Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekly Roundup - May 22 - 29, 2011

Sunday - Off:  JP was out of town, so the kids and I hung close to the house.

Monday - Green - Bear Canyon - Mesa Loop: 9 miles; 1:44; 2,701 feet o' elevation gain.  One of my favorite runs in Boulder. Ran it counter clockwise from Chautauqua. Put in a solid effort up Green from Gregory Canyon, but couldn't muster anything better than 40:46 to the summit. Didn't work hard enough on the stretch to the ranger cottage.

Tuesday - Man...I can't remember what I did on Tuesday. Is that bad?

Wednesday - Bergen Peak Upper Loop:  8.41 miles; 1:11; 1,724 feet o' elevation gain. Ran up Too Long and down Bergen Peak. Ran the downs hard again. Felt good.

Thursday - Matthew Winters - Red Rocks - Hogback Loop:  6.62 miles; 1:06; 1,242 feet o' elevation gain. Squeezed this one in between the end of the workday and picking up the kids. Had planned on an easy pace, but quickly got in too deep time-wise and had to run the Hogback portion harder than planned.  Was thinking about rattlesnakes on the run through M-W. I've read twice recently posts on what do to if you're bitten by a rattler. Both had the usual recommendations...keep your heart rate down, don't try to suck the venom out, don't elevate the bitten appendage, seek help. Great advice. Funny thing was, both posts were written by ultrarunners, but neither said what to do if you're bitten when you're out in the middle of nowhere alone (anyone ever run deep into the woods solo?) with little prospect of someone wandering by soon. Reckon I ought to do a little research. Which reminds me, I watched the movie 127 Hours this week. Fair.

Friday - Elk Meadow/Dog Park Loop:  8.11 miles; 1:17; 1,017 feet o' elevation gain. Met up with Steve F. for this easy jog around the lower trails of Elk Meadow, including a run down Quarterhorse Road and back through the dog park part of Elk Meadow. Brought Maya along on this one. I hate running with a leash in hand. Wish Jefferson County Open Space would allow some off-leash use in their parks (a la Boulder).

Saturday - Manitou Follow Your Nose Loop: 25.01 miles; 5:13; 5,981 feet o' elevation gain. Up early for the drive down to Manitou Springs to meet up with Woody, Joe Z., Scott and Troy for a to-be-determined run.

We started just a few blocks from the start of the Pikes Peak Marathon/Ascent and headed south to pick up the Inteman Trail. We ran Inteman over to Ruxton and then up to the Barr Trail. We ran a steady pace up the Barr Trail to a sign about a mile and a half below Barr Camp where Woody and I hung a right and the other three guys continued on up the Barr Trail. Woody and I had designs on running a big part of the Ponderous Postier Pikes Peak 50K route, only in reverse. However, anyone that ran it would tell you we already were off course, only we didn't realize it...yet.

The trail down from Barr started as a rutted, washed-out gully, but soon turned into a reasonable, but unmaintained primitive trail as it wound in and out of small drainages, over creeks and through woods and meadows. There was one spot, on a grass-covered hillside, where the views of Pikes Peak were absolutely sublime.

Unknown trail dropping down from the Barr Trail. Pikes Peak in the background. Photo: WA
We eventually ended up at a marked trail junction. One of the options was the Heizer Trail, so we took that as it appeared to head in the direction of Highway 24 where we planned to pick up the trail up Waldo Canyon. Heizer climbed steadily to the apex of a mountain then plunged steeply 2.5 miles down to the town of Cascade on Highway 24.  We quickly figured out we were well above where we needed to be, so after a water refill at a wine bar (they loved us) we started running down Highway 24. The run down wasn't too bad, except for the sections where there were just five feet between a canyon wall and cars/trucks whizzing by at 55+ mph.

After a mile and a half, we hit Waldo Canyon and started climbing. Our plan now was to find a way over to Rampart Range Road, which we would run down back to town. So, up Waldo we went. At the canyon's loop intersection, we went left and cruised up...up and up. I really like this trail. The scenery is great, the grades are reasonable and the trail is well-maintained. From the upper reaches of the loop, we could see the water tank on Rampart Range Road where we wanted to be. to get over there?

We were constantly on the lookout for trails headed north, hoping we'd be able to follow our noses and get to our next destination. Finally, we found a solid, unmarked trail heading northeast, so we took it.  Again, excellent trail. We were just cruising, soaking in the views and enjoying the spectacular weather.

As we descended, I started thinking we were heading into Williams Canyon. Soon enough, we hit a trail junction with a left-right option. Right was down canyon, left was up canyon, and likely the route up to RRR. We are 21 miles in at this point and opted to head down Williams. Good call as the canyon was gorgeous.  Finished things up with a mile or two through town back to the cars.

Looking down Williams Canyon.  Photo: WA
While we didn't take the route we had planned to follow, there's something to be said for simply following your nose and exploring.

Reflection:  Definitely not a high-mileage week, with just 57.14 miles. But, some good time on feet - 10:34; and decent elevation gain - 12,666 feet. Definitely need to get the mileage up a bit, while continuing with the mountain runs.  (And, I've got to figure out where my brain was on Tuesday!) I've been struggling a bit of late with the running mojo and not enjoying some of the runs as much as I typically do. Need to noodle on that a bit. Might be worth a more in-depth post soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekly Roundup - May 15-21, 2011

An up and down week, to be sure. Had some high quality runs, but was hamstrung by the lingering effects of the bug I picked up last week.  

Sunday - Bergen Peak Summit:  2:12; 10.47 miles; 2,109 feet o' elevation gain. Ran to the summit of Bergen Peak from the house...up Bergen Peak, down Too Long.  A good 5-6 inches of snow up top.

Monday - South Mesa - Shanahan Loop:  1:20; 8 miles; 1,516 feet o' elevation gain.  From South Mesa Trailhead ran up Homestead and Towhee to the mouth of Shadow Canyon, traversed over to the Mesa Trail to Shanahan North Fork and closed the loop via Lower Big Bluestem and Mesa. Lots of variety in this loop: steady climbs, downhill screamers and rolling goodness.

Tuesday - Bear Creek Trail:  1:12; 7.72 miles, 1,033 feet o' elevation gain. Started from O'Fallon Park, a Denver Mountain Park, in Bear Creek Canyon. Ran up to the BCT, hung a left and cruised down to Lair o' the Bear Open Space, then turned around and retraced my steps. Maya was out on this one with me. The last couple of miles were in a cold rain. Thank goodness the run started right next to Bear Creek.  Maya, who is a mostly-white dog was now mostly dirt colored. I think she enjoyed the post-run creek bath.

Wednesday - Off:  Just couldn't get myself out into the rain/snow.

Thursday - Treadmill:  50+ minutes, 7.25 miles.  Heavy wet snow was falling most of the day. Totally unmotivated until around 5 p.m. Finally got myself out the door to the rec center. Wasn't sure what to do today on the 'mill, so I did a little of everything.  The miles went like this: 8:00; 5:42; 8:00; 6:58; 8:00; 6:00; 8:00. A veritable smorgasbord of treadmill fun.

Friday -  Centennial Cone Open Space:  2:30; 18 miles; 2,646 feet o' elevation gain. Took a good chunk of the day off work to get in a longer run since JP was going to be out of town over the weekend. Ran from the Mayhem Gulch Trailhead in Clear Creek Canyon.  This is a great, fast loop with a few modest climbs, lots of rollers and some fabulous views of the foothills and down into Clear Creek Canyon. Had a smile on my face pretty much the whole run, except for the parts where the sky spit bits of ice and water at me, but that was short-lived.

Saturday - Bergen Peak Upper Loop:  1:18; 8.21 miles, 1,733 feet o' elevation gain. Was feeling a bit tired from the previous two days' efforts. Jogged via streets to the lower lot at Elk Meadow Open Space. As soon as I hit dirt, the wind started roaring. It was blowing so hard, I turned off my iPod because I could no longer hear the music. The roar of the wind was drowning it out. I just put my head down and slogged it out, know that as soon as I hit the trees, I'd find relief.

Soon enough, I was out of the wind and enjoying my slow recovery jog pace. Then, just as I was approach the Too Long Trail turn off, I noticed a runner coming up behind me. Damn it! I don't want to be caught from behind and passed!  So, I picked it up a bit figuring I'd be alone again once I started up Too Long. Not many people run up that trail. Wrong. She turned up Too Long behind me.

I gave up my notion of a pure recovery jog and picked up the pace enough to avoid being overtaken. After about half a mile, I started feeling better. In fact, the higher I went, the better I felt.  On a couple of the long switchbacks, I could see her below running strong.  I continued on, past the Summit Trail turnoff and picked up the pace down the Bergen Peak Trail. I was feeling GREAT on the descent, just cruising through the rocks with confident foot placement and a solid pace - even passed a mountain biker who also was going down.  I enjoyed that way too much.

All-in-all, a solid week. The long run was shorter than I would have liked and the day off was unnecessary - the result of a lack of will, I guess. Still, ended up with a hair under 60 miles, 9 hours and 22 minutes of fun and 6,391 feet of ups.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Blowing a Gasket

The battle against time on Monday must have pushed the engine too hard. I think I blew a gasket.

Around mid-morning on Tuesday it was clear that an illness was building. Fatigue was setting in. The throat had a mild tickle. Damn.

By evening, the verdict was delivered. Sick. Sore throat. No energy. The crud. And, overnight we got six inches of heavy wet snow. Add it all up and you have the perfect time for a trip to the East Coast.  Up at 5 a.m. for a flight to Washington, D.C.

Despite feeling awful, I got out last night here in Arlington, Virginia for a six-mile run. Ran from the hotel down to the Potomac River, did a loop around Roosevelt Island, then ran a couple miles up the bike path along the river and looped back past the Iwo Jima Memorial.  50 minutes; 6+ miles (no GPS watch).

I hoped the run would ease the grip of the crud, but it didn't help. Glad I got out...the weather here is perfect - mild temps, light breeze, no humidity.  Hope to kick this crap quickly.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bear Peak & A Mental Lapse

Late afternoon run up to the summit of Bear Peak via the backside. A navigational error added a bit of urgency (...and time...and distance) to the run.

Time:  2 hours
Distance: 8.25 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Average
Weather: Sunny and warm

Started from the Cragmoor trailhead, unsure about what I was going to run today.  Thought about heading up Bear Peak via Fern Canyon, but wanted a bit more distance and running than that route offered.  The catch was I had a time cut-off to meet in order to be where I needed to be to pick up jP and CP.

By the time I had climbed up to the Mesa Trail, I had a plan. I'd run up Bear Canyon to the West Ridge Trail junction, assess time and either return down the canyon or head over to Bear and down Fern Canyon.

The climb up Bear Canyon was a beautiful as ever. Still my favorite route up into the Boulder hills. I passed a ranger hiking near the mouth of the canyon - the first ranger I've seen out and about in a while. I hit the West Ridge junction and time was looking good. By my calculations, I had enough time to get up to Bear, down Fern, back to the car and back to the 'hood to pick up the kids.

So, up West Ridge I went. I realized here that this was the first time I'd been on this trail since running last June an abbreviated and moonlight version of the Boulder Skyline Traverse with GZ, Tim L., JP and a host of others. I made steady work of the ups and downs over to the backside base of Bear, then scrambled up the loose stuff to the north ridge, climbed the jagged rocks to the summit and tagged the summit marker.

As I made my way back down from the summit, I was back doing the time calculations. My head was filled with numbers, which obscured the mental map I was following. Before I knew it, I was jogging over to the saddle between Bear and South Boulder Peaks.

The minute I hit the saddle I realized I messed up. Fern Canyon is on the north side of Bear, and roughly a straight line down to the car. I was now standing at the mouth of Shadow Canyon, which angles decidedly to the south, away from where I was parked.

Well, I was committed (and now a bit stressed out) so I started down Shadow Canyon, pushing the pace and hopping from rock to rock, down the big drops, around the trees and past three to four groups of hikers. Time was ticking by faster than I was running.

Made it out of the canyon and traversed over to the Mesa Trail, winding my way, eventually, back to the gravel path that leads down to the Cragmoor cut-off.  Made it back to the truck at exactly two hours.

And, as luck would have it, it was JP's turn to pick up the kids. Good thing, because I would have been late. Rest assured, I now have the location of Fern Canyon permanently tattooed on my brain.

Weekly Roundup - May 1 - 7, 2011

Decent week, considering the long travel home from the south Pacific, a day off in Hawaii and a travel recovery day at home.

The week's stats looked like this:

Time:  11:50
Distance: 61.08 miles
Elevation gain: 7,454 feet

Sunday and Monday featured sea level runs on Palmyra Atoll.

Tuesday:  Off. Spent the day working in Honolulu and taking a red-eye flight back to Colorado (cue unwanted memories of a toddler screaming for three straight hours directly behind me on flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles.

Forgot to mention the two tornados (people who live by the ocean call 'em water spouts) we saw Monday as our return charter flight from Palmyra was landing in Honolulu.  Off the starboard side of the plane, two twisters dipped down from the clouds and churned up a big mass of water where their tips hit the ocean. Reminded me of a few childhood summer evenings in Kansas spent under the workbench in the basement as the tornado sirens wailed.

Wednesday:  Off.  Got home about 11 a.m. I was so wasted from lack of sleep, I spent the day zombie working and then passed out early for some seriously sound sleep.

Thursday - Bergen Peak Upper Loop:  1:27; 8.31 miles; 1,682 feet o' elevation gain.  Easy run to get re-acclimated to running in the Colorado version of paradise. Took Maya along for the ride.

Friday - Elephant Butte/Alderfer-Three Sisters:  1:12; 6.55 miles; 1,597 feet o' elevation gain.  Put in a moderate effort from the upper parking lot to the top of Elephant Butte. Hit the summit high point on the west side in 23:24 via the western social trail route.  After descending to the upper ridge, I ran the outside loop of Blair Ranch, up and over the Three Sisters rock formation and then took Ponderosa (hello park ranger...see Maya on her leash!?) up to the Brother before cruising back to the truck at the upper lot.

Saturday - Pine Valley Ranch/Buffalo Creek:  5 hours; 30 miles; 3,800 feet o' elevation gain.  Up early for a long one on the fine trails of PVR and Buffalo Creek area.  Started, sans watch (oops), around 6:20 a.m. Ran Stawberry Jack - Homestead - Sandy Wash - Buffalo Creek Road - Shinglemill - Colorado Trail - Tramway - Buffalo Creek Road - Baldy - Miller Gulch - Homestead - Buck Gulch loop.  This was a really good run. None of the niggles were acting up. Just ran a steady, if unimpressive, pace. Lots of mountain bikers out.  Forgot the watch this morning. Didn't miss it. In fact, time seemingly went by more quickly without it. Was surprised when I looked at the clock when I got back to the truck. Five hours went by fast! Spent a few minutes post-run soaking the feet in the South Platte River and downing a new recovery drink I'm testing this week.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Elevation: Six Feet

I have heard it said that more people have stood atop Mt. Everest (2,700 as of 2008) than have set foot on Palmyra Atoll (not counting WWII period).  

I'm willing to bet, then, that the membership in the Palmyra Atoll trail running club (the No Incline Club?), if one existed, would have to be infinitesimal. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit this special place, let alone run the trails of Cooper and Strawn Islands.

Initial approach to Palmyra Atoll aboard charter flight.  Photo courtesy of EW.
The last two days on Palmyra Atoll allowed for a couple more runs on now-familiar ground.  Felt like I got to know some of the sights along the way:
  • the two spots where pairs of fairy terns would repeatedly flutter down from the trees and hover just out of reach before darting off into the tree canopy;
  • places on the beach and on the mile-long runway where one was assured of seeing groups of bristle-thighed curlews, a bird species of global concern (estimated that there are just 8,000 left worldwide);
  • the bushes where the Cooper Island trail dumps out on the runway where young red-footed boobies always seemed to be hanging out looking for twigs and plant material for nests;
  • the noisy frigatebirds chasing red-footed boobies above the runway trying to get the boobies to regurgitate their day's food in order to have an easy meal (kleptoparasitism).

Adult red-footed boobies
In addition to running, I had the chance to snorkel around some absolutely amazing coral gardens, do an hour-long dive down what felt like a manta ray highway, explore some WWII ruins and learn about the atoll's history as a refueling base during that war, do some hands-on conservation work and sea kayak the length of the east lagoon.  

So, the runs:

Sunday, May 1st

AM:  3.10 miles - hike in the rain out to the end of Strawn Island and across the coral flats and back.
PM:  8.11 miles; 1:09 - three loops on the Cooper Island - trail/runway loop, plus a quick swing through the base camp.

The trail through the forest on Cooper Island
Monday, May 2nd

AM:  5.02 miles; 52 minutes - from base camp to the end of Strawn Island, then down the beach (past some really cool WWII concrete structures) to North Beach, then onto the Cooper Island trail/runway loop route. Took lots of pictures along the way.

Running down North Beach
The mile-long runway on Palmyra.  During WWII, the runway was twice as wide.
Pillbox on the beach on the north side of Strawn Island
The trail headed toward the end of Strawn Island.
The population figure changes when someone arrives or leaves. In WWII there were upwards of 3,000 people on the atoll.
It's good to back home in the dry air and 7,300-foot elevation, but it's hard not to miss the beauty and rarity of the atoll and its 6-foot elevation.