Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bergen Peak Double

Time:  4:15
Distance: 22.62 miles
Effort: Easy Pace/Hard Effort
Body: Poor


Every once in a while a run just hurts. I'm not talking about the occasional bad day where things just don't click and you get through it. I'm talking about one of those runs where survival is about the best one can hope for.

Today was one of those days.

The morning started off pretty leisurely...breakfast, The New York Times, goofin' with the kids. A far cry from the up-at-dawn long runs I've been doing most weekends. My plan for the day was two circuits up Bergen Peak, the high point in JeffCo's Elk Meadow Open Space. Knowing I wanted to get in 24 miles or so, I decided to run the Bergen Peak Trail Race route twice, once clockwise (the race route) and once counter-clockwise.

I left the house feeling a bit off, mentally and physically. It was cold, cloudy and windy at 10 a.m. when I left the house. I just didn't have much desire to run this morning in those conditions. Still, I found the motivation in the recognition that I only had a couple more long runs to prepare for the Moab 50K next month. So, out the door I went.

I parked at the upper lot at Elk Meadow, figuring I would use the truck as an aid station. I set off for the first 11.5 mile loop with a belly full of water and a gel in my pocket. I headed down the Sleepy S trail to the lower lot and began the long climb up Painters Pause. About 1/4 mile into the trail, the wind picked up, blowing straight into my face. The steady onslaught made it feel like I had to run just to keep from being blown backwards. The New York Times was calling.

After the trail turned west toward the mountain, the hills provided some relief from the wind. The trail soon turned upwards and I hit the turn-off for the Too Long trail. I made steady progress up this trail and was greeted by five mountain bikers out tackling the alternately clear, then icy trail. I was surprised to see bikers on the trail. Conditions were far from optimal. For a runner, traction wasn't required, especially on the ascent. But, I'd hate to be a biker coming down some of those icy stretches.

I hit the Bergen Peak summit sign in about 1:15, (by best time for the whole round trip on the race route from this summer was something like 1:33...I was puttering up the hill today) sucked down a gel and returned to my car via the Bergen Peak and Meadow View trails.

After a quick refueling, I retraced the route I took down from the summit, climbing the Bergen Peak trail and the summit trail Again, I tagged the summit sign, sucked down a gel and headed back down, this time via the Too Long trail.

I felt pretty good on the descent...all the way down to the lowest point on the trail, just below the lower lot. The slog back up Sleepy S to the upper lot about did me in. This was the survival part. I wanted to be done. The fun was over. I just focused on constant-forward-motion, knowing I could and would finish running, not walking.

Four hours and 15 minutes after I started, I was back at my truck and done. I survived.

Here's to feeling a hell of a lot better on race day (any race day!).

Elevation gain: 4,996. Average pace: 11:16. Average HR: 144.


  1. Jim - I hate days like these. Actually, I know there will be days like these - what I really hate is not knowing why they happen. Any insight on that? I think if you can begin to identify that stuff then it can be a way to better avoid such a build up to race day.

  2. GZ - I was looking yesterday for an answer to that question. I wondered...what was different today? Poor nutrition? Not enough sleep? A harder route? I couldn't put my finger on one thing. I think it was a combination. For me yesterday, motivation, I think, was a big factor. I just wasn't looking forward to the run. I usually do. So, perhaps it was more mental than anything.

    As much as I hate runs like this, they are useful from a mental standpoint. They show you can can endure...push through walls...survive. That's probably a good thing to be reminded of, no matter the race distance one is focusing on.

    So, I'll chalk it up to a learning experience and try to keep an eye on all the variables to see if I can figure out next time what made a particular run so lousy (or so good).

    If I figure it out...I'll shout it to the wind!

  3. Funny...I just sent you an email seeing if you would by chance be available for a Wed morning run up Bergen. Wouldn't blame you one bit if you weren't up for it...

    Way to persevere!