Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Evergreen Mountain - Tempo

Lunch time tempo run around one of Evergreen's signature open space venues, Evergreen Mountain.

Time: 44:50
Distance: 5.67 miles
Effort: Hard
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny & Warm

With a very narrow window of time and a yearning desire to run something besides Elk Meadow, I opted to hop in the vehicle and drive 10 minutes over to Evergreen Mountain, an 8,527-foot hump visible from my living room window.

Now part of Jefferson County's Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space park, Evergreen Mountain is a former 440-acre chunk of State Land Board land that was transferred to the county in 2004 and added to Alderfer. The climb up the northern face of the mountain is moderate in grade, making it a good trail to run up...quick.

Since I was squeezing in this run between a busy work morning and an afternoon flight to D.C., I knew I only had 50 minutes. And, since I prefer to avoid out-and-backs whenever possible, the day's best bet was a tempo effort to see if I could get up the mountain, do the short loop at the top and return in time to get home, pack and get to the airport in time for my flight.

So, from the western parking lot by the big yellow house, I ran across Buffalo Park Road and onto the Wild Iris Loop Trail, which climbs gently up through a hay meadow to the lodgepole forest that dominates this mountain. Next up was the climb up the Evergreen Mountain Trail West. Once in the trees, I picked up the pace and suddenly was feeling good.

The trail switchbacks up and at 1.32 miles, I hung a right on the Summit Trail and ran up to the mountain's large rounded top and zipped around the .5 mile loop there and headed back down, turned left right at the trail junction and cruised 2.6 miles down Evergreen Mountain Trail East to it's intersection with the eastern edge of the Wild Iris Loop Trail. From there, it was a short skip back to the truck.

Felt good to run the ups with a solid, hard effort. Also really enjoyed jamming down the mountain, running a good bit of it in the low 6s and high 5s. Total elevation gain for the run was 1.024 feet and an average pace of 7:49.

Ryan Burch's Run Rabbit Run 50 race report is up. Here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mesa - Bear Canyon - Green Mountain Loop

Time: 1:43
Distance: 8.23 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Average
Weather: Sunny & Hot

Morning run from Chautauqua up to the Mesa Trail, over to Bear Canyon, up to the Green Bear Trail, over to the four-way and up to the summit of Green. Ran steady the whole way to the summit of Green. The cruise up Bear Canyon was a highlight. Just felt solid the whole way up. No fatigue in the climbing legs. Slowed a bit heading over to the four-way and up the Green's summit. 

Green Mountain from Chautauqua
View from the Mesa Trail just before descending to Bear Canyon
Looking east back down Bear Canyon, about 2/3 of the way up.
Looking west from the summit of Green Mountain
Took it way easy descending down the front side of Green. Note to self:  You do not like that trail. Do not descend that way. 

Got it.

This stretch of record-breaking warm fall temps has been great. I know it can't keep going this way, but I sure am loving it for now.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mt Bierstadt Hike with CP

Time: 5:02
Distance: 7.5 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny & Cool

For the better part of 2010, CP, my nine-year-old daughter, and I have been talking about climbing a fourteener. She professed to be ready to tackle the challenge and I'm up for any excuse to get out into them thar hills. So, with the summer racing season drawn to a close and perfect weather at hand, we set off from the house at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, bound for the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead atop Guanella Pass.

Mt. Bierstadt and the Sawtooth

As one would expect, the parking lot was full and teeming with humanity as we hit Forest Service Trail 711 and began the 200-foot descent down to Scott Gomer Creek. Once across the creek, I was on the look-out for some boardwalk I helped build 10 or so years ago through a boggy willow area as part of a Colorado Fourteeners Initiative project. The boardwalk is still in good shape and the willows have nicely rebounded now that thousands of hikers aren't forced to find new ways through the underbrush and around the mud.

CP navigates a section of boardwalk on the Mt. Bierstadt Trail

CP was in fine form, passing people, pausing now and then to rest (good pacing!), retrieving the water bottle from my pack and downing several mouthfuls (hydrating!) and noshing on banana bread I made the night before (sticking to her nutrition plan!).

After gaining the first ridge, we traipsed up the long trail ahead of us until we hit the steeps. From here, we went cairn to cairn, pausing to catch our breath and add a rock to the piles. The pikas served as welcome distractions and reason to stop and observe (and snap a few pics).

Pika near the saddle before the final ascent.

Time went quickly as we chatted, gazed at the amazing scenery, including Squaretop Mountain across the valley and the beautiful blogs of yellow aspens far down below us. Soon, we were at the saddle before the final scramble up the double pile of rocks that is Bierstadt's summit. With Caroline leading and route-finding (and seemingly effortlessly hoping from rock to rock and across sizable gaps), we soon stood with 30 or so others at the apex of Mt. Bierstadt, 14,060 feet high. 

Looking west over Guanella Pass Road to 13,794-foot Squaretop Mountain

We spent a good 15 minutes at the summit taking in the 360-degree views, gazing down at the Sawtooth that links Mt. Bierstadt to Mt. Evans, looking over at the observatory atop Mt. Evans and looking down at Chasm Lake below us. The weather was perfect, albeit a wee bit chilly, so we weren't in a hurry to head back down.

The USGS summit marker.

Obligatory summit photo.

CP signs the summit register. In the "comments" section, she wrote: "Only in CO!"

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so we loaded up and retraced our steps back to Guanella Pass Road, where the truck was parked.

Girl Power!
This was an absolutely splendid outing. CP had a great time. She got all sorts of comments..."How old are you?"..."Way to go!"..."Darn, I just got lapped by a nine-year-old"..."Is this your first fourteener?" She handled 'em all with a big smile.  Near the end of the hike we were talking about how great it feels knowing that there was nowhere else we'd rather be at that moment.  Too cool.

By the time we got back to the car, we both were tuckered out. She crashed out as I drove home. We both spent the rest of the day lazing around, napping and reading. A perfect fall weekend day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View Loop Plus

Time: 1:09
Distance: 7.14 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny & Warm

A little longer variation on the standard Meadow View Loop from the house. Tacked on a little social trail section that drops down from Meadow View to the bridge over Troublesome Gulch and the parallels Evergreen Parkway before re-connecting with the Meadow View Trail.

No zip in the legs. Still some soreness too, including a new twinge in the left hamstring.

I'm loving these last vestiges of warm days. The nights and mornings are getting down-right chilly. Won't be long before Mt. Evans will be dusted with snow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day Off

Busy work day...but I should have gone for a massage.

This from the NY Times about a new study on the physiological benefits of massage. I guess it feels good's good for you. Now, if it were cheaper...

Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep

Does a good massage do more than just relax your muscles? To find out, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage.
All of the subjects were fitted with intravenous catheters so blood samples could be taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward.
To their surprise, the researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.
Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
The lead author, Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, said the findings were “very, very intriguing and very, very exciting — and I’m a skeptic.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Santias Valley - Easy/Recovery

A nice jog in the spitting rain as I tried to shake out the last of the soreness from the weekend race.

Time: 53 minutes
Distance: 6 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Drizzling and cool

Mid-afternoon jog from the office. Ran up the dirt alleys to the Mapleton Hill neighborhood and made my way over to Mt. Sanitas Open Space. Ran up the Dakota Ridge trail to its intersection with the Sanitas Valley Trail and ran down the Valley Trail, gingerly.

Legs felt surprisingly good on the ascents. The climb up the Dakota Ridge Trail felt very good. I was by no means fresh, just felt solid. Can't say the same for the descent down the Valley Trail. I could feel the lingering soreness in the outside of both quads. Other than that, no significant discomfort.

With the dampness, the smell of a wet campfire was in the air, no doubt emanating from the Four Mile Canyon fire, which must have been up and over just several ridges over from our beloved open space park. I'm curious to see what the area looks like up there. At the same time, I'm loathe to go up there to gawk, particularly when so many people had their lives turned completely upside down by that disaster.

Run Rabbit Run 50 - Race Report

(Warning...overly long, indulgent race report ahead.)

I wasn't excited about running this race. I'd been feeling off since running the Pikes Peak double in mid-August. I was constantly feeling like I was dancing on a razor's edge of getting Just felt off. Since Pikes, I'd had one solid five-day stretch of running and one long run (by time...not mileage). As a result, I was taking a pretty low-key approach to the race.

Early Friday afternoon, on a busy workday, I realized I was running out of time and needed to start preparing for this race.  The weather report was good, so all I really needed was a couple of Ziplocs-worth of gels for the drop bags. So, I threw that together, gathered up my gear and jumped in the car at about 2:30 p.m. and raced to Steamboat Springs in order to get there in time for the race check-in and "mandatory" pre-race briefing. 

After a stressful drive, complete with some I-70 traffic, construction traffic on Highway 40 and a remarkable number of dead porcupines strewn along the roadside, I finally arrived at the ski resort a few minutes after 5 p.m., just in time to get checked in and to listen to the overly-long and unessential "mandatory" briefing.

That said, I'm glad I was there. The briefing set a great tone for the race, a tone that said this is a professionally-run race that's not run by professionals and is done because the organizers love the sport and want to give back to it and to the Steamboat community. There also was a very touching tribute to Jenna Gruben, a two-time top Run Rabbit Run 50 female finisher who tragically died this February returning to Steamboat from Moab after running the 33K race that was part of the Moab Red Hot 50K event. 

After the briefing, a quick shopping excursion to buy a new running watch and a bit of dinner, I checked into my hotel and tried to chill out and rest. I was still feeling poor...a bit achy, tired and unmotivated.

The Race

The 4:15 a.m. wake-up call was a bit of a jolt. Remarkably, I felt good. No sign of fatigue. In fact, I didn't even think about not feeling good. I was just on auto-pilot. Hell, I even took a pre-race shower. 

I made it to the Bear, where the race check-in was located, around 5:45. I checked in, milled about and made the requisite multiple fruitless trips to the bathroom. At just after 6 a.m., the RD said it was time to head to the start, which was located just down the steps from the Bear at the edge of the base area's cobblestones.

I was among the first group of folks making our way outside into the pre-dawn darkness.  I found myself at the front of the relatively narrow chute that was the start. Standing to my left was Geof Roes, who casually leaned over and asked me which way the course went. I pointed left and he nodded just as the RD set us off.

The first 100 yards of the race was through a chicane of fencing leading us out of a construction zone to pick up a trail that would lead us past some condos and onto an access road that climbs to the top of the ski resort. I opted not to mess with carrying a headlamp and had no problem navigating the darkness thanks to the panoply of other headlamps bobbing around me. 

By the time we hit the access road, where the real climbing began, I was sitting in about 12th place. As the trail turned up, though, a lead pack of about six runners soon were out of sight. 

The initial climb up to the Mt. Werner aid station is about 6.4 miles. About 30 minutes in, my gut demanded a pit stop...a sign of things to come. After a not-so-quick detour into the woods, I was back on the road and headed up again. I started taking it easy as the road got steep, walking where the effort seemed too much for this early in the race. Met up in here with Donnie H. and caught up on his successful finish at Hardrock earlier this summer.

I hit the Mt. Werner aid station in 1:22, dropped my gloves and base layer and jumped on what immediately struck me as some very, very fine singletrack.

This initial seven-mile stretch of rolling trail was trailrunning at its finest...narrow trail, great views and a quickly thinning herd of runners. Somewhere in this section, I had to make pitstop #2. I could hear a couple of runners plodding by as I took care of business behind a large boulder. So frustrating.

Soon, I was back in the game and arriving at the Long Lake aid station in 2:33.

After a quick refill of the hydration pack, I set off alone and soon caught up to Jaime Y. We chatted a bit as we ran. It was in this section where I really started thinking about pacing. We were running easy, but steady. Was this a pace I could hold for another 35 miles? So much of this race's course is runnable. How does one pace oneself on a course this reasonable? Only one way to find out...keep running and see what happens.

The sweet singletrack continued, with a few short stretches of dirt Forest Service roads past Lake Elmo, Lost Lake, Fishhook Lake, the Base Camp aid station (3:24) and Dumont Lake.  Just past Dumont Lake, the course runs by a campground and right next to...a bathroom!  Pitstop #3. Damn it.

Next up was the Old Rabbit Ears aid station at mile 22 (4:02). I refilled the pack here and quickly left to an enthusiastic round of applause from a surprisingly large aid station crowd. The course from here follows Grizzly Creek Road and climbs a couple of miles to the twin rock formation known as the Rabbit Ears.

I came across Roes, Fanselow and Burch about 1/2 mile up the road from the aid station. I was surprised at how easy they all appeared to be running. (As I alluded to earlier, I'm a pacing neophyte.) As I climbed, I started counting runners that passed me headed down on this out-and-back course. By the time I hit the top of the climb and the race's halfway point (4:37), however, I had lost track. I figured I was still top 20.

On the descent back to the Old Rabbit Ears aid station (5:00), I focused on running steady and not trashing the least not yet. Saw Woody making solid progress on the ups and shouted out a greeting as we passed. 

I soon was back at the Old Rabbit Ears aid station. Here, I stopped long enough to grab my Ziploc bag of gels from my drop bag before heading back onto the trail. The run back to the Base Camp aid station was uneventful, save for a brief attack from a cute, but aggressive pair of pugs. Scared the heck out of me when the dogs nipped me because I was running with an iPod and didn't hear 'em coming. 

Through this section I focused on pacing and running everything I could. I started using the old trick of picking a spot in the distance, running to it and then picking the next goal. Bite-sized pieces.

Right about the time the trail headed into the trees above Dumont Lake I caught my first runner, who appeared to be having a rough go of it. I knew he was having a tough time because I soon stopped for pitstop #4 and he never passed me back. I continued running the gentle ascents and flats and speed hiking the steeper stuff. Occasionally, the course would enter a wide-open meadow and I'd see a runner or two ahead of me. I was slowly reeling folks in.

By the Base Camp aid station (5:42), I'd picked off a couple of more runners, including one about a half-mile from the AS. As I left Base Camp, I could hear the two spectators cheering about 100 yards down the road as the guy I had just passed approached the AS. I picked up the pace for a bit to make sure I stayed out of his sight. Didn't want to give anyone behind me a target to chase. I kept that mindset for a couple of miles...running fairly hard through the meadows to get into the sheltered trees and out of sight as quickly as possible.  At the same time, I caught a couple of glimpses of runners ahead...runners who hadn't been able to hide in the trees.  So, I focused on catching them.

I finally caught another runner somewhere around mile 35. We came into the Long Lake AS (6:44) together. I left a little before him and worked to put some distance on him. My effort, though, was to no avail. He soon caught me. As we made our way up to the Mt. Werner AS, we swapped positions two or three times. I'd typically out-hike him on the steeps and he'd catch me on the flats and gentle grades. 

The 6.8-mile section from Long Lake AS to the Mt. Werner AS seemed to take forever. At last, through a steep hands-on-knees hiking section, I again passed the runner, a guy I later learned was Naz A. 

This time I was determined to leave Naz behind. I knew the Mt. Werner aid station and the final climb had to be coming up, so I started working hard...running nearly everything. In my zeal to put distance on him, I managed to catch two other runners, including Helen Cospolich (2nd female finisher - 9:04). 

The good news was I had a secret strategy. I was running with a hydration pack, and I had plenty of water and gels for the rest of the race. I would not have to stop at the Mt. Werner aid station. I could run right through it. Naz only had a handheld. I figured he'd have to stop. 

The bad news was that I'm not the only one motivated to run hard by having runners ahead of me to catch.

At the AS (missed the split), I looked back and there was Naz, only 100 yards back. As I ran by the AS, I turned to a volunteer, shook my head and said, "Damn, that guy is persistent." 

Just after the aid station, I paused long enough to put Green Day on the iPod and started running hard the 6.2 mile and 3,500-foot descent back to the race's finish.

With the music blasting loudly in my ears, I suddenly had one of those incredible moments of runner's high feelings. A wave of goodness just washed over me. Felt amazing. Flushed with that rush, I ran hard for a good 1.5 miles before Naz came whizzing by me.

He soon had 50 yards...then 100...then...he was gone. I just didn't have the quad strength to give a proper chase. The focus now was on not letting anyone else by.

As I got lower and lower, I started to realize that going sub-9 hours was possible. It would be close, but it was doable. 

I was in a world of hurt as the course finally veered off the road and back onto a wide mountainbike/hiking trail. I knew this section from having run it earlier this summer. I started running harder, every step a new level of discomfort, but I knew the finish line would be sweet...even sweeter if I squeaked in under nine hours.

At long last, the base area was in full view, as the trail traversed around the side of big grassy ski run. Before I knew it, I was running again through the construction zone toward a good-sized crowd.

I sprinted across the finish line and happily accepted my finishing hug from a volunteer as RD Fred Abramowitz confirmed my finish time: 8:58:54 - 13th place overall. Naz finished 12th in 8:57:23.

My second 50-mile run was in the bag.

I was cooked. I quickly found a seat and spent a good 10 minutes gathering my wits before finally getting up and moving around a bit. I met up with Aaron K. and got the low-down on his race (wisely dropped at 32 miles with an injury...a damn-well run 32 miles!). I also had a chance to sit down and talk with Naz about our excellent battle over those last 10 miles. This was his first 50-mile race. Congrats, Naz on a great debut!

I managed to hobble up to the Bear for a free slice of pizza and a pint of 5 Barrel Pale Ale, but that was about all I could muster. I managed to head back down (oh, those stairs!) to the race finish in time to see Patrick G. finish and hit the deck (read his epic race report). 

I'd soon had about all I could take. Everything was hurting. So, I headed to the car to change clothes and grab some cold drinks I had in a cooler. I wanted to want to stay and hang out for a while, but just didn't have the desire to walk back down to the finish (more stairs to walk down!). So, I climbed into the driver's seat and made a very uncomfortable three-hour drive home.

I learned a lot running this race. More specifically, I gained insight on pacing, hydration and nutrition and competing. I was vividly reminded of how much I love Colorado's beautiful public lands -- the aspens were ablaze in yellow, and the meadows and hillsides were splashed with a dazzling array of reds, oranges and browns. 

My most important and memorable race experience, though, happened when I got home and saw the "Congratulations! Lucky 13!" sign jP, CP and JP had made and posted just inside the front door. There's no better feeling than walking back into one's home after a solid race performance and being surrounded by the greatest people on the planet.

Finally, a big shout-out to the race organizers and the incredible rabbit hutch of volunteers that pulls off this great race. I can't say enough good things about the race. Everything, from the pre-race schwag and course markings to the well-stocked aid stations and post-race hugs, was first-rate. At the pre-race briefing, the RD said the race had 80 volunteers...that's one volunteer for every two racers. And, all proceeds, after race expenses, goes to charity, including, this year, the Jenna Gruben-Morrill Foundation.

If after enduring this overly long indulgence of a race report you pine for more, be sure to read these guys' reports:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Run Rabbit Run 50 - Quick Update

Finished in 8:58 - 13th overall.  Very pleased with the effort. Kept finding reserves...not sure where.

I'm thrashed.

Roes won in course record, followed by Fanselow and Burch.

Brilliantly managed race. Incredible scenery and course. Put this race on your bucket list. It's great.

Race report soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Elk Meadow - Meadow View Loop - Easy

Around and around he goes...yet another loop on the familiar terrain of Elk Meadow Open Space.

Time: 46 minutes
Distance: 5.19 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Warm & Mostly Cloudy

Continuing the taper week theme, this was yet another easy run around the Meadow View Trail loop in JeffCo's Elk Meadow Open Space. I threw in a few stretches in the low 6s to try and remember what it feels like to run fast.  Felt good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

South Boulder Creek, West Trailhead - Easy

An easy taper week run through the grasslands below SoBo and Bear Peaks.

Time: 33 minutes
Distance: 4.38 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Warm & Sunny

Post-work jog from the South Boulder Creek West Trailhead, making a loop out of the South Boulder Creek and Big Bluestem Trails. The grasses along the trail were waist high and still mostly green. I'm really enjoying this bit of late summer warmth. 

Great Wasatch 100 race report from Nick C. is up.

Tim L. and Tim W. are teaming up again at the Bear 100...this time with Tim W. doing the pacing.  Should be a fun one to follow!

Ryan Burch, the defending champ at the Run Rabbit Run 50, is picking Roes for in the win this Saturday in 6:57. Burch currently has the CR with a 7:26 run last year.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meadow View Plus - Steady

Time: 45 minutes
Distance: 5.76 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Cool & Sunny

Morning run around the home trails, yet again. Squeezed this one in early before taking jP out for a final camping trip of the summer. 

The run was typical. Felt solid running the loop at an average pace of 7:57. By no means tempo, but steady.

The countdown to the Run Rabbit Run 50 officially has begun. Just realized they have a mandatory pre-race briefing at 5 p.m. I guess that means we're headed to Ski Town USA a bit earlier than planned. Probably a good thing...  I haven't yet begun thinking at all about splits, drop bags or finish time. Just looking forward to a long run in the woods. I've not spent much time in that part of the state, let alone on the trails above the ski resort. 

Should be a fun one.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Soda Creek Loop

Easy a.m. trail/road loop starting from a local bagel joint, where I had an early meeting.

Time: 37 minutes
Distance: 5.02 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Cool & Sunny

After dropping jP and CP at school, I parked at The Bagelry and did a quick five-mile loop before a breakfast meeting. Ended up running most of it at tempo effort in order to ensure I closed the loop by the meeting time. 

The run is basically a down-up loop with 640 feet of elevation loss and gain. Average pace was 7:24.

Felt good to crank out a quick, hard run. I ended up taking three days off due to a combination of wanting to ensure the lingering fatigue issue I had these past 10 days was resolved and being over-scheduled between family, work and volunteer stuff.

Back into it just in time for the weekend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon - Reflections

I never got around to writing race reports for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon, and with so much time having passed, it seems anti-climatic and dated to do so at this point.

Even though I haven't written race reports, it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about the races and the lessons and learning gained by running them.  So, in no particular order, here are some post-Pikes Peakalooza thoughts.

The weekend's haul.

The Ascent:  I was very happy to break three hours on the Ascent. This was my #1 goal for the weekend.  I crossed the finish line in 2:56:30.  Frankly, though, I had hoped to break three hours more convincingly than I did. Still, I'm pleased with the result. This year was my fourth time running this race. My previous times looked like this:

    • 2007 - 3:23 (just started mountain running)
    • 2008 - 3:27 (injured...strained chest muscle, couldn't take deep breaths)
    • 2009 - 3:06 (poorly executed run)
    • 2010 - 2:56 
Like last year, I received a small trophy for getting fourth place in my age group.

I've never experience cramping on a run, let alone in a race, before. I started getting cramps in my right calf just before Barr Camp (Barr Cramp?). The first time was when I stepped up on a rock and my calf muscle seized for a second, then released. I remember thinking, "Uh-oh!" Things were OK, but tight, up through the two-to-go sign. After that, both calves started cramping, slowing me down and making my footfalls much more tentative. Several times, I had to stop to massage the calves to get them to release.

Through the 16 Golden Stairs, the cramping became more regular. If the calves weren't cramping, they were feeling on the verge of cramping. The worst of it was around the Fred Barr memorial sign. I had to stop (with JM, GZ, Homie and others yelling at me to get my ass moving!) to pound the right calf. Fortunately, I knocked it enough to get it to release and was able to sprint to the finish, passing a final runner in the last 50 meters. (Turned out that guy was in my age group.)

Those calf cramps hurt! - Photo J. Mock
I figure the cramping was the result of not enough race-specific training. I ran pretty much everything on the way up, which meant I was running longer uphill on my toes and forefoot than I typically do in training. I fueled well on the way up, so I don't think I was low on electrolytes. So, I just must have out-run my training a bit. Aside from the Barr Trail, it's tough to find a place where one can run three straight hours up 8,000 feet.

The Marathon:  As I was hanging out at the race starting line Sunday morning, I had no idea what the day would hold. My legs felt reasonably solid. I was in a good frame of mind. I was enjoying the relatively mellow vibe at the race start (compared to the more hectic and crowded Ascent start).  My plan was to just let the race unfold. I hadn't studied splits. I didn't know what a fast descent time was. I was just going to see how things felt and react accordingly. My only plan was to work hard and see what happens.

The climb was hard. I hit Barr Camp about six minutes slower than the previous day. My legs were tapped out. No pep. I pretty much walked it in from Barr, summiting 22 (!) minutes slower than the day before. Terrible.

I felt decent on the descent down to the A-Frame. I was chasing a solid descender in front of me and holding off anyone behind me. After A-Frame, the rock-laden trail and a brief pit stop above Barr Camp set me back a bit. I ran into Barr Camp feeling fair.

I quickly refilled my bottle, grabbed a handful of grapes and dashed out of there, leaving three runners grazing at the table. Suddenly it felt like a switch was flipped. I started feeling good...really good. I decided the race was starting over. No one was going to pass me. Over the remaining miles, I picked off about eight other runners, including two in the last 1.5 miles. Since I leapfrogged over the runners at Barr Camp, no one passed me (whom I didn't pass back) on the descent.  I finished strong. If I had run the ascent even 10-12 minutes faster, I would have picked up a bunch of spots in the overall finisher ranks, more, perhaps, if I'd had run the descent just a bit faster as well.

Chillin' out in Fountain Creek post-Marathon.

Makes me think I will run the Marathon next year (only).

The Double:  Running both the Ascent and the Marathon in the same weekend was a bucket list thing for me...just something I wanted to do for the hell of it. During the weeks leading up to the races, I had lost some enthusiasm for running both races. I was clear in my head that the Ascent was the priority. I would give that race my all and do the Marathon for kicks.

After the Ascent, it would have been wise to have gone back to our B&B and kicked back to aid recovery for the next day's 26,2 miles. Instead, the family and I spent a good two hours walking around Manitou Springs, seeking out food, visiting the race pavilion and goofing at the playgrounds. We had a great time, time I wouldn't trade for anything, but in terms of racing, it wasn't the best decision. I definitely learned about the importance of getting off one's feet, refueling and letting the body do it's thing in preparation for the next day's physical stress.

For the weekend, I had the sixth fastest double, or combined, time, behind the likes of Tim Parr, Keri Nelson, Megan Kimmel and Jim Mallory.

I doubt I'd do the double thing again.

The Training:  I've had the most consistent, highest-volume training year I've ever had. Still, I fell short in a number of key areas related to this race. I did a lot of uphill running, but I didn't do enough fast uphill running, nor did I run uphill as long as I should/could have. I ran at higher elevations a number of times, but far less than I should have. In the late spring, I mentally committed to getting up high at least two mornings a week. I don't think I ever made it more than once a week, and even once a week was rare. I also slacked off tempo and interval work after the San Juan Solstice (for which I was following a loosely prescribed plan courtesy of AJW). Still, I did enough of all of the above to meet my goal, but not enough to convincingly exceed the goal.

The Fun:  For my money, the Pikes Peak races are among the best-run, most enjoyable races around. The course is stunningly beautiful. The volunteers are first rate. The race is brilliantly executed. The course is challenging (to be sure!). The competition is fierce. It's a great race for meeting up with friends, acquaintances and other folks one may only know from their blogs. And, Manitou Springs is only 70 miles from the house! Everyone should run one of the least once.

There's more to do in Manitou Springs than just run up large mountains.