Friday, August 29, 2008

Twin Sisters Peaks

Twin Sisters Peaks, RMNP
NE summit 11428'
NW summit 11413'
S summit 11376'
TH: ~9000',
Twin Sisters Trail/Lily Lake Visitors Center
approx 9 miles, 3400' gain

After a slothful day yesterday (we wanted to get out, but the smoke was too bad..... cough cough), Allison and I decided to get out and do something somewhat close and not too committing.

I was a little stumped to not see any signs for the TH where it should have been. As soon as I started to really wonder, I saw a sign "Twin Sisters TH 1.6 miles". That is odd, I must have a pretty old map, as all the maps show the TH just North of the Longs Peak TH, not Lily Lake.

Anyways, we easily found the parking lot where they do not allow parking and then parked a bit down the road in line with 20 other cars. Funny stuff.

We started up the trail at 10am and casually strolled the endless switchbacks in the cool morning air. Back and forth, forth and back I was not sure where this trail was taking us! Anything but up it seemed. Eventually the views started to open up and we had great views of Longs and we could start to verify that we were indeed gaining altitude.

After passing nearly 20 people of all shapes and sizes, we topped out on the crowded NW summit at 11:15am, then cruised over to the NE summit for some solitude. After a bit of a break, we decided that we had to head to the S. summit to cover all of our bases. On the way there, we mostly stuck to the ridge down to the saddle and enjoyed some really fun class 3 scrambling on surprisingly grippy metamorphic rock (anyone have the scoop on the geology of this peak?). Going up to the S. summit, there was a great fin of rock that offered some very enjoyable and non-committal class 3 scrambling and it took us 25 additional minutes to traverse between the two summits going easy. We took a huge break here, taking in the views and split when 3 guys arrived, way too crowded!

On the way off the summit block, Allison really bonked her noggin on an over hanging rock. Knocked her senseless and she had to sit for a while to regain her composure. Maybe we should just start wearing helmets on all hikes harder than class 1 from now on!

On the way down, we were getting dizzy from all the switchbacks. I was on a mission for us to make it down faster than we got up (without running) and we really had to focus to pull this off, as it seems pretty much equal effort both ways. We were able to pull the descent off in 1hr (15 minutes faster than the up), without running one step. 4hrs RT, a sweet little walk in the "park".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bear/S. Boulder

9 miles
3,300 vertical

Hiked these two with Allison and Sierra at a leisurely pace from the S. Mesa TH with some long breaks on the summits. Tried out my new Chaco test shoes on trail for the first time. I really like them, but they are certainly not trail runners. Excellent grip on rock and very comfortable, stylish enough for a night on the town (in Boulder of course), (if you're into that sort of thing).
Was very thirsty at the end, as it got warmer than anticipated, 14oz just does not cut it for 3+ hours in the sun.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bear Peak and S. Boulder Peak

~10 miles
~3,500 vertical
1:58 RT

Started at the Devils Thumb TH, headed up to Bear Canyon to Bear Peak W. Ridge, topped out on Bear at 1:04 going easy. 12 more over to SBP, then 42 back to the car via Fern. Felt OK, but still feeling lots of hard days in the legs and still working on getting back to "normal".

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24th Pt. 13,546 (aka Montana Mujeres)

Pt. 13,546 (aka Montana Mujeres)
Me, Allison and Sierra

After a peaceful 10+ hour restful sleep, we got up at 6:30am planning to get in Pt. 13,546 before we packed out. We headed up to Willow Lake at 7:35am and then found a steep grassy slope heading due North that led us up into the basin below 13,546 and Mt. Adams.

After travelling about 1/3 of the way up the basin, we headed West and climbed steep grassy slopes to attain the SE ridge. There is nothing I prefer more than solid, 35-40 degree grassy slopes for ascending where I can speed up on all fours!

Once on the ridge, it was easy going all the way to the summit, all on grass where we topped out 1:05 after leaving camp. The weather was perfect and we were in no hurry, so we lingered for quite some time enjoying the views and solitude. The views from this peak are stunning and I would highly recommend fitting it in if you are looking for something to do while lounging around camp, or before the hike out.

To spice things up, we opted to descend the easy ridge down to the 13,546/Adams saddle and then walk the entire length of the short valley, arriving back in camp shortly after 10am.


Friday-Saturday, August 22/23 Challenger, Kit Carson, Columbia Point

Challenger Pt. (14,080), Kit Carson (14,165) Columbia Pt. (13,980)
From Willow Creek TH
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave and Emily Hale, Kevin Lund, Sierra and Shep

Allison, Kevin and I had Friday off from work, so we headed down to the Willow Creek TH in hopes of getting ahead of the weekend crowds and securing a campsite roomy enough for the 6 of us (Dave’s sister Sharon was also joining just for the camping trip).

We arrived to a nearly full parking lot around 3pm and began readying ourselves and our packs. Soon after, 2 vehicles pull up and out hop 9 guys with overnight packs and I knew it could get competitive to secure a camp spot, as options up at the lake are somewhat limited.

Started on the trail at 3:35 and I was itching to speed up the trail and stay ahead of the other group. I ran my idea by Kevin and Allison and they both encouraged me to go ahead, so off Sierra and I went, up the endless low grade switchbacks through the woods. I was really feeling the heat, the 40lbs on my back and the previous day’s run up Pikes Peak. It seemed that no matter how fast I tried to move my legs, I was going nowhere fast and it seemed as though I was unable to put any distance on Kevin and Allison as I could hear them for what seemed like a long time.

Sierra was feeling the heat too and was going even slower than me, so I stopped often to let her drink from the numerous side creeks and main creek. We finally reached the lake after 1:45 of hiking and began looking for Sharon who I erroneously believed to already be up there. I could not find her, so I backtracked a short ways down from the lake (can’t camp near it anyways) and found a great spot on the South side of the trail next to a large open meadow with plenty of room for all of us.

Allison arrived about 20 minutes later, as she was feeling a bit competitive after being caught by two of the guys from the group of 9 (they said something to her that she interpreted as a bit sexist), so she felt the need to dust them. Kevin arrived not long after and we spent the evening eating and taking things easy while waiting for Sharon, Dave and Emily to show up.

After a miserable night in the tent (hardly any sleep due to my gastrointestinal distress and Allison’s throwing up due to a touch of food poisoning from her former favorite restaurant in Buena Vista), we were on the trail by 6:45am. Surprisingly, even at this “late” hour and considering how crowded it was with people camping, there was only one person ahead of us on the standard route on Challenger and we were playing leap frog with 3 others.

Allison was still feeling a bit under the weather and was having a tough time trying to keep up and not hurl. She hung in there though and we were able to make slow and steady progress up the increasingly steepening slopes. Dave, Emily and Kevin opted to take a slightly different variation to climbers left of the “standard” route on the other side of the snow gulley. From below, it looked a bit steeper, so I opted to stick to the main trail since Allison was not feeling so well.

This turned out to be a HUGE mistake, as the trail and surrounding terrain got loose and crappy. It was not too difficult, but was very dangerous, compounded by the fact that we opted to leave our helmets at home. The one guy ahead of us at this point, managed to knock a few large rocks. He yelled and I was looking up trying to pinpoint their location and trajectory, yet could not see the falling rocks. I kept thinking that they were coming to a halt, then would hear them again and I was searching for a place to take cover. Suddenly, I see several rocks, one larger than a basketball come whipping around the corner down the gulley I was in and I had no place to hide. They were skipping this way and that, so I sprinted across the slope as fast as I could, narrowly avoiding certain death by mere feet. Fortunately, Sierra and Allison were far enough out of the way of the rocks, that they had no chance of being hit.

My heart was nearly pounding out through my head as I screamed a loud “WHAT THE F…!!”. The guy (Steve) stopped and waited for us to catch up to him and I sped past on pure adrenaline to the ridge. Not sure if a helmet would have saved me in this instance had I got hit, but I really admit that it was a huge mistake not taking them on this route, what were we thinking?

Once on the ridge, we all regrouped and were soon on the summit, 9:09am I think Dave said. It was an easy cruise around Kit Carson on the avenue and just prior to reaching the ascent gulley that most people follow, we ascended a steeper, but more solid gulley. In my opinion, this is the best way to go, as the climbing was very easy and enjoyable class 3. Using our hands were hardly even necessary going up and down, super fun!

By the time we had reached the summit of Kit Carson, we had befriended (and forgiven) Steve, as he turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Ironically, he and I decided to team up for the trip over to Columbia Pt., as we both felt it would be good to have company. Dave led the rest of the group back toward camp, while Steve and I descended toward the Kit Carson/Columbia saddle.

I had read up on the route and got a great picture from Ryan Kowalski where he outlined where he and Pete had climbed earlier in the month, but of course I forgot the picture back in camp and we had to just wing it. As it turns out, we went a completely different way that started lower in the gulley (the large cairn and obvious ledge caught our attention), which was not too difficult and quite easy to navigate.

Sooner than anticipated, we reached the summit of Columbia and for good measure went to the East summit also. I contemplated heading over to Obstruction, but I could tell Steve was feeling uncomfortable about finding his way back through the difficulties (he admitted that he is the “worlds worst route finder”) and I was feeling less than stellar after not sleeping the previous night and was eager to try and catch back up to the group.

We headed back down through the class 3 (me always above) without any problems and once back onto the avenue, bid my adieu. I power hiked/ran the avenue and made quick work of Challenger, staying on the ridge crest all the way to the notch above the snow gulley. Instead of taking any risks on the now crowded slopes, I opted to descend the way Dave went up on the East side of the snow gulley. Although steep, it was mostly solid and much less travelled. Going fast but safe, I quickly caught the group taking a break near the bottom of the steep slope and we all hiked back to camp together.

All in all a great day, despite the near death experience with the rock. As always, it was great getting out with Dave, Emily and Kevin and the weather was perfect. Allison is now just 6 peaks away from finishing the 14ers and I was quite impressed that she pushed on despite feeling so sick at the start.

It has been nearly 10 years since I have climbed these peaks, where my hiking partner and I did not see another person all day. We also took a slightly different route that avoided the loose slopes that are part of the standard route and these factors led me to underestimate the danger and leave our helmets at home. Stupid mistake on my part that I really regret, I just feel lucky that we avoided that rock, as things could have been a lot worse.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday, 8/21/08 Pikes Peak, 5 Days Late and 21 Seconds Short

Pikes Peak
13.32 miles
7,815 vertical

Since the weekend, the thought of going back to Pikes for a re-match has been cycling in and out of my consciousness. I know it sounds crazy, but I have worked so hard all year to get my fitness to a certain point and I was ready to go on the 16th to perform better than I ever have. Without a doubt, the nasty weather had a significant impact on me during the race and I was just sure that I could do better.

I packed my gear last night and figured I would get up in the morning and see how I felt. I was a bit sore this week after the race Saturday and then my 17 mile/4,300 vertical foot “recovery run” on Sunday (which included the Incline), so I was not 100% confident that I would be fully recovered. I felt good when I rolled out of bed this morning and took a chance and headed out the door at 5:18am in search of redemption.

I arrived at the “start line” in Manitou about 90 minutes later and geared up/warmed up and put the bathroom at City Hall to the test.

Got underway a bit later than I hoped at 7:23am and just resolved to make a steady pace and see how things went. As soon as things started to get steep on Ruxton, I know that my legs were not in the condition that I had hoped. They felt OK, but I knew I was still tired from the weekend.

I went a similar pace to Saturday, maybe making it to Barr Camp about 90 seconds behind, but still about where I wanted to be. Above Barr, I actually felt better than on Saturday and I am sure I went quicker to the A-Frame, arriving there in 1:57 total. From here, it was all starting to catch up to me. I held it together somewhat for the next mile, but I knew I was losing a bit of time. The next mile is normally much easier and about 2.5-3 minutes faster, but I was deteriorating quickly. The last mile was an absolute disaster where I lost all kinds of time. Uggg.

It is amazing how quickly the time starts getting away from you once the wheels fall completely off, then you get to a point where you start to not care.

It went from:

"Yeah, I think I might be able to finish in the low 2:40's"
"OK, I should still be able to sneak in at 2:45"
"OK, I can live with sub 2:50"
"Holy $h!t, I might not even beat my crappy time from Saturday"
"Dang, I just want to get to the top, I can already smell the french fries"

I considered waiting until next week, but an upcoming backpack trip will for sure make me a bit gimpy and feeling a bit turtle like.

Even though I was 21 seconds slower today than on Saturday, I feel better about it all. I gave it a shot, failed and now I just need to let it go. I am looking forward to a break from pushing myself and I am eager to just take things as they come for a while, forget about Pikes Peak until next year and focus on climbing some new peaks, riding my bike a bit more and spending more time with Allison and Sierra.

2:50 Ruxton
9:26 Hydro3
1:2? Top Ws
46:45 No Name
1:21:50 Barr
1:57 A-Frame
2:16 2 to go
2:32 1 to go
2:53:55 summit

Wednesday, 8/20/08 Flagstaff

3 miles
1,300 vertical

Got out for an easy run up Flag today, did not even look at the watch. I only went because I was running errands in Boulder and needed to make the trip a little bit more worthwhile.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday, 8/18/08 Sanitas

3.5 miles
1,300 vertical

Allison, Sierra and I got out for a casual stroll up Sanitas today. I was a little tired, but it felt good to get out and enjoy the morning. Allison was cruising and she went up in 23 while I putted along with Sierra a good bit slower.

Sunday, August 17th Incline/Barr Trail to 11,000 feet

~17 miles/4,300 vertical

Sunday morning it was my intent to watch the Marathon from a few switchbacks up the Barr Trail, then head in to town, eat breakfast, relax and kill time until the finish. The weather that morning was however far better than anyone had anticipated, so as I arrived at the trailhead, I pounded a handful of pretzels, a swig of gel and made a last minute decision to head up the incline, leaving the car at 6:38am.

As I was nearing the top of the incline, I could hear the race start, 4 minutes early by my watch and I was worried that I would not make it to the trail in time. I topped out on the incline after 24 minutes and searched for the proper trail. I of course picked the wrong one and had to do some wet bushwhacking to get back on track, but was soon on the Barr Trail.

I felt great, so I started running at a quick pace and was moving through the aid stations fast, No Name, Bob’s, Barr Camp. As I went through, people were looking at me confused, as if I may be the lead runner. I made some funny comments and everyone laughed, it was quite amusing. I got to a point about halfway between the Bottomless Pit sign and A-Frame and decided that I had gone far enough, so I stopped there to wait. In about 5 minutes, Matt came flying by, then 7:45 later Dave Mackey came through and I gave him the split. I then started down and ran with/cheered/video taped friends Justin Mock, Kraig Koski, George Zack and Jeff Kunkle who were all doing great.

Having been quite annoyed on the way up by all the gel trash on the trail well outside the feed zones, I asked for a trash bag and I spent several miles of the descent picking up every piece of trash I came across on and off the trail. Just about everyone who noticed this on their way up shouted a “Thanks” as if I were a volunteer.

It was fun running down getting to see everyone in the race and I enjoyed giving cheers and encouragement.As I got closer to the bottom, I was getting a little sick of running downhill and was thankful I was not participating in the double. I arrived back around 9:45 and then killed time until the finishers started to arrive a little after 10:30.What a blast it was to watch this race, super cool and kudos to Jeff and George for doing the double. George was 2nd amongst the doublers and Jeff was 7th, way to go!!!

Pictures and Video from the PPM:

Saturday August 16th, 2008 Pikes Peak Ascent

2008 Pikes Peak Ascent
13.32 miles
7,815 vertical
32 Overall/30 Overall Male
3rd Place 35-39 age group

What a tough day out there from a weather standpoint, truly an epic mountain race in full on winter conditions, but a fun time regardless!

I was wide awake at 3:53am and tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep until my 5:00am alarm sounded. Listening to the rain alternate between a sprinkle and a heavy downpour was a bit discouraging to say the least. I finally just got up, got dressed and headed out the door to go find a good parking spot, eat and prepare. Many others got there early as well and I was still parked further away than I had hoped. I was really dragging my feet getting ready, not anxious to get out there in the rain as I kept making last minute gear adjustments. I ultimately went with shorts, cycling jersey with arm warmers, GoLite windshirt, Smartwool glove liners, ball cap and my Pearlizumi Peak XC race flats. In my pockets I carried 4 gels, a wool beanie (in a ziplock bag) and light overmits for my gloves.

It was steady rain from the start to soak us all down and I did not even bother warming up. It was a tough call on what gear to bring, some people opted to chance it and go light, others erred on the side of caution and brought more (good move). At the last minute I decided to add my WTSHTF hooded waterproof jacket I was using for my trip to the start line and was I ever glad I did as the added barrier and hood would prove to be essential above treeline.The race started off quick, as most races do and I quickly warmed up as I was questioning all the extra gear and almost dumped the big jacket.

I was careful to pace myself well and not get too caught up in the excitement, just focusing on myself and not really paying attention to what others were doing or what place I was in. For added excitement, there was a loud crack of thunder as we were running up Ruxton, certainly making me further question our sanity for continuing on.As expected, I was able to pass some people once we got on the Barr Trail and was keeping a smooth and steady tempo through the Ws, never really digging deep, just wanting to save energy for the second half of the race.

I felt good on the rolling trail leading to Barr Camp and again never felt like I was pressing too much, just kind of rolling with it. Based on information from others (I purposefully left my watch behind), I later learned that I reached Barr Camp in the vicinity of ~1:20. Physically I was feeling great, but I was already getting cold and had donned my hooded jacket by this point, plus my soaked wool glove liners, over mitts and wool beanie.Going into the race, I was naively hoping that my mountaineering experience would be an asset to me with the cold/wet conditions. To a certain extent, it was, as I think that made the difference for me not dumping the jacket at the start, but no matter what, it was too cold for me to perform at my best and I think just about everyone out there that day would share that sentiment.

There was no point at which I really broke down or had the wheels come off, I just gradually found myself more focused on my physical well being and could tell that my body was more focused on keeping warm, vs. running fast. I did not have my watch, but I could tell that I was slowing some and not on pace.At the A-Frame, SAR was there advising people on the conditions ahead and at least one runner ahead of me turned around here as he only had shorts and a singlet.

Once out of the trees, the wind really picked up and the precipitation froze into driving sleet, hail, snow and was starting to accumulate more and more the higher we went and visibility was minimal. I hunkered down in my hood and just pressed on, running when I could and walking when I had to.The final mile got pretty slick as the trail was now completely snow and ice covered. I just went steady, trying to not take a spill as I saw several others do nearby. It seemed counter intuitive to be going up in these conditions, but on this day, the nearest salvation was the summit and all I could think about was getting into my warm clothes.

Normally during the race, you can hear the announcer and crowds on top from well down the mountain. On this day, I did not hear anything other than wind and sleet hitting my hood until the final few minutes of the race. Near the top, my great friend Kevin Lund was there taking my picture and could hardly tell if it were me or not, I was looking pretty grim. Kevin and I went into the summit building where he gave me my bag of clothes and I huddled in front of the electric dryers and got changed in the men’s room. I was quite cold, but I was never desperate and luckily nothing was completely numb. The gear I brought and the pace I kept was fortunately enough to get me to the finish without getting hypothermia, but the margin was slim for most and certainly very uncomfortable to say the least. Many were shaking uncontrollably and were seeking help in the medical triage and I was very thankful to not be there.

Soon after, Kunkle and Jason showed up and we all talked about plans to head down. It was tough coordinating with everyone in those conditions, as we were all over the place. Kunkle and I were thinking it would be best to just get the heck off the mountain, then as if on cue, a loud crack of thunder resounded through the tempest which was all we needed to validate our decision. We were soon on a van following a snowplow for an eternally long ride down the mountain in blizzard conditions.

I was honestly pleased just to have completed the course in those conditions. Despite it all, I was faster than last year, but I was regretfully (yet not surprisingly) still not near my PR. I felt fitter than ever going into this race, but unfortunately a PR was not to be. I was neither excited nor disappointed over my performance, it just was what it was, I did what I could at the time and certainly further reflection inspires justified or perhaps unjustified critical nitpicking. Certainly better weather would have helped and that is certainly beyond any ones control. Might I have achieved my time goals otherwise? I would certainly like to think so, but I’ll never really know for sure. Better luck next time I guess. Congrats to everyone who got out and participated this weekend!

I can’t close without thanking Allison for putting up with all my selfish focus on this one race, I’m sure if she hears “Pikes Peak” one more time she will lose it.

Thanks to my great friend and running partner George Zack for offering so much positive encouragement, camaraderie and advice throughout the year. He is even more into this Pikes Peak thing than me I think. George always believes in me even if sometimes I don’t.

Thanks to the Kunkles for putting us up and feeding us the night before, thanks to Kevin Lund for braving those conditions to cheer, take pictures and getting me my warm clothes. Thanks to all my other friends and training partners as well, I can’t even name them all, but it always helps tremendously to have great friends to share the journey with.

Pictures from PPA:

Post race ramblings….. Jeff, Jason, Wayne Herrick, Fritz, Jean, Mark Silas and I headed to The Loop where some indulged in fish bowl sized margs and we all chowed. It was really fun having a mini 14erworld gathering in Manitou instead of blowing out of town like I normally do. Mark was a bit bummed as he and hundreds of others got turned around at A-Frame because of the dangerous conditions. Real bummer. Later, Jason and I attended the awards ceremony where I accepted my 3rd place trophy. It felt good to do this, as in the past I find out much later as a friend gives me the trophy a day or two later.We hung out at the Kunkle’s that night, watching the Olympics and feasting on pizza, having lots of great laughs of course.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday 08/15/08

Getting ready to leave for MS. Can't believe it is here already, man time flies. I am as ready as I'll ever be.

Thursday 08/14/08 Local run

Got out for 3 miles or so in 27 minutes, just taking it easy. Just like George, I felt not so great for the first 1/3, then things came around and I was ready to rip.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sunday 8/10/08 through Wednesday 8/13/08 A few peaks near Cameron Pass

Allison had been trying to coax me into heading up to the Cameron Pass area for the past 10 years. I was sure it was a cool area, but it is a bit of a drive and I was always a bit disinterested since there are no “high” mountains up that way (after visiting, I could not believe what I was missing and can not wait to return). Fast forward to this summer and I happened upon a TR on another site for Mt. Richthofen. After seeing the pictures, I said to myself “What??? Where is this and why have I not been there!!!?” I put Mt. Richthofen on my ever growing list of things to do and hoped to get there late one spring when the snow was in good shape.

Meanwhile, Allison and her parents were planning a 4 day trip in their RV. It was assumed at the time that I would be working, but a fortuitous recent development (me getting laid off from work), opened up my recreational options greatly . The timing was perfect, as it was a week before Pikes and I would get to sleep and train at a higher elevation than Louisville. Sweet!We left Louisville Sunday around 11am and arrived at the Ranger Lakes campground about 5 miles West of Cameron Pass shortly after 2pm (had a long lunch stop in Ft. C). It rained pretty hard for the last 30+ miles of the drive and the surrounding peaks were mostly obscured by the clouds. What little we could see was very intriguing and only heightened my curiosity and eagerness to explore.

A quick rundown….

Allison and I (or at least Sierra and I) got to climb peaks every day, while her parents did some casual hiking from the same TH we started at. Camping in the RV was pretty cush and our days were very casual. We would get up between 7 and 8am after 9-10 hours of deep, quiet sleep. Then we would eat eggs, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, granola and sip coffee (if you drink coffee) and start hiking no earlier than 10am. We would then hike casually, take lots of pictures and lots of breaks to just enjoy the solitude and scenery. Return to the camper, eat dinner, then go out for a drive and/or walk in search of moose. Repeat.

Not even in 4 trips to Alaska spanning a total of 8 weeks have I ever seen as many moose, a total of 17 in 3 days, simply amazing.One of our moose viewing highlights was happening upon a cow and calf at the American Lakes TH just after sunset. Moose are easily spooked by humans walking, but are unphazed by automobiles. We just sat still in the car for 30-40 minutes while the cow and calf munched willows 10-15 feet away. We could hear them chewing and making interesting grunts and groans towards one another, it was awesome to sit and watch un-interrupted for such a long period of time, beautiful creatures.

Another thrill was taking a walk near the campground as it was getting dark and creeping up for a closer look at a distant moose. We were just above the riverbank and about 40 feet away, a very large moose pops her head up over the embankment while a calf runs in the opposite direction. We immediately stopped and slowly backed away as she was clearly agitated with us. What a way to get the heart rate up!

North and South Diamond Peaks (11,852 and 11,701)
~3 miles/~1,800 vertical
Me and Sierra

After getting things settled at the Ranger Lakes campground, the weather improved somewhat and I was getting antsy to get some exercise and get up an easy peak to take in the views and get by bearings on what was around. Allison and her mom chose to join me and take their own hike with the dogs and we would meet back at the car in an hour.

We parked at the top of Cameron Pass and went our separate ways. I found a nice trail that headed North from the outhouse, then steeply West up a drainage to tree line. The trail eventually faded and I made my way across the grassy slopes making pretty much a beeline for the summit of North Diamond Peak. I was moving fairly quick and as I was passing the last of the trees, I heard a strangely familiar jingle jangle. I put a hand on my pocket to make sure it was not the car keys, yet I still heard it. I turn around and much to my amazement, Sierra is hot on my heels. Apparently, she had snuck away from Allison in search of me and bridged quite a large gap.

I was a bit annoyed over this situation as I hate the idea of her bridging a 3/4 mile gap on her own for obvious reasons. She has done similar things in the past when groups are marginally separated or within sight, but this was her biggest. At least she does have a great snoot and is quite efficient at tracking me, but it did have Allison and her mom quite concerned for an hour.Once she caught up, she kept sitting down to wait for the rest of the group. I knew they would never break tree line, so I pretty much had to push/coax Sierra the remainder of the way to the summit as her shepherding instincts are a bit too strong. Once she had mentally accepted that she was committed to being with just me, we were able to make good time.

The sky was a bit overcast, but did not look threatening, a bit cool and breezy at worst. The views from here were great and I could not help but to dream up all kinds of great traverses and linkups as I scanned the horizon. One particularly fun looking one would be Diamond Peaks to Clark Peak B, as it looks very runnable. Hmmm….

We zipped over to S. Diamond Peak in a few minutes and took in the views to the South of Nokhu Crags and Mt. Richthofen, our destination for the following day. After spending a few minutes gawking, I looked at my watch and realized I had exactly 12 minutes to get back to the car. I retraced my steps along the ridge for a bit until I found a suitable descend route and cruised back to tree line, where I found another faint trail along a drainage back to the car. I went about as fast as I could without really risking a fall on the wet roots, making it back to the car exactly on time, where Allison and her mom were anxiously awaiting our arrival, quite relieved to say the least.

Mt. Richthofen (12,940)
5 miles/3,000 vertical
Allison, Sierra and I

Got a cracking 10 am start up the well travelled trail to Lake Agnes. The lake appeared shortly after .8 mile and it was every bit as impressive as I was expecting with it’s nifty little island and the surrounding peaks towering above. We made our way around the West side and started up the stepped apron of talus up to the Richthofen/Mahler Saddle. The rock was not as bad as advertised and as a bonus, we were able to link up four or five dwindling snowfields to aid our progress.

Once at the saddle, we assessed the weather which seemed to be holding well and examined the steep loose scree we were about to ascend. The hillside was loose, but still not as bad as I expected. There is a trail, but that is not always the most efficient route, as there is more solid rock and easier climbing to climbers right. The rock got increasingly solid as we approached the false summit and we were then greeted with a view of the seemingly difficult summit block a short distance away.

A short descent and easy traverse over to the base of the true summit led us to the crux, a ~50 foot gulley of loose rock. Roach describes it as class 2, but I would have to say it is more like 2+ or very easy (unexposed) class 3, as we used our hands going up and down. Either way though, it was a piece of cake and we made the summit at noon and took a 15 minute break. The views are spectacular and I busied myself taking pictures and making sure Sierra did not cross the imaginary line into RMNP, as dogs are not allowed .The trip down was a breeze and was uneventful aside from me bumping my kneecap on a rock, precipitating a bit of foul language as I envisioned my Pikes race going down the tubes , but after a bit of groveling and icing with snow, I realized that it was nothing more than a minor bruise. It sure did hurt though (Allison might claim that I over-reacted…. ).

We returned around the East side of Lake Agnes (a bit more direct) and passed the crowds (crowded for a Monday), maybe 15 people total and arrived back at the car at 2pm. The in-laws were not yet back, so we pulled out the crazy creek chairs and lounged in the shade for quite a while, completely satiated.


Clark Peak B (12,951)
~12 miles/~4,000 vertical
Allison, Sierra and I

I originally wanted to do the entire traverse from Diamond Peaks to Clark as some sort of car shuttle plan, but at the last moment, common sense told me that would not be conducive to a smart taper, so I decided something shorter/easier would be in order.We parked along Highway 14 at the Blue Lakes TH and began walking the 2/10 mile SW along 14 to the trailhead for the Sawmill Creek Trail at 10:40.

The first few miles of trail follow an old logging road that is slowly becoming overgrown. The road crosses to the N. side of Sawmill Creek heading NW and eventually comes to a dead end. From the end of the road/trail, we bushwhacked North to gain a treed ridge that we then followed West to a minor saddle. From here, we made a bee-line for the summit over grassy undulating terrain, passing some wetlands and a few small ponds. Some of the slopes were somewhat steep, but the footing was solid and we made good time.

It was a bit windy on the summit, but the views were spectacular and the weather was clear and stable. From the summit, we headed South to Pt. 12,433 and then followed the ridge East until we re-connected with our ascent route. We made it back to the car a bit before 4pm. This was a great hike and we did not see another person the entire time.


Gould Trail
~5 miles/400 vertical
36 minutes

Before we hopped in the car to head home, I decided to sneak in an early morning run before everyone got up. Snuck out of the camper and did a rolling/mostly flat loop from the campground on what is called the Gould trail. I mostly took it easy, but got in a few fast strides here and there when the mood struck. Was looking for moose and had my camera along, but only saw deer and elk, lots of them. They were so spooked by my running, I did not have half a chance to snap a picture.

Saturday, 08/09/08 Mt. Audubon

7.8 miles/2,730 vertical
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere, Jason Halladay

Jason and Bill were visiting for the weekend as Bill was participatiing in the 5430 triathlon, so Jason and I decided to get in a little high altitude training close to home and Allison decided to join with Sierra. We arrived at the TH early enough to get a good parking spot in front of the outhouse. It was cold and breezy and the summits were capped in clouds over the divide. I normally bring a bunch of clothing to the TH and never use it for these runs, but this time I brought little and wished I had more.

After a brief warmup, Jason and I started up the trail at a fast, yet reasonable pace. My vague time checks were good and I was ahead of PR pace without really pushing too hard. A short ways after the Coney Lake trail junction, I stopped to put on my windbreaker, as I was really starting to cool off. Once I stopped, I just decided that I was not really into it. I could easily have pushed through to the summit and probably set a PR, but I felt it best to not push and just read what my body/mind was telling me.

I waited for a bit and Allison came cruising along with Sierra (they got a 10 minute head start), so I hiked with them for a while until Jason caught up. Once Jason caught up, we fast hiked/lightly jogged most of the way to the saddle, then powhiked the remainder of the way to the summit. We arrived there after 1:10 and waited another 10 for Allison. It was cold and windy, but we were able to stay pretty well sheltered behind a small rock wind break. The clouds were whipping from the West toward the summit, hit the rocks and then completely dissipate, really amazing. We took it easy heading down and it quickly warmed. We were the first/only ones on the summit, but passed quite a few people on the descent. Parking is a real issue at Brainard with the sinkhole closure.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday, 08/08/08 Biked around Louisville

15 miles

Did not feel like driving to Boulder and running, so instead, Allison and I took advantage of a cool morning and biked around town exploring bike paths and running some errands. It was actually pretty chilly this morning, but it felt great.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday, 8/07/08 Green Mountain

7 miles
2,500 vertical

Got out with Allison and Sierra today for a casual trip up Green. It was surprisingly cool and we had a great time. Toward the top, Allison really cranked it up and I let her go as I was adhering to my promise of taking an easy day, so I hung back with Sierra. I swear she could do a 3:35 or 3:40 on Pikes tomorrow, she just does not believe me. If she actually trained, I would bet money she could get under 3:20. Perhaps I can convince her next year??

Legs felt expectedly heavy, but not terrible, just how I would expect from two hard efforts this week at 14k. Tomorrow I will take an easy run, or maybe even ride the bike. Saturday I am hoping to get in 45-60 minutes of intensity up high with Jason, then it is all taper time with a few short runs and hopefully a few quick laps around the track on Monday or Tues.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday, 8/06/08 Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak
~8 miles/~4,300 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Lisa Goldsmith, Matt Carpenter (for a short while)

Got an invite from Lisa to join her and Scott Elliott for a trip to Pikes Peak. How could I pass it up? The plan was to catch a ride on the cog railway to Mountain View (only $10 if you can catch a standby seat), run to the top and meet Scott who would be up there waiting to give us a ride down and shout some encouragement. Awesome plan.

Waiting in line for the railway, Lisa introduces me to Yvonne and the name rings a bell, then I turn and remember why, when I see Matt Carpenter, oh yeah, Matt’s wife. We pay our $10 and all get seats on the train and sit next to one another and chit chat on the 33+ minute ride to our stop. We learn that Yvonne and their daughter are going to camp at Barr Camp, while Matt is going there to pick up some filters to transport back to town and meet them up there later. Dang it, I was hoping to chase Matt and see him strut his stuff on Pikes. As a consolation prize though, he jogged with Lisa and I over the ~1.5 miles. It was cool to run with him for a short time at least, very nice guy and certainly a legend of Pikes Peak.

Once at Barr Camp, Lisa and I discussed plans. Her plan was to run casually to the A-Frame and then nail the last 3 miles. Mine was to just to ease into it and see how I felt after hammering Grays/Torreys on Monday. I started off at a reasonable pace and my legs felt surprisingly good. I wanted to get a good workout, but not really get into the red and set myself back at all.

The higher I went, the better I felt. Made the Bottomless Pit sign in 10:58, then the A-Frame in 31:53 (20:55 split). After the A-Frame I was still feeling great and was not really digging yet, so I figured I would up the effort a bit, but still be careful to not overdo it. Made the 2 to go sign in 47:37 (15:44 split), cruised the next “flatter” mile and made it to the 1 to go sign in 1:00:37 (13 even for this mile), then tried a bit to up my game for the final mile, as I knew Scott would be up there watching and I of course had to look good. Got to the base of the Golden Stairs and I could hear Scott yelling from high above. I snuck in a few walked steps while I knew I was out of his sight, as it is just not efficient to try and run those bigger ones.

After the steps, there are a few more reasonable switchbacks and even a short downhill and I was really encouraged by Scott’s cheering and on the fly coaching. I was really cranking hard through here, giving it all I had, everything was clicking surprisingly well. The last few hundred feet of trail REALLY hurt, but I just put my head down and gave it all I had, finishing in 1:16:25 from Barr Camp with a 15:48 split for the final mile.

This was by far the fastest I have ever run the upper part of Pikes and I was quite surprised after the workout I had on Monday. I felt as though I gave it a good effort, but did not really extend myself too much until the final mile, it all felt totally in control.

Once I gathered myself, I ran back down to join Scott as he cheered Lisa on. She then decided to do an extra final mile, but I politely declined. Scott and I found a good vantage where we watched/timed and I then ran with her the final ¼-1/3 mile to give encouragement and I regretted not doing the whole mile, as I still felt great. Lisa really motored her final mile, in something like 15:08 I think, amazing, she will have an awesome race!

At the top, we also met up with Kees Guijt who I am somewhat familiar with, another awesome runner who placed 3rd in 2004, so we offered him a ride down. It was way cool getting out there with the stars of Pikes. Great company, great conversation and great running.
Splits from Barr Camp:
Bottomless Pit 10:58
A Frame 31:53 (20:55)
2 to go 47:37 (15:44)
1 to go 1:00:37 (13:00)
Summit 1:16:25 (15:48)

Tuesday 8/05/08 Bike Ride

25 miles

Rode to Boulder, just goofing around taking it easy, great recovery ride.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday, 08/04/08 Grays/Torreys

Grays and Torreys
Monday, 8/04/08
From Stevens Gulch TH

Continuing my build up for the Pikes Peak Ascent, I wanted to get in a fast high altitude test to see how my form is coming along. Grays and Torreys fit the bill perfectly as they are 60 miles from home and have a nice runable trail all the way to the summit(s).

I actually decided to do this at 5:45am this morning as I knew the weather today was supposed to be better than Tuesday and I knew as soon as I got out of bed that my legs were fresh and ready for a hard test.

I parked at the Bakerville exit and geared up, keeping an eye for any SUV’s passing by with an empty seat. One vehicle passed, but I was not ready, so I started jogging up the trail at a much easier pace than last week. After a literal minute, up comes a big Tahoe with 2 empty seats in the back piloted by Nicki, with her husband Eric in the passenger seat. They gladly make room for me and off we go. It is his first 14er and her second and we make small talk all the way to the TH. It took 25 minutes, only 5 off of our running time, but I was happy to have the ride and be able to start the upper section with fresh legs.

I spend 10+ minutes warming up, taking 2 last pees and stashing the drinks I was not taking with me up the peaks. My goal today is to break my PR of 55:52 and perhaps if I were lucky, beat the fastest known time of 55:30.

I started my watch at the far side of the bridge (closest to Grays/Torreys) and forced myself to not start off too hard (echoes of George's warnings about my bad habit of fast starts going through my head). My legs felt maybe the best they ever had and I eased up the trail with little effort. The trail levels out for a bit and I was really able to up the turnover and move quite fast, always looking for the perfect line through the rocks and cutting the gradual apexes as efficiently as possible. I reach the sign (my first and only checkpoint) and despite the conservative start, I am ~22 seconds ahead of PR pace. I am buoyed by this, but try to not let it go to my head and keep maintaining/upping the effort.

The segments of trail are flying past in stark contrast to a week ago (when I was tired from hammering the approach road). I am just feeling AWESOME now and my legs feel extremely strong and my steps are light, accurate and efficient. I walk a few of the biggest steps, or very short steep sections, but am able to keep a running momentum most of the way.

The final switchbacks come in quick succession and I am making frequent checks of the watch, which is now seeming to outpace me… it is going to be close! I am using my hands on my knees when practical to aid upward progress and am really giving my all, my entire body working in unison, doing everything to get me to the top. People on the trail are looking at me like I am nuts and I get frequent comments of awe and disbelief as I pass. I can smell the summit now and I am sprinting all out, knowing that I am going to PR. I hit the top and stop my watch at 54:38:93. Not sure why, but I get a bit choked up knowing that I have accomplished this test I have constructed for myself and I crouch down on the top and gasp for air.

I pull it together quick and take off for Torreys, hoping to PR on this stretch as well. Despite the effort, my legs still feel absolutely rock solid. I go quick, but careful down to the saddle (5 minutes), then give it all I have up the short ascent of Torreys, making it in 15:38 from Grays, a new PR for me by nearly 2 minutes. Sweet! I linger for a moment and accept a few compliments from summit spectators and am then challenged to do 50 jumping jacks. I politely decline and start my way back down at a quick, yet cautious pace. It takes me 35:59 to reach the summer TH where I gather my stash and poke around the lot in hopes of pilfering another ride. It being a weekday, I have no luck and resign myself to jogging my way out. This part sucks as it is getting warm and I am ready to be done, but the car appears in another 23, so no biggie.

I am very happy with the way my training is coming along and am very excited that my fitness is better than it was at this time in 2006, my best year to date. The race is less than 2 weeks away and I am hopeful that I can put together a solid performance come race day and put to rest my demons of 2007. Anything can happen of course come race day, so I try to not get my hopes up, I just have to play it smart from here on and give it my all when it counts most.


Start from TH: 0:00

Sign: 16:38

Kelso turnoff: 21:02

Grays summit: 54:38

Torreys summit: 1:10:06

Back at TH: 1:46:05

Back at Bakerville: 2:09:05

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday 8/03/08 Mt. Tweto

Mt. Tweto (13,672)
~5 miles/2,300 vertical
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere

We again parked after the crossing of Mosquito Creek where we parked for yesterday’s trip and headed North up the valley toward Tweto. The hike could not have been simpler and we made the summit in about 90 minutes taking it quite casual. From the summit, we debated heading over to Mount Arkansas, but again clouds were building and it looked a bit further and more involved than we were willing to commit to. I considered running over there, but the lure of the sprawling valley of wildflowers was overpowering.

Again, I was in la la land and took countless photos of the vast array of flowers carpeting the valley. We had the entire place to ourselves and were amazed and thankful that the masses cruise past without a glance. Good stuff!!


Saturday 8/02/08 "Repeater Peak", Mosquito Peak, Treasurevault Mountain

“Repeater Peak” (13548), Mosquito Peak (13,781), Treasurevault Mountain (13,701)8/02/08
~6 miles/~3,200 vertical
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere

For a long time I have been meaning to get over to the Mosquito Pass area and stroll a few easy bicentennials. George has a cabin nearby and has been running up there for years and always raves about it, so Allison and I finally decided to have a look.

We parked a bit past the London Mine just below the first really steep/rough section of road after the crossing of Mosquito Creek. We got a later than hoped start at 9:15am, but we were not too worried as we knew it was to be a short hike and we were just into taking things leisurely.

Shortly into the hike, we ran across some amazing areas of wildflowers and I took a few pictures, but figured there would be more time for that later. We loosely followed the road to where it crosses the saddle between London Mountain and “Repeater Peak” and headed up the East Ridge.

The summit came in no time and we kept on moving toward Mosquito, as the building and antennas were not all that appealing. The walk over to Mosquito and then Treasurevault was quite simple and uneventful and we took a nice break on Mosquito. By the time we got to Treasurevault however, there was a big dark cloud building quickly above us.

I of course wanted to run over and nab Tweto and Arkansas, but was just as happy to bail off the ridge and save that for tomorrow given the threatening weather.We meandered our way down valley and took a long break at a very tranquil lake above Oliver Twist Lake. Of course the dark cloud had dissipated or moved on and it was again a perfect sunny day.

We took advantage of this opportunity to completely take our time and not be rushed.As we descended back down the valley, we came across the amazing wildflower patches that we noted on the ascent and even more that we had missed earlier.

I was in picture taking heaven and lingered for an unknown amount of time snapping picture after picture, completely lost in the moment.I think we finally left around 2 and headed back to George’s cabin where we read, napped and then headed to Alma for an excellent meal at the South Park Saloon. It was awesome to just take things easy today and relax.

Thanks again to George for "letting" us crash his cabin ;).


Friday, August 1, 2008

Biked Lee Hill

35.7 miles
2 hours

Ahhhh..... the relief of not having to go to work! Had a leisurely morning around the house, eating breakfast, catching up on the internet and doing a few house chores. Got out the door by 9:15 and headed out Baseline to 75th to Jay to 36 to Lee Hill. The climb was hot and I had my 11-23 instead of my 12-25, so I was dogging it a bit. Went fairly hard going out/up, then casual on the way home as I went through town and home on the creek path/Baseline. It was getting mighty hot toward the end and I was glad to roll in to the driveway and seek shade.