Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday, 11/22/08 Boulder Skyline Traverse (Less The Traverse)

South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, Mt. Sanitas
Jeff Valliere, George Zack and Bob Sweeney
26 miles/10,700 vertical
5 hours, 12 minutes running time

George and I had tentatively planned to go run the double crossing of the Grand Canyon this weekend, but at the last minute I had cold feet and we scrapped those plans. As an alternative form of punishment, we decided to run our favorite peaks in Boulder, but instead of link them up, we decided to run each of them individually from bottom to top. We considered stashing water and doing this as a car shuttle, but decided that driving to each trailhead would be “easier” and make a bit more sense from a logistical standpoint (food, drinks, option to bail at any point).

We met at the S. Mesa TH, where George introduced me to Bob, who he had met 5 minutes prior (he heard about our run through the Blogosphere) and we were soon on our way up South Boulder Peak (we decided to go South to North so our climbs would get progressively smaller as we went).

I was feeling like garbage right from the start and even debated cancelling the previous night. I have a laundry list of excuses, but bottom line I was feeling a bit off and behind the 8 ball. I soon learn that Bob is not just any runner, but is on the 100k national team and has won the 100 mile national championships in 13 hrs and 5 minutes, amongst many other big league running performances. Very impressive, but this is very bad news for me, as now I have no chance of slowing George down.

For the entire ascent, I yo-yo off the back, gaining a bit of ground when it is really steep, and losing ground when it levels a bit. My lower back is killing and it hurts like crazy to run upright, yet it exacerbates the issue when I stoop forward. Ughhh. I surge a bit on the final push to the summit from the saddle and catch up. This is by no means a race, but I did want to keep up and put in reasonable times, as this was my idea after all.

George and I take the descent pretty casual and it is soon apparent that Bob is less practiced than us on the steep and technical descent. We wait for him once things ease up and we all jog out together back to the TH. 55:05 for the ascent and 1:36:44 for the RT. I have gone much faster in the past, but the effort today seemed like more than on my fastest day.

Next on the plate is Bear, from the Cragmoor TH. George takes off up the trail like he was shot out of a slingshot and Bob follows. Unfortunately, I had just stuffed 3 Cran-Razz Clif Shot Bloks into my mouth and would gag on them for the next 10 minutes to the Mesa Trail. I had them in sight, but there was a bit of racing going on between them, and even though I was playing things relatively conservative, I was very near PR pace crossing the Mesa Trail. I back off significantly, as I know that for me this pace is suicide. As expected, I nearly catch back on as the trail steepens up Fern Canyon.

Bob and I take turns behind George, as he is charging hard up the final 1,000 feet. We eventually top out and I am pleased to have this one behind us and waste no time starting down. My coordination is good and although not really pushing, I make very quick work of the upper sections of the most technical part of the descent. Once on easier terrain, I just casually cruise back to the car to refuel, half expecting the whole time for George and Bob to catch up. George is a few minutes back, and Bob once again had a tough time on the technical descent, then missed the final turn back to the car. Ascent time 45 minutes/RT time 1:11.

Next is Green. The pace is again high and I am again yo-yo’ing and suffering like a dog. The stinging pace setting eventually catches up with George and he lets us pass. Soon Bob lets me pass and even though I maintained the same effort, I was surprised to put a bit of time on them on the final push to the summit. The intensity, miles and vertical were all starting to take their toll on all of us. I trotted the descent, quick but never pushing, as my legs were starting to feel a little wobbly and I knew I was about to switch to damage control mode.
Ascent 39:25/RT from Gregory TH via Amphi, Saddle, Greenman 1:07:05.

Again, George and I waited for Bob, who struggled on the rough descent. Once we regrouped, Bob was smart enough to call it a day, while George and I soldiered on up Flag. Since we had parked far away, we did not bother to go back to the car to refuel (we should have, as we waited for quite some time at the Gregory lot), but anyways, we started up Flag at a quick walk and jogged the easier sections. Even though I was bonking, I got a second wind about half way up and was having an easy time of it. Eager to get back to food/drink quickly, I pushed the downhill a bit and was feeling surprisingly good. This would be the last time of the day that I would even feel reasonably good. Ascent 24:05/38:15 RT

Once at the car, George arrived a few minutes later and announced that he was done (after taking a few crashes). I could not blame him, as he has an important race coming up on Thanksgiving Day in which he hopes to do well. We enjoyed an extended, two person tail gate party, soaking up the warm sun and chowing on turkey sandwich and Extreme Cheddar Pringles. With my shoes off and feeling quite relaxed, it was somewhat tempting to call it a day as well, but Sanitas was calling.

I drove very slowly over to the TH, enjoying an apple and trying to put off the inevitable. Now that I had eaten and drank copious amounts of water and sports drink, I thought I was recharged (how wrong I was). I immediately attacked the steep trail, but after 30 seconds of this, my wobbly legs screamed out in protest and my stomach cramped up. I was hoping to go under 20 minutes, which on any other day is a pretty casual effort for me, but today I was wondering if I could even make it up at all.

I hobbled, bobbed and weaved my way up through the throngs of humans and dogs, once even bumping into a guy as I worked the crowd in my tipsy state. I apologized and fortunately he took it quite casually, as he was much bigger than I and today would have easily caught me. I topped out in 24:49, certainly my slowest ever time while trying hard. At this point, all I could think about was a big Chipotle burrito, so I turned tail and went down for all I was worth, making the RT in 39:02.

Although not the Grand Canyon, this was a great run. As always, it is always a pleasure to get out with George and push one another and it was great to meet Bob. Although not fast on rocky descents, he is a super strong runner and I hope to get out with him again as well.


  1. You forgot to mention we did this whole thing naked.

  2. You were nearly naked in those little shorts and Varicosa top:

    I was probably sporting the usual wedgie ;).

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I think you 3 passed me going up Saddle ridge. I let a trio of guys by, the first one was running, the second one was running/walking, and the third one was walking.

    I was taking my first shot at running what I thought was the trail that would take me to the amphitheater. As you know, I was lost, and that incline was a killer so I mostly walked.

    Kudos to you three for taking it as fast as you were, especially after the ascents you already accomplished that day. That's truly insane.

    I enjoy reading your blog, you do a lot of cool stuff. See you out there.

  4. Sounds like a pretty sick hike. I've done Bear 3 times.. most recently 2h43m stopping to take about 100 pic's at the top. I was wondering how my times to compare to others. It takes me about 45m to get down right now, but I'm soo slow on the way up compared to you guys. I need to make a weekly ascent to get my times down. Nice site ~ pjaxon