Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, 01/18/10 Green Mountain

Since I work in Longmont and do not get out of work until 4pm, for the past ~2 months I have only been able to squeeze in a trip up Sanitas, with it getting dark on me toward the end for a few weeks. Today I decided to see if I could squeeze in a trip up Green. Since it gets dark around 5:30, I knew it would be tight, especially with the dog and with crappy trail conditions.

We started up the Amphitheater Trail at 4:22pm. The trail was ice and slush, then lots of rock with hard patches of ice. I kept the microspikes on, but they were not ideal with all the rock, but there was too much snow and ice to go without. As I neared saddle rock, the trail became more consistently covered with snow and it was easier going. I was going moderate and aside from a few momentary pauses to encourage Sierra and make sure she was still there, I felt as though I was making pretty good time with minimal effort. My legs were a little heavy, but my lungs felt as though I was hardly working.

I made the summit at 5pm, took ~2 minutes to pee and check out the views and was encouraged by how light it was. I made good time on some of the upper trail, but was soon tip-toeing around rocks and Sierra was starting to lag.

By the time I got down past Saddle rock, it seemed as though somebody flicked off a light switch and it got really dark fast. I had a headlamp and a cheapy flashlight which helped marginally, but really just seemed to be absorbed and it was hard to pick out ice from rock from log. This is where conditions really sucked the worst, as it was lousy having traction, but would have been really dangerous without.
Finished at 5:30 on the dot.

38:46 up
28 down

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday, 01/17/10 Sanitas

~15 down

Pushed a little on the up. I was over dressed and it was slick from melty muck. Took it easy on the down as my shoes are wearing out and I really need a new pair.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday, 01/16/10 Sanitas

A bit lazy from the previous day and not really feeling like getting ready to hike on icy or muddy trails, we decided that we would run a few errands in Boulder, then come home and take the dog for a long walk from the house. After completing our errands, it became very sunny and warm and we were regretting not coming to town prepared for outdoor activity. Despite wearing civilian clothes, we figured a trip up Sanitas would be fun. We just hiked super easy, enjoying the nice day. My heart rate was probably somewhere between laying on the couch and cooking dinner level for most of the walk. I ran the last few minutes to sneak in under 30 (29:56), but felt/looked silly running in jeans.

Friday, 01/15/10 James Peak

James Peak 13,294ft.
~8 miles
~3,000 vertical
4:39 RT from the St. Marys “Glacier” TH
Jeff, Allison and Sierra Valliere

We waffled big time before this trip. It was Allison’s birthday weekend and aside from the usual getting together with family/friends one evening and a nice dinner at Tibets in Louisville (HIGHLY recommended!!!) Thursday evening, we had no solid plans. We were stuffed to the gills and tired after dinner, so we went to bed early with nothing packed and just figured we would get up whenever and play it by ear.

Next thing we know it is 7:24am, 2+ hours later than I normally sleep. Allison suggested James Peak, so we scrambled to get ready and were out the door in about an hour.

We arrived at the trailhead after a bit more than an hour drive and I paid the $5 parking fee and then got my moneys worth in their well maintained outhouse. We were anticipating a “pleasant for January” day, but the temperature was in the low 20’s and the wind was cranking even down low. I regretted driving Allison’s Corolla, as it is not as roomy as the Element and gearing up outside of the car makes for a cold start (a start contrast to the roomy interior of the Element which doubles as a ski lodge).

Finally, we were on the trail at a not so Alpine start of 10am. I was surprised that St. Marys Lake came after about 10 minutes of walking including a 5 minutes break. At the lake, the wind was howling and the view of the “glacier” was a little disconcerting. Since this was a last minute trip, I did not do my homework and I was unsure as to whether or not the route up the “glacier” was avalanche prone or not. Though it has not snowed in a while, the wind was certainly transporting snow and with the unstable snowpack, steep and seemingly loaded slopes above, it appeared from a distance to not be the best route.

After adding my Gore-Tex jacket, balaclava, Masque, goggles and warm mittens to my already bulked up attire, I could relax a bit and look around. There were very steep slopes and cliffs immediately to the West of the lake, but to the SW, it appeared that one could stay mostly in the trees and out of any avalanche danger if you are willing to work a bit for it. My only concern was that we left the snowshoes behind in the car the going through the woods could involve some tedious post holing.

On the S. end of the lake, I immediately found an old snowshoe track that efficiently took us SW up though the woods where we pieced together patches of trees, bushes and wind scoured ground to get up onto the S. ridge of Pt. 11,716. The wind above tree line picked up and the temperature was in the mid teens. As we crested Pt. 11,716 and turned in the direction of James, the strong and unrelenting wind could not have been more perfectly in our face. Despite this though, I was somewhat thankful of the work the wind had done, as the ground was mostly bare. Once we got down to “Jamaica” and the lower slopes of James, there was consistent snow cover, but fortunately, it was packed solid and walking with Microspikes on our boots made for relatively efficient travel.

Once the slopes steepened, we decided to engage the SE ridge hoping to find some relative wind shadow, rather than loosely follow the summer trail. This turned out to be a mistake, as the snow on the ridge was not well consolidated and the talus was tipsy, compounded by the wind tossing us around. It would have for sure saved us 10-15 minutes had we stayed lower to the left on the packed, low angled snow. The last section of mountain dragged, complete with a false summit or two and it seemed to be taking forever. The summit still looked somewhat far away and my watch read 12:38pm. I was hoping to have been there by now, but hoped we could sneak in before 1pm. I pushed a bit over the last section and arrived at the summit at 12:56 and Allison rolled in a few minutes later, literally stepping on the summit at 12:59:59, just barely sneaking in a sub 3 hour ascent.

I gulped down warm soup from my thermos while trying to huddle in the snow filled summit “shelter”. The cold wind was persistent though and was soon chasing us away, but not before I could snap off a few photos. My hands were numb and I was balling them up in my mittens, swinging them around and slapping them on my thighs to try to warm them up. I had chemical warmers in my pack, but the investment to dig them out was more than I could bear.

Before long though, I was able to warm up sufficiently with steady movement and was thankful the wind was now at our back for the hike out. We made great progress on the return trip with the packed snow and tailwind, slowed only by the minor inconvenience of having to re-ascend over 11,716. We made it back to the car at 2:29pm and I could only look forward to a HOT shower to warm my core and a warm meal.

Though James Peak is relatively short and easy, I felt as though I really worked for it today. I started off cold and never really warmed up. My legs also felt a bit heavy, I am guessing still perhaps a bit tired from pushing myself in the snowshoe race last weekend. Allison however was having a very good day, she was moving strong and giving me encouragement. If I even stopped for a moment, it took me 10-15 minutes to catch up and even that seemed unlikely at times. All in all a fun winter challenge and a great workout.


Thursday, 01/14/10 Sanitas

We were busy and largely unmotivated today, so we snuck in Sanitas amongst some errands in the afternoon. Sierra and I hung back with Allison and paced her to a 24:54 ascent, several minutes slower than her best, but not a bad winter time for her, especially since the bottom 1/3 was spent somewhat casual.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday, 01/12/10 Sanitas

18:55 up
15 down

Pushed a little on the up, but legs did not feel that great, still recovering from Saturday I guess. I was also slipping and sliding a bit in the mud and on the snow/ice, as there are still large patches, though it is melting quickly. It was in the high 50's today, almost warm enough for shorts!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday, 01/11/10 Sanitas

Bumped into a work/14erworld acquaintence Lincoln as I pulled up to Sanitas. Hiked easy with him and Sierra. Despite the hard effort during the snowshoe race on Saturday, my legs felt surprisingly good.

~25 up
~22 down

Saturday, 01/09/10 Hardwater Snowshoe Race

Hardwater 11 Mile Snowshoe Race
2nd place
Race website

For months, my good friend Kevin Lund had been talking about putting on a snowshoe race on the Sourdough Trail in early January to fill the void left by the cancellation of the Turquoise Lake 20 mile snowshoe race in Leadville that traditionally has been held on the same weekend.

I was reluctant to commit, given that the weather up there is often times cold and windy this time of year and the host of usual other excuses I might have not to race. I put the idea mostly out of my mind, but spoke with Kunkle (he and Keith B were signed up for the 30k) and Kevin Thursday evening and was reminded of it. Kevin also informed me that there was the option to register on race day for only $20and there was a pair of Vasque shoes up for grabs. On Friday, I mulled it over, debating whether or not to race or volunteer, yet ultimately decided that with no other plans, a perfect forecast and the fact that Allison was enthusiastic to race it as well, it would be a great workout at the very least.

This was a very small race, 25 participants total, almost evenly spread out between the 11 miler, and the 30k option. We assembled at the start line in the Sourdough TH parking lot for the 9am race start and there were several very fast and fit looking guys stretching and warming up. Though it was a small race, you never know who is going to show up and blow your doors off in this neck of the woods and this was looking to be yet another one of those instances.

We started at 9am sharp and I led it out across the lot and onto the trail. This being my first snowshoe race and really my first time running in snowshoes, I had no idea what to expect or how to pace myself regarding speed. I held the effort high, but was careful not to blow too soon and just maintained a steady tempo. I could hear breathing behind me, but I did not want to look back and alter my focus.

A guy in a Redfeather Snowshoe Race Team kit (Greg) soon came along side, then passed me within the first ~1/2 mile or so and got a bit of a gap. He looked pretty fast, fit and decked out, so I figured he would just continue to increase his lead, but was surprised to maintain my deficit at a consistent 15-25 seconds for the next few miles, almost constantly keeping him in sight (it helped that his outfit had a lot of red).

I dared not look back, but I could not hear anyone for quite some time and assumed we had opened a good gap on the remainder of the field. At around 2.5 to 3 miles on one of the switchbacks, I could see Brian Hunter closing in, though I was not worried, as I knew he was racing the 30k. I held the gap for a while, but soon Brian passed on a loose snowy section and I gave him encouragement as he took off down the hill. He was looking great and really flying, going on to win the 30k, nice job Brian! I am assuming that when he closed in on Greg, they both really upped the pace and were racing one another, since the gap went from ~25 seconds to 2 minutes by the time I arrived at the turnaround aid station just below the gate for Brainard Lake.

At the turnaround, I skipped their services and did an immediate u-turn in hot pursuit of Greg. I figured he would continue to put time on me, but I chased for all I was worth regardless. Before long, I started passing other racers still going the other way and was getting encouraging time checks. Allison gave me some great encouragement and was a great motivational boost. I was feeling better than I thought I might given my moderate fitness and lack of specific training for this (none) and kept the effort high. Though climbing is normally my strength, my quads were starting to balk a bit on some of the short but steeper inclines. This was certainly due to the effort, but I also think 11,000 vertical feet in the snow the previous week was not the best taper after being sick and sedentary for 2 weeks (excuses??).

I kept hoping to see a glimpse of red through the trees, yet saw none. I asked a guy on skis what the gap was near the 8 mile point and heard something along the lines of 4 minutes. My hope was a bit dashed here and my thoughts of catching Greg diminished significantly and my new focus was to just limit my losses and not get caught from behind. Though my thoughts wavered, I did manage to maintain my effort and soon started to pass other people recreating on the trail, giving encouragement that I was really close. What does that mean? 4 minutes? 2 minutes? Less than a minute? The last ~1.5 miles trend downhill with some flat toward the end. The trees are somewhat open, but I guess were just thick enough to hide in. I was flying through this section, feeling surprisingly quick and strong, hardly noticing that I had snowshoes on my feet, with a surge of adrenaline knowing the finish was near and that I might be closing in on my competitor.

In what seemed like a flash, yet an eternity at the same time, the trail ended and the finish line appeared. To my astonishment, I could see Greg just ~150-200 feet ahead, about the same distance or less to the finish line. Sprinting out of the woods, across the road and through the parking lot, I gave it all I had and ended up just seconds back. The results have me down as 11 seconds behind, but I think it was a bit closer. I was stoked to be so close, as I really thought the whole time that I was further back, yet being so close was a bit difficult, knowing that, well…. I was SOOO CLOSE!!!

We exchanged congrats, then I immediately dashed off to the aid station near the Brainard gate to give Kevin my snowshoes so he could use them to sweep the course (he loaned his nice ones to Allison for the race). I rallyed the snowy roads to get there in time, but missed him by 10-15 minutes. I was bummed to not get to hang out at the finish and talk with Greg more and cheer on the remaining finishers.

I did however make it back in time to cheer Allison across the line and though she was toward the back, she was not last and had a great time as well.

Though the race was small, it was well organized, close to home, inexpensive, had many great prizes (Vasque shoes for Male and Female winners in both distances) and some awesome raffle prizes handed out at the finish, including a super nice backpack that was really the grand prize. The course was awesome too and I heard from several who ran the entire 30k and they stated that it was very challenging, perhaps more so than the Turquoise Lake race.

Thanks to Kevin, Reid and Kristen for organizing/volunteering your time. Hopefully they are able to put on this race again next year, I will be there for sure and I will highly recommend it to others. What a great day!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday, 01/08/10 Green Mountain

Hiked Gregory/Ranger with Allison and Sierra. It was really cold in the shadows, but comfortable for the most part overall, especially in the sun. The trail is packed really well, about the best I have ever seen it, super easy going with the Microspikes.

Up in an easy 59:59
Down in ~45ish

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday, 01/07/10 Bear/S. Boulder

48:34 Bear
1:00:59 S. Bo
1:13:02 Bear
1:44:18 Total

Despite the 3.8 and 7.3 degree F noontime temperature readings at the NCAR weather sites, I was enthused to go play in the new snow. I debated bringing Sierra, as I just wanted to get in a zone and not worry about her, but at the last minute decided to let her tag along, as there is nothing she loves more than romping in fresh snow (she was guilting me out majorly as I prepared).

Our start from Cragmoor was a bit slow, as Sierra decided that she wanted to instead wait for/play with a dog that was starting up the trail behind us. I was quickly moving ahead, but she had other plans and wanted to play. I waited and yelled and she finally caught up.

The trail was mostly packed as far as the Mesa Trail and conditions deteriorated beyond with unconsolidated snow and packed ice underneath. Microspikes were a blessing to the saddle, which I reached in a casual 32 minutes. Above the saddle, things got messy and although I would not have wanted to be without traction, I was still slipping and sliding a lot and progress was a bit tedious.

I reached the summit post in 48:34 and boogied around the back side to head over to S. Boulder. There was a somewhat packed track to the saddle, but I was forced to break trail beyond to the summit of S. Boulder Peak which I summited in 1:00:59. I changed into dry gloves and a hat and immidiately cruised back, making the true summit of Bear in 1:13.

I took the descent super casual as to not get hurt, as I was slipping and sliding a lot. From the saddle down, I was able to open things up a bit as conditions improved, then was forced to go slow again once the trail opened up as I was waiting for Sierra (she always "dogs it" on this section for some reason). When we finished, she had a major beardsickle, it was awesome, I'm sure rivaling anything Tony has going on similar days.

Though it was cold, I was dressed just right and stayed warm enough without overheating. The coldest part of the day was running errands afterwards soaked with sweat, I was frozen to the core and it took a long HOT shower to finally thaw.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday, 01/05/10 Sanitas

Started easy, bumped it up to moderate and the legs felt great. Made the summit in 18:55. Took it easy on the down, but still almost died on the ice (16 down).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday, 01/04/10 Sanitas

Easy lap on Sanitas with Sierra. Lot's of ice going up the S. Ridge, even more ice going down the East side. Carried Microspikes up and wore them for a bit on the way down, but there were some long sections of rock, so I soon took them off. Of course, not long after doing that, there was tons of ice, but I was too lazy to put them back on.

19:50 up
19 down

Saturday, 01/02/10 Green Mountain

Eager to get back into hilly terrain after a week in Virginia visiting family and 2 weeks of generally being sedentary, I coaxed Brandon and Homie into joining me for a trip up Green. I had low expectations, as I had been sick and spent so much time sitting around eating bad food, but figured I would push a little, just to see how all these factors affected me.

Brandon took it out hard on the approach. I was hoping for a casual warm up, but found myself huffing a bit when trying to make conversation. We started up Amphitheater trail with Brandon setting a strong pace, then me, then Homie trailing behind. A few minutes in, Brandon pulled off, saying something like he blew a lung or something. I went ahead, walking the steep sections, running when I could and debated for a while whether or not I should keep pushing ahead, or drop back and chat.

I felt decent and was mostly just happy to be back on home turf, so I continued to up the intensity as I went. Despite the snow, the Microspikes were providing great grip. On the upper 1/3 of the mountain, the footing became less solid in the drifted snow, enough to spin out some and lose efficiency, but still not that much of a problem.

Toward the top, I was sure I would sneak in under 40 and kind of rested on my laurels a bit, but then the watch started getting out of control, so I cranked the last 3 minutes or so, but my complacency bit me in the ass by 24 seconds as I topped out in 40:24. Dang.

My time was not what I had expected given the effort, but I was overall pleased given the conditions and my lack of discipline as of late. Homie rolled in soon after, then Brandon and we all cruised down Ranger/Gregory at a conversational pace.

2009 Summary and Stats

Although I broke my foot and ended up being mostly out of action during a good part of the prime summer months (including Pikes Peak), I had a great year regardless.

The highlight of the year for me was certainly running the Grand Canyon RRR in April. I ran an 8:43, taking ~1:40 off my previous best from 2006 and was very happy with this. I did not train for it as well as I could have because of an IT band injury prior, but I was well prepared in every other way and had perfect conditions and mindset on the day. I am itching to go back and give it a go again this year, hopefully I can still improve upon my time with better training and more experience.

Other highlights this year include (in no particular order):

Winter 14er ascents with the Winter Warriors.
Winter Longs Peak climb with Tim.
Emperor Couloir on Torreys with Dave and Bob D’s CMC group.
Canyoneering trip to Utah with Allison, Dave, Emily and the dogs.
Informal TT series up the Boulder Peaks in May/June and setting a new PR up Green on the “standard” route.
Watching Lance win the Leadville 100 MTB race with my sister Darcie.
Trip to Alaska (despite a freshly broken foot, I had an awesome time).
Biking Mt. Evans in January.
Lot’s of road riding while I was off my feet.
Plus too many other great outings with Allison, Sierra and friends to bore everyone with here.

In 2010, my goals are to have as few injuries as possible, climb as many new peaks as I can fit in, spend lots of time doing this with Allison, Sierra and my great friends, do some more canyoneering, improve my time for the RRR, help Allison finish her final 5 14ers, improve at Pikes Peak, compete in a few more races (though I am not sure which ones yet) and most importantly, always enjoy myself to the fullest.

2009 by the numbers:

525,314 Vertical Feet
1,501 Miles
28 14ers
23 13ers
7 12ers
1 10er
53 Trips up Green Mountain
47 x Sanitas
43 x Bear
30 x S. Boulder
214 Days on my feet
50 Days on the bike
247 Total Summits

For kicks, I added up the numbers for the past 5 years (the only years I have kept detailed records):

2,823,889 Vertical Feet (equivalent to 535 vertical miles, or 361 Pikes Peak Ascents from Manitou, or 2,259 trips up the Empire State Building, or 97 trips up Everest from sea level).
7,551 Miles
114 14ers
At least 1,159 total Summits (including repeats)

Sunday, 12/27/09 Virginia

Sunday, 12/27/09
~8 miles
1:15ish (includes a stop at the grocery store)

Got out for a short easy run in Centreville, Va.. while visiting family for the holidays. I attempted to run trails, but the 2 feet of snow they had the week prior, coupled with fluctuating temperatures and rain created a real mess and I found it unpleasant at best to deal with. About 1/3 of the run was on trails, avoiding mud, puddles, patches of ice and loads of dog poop. The remainder of the run was on sidewalks.

This was the only run I managed to fit in during the entire weeklong trip. I would have run every day just to burn calories, but I also got sick, so I was lacking energy, combined with un-inspiring running terrain, it just was not going to happen. Just as well, the break was a good thing. On these trips, I wish I liked running for the sake of running.