Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View Loop

Another steady run around the home trails. 

Time: 49 minutes
Distance: 5.89 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Hot & Sunny

Late afternoon run from the house around the Meadow View Loop at Elk Meadow Open Space.

As I was headed down the Sleepy S Trail, I saw a runner about a quarter-mile ahead running strong. I thought I recognized the gate, so I picked up the pace to see if it was who I thought it was. Turns out, it wasn't.  As I was passing the guy, he mentioned he was recovering...from the Pikes Peak Ascent no less.

Turns out the guy, Chuck, was an an age group winner in the 65-70 age group. We ran together for about a mile, chatting about the race and other racing plans. His daughter also ran the race (and beat him by a bit). It's cool to think that one day I might be running a race with one or both of my adult kids. Congrats, Chuck, on a damn solid (and first-ever) Pikes Peak Ascent.

I left Chuck right where the trail begins the slog up to the intersection with the Too Long Trail. I cruised the rest of the way at a steady pace in order to get home in time to get cleaned up and over to a local church for the monthly Mountain Area Land Trust board meeting.

I noted today that JeffCo Open Space is doing a lot of forest management work on the southeast corner of the park. They are removing a lot of small diameter trees, mistletoe-infested trees and a number of really nice, large ponderosas. I'd love to know the criteria they use for determining what trees to remove. I wonder whether some decisions are driven by wanting to ensure the contractor has a certain amount of merchantable timber to sell to offset some of the project's costs. They are taking out some really big trees right next to the trail. It's weird to see how the views and feel of an area changes after big trees you've been running by for eight years no longer are standing. I'm sure I'll quickly adjust to the new scenery, but it may take a few runs...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Flatiron Vista - Steady

First run post-Pikes Peak double weekend. Eager to get out on the trails and moving again.

Time: 1:06
Distance: 8.53 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Average
Weather: Hot & Sunny

After two days off following the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, I was starting to exhibit some trailrunning withdrawal symptoms...difficulty walking on pavement, twitchy leg muscles...etc... So, fortunately, the anodyne for this condition is simple and straight-forward: singletrack.

On the way home from work in Boulder, I stopped off at the convenient Flatiron Vista trailhead off Highway 93. After a quick change of clothes, I was heading off up the rocky dirt road bound for the Dowdy Draw trail. From the start, the legs felt a bit heavy with some residual weekend fatigue.

By the time I hit the gate just before the trail drops down the the west side of the open space, things were clicking. As I began the descent, I cruised by Tim L., who was running strong uphill. Was hoping to see him on the way back for a more proper hello, but he was on a different route, no doubt.

I followed Dowdy Draw and did a loop via the Spring Brook North and South trails. I ran up the north part of the loop, which offers one of the best views of the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon around.

After the loop, I retraced my steps back up to the Flatiron Vista area, hung a right and ran through the woods then back down to the truck.

I was pretty happy with this run, one I did earlier this summer. That time, I ran it pretty hard in 1:06. I ran it today at a moderate pace (two days after a marathon) and was just two minutes slower.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pikes Peak Marathon - Quick Update

Twas a tale of two cities out on Pikes Peak today.

The first tale 'tis one of struggling on the ascent. Literally walked 97 percent of it from Barr Camp on up. Legs just had no pep...none whatsoever. Calves seemingly from No Name Creek up felt like they were on the verge of cramping.  Summited in something like 3:18. Not good.

The second tale 'tis one of running well downhill. I was passed by three runners on the while running, two while making a quick pitstop behind a tree. Passed them all at the Barr Camp aid station and vowed not to be passed again. I wasn't. Picked off 10-15 runners on the descent, including two in the last mile while barreling down Ruxton.

Results: 5:11; 36th place; 2nd in age group; 6th best cumulative doubler time, right behind Mr. Steady (also right behind him in the age group!).

Satisfied with how things turned out, but can't help but imagine how much better it would have been had I summited 10-15 minutes faster.  Maybe next year.

Full race report in a day or two.

Overall...a fabulous weekend, and not just for the running. Spending the time w/ JP, jP and CP was priceless, as was absorbing the running/race vibe for two straight days and spending time chatting up running friends and running strangers.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pikes Peak Ascent - Quick Update

Managed a Pikes Peak Ascent PR, summiting in 2:56:30 and knocking 10 minutes or so off my previous best.  Came in 66th overall. I achieved my 3-hour goal (although I had hopes of breaking 2:50, or at least coming closer to it...still, I'm very pleased to have the 3-hour monkey off my back). Had a lot of calf cramping the last two miles - both calves. Never had that problem before. Saw some pics that Justin M. took near the top (see pics #99-102). The grimace on my face said it all. The cramping hurt.

Just saw online that I will get an age group award at the awards banquet this evening. I think I got fourth in the 40-44 age group - the same place/award as last year. 

Really enjoying running into familiar faces today...including, so far, Jim M., GZ, Homie, JV.

More later...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pikes Peak Goals & the Big Race Weekend

Tomorrow marks the first day of the two-day Pikes Peakalooza down Manitou way. I'm doubling-up on the weekend, running the Ascent on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. I've been thinking a fair bit about goals for each race. The Ascent is where I intend to work the hardest, just taking what comes with the Marathon. That said, I still will bust my a** to get down the mountain as fast as I can on Sunday.

The trail from Manitou Spring to the top of Pikes Peak is on the Barr Trail

For the Ascent, I want t break three hours. Missed it by seven minutes last year, after blowing up at Barr Camp. I hope I learned a few things from that experience and will ease up through the Ws and on the short, steep climb out of No Name Creek. Great post from GZ on Pikes Peak lessons learned here. I intend to take those lessons to heart and see what happens.

On the Marathon, I think I predicted a finishing time of 4:45 when I registered. I completely pulled that time out of thin air in the rush to register. I had never even thought about it. I ran up and down the mountain in July in 5:07, starting about a half-mile from the official start line (and jumped on the Barr Trail at the official trailhead, pausing a number of times to take pictures). So, we'll see how close to 4:45 I can get.

My most ambitious race-weekend goal is a bit more daunting, a challenge that may test my mettle in ways it has never before been tested. I want to have a least one of my Marathon Foto race pictures feature yours truly running with his mouth closed! I know this may sound daunting, but what the hell, goals should require pushing one's limits, eh?

The Weekend

This weekend is probably Colorado's biggest trailrunning race weekend all year. Between Leadville, the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon and the start of the three- and six-day TransRockies stage race, a lot of folks I know and follow will be running and putting it all out on the line. Good luck to all the runners testing their mettle in the glorious hills of Colorado.  Some of the folks I'll be following:


Brandon F. - Pursuing the big buckle granted to sub-25 hour finishers at the Leadville 100. Got to be one of the most organized and mentally ready 100-mile rookies out there.

JT - He and Brandon have been trash-talking all summer on who will finish. A great bit of competitive drama to add to the drama of getting oneself across 100 miles of roads and trails at over 10K elevation.

Tim W. - The best trained guy around. Can he keep his head in the race and use that training to bust out an impressive finish in his debut 100-miler?  I say yes.

Tony K. - Back to Leadville, no doubt in pursuit of a course record. It should be cooler out this year.

Shad M. - Looking to complete his first 100-miler, after dropping at 76 miles at last year's Leadville 100.

And, there's a host of talented runners out pacing at Leadville this year, each also will have great stories to tell, including Todd G., Footfeathers and JP.

Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon

Nick C. - Big year. Now, off to the Pikes Peak Marathon. A strong race is assured. How high will he place?

GZ - No one better articulates the lure of Pikes Peak than George. He's taken a more Zen (for him) approach to the race this year. Will that translate to a PR and no trips to the medical tent?

JV - Remarkable mountain runner whose easy jogs up Boulder's Green Mountain's best my tongue-dragging PR by multiple minutes. Doesn't race too much. Will he exceed his own expectations?

Jim M. - He's doubling at Pikes again this year.  Great PR on the Ascent last year.  More to come this year.

Woody - a fellow newbie(ish) to the ultrarunner world. Been running well all summer and is looking to drop significant minutes from last years PPM time.

JM - Coming off a big American at the London Marathon, pacing Nick C. to an amazing finish at Western States. There's a lot of competition in the PPM this year. Will all the road running translate again into a top-five finish at the PPM?

So many good little time. Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View Loop - Easy

This one just felt...sublime. Easy run on the trails with a good friend. Marveling at the fact that in mid-August Elk Meadow is still green. 

Time:  47 minutes
Distance: 5.09 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny & still warm

Another easy jog around the Meadow View loop in Elk Meadow Open Space. This time with DW, a good friend and former neighbor. Hung at the parking lot imbibing a Ska Brewing Company Modus Hoperendi and watching the runners, hikers and bikers returning to the parking lot. 

All is right in the world.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View - Easy

Another uneventful, boring taper week easy run on the home trails of Elk Meadow Open Space

Time:  44 minutes
Distance: 4.72 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny & cool

I am officially ready for the Pikes Peak weekend to arrive. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quarterhorse - Dog Park - Elk Meadow Loop - Easy

A five-day float on the Green River forced a pre-Pikes taper. Back into it today with an easy run on a local route.

Time:  40 minutes
Distance: 4.44 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Partly cloudy & cool

Easy mid-evening run from the house over to Quarterhorse Road. Looped around the Elk Meadow dog park and returned home via a shortcut through a local neighborhood. Did a couple of hill fartleks in the middle to get the heart rate up and a post-trip feel for climbing hard. Feet felt surprisingly light today.

Not wild about taking those days off so close to the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon this weekend. That said, wouldn't trade those days on the river with J, the kids, the S Family from SLC and Shaun M. for the world.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bergen Peak - Upper Loop

Did one minute hard - one minute easy intervals up the Bergen Peak Trail, then moderate for the rest of the loop.

Time:  1:19
Distance: 8.26 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Partly cloudy & cool

Figured one more hard run before taking a few days vacation and in advance of the Pikes double weekend was in order.

From the house, made my way over to the Sleepy S trail in the Elk Meadow Open Space and ran moderate to the intersection with the Bergen Peak Trail. Climbed Bergen Peak Trail alternating one minute hard, then one minute easy en route to the high point on the peak's upper loop.

Felt strong the whole way. 

Ran moderately hard down Too Long Trail and on the early part of Meadow View, then picked it up and ran low 6s and high 5s chasing down mountain bikers.  Cooled down on Sleepy S and jogged it back home from there.

Nice mental boost to run the one-on, one-off well. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View Super Loop

A very nice recovery run on the damp trails of Elk Meadow Open Space.

Time:  1:10
Distance: 7.67 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Cloudy, raining and cool

Easy evening run around the Meadow View loop at Elk Meadow. Added on a nice a social trail bit around Troublesome Gulch. 

I stopped in a few place to replace large rocks put in place earlier this month by trail crews to keep people from riding around waterbars. Someone, presumably mountain bikers, had dug up and moved the rocks to make the trail easier to navigate (and more likely to erode, as a result).

This is a pet peeve of mine. I mean, who stops riding long enough to dig up and move a hundred-pound rock? I used to mountain bike a lot. Rocks were what made mountain biking fun...a challenge. If I wanted to ride on a totally smooth trail (I never did), I'd go to the Highline Canal or one of Boulder's paved bike paths. What's more, my eight and nine year old kids have been able to ride the full trail for a couple of years...with the rocks and waterbars in place! And, I know it's not elementary school-aged kids moving these rocks. So, who could it be? Obviously someone with a bit of extra trail time on their hands...and someone who has never built a foot of trail themselves. Man, I feel better now.

Back to the run...

Finished the run in yet another late-summer thunderstorm, this one with raindrops big enough to make me wonder if I was being pelted by hail.

Ended up back at the house dripping wet and happy to feel so strong following yesterday's 27-miler.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pawnee - Buchanan Pass Loop - 27 miles

The Pawnee - Buchanan Pass loop in the Indian Peaks Wilderness has been on my running bucket list for several years. Finally made the time to experience this incredibly scenic 27-mile loop.

Time:  6:05
Distance: 27 miles
Effort: Hard/Long
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny & Warm

For a trailrunner, there's few things better than running on new trails through stunningly beautiful and challenging terrain. Saturday's run through the 76,000-acre Indian Peaks Wilderness offered up a heaping plateful of the new, the beautiful and the challenging.

Earlier in the week, Todd G. and I were exchanging messages about doing something long this weekend. I'd been reminded about the Pawnee-Buchanan loop by a few messages on the Boulder Trail Runners listserv and proposed we head to the high country Saturday morning to run the loop. With no hesitation, the plan was set.

Saturday morning rolled around and we met up at 4 a.m. for the drive over to the Brainard Lake area. I'd expected to find the trailhead bustling with activity, but when we arrived a bit after 5 a.m., there were only a couple of cars in the Long Lake trailhead parking area, a far, far cry from what we'd find six hours later when we returned to the trailhead after our run.

We set off just after 5:30 a.m. The sun had yet to begin striking the mountain peaks, but there was just enough light to illuminate the rock and root-strewn trail that winds its way through a relatively brief stretch of forest before climbing up to and skirting the north side of Isabelle Lake. 

Todd G. climbing up toward Isabelle Lake

Isabelle Lake from the Glacier Trail - Pawnee Pass Trail junction

From Lake Isabelle, the trail climbs steadily past treeline, up through the sub-alpine zone and into the world of rock. The climb up to Pawnee Pass is relatively moderate and completely runnable. At this early hour, we only came across two hikers on the way up to the pass.

Making out way up toward Pawnee Pass in the alpine zone.

We hit the pass in about 1:03, pausing to take a few pics and eat a bit. 

The sign at 12,550-foot Pawnee Pass.

From the top of the pass, the trail descends down the west side through a long section of rock into the Cascade Creek drainage. With Pawnee Lake below, it was constantly tempting to look up at the gorgeous view, but the tricky terrain required one's full attention.

Once out of the rock and just above the lake, the trail entered a lush meadow of wildflowers in full bloom. We looped around the north side of Pawnee Lake and began a sweet and moderate descent down the valley and hung a right onto the Cascade Creek Trail. 

Pawnee Lake on the western side of Pawnee Pass.

The trail continued down and we made good time cruising along this fine, dirt singletrack, pausing occasionally to soak up the views of the Cascade Creek's namesake waterfalls.

Just past where the Cascade Creek Trail crosses Buchanan Creek, we hit the junction with the Buchanan Pass Trail, hung a right and began the steady climb up through dense forest toward Buchanan Pass.

Like the Cascade Creek Trail, the early part of the Buchanan Pass Trail is moderate and runnable. Up a bit higher, the trail has several steep sections that had us power hiking. There were a couple of places where the dense forest gave way to big, beautiful meadows, like the one in Fox Park. With rocky, sawtooth-like peaks looming above and a thin ribbon of singletrack unfurling in front of us, the views were sublime. 

Running through Fox Park on the Cascade Creek Trail (yet another pic of Todd running well ahead!).

We managed to lose the trail one time, just after a creek crossing. We spent a good five or six minutes wandering around looking for the trail. Naturally, once we found it (right where it should be), we spent the next five or six minutes wondering how in the hell we missed it in the first place. 

After a long, final power hike through another color-explosion meadow of wildflowers, we crossed the rounded hump of Buchanan Pass. Next up was the long, rocky descent down the rest of the Buchanan Pass Trail and the Beaver Creek Trail en route to Coney Flats. All the creeks that poured down across the trail through here reminded me of what an important water factory the Indian Peaks Wilderness area is. 

Wildflower meadow just below the west side of Buchanan Pass.

Looking east from Buchanan Pass.

Looking west back up toward Buchanan Pass.

The run down from Buchanan Pass is pretty tough. There are very few sustained sections of trail without rocks, so the descent requires one's full focus. Still, we made decent time down, with Todd leading the way a minute or so ahead (as he was on most descents). 

Right as we hit the lake at the Coney Flats trailhead, I sucked the last bit of water from my hydration pack...just in time for the hottest part of the run. The Beaver Creek Trail flows through a forested area for a bit before climbing up and over an eastern shoulder of Mt. Audubon. By the time the climbing began in earnest on this section, I was parched. Without water, I'd been slacking on nutrition since I hate eating gels without a water chaser. Before I knew it,  I was in a full-on bonk, the likes of which I'd never experienced before (I'm usually very diligent about nutrition and hydration). Let the death march begin.

Finally, about mid-way up the climb over Audubon's shoulder, a small stream crossed the trail. Throwing caution to the wind, I got down on all fours and started sucking up the cold, succulent waters. With my gut filled, I started feeling a bit better and picked up the power hiking pace a bit and got myself over the final climb to the intersection with the Mt. Audubon trail.

It was here where we really started seeing the day-hiking crowds...people climbing up to the summit of 13,232-foot Mt. Audubon. After picking my way slowly through one final stretch of super-rocky trail, I picked up the pace as the trail switch-backed down toward the Mitchell Lake Trailhead. I had hopes of catching up to Todd, but my bonk had slowed me down too much and he was running too strong. 

After dumping spent gel packets in the trash and re-filling hydration bladders from the ranger's water cooler ("I bring that up with me for people that forget to bring their own water."), we ran down the road a bit, decided walking on the pavement felt better, hung a right and made our way the last quarter-mile to the Long Lake Trailhead, where it all began a little over six hours prior.

This is a challenging run. I felt pretty beat up by the end. No doubt the bonk on the last climb had an affect, as did the 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss and the rocky, but totally runnable, descents. 

It's funny...there were times, mostly in the last hour, where I would have been happy to not be running. I was hurting and wishing to be done. Fast forward to the finish and the drive home, and all those thoughts had been long-banished, replaced by recollections of soaring, ragged peaks, stunningly glorious mountain lakes and tarns and almost unworldly meadows of wildflowers bursting with color. Add all that to the pleasure of testing one's body in a wild place and running with a friend and you've got a recipe for near-perfection.