through the spinal cord.  But, it did feel good to be marginally cleaner, at least with less visible filth.  Back to the campground for change of clothes and downtime (because, you know, this sorta life is pretty stressful).

Run hard, drink hard, sit hard.  Telling stories and fables.   Credit: Alberto Rossi

Run hard, drink hard, sit hard. Telling stories and fables.
Credit: Alberto Rossi

It really wasn’t all running, which is good, since I rarely get dropped as quickly just standing on a beach.

The whole crew, minus Neeraj, plus one of the countless (ok, 4) dogs on the trip.

The whole crew, minus Neeraj, plus some of the countless (ok, 4) dogs on the trip. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Back to the van for another remarkably solid night of sleep, then back up in the morning for – wait for it – another run!  We were a smaller group since some of the folks had to return to something approaching real life.  Those who remained got in about 14 miles on the Colorado Trail.

Much of the running above about 11,000' was fairly exposed but plenty of our days were spent winding through Aspens and pines.  Beautiful, serene, the kind of scene that almost helps you forget how bad you smell.

Much of the running above about 11,000′ was fairly exposed but plenty of our days were spent winding through Aspens and pines. Beautiful, serene, the kind of scene that almost helps you forget how bad you smell. Credit: Ryan Smith

Returning home Sunday afternoon, I actually pulled over at a scenic spot along Highway 70 and slept in the van (again) for about 90 minutes.  Mostly, I was just beat and wanted to be safe.  But partly I just didn’t want the weekend to be completely over.  In 3 days I got to run about 50 miles with ~24,000′ of elevation change, all at high altitude, with friends I admire, in perfect weather, with great food.  That’s hard to beat.

After taking Monday off from running, I was eager to test a little more yesterday (Tuesday).  A little too eager, given the high Boulder temps near 100 degrees.  Nonetheless, I headed out and got in 5 mostly solo hours over 18 hilly miles, hitting a couple of the iconic Boulder peaks (Flagstaff and Green, each from base to peak) along with some road and creek path mixed in.  Along the way, at the tail end of the creek path route with some friends, I was introduced to adventure sports legend, Ian Adamson, who seemed unhappy with my shoes and offered me some unsolicited but surely accurate running advice.  Very cool.   Shortly after, I met Paul Hooge as I climbed Flagstaff and we hung out to the summit, back to the base, then back up the frontside of Green, where he dropped me.  But, a huge thanks to Paul for twice letting me use his Steripen to refill my water bottle from some streams, thereby allowing me to continue while diminishing my chances of a giardia-packed gut.

Alrighty.  Time to get back at it.  The Leadville 100 is just nine weeks out, which means less than two months of real training left.  Races June 22 (60k in TX), June 29 (Leadville Marathon), and July 14 (Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler) should be good tests but it’ll be the days in between that will make the difference.

My most boring post ever?

This one is just to get caught up on the last month, mostly for my biggest fan, my dad.  I’m more focused on running than writing and short on time for both so this one is photo-free and without any attempt to entertain.  How’s that for engaging the readership?

While the last few weeks are far from record-setting by any measure, it was a good start to the June-July Leadville 100 build-up.  I’ve been focusing more on vertical gain than total mileage which is, I think, making me slower all around.  But, it is also making me stronger and better-prepared (I hope) for the rigors of a real mountain 100-miler.  Racing in the “Colorado-flat” Greenland 50k, followed by a rugged, mountainous Quadrock 50-miler and this past weekend’s uber-hilly Dirty 30 50k, all in less than the last month, is good for establishing where I am.  I underperformed at each race, which doesn’t look good on paper but that wasn’t the point.  I enjoyed each race with enough energy for a strong finish, didn’t have any issues (falls, bonks, etc), and recovered quickly from each.

As I’ve often said over the last year, Colorado running is a different league.  I’ve gone from consistent top 15-20 overall positions in Texas ultras – with some quality top 10s – to very much a mid-packer here, even as I’ve improved.  The quality of the “average” runner here is unlike anywhere else in the world outside of east Africa and the old “just finishing is an accomplishment” is starting to have some meaning to me.  I do very much appreciate the health, lifestyle, and support of family and friends that allow me to see what I’m able to do on the trails, even if that means I’ll finish most races after my training buddies have already changed clothes, eaten a meal, and taken a nap.

Now it’s crunch time.  My general plan is to run a whole lot of mountain trail, rest a little, and do it again for the next 8 weeks before a pretty sharp taper to make sure I’m fully rested heading into Leadville.  I have two more races – the Leadville Marathon and the Silver Rush 50-miler (also in Leadville) but expect 12-15 long runs over the next two months.  I’m back to sleeping in my altitude tent, currently set to simulate about 8400′ with plans to move up to 10-11k’ over the summer.

I’m planning on a 2-3 day trip up to Leadville this weekend and fitting in high country trips with any friends I who can spare the time and are willing to gather me up when I fall off the training pace.  More than anything, I’m focused on enjoying the process.  And there are 8,000′ mountains right out my window as I type from the house, which is pretty hard to beat.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Boulder Dad + Run Blog Catch-up

Yesterday I did something I’ve been looking forward to for, well, kind of forever.  I hiked with my kid to the top of a legit mountain.  To be fair, we drove halfway up but it was still a HUGE effort for 6-year-old legs.  The route to the summit of Green Mountain, overlooking the Boulder valley to the east and dozens of snow-capped peaks to the west, was only 1.64 miles but it is almost entirely up hill.

A rare, unprompted hug just because:

Image 3

“Up hill” is hard to put in perspective for those who don’t live in the mountains.  Over that relatively short stretch, we climbed roughly 1500′, all on trail, most of it technical (rocky, rooty, angled) and almost all covered with a combination of ice, snow, slush, and/or mud. Even for adults, even in dry weather, the climb is a tough one.  There are parts where it is steep enough to grab onto trees or rocks to scramble upwards.  And he did it!  I surprised Sagan with some cake at the top, where he repeatedly made the final Big Rock climb to the summit marker.

Cake eater:

Image 2 Image 1

“Big Rock” (probably has a real, more stately name but I don’t know it) at the Green Mt. summit:

Big Rock

Once we summited, of course we had to make our way back down.  The return, in dry conditions, has tricky sections but is fairly quick to navigate.  With the conditions and lack of any solid footing (I made the mistake of going sans “traction” – the metal mini-crampon stuff that make ice/snow a little less slippery), we had to battle our way back down.  In spots, I had to swing Sagan over ice-covered rocks; most of the way down we held hands.  We figured out an effective method whereby I’d cross my hands behind my back and he’d hold both hands, using my body for balance and leverage.  It was kind of awesome.

With light-up kid shoes with kid-worn soles, it was a sometimes frustrating and entirely exhausting effort for Sagan but he had a good attitude.  He even ran some short dry sections in both directions.  By the end, after 2 hours and 32 minutes moving time, a 3.3 miles round-trip with over 3000′ of elevation change, he was a zombie.  But, no tears, almost no complaining, and mega, well-earned pride, enhanced by the many sincere compliments he received from other hikers (all adults, we saw no other kids of any age the entire trip).  He is a bad-ass kid and I couldn’t love him more.

I have another kid I’m quite fond of but she’s usually doing this:

Story

—-

I’ve also been running.  Not much inspiration but I’m starting to get my head and heart into ultra mode again.  My previous blog post was right before heading out for the High Line Canal FatAss run.  I made it through reasonably well, covering about 59 miles in just over 13 hours.  It was flat and felt like it lasted 3 days.  Much of it I ran solo – the event had quite a few runners but each had their own goals and many we either running shorter portions much more quickly or doing out-and-backs from places along the route.  “Sherpa” John LaCroix, the organizer and only person to cover the entire 64ish miles of the run, amazed me with his determination and good will.

The High Line Canal run was my 4th event in John’s 2013 Winter Expeditions FatAss Runs.  I was surprised that, with the exception of John, I covered more total miles over the series than any of the 52 participants (full series results).  None of these were races – for time or distance, but it was nice to be recognized by John, who emailed:

Congrats to Mike Randall!
Mike ran the most HP Miles this winter with 147. He wins this winters Human Potential Prize pack which includes some PowerBar Product, a Human Potential Hat or Visor, and some other nifty things I’ll dig up in my garage.

For full disclosure, this DOES NOT MEAN I’m the top runner in the group – many of the men and women are top notch ultrarunners who ran only an event or two – but I did run the most within the scheduled series, which I still think is pretty cool.

I’ve had a few other big days out recently, including my first race of 2013 this past Saturday.  Out at the Greenland 50k I ran ok, finishing the four loops of smooth, flat (for CO), wide open trails in a respectable 5:07.  I think I took it too easy for the first 20 miles, not wanting to push at all in what was supposed to be an “easy” long run.  I now wonder how much faster I could have gone, given ideal weather and friendly course, but I’m kind of proud that I held back as planned and now, two days later with yesterday’s hearty hike in between, I feel physically and mentally ready to get back at it.  But, with the QuadRock 50-miler (11k’ climbing!) just 5 days away, I’ll be taking it easy all week so I’m somewhat fresh for that big ol’ challenge.

At Greenland 50k, almost naked…

Big spring and summer ahead, with 5 more ultras already scheduled, culminating in the Leadville 100.  I’m planning on running long quite a bit, resting a bit more in between, focusing more on ascent than mileage, and generally enjoying the mountains without putting much stress on myself.  I’d love to break 25 hours at Leadville (fewer than 10% of those who start the race do so) but I’m realizing that any finish there is and should remain my primary – and secondary – goal.  To that end, I need to be sure my body and mind are ready to just keep going and I’ll train accordingly.

I’m not sure how much run blogging I’ll be doing in the next few months.  Could have stretches where I pop on here daily, or maybe I’ll next update in late August.  Life is busy and good, with the move nearly finalized, many great, supportive friends, and some interesting summer to-dos with the family.  I think I’ll drink more beer, too.

The High Line Canal 100k tomorrow

Well, this’ll be something different.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be joining a handful of hearty souls to run a route along the High Line Canal FatAss “100k”, a trip of 62 or 63 or 64 miles, depending on whose distance is used.  In any case, it is really long, really flat, and nearly all paved stretch through Denver.  It is a major departure from mountain trail running I’ve been doing and there’s no telling how my body will respond.  It’ll be only the second time I’ve run over 52 miles (the first being last October’s Cactus Rose 100-miler) but I don’t think I’ve ever run over marathon distance entirely on pavement.  Chances of falling are greatly reduced, chances of screaming knees are nearly 100%.  Aid stations are wherever we cross paths with convenience stores.

Report to follow…

Sagan with oreo:

Oreo face

 

 

Winter in Boulder

It seems quite a chunk of time has passed since I’ve done any run blogging.  I’m ok with it.  A few times over the last couple of years I’ve felt guilty not posting more often but I now realize that is pure ridiculousness.  The simple truth is that we all have the same amount of time in the day and writing about my outdoor adventures just hasn’t been a high priority, or maybe a priority at all.  But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting out there.

This sometimes happens:

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There is a great misunderstanding about mountain climate among non-front rangers,  those unfortunate souls who life outside of the utopian weather bubble that straddles the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  Most people think mountains and equate winter with some frozen, frigid hell.  Not the case here in Boulder.  We’ll have a 2-3 day stretch of legit cold, sometimes accompanied by a few inches of snow, then, BOOM, right back to spring.  The legend of year-round sun is holding up and there have been quite a few days in January and February where I’m out on the trails in shorts, worried that I might be overheating a bit. No joke.

My winter, so far, has been an athletic mix.  I’ve cut back quite a bit on the running, both frequency (3-5 times a week) and duration (runs of more than a couple hours have been rare) but I’ve added in some more intensity (running uphill, faster-paced stuff) and have gotten back to more strength and core work.  I’ve gotten in maybe a dozen sessions on the indoor rower, some circuits, and am returning to my push-ups and pull-ups throughout the day.

Gotta stay fit to be able to handle this:

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Thanks to John Lacroix’s “Fat Ass” events, I’ve gotten some adventurous, mountain trail time.  More on those on my Races and Journey Runs page but, in short, John organizes interesting, challenging routes, usually with lots of technical and vertical trail, often longer than advertised, and we start out as a group and see how long we can go before getting lost, too tired to continue, or otherwise deterred.  Many of the events have only a few finishers, and in some nobody finishes the proscribed course.  I’ve had my ass handed to me on each of the runs but finished the three I started, in respectable fashion if I do say so.  Other than those, which take us all over the place, my running has been fairly tame as I stick to the more familiar, local trails in and immediately around Boulder.

I joined the Boulder Track Club’s newest sub-group, the “Mountain-Ultra-Trail” (MUTs) runners.  The leader of BTC is Lee Troop, multi-time Olympian in the marathon, and super nice, supportive guy.  Friend (and realtor) Greg Nash is the MUTs coach and a few of my local run buddies are part of the group.  The group trains twice a week – and by “train” I mean runs so fast that I am immediately at the back of every session.  I attended a few tempo runs and a couple of hill repeat sessions and, while I certainly got in good workouts, I found that it isn’t for me.  At least not for now.  There is a ton of value in doing hard efforts, even as an “ultra” runner, and I am continuing to incorporate intensity in my runs at least a time or two each week.  But, with the MUTs, I was unquestionably the slowest person in the group, always finishing a 3-4 mile run in last place, often 4-6+ minutes behind the front-runners.  It is worth noting that I’m the slowest person, not the slowest guy, as the women in the group also smoke me.  It was demoralizing but, more importantly, I wasn’t really doing anything I couldn’t do on my own (running really hard, essentially by myself).  Since I wasn’t adding to the group and found myself coming home dejected, I’ve backed off and plan to return only if/when there is a bit more diversity in the, uh, “talent” of the runners within the group.

Lee Troop, winning the Austin Marathon last week:

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So, I’m back to doing my own thing.  I meet up with a motley crew of runners on a day to day basis – some friends who compete with some level of seriousness (but not in training), a cadre of former elites who now have a lot more going on in their lives than running and, thus, are happy to run easy with a laser focus on the social end of the experience, and random stragglers who come out for group runs.

And there’s a lot happening outside of running.  Story is walking and quite proud of herself.  She has teeth and eats anything we let her (broccoli and brussel sprouts are among her favorites).  Sagan is the perfect kid age – bubbling over with excitement over Legos and snow and, most recently, episodes from the original Twilight Zone.  He already is growing up enough to be too manly to bring stuffed animals to school on “stuffie day” and always wants the door locked when changing clothes but he’s kid enough to cherish snuggle time.  I’ve directed much of my energy to business pursuits, which I’m enjoying for the first time in years.  And Al and I are in full-on re-nesting mode, with the imminent closing on the new house and all that goes with the transition.

These are mine:

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Life is good, maybe the best it has been in many years.  2013 is shaping up to be a whirlwind of activity, travel, adventure, and growth.  I’m ready to go get it.  (For full disclosure, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee today so the enthusiasm might be overstated.)

 

 

 

 

2013: Mountain Man Plan

For those who NEED a chronological accounting of my more noteworthy racing and training days, you now have just the resource!  I’ve added a page to the blog called Races & Journey Runs.  It outlines pretty much all of my races and a wholly subjective list of other runs I think are kinda cool.

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Facial hair makes me feel manly and mountainy.  Mountainy manly.  Rugged and authentic.  Except when it makes me feel like a total skeezy poser wannabee.   But, I’ve been working really hard not to shave and now have something approaching a proper ultra-beard (and totally proper wife and baby):

Not sure how to grow the mustache part.

Not sure how to grow the mustache part.

I haven’t widely discussed my 2013 plans and goals.  Well, I’ve probably discussed them more than Alison and a few Boulder friends would like to hear but otherwise I’ve been pretty quiet.  Basically within 24 of finishing the Cactus Rose 100 miler I had decided I (still) liked running far on trail but I’ve wanted to take it relatively easy for the rest of 2012.  I needed to recover, recharge, and focus on time with family.  I’ll continue to do so for a while, getting exercise most days but not exactly training.  More time in the gym to get stronger (I’ve come to really like the rowing machine), a little more faster-paced running, skipping the 4am wake-ups to run up the mountains in the dark.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m without focus and it doesn’t mean I’m not looking ahead.  Big picture is to just kind of play around over the winter and into the spring.  Some skiing, snow shoeing, social running, and roughly one long (5-12 hr) run per month.  Maybe even throw in some swimming and certainly lots of steep hiking.  Somewhat low mileage running – perhaps 30-50 per week most weeks – to allow more flexibility and variety.

Come May, the build-up begins for my 2nd shot at the 100-mile distance: the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 on August 17-18.  However, I no longer want to train for many months for a single event.  I could get sick, I could get injured, and other life circumstances might get in the way.  So, for the first time ever, I’ve set up a significant series of events, a season of training and racing, to keep me motivated and excited about the steps along the way.  I’ve put together a spreadsheet with my build-up races and longest training days, which includes 5  organized mountain races between marathon and 50mi, as well as a good bunch of long group training runs and lots of time at 10,000-13,000 ft.  I’ll have a legit challenge every 1-2 weeks May through July to get me fit for a solid effort at Leadville.  I’m kinda excited.

The Month Since My First 100-Mile Run

Pretty much all of life as we experience it comes down to chemicals and current.  Hormones and enzymes and neurons reacting to electrical pulses.  That sort of stuff.  All of what we are and all of what we do are affected.  Ours moods and motivations, our literal and figurative hungers, our desires and, ultimately, our relative level of contentment.

After a really, really demanding physical challenge, I’ve heard there can be a few weeks immediately following where, due to a stressed nervous system and fatigued endocrine system, a guy can  get all sorts of weird.  I’m superhuman, however, as I’ve been told quite a few times since hobbling to the finish of my race, so there was no reason to fear such a post-race psycho-physiological collapse.  In fact, I was back to running after just 3 days off.  And just a week removed from my nearly-28-hour run, I was hanging with my Boulder trail buddies for a 9+ miler.  Back to 40+ mile weeks 1 and 2 weeks after the race.

Then it hit me.  Aches from nothing.  Shortness of breath just walking around.  Low level depression that I couldn’t shake – even with espresso.  And, as readers of this blog might have noticed, a lapse in motivation that extended to even putting thoughts into the computer.  Thanksgiving week, spent in St. Louis, was particularly rough.  After what I’d say was my first run of any quality since the race – a 9-miler with Josh Wallach that included some tempo – I kinda fell apart.  After falling asleep  at 5pm on Tuesday, in all my clothes (flannel shirt and jeans and wool socks) and shivering for a couple hours under 3 layers of bedding, I knew I was over-extended.  Alison (again, as always) was great, allowing me to sleep guilt-free for nearly 15 hours in an 18-hour stretch, which started the turnaround.  I squeezed in a couple of lackluster runs to try to shake myself out of the funk, ending the STL trip with a walk-through effort in the multi-decade Friday-after-Thanksgiving football game.  [As an aside, I’m thinking that my now-150-something-pound frame isn’t all too well suited to O-line and certainly isn’t ideal for pass-rushing.]

Good news is that I’m back to Boulder and getting back to myself mentally.  On Sunday I made my return to running long with a 25-mile, 6-hour mountain run with something close to 7000′ of climbing.  It was the first in a really cool non-race 2013 Winter Expedition Series of Fat-Ass (group run) event where like-minded folks suffer and celebrate together, free of charge, over 10 or 25 or, in one event to come, up to 62 miles on the trails.  The dedicated organizer, Sherpa John, even put together a video of the outing and compiled results from the day:

Here are the results from Sunday’s Brass Knuckle
Starters: 27
Finishers: 14
% Finishing Rate: 52%
Goshawk Milers: 11
Hopefully you all can see this chart.
Name Where From? Goshawk? Y/N Approximate Miles
(If you did not run all)
Finish Time
Engineer, Neeraj Broomfield Y 25 5:08
Harsh, Rob Boulder Y 25 5:56
Randall, Mike Austin, TX Y 25 5:56
Weiss, Elizabeth Boulder Y 25 5:56
Lassen, Ryan Boulder Y 25 5:56
Kingrey, Kyle Loveland Y 25 6:00
Sablik, Anna Denver Y 25 6:05
Salvesen, Greg Boulder Y 25 6:06
Sherpa John Thornton Y 25 6:06
Pfiel, Terri Boulder Y 25 6:07
Ahlers, Bill Arvada N 24 3:00
Dean, Corky Golden N 24 4:45
Zenzinger, Ted Arvada N 24 4:58
Grady, Mike Boulder N 24 4:59
Blatecky, Andy Boulder N 21.4 5:16
Friedman, Jeff Grand Junction N 21 5:21
Olsen, Walter Littleton N 21 5:21
Frederick, Chrissy Denver N 15 3:27
Evans, Amy Westminster N 14 3:28
Linney, Jessica Erie N 14 3:28
Durst, Dennis Aurora N 12 4:33
Coffman, Danni Montana N 10.4 2:48
Smiley-Coker Jenn Denver N 10.4 2:48
Zajac, Val Thornton N 10.4 2:48
Armstrong, Jerry Broomfield N 9 2:30
Williams, Brad Golden Y 8 1:28
Johnson-Cline, Jenn Thornton N 6 ??

 

I got lots of time in my head, wondering in the early miles if I was ready for such a long day.  But after the first 10 miles or so I came alive and very much enjoyed the running and conversation.  The time went much faster once I got to chatting with Greg Salvesen (9th place at the Cactus Rose 100), Liz Weiss (likely the best trail-runner in the group), Rob Harsh (Eco-Challenge and Primal Quest adventure sport veteran with more inspiring stories than time to tell them), and a handful of others, all with good attitudes and strong legs.

My full motivation isn’t roaring back yet but I am excited to get back at training.  I haven’t locked in any specific new goals or signed up for any races yet but I’m ready to start thinking about what comes next.  More importantly, I’m getting out of bed looking forward to the day, nothing hurts, and the mountains out the window are calling.

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Quick notes:

A guy I know a little, Jake Zmrhal, just ran around Mount Kilimanjaro.  Congrats!

Over the weekend ultra-running couple friends/superstars, Silke and Ryan, ran all the way across the Grand Canyon, turned around, and ran all the way back, in an adventure run known in ultra circles as the “rim to rim to rim” (R2R2R).  They covered the nearly 50 miles in “something like 10:20 running time and 12:15 total time”.  That’s really moving, as most people who I know (who are also pretty talented runners) take many hours longer.  I expect a full report will be posted soon at http://www.dirtproof.co.uk/.

Congrats to Greg and Julie Nash on adding some more ballast to the running stroller.  Sarah Lynn Nash was born November 19.

While 100-mile races are still largely under the radar for the general public, and even many runners, there is one that is king of them all.  The Western States 100 Endurance Run is the one that has made it into the mainstream, at least a little.  It is one of the oldest trail races around and, I think, the first organized 100-miler.  It draws the most prestigious field of runners, has been the backdrop for multiple documentaries, has gotten tv coverage, and features a point-to-point course that has, in the same race on the same day, had thigh-deep snow and triple-digit heat.  It has a very limited field and tight qualification standards.  Since I was able to qualify at the Hells Hills 50-miler in April, I figured I’d toss my name into the lottery.  Chances of getting in are mid-single digits but there’s at least a chance.  And it I do get in, oh boy.  I’ll know on December 8.