Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, 06/25/12 Longs Peak Birthday Bash

Longs Peak, 14,255
Keyhole Route
~14 miles
~5,000 vert.
3:46 (2:05 up)

Though I usually consider June to be my favorite month, this has been a tough one for me, having been sick (a light, but lingering case of what I guess to be bronchitis), the girls being sick for weeks, Allison having bronchitis, lack of sleep, a disappointing race at Mt. Evans, buying a house, busy at work and all the general craziness of wrangling two very busy toddlers. Add to that the ridiculous heat and often times unhealthy levels of smoke from the fires burning statewide, I have not been particularly enthused about or motivated to run. Lately, in order to avoid the heat, I have been trying to run before work (though 5:30am is way too early for me to put in a quality workout, even on my best days) and after work has just been too brutally hot to even want to get out, much less push hard or perform well, so I am struggling to come up with a compromise and get beyond what has become a bit of a slump.

However, my run up Longs Peak yesterday to celebrate my birthday was a huge mental boost and was quite rejuvenating, just what I needed to turn things around.

I went into the day with no real plan or motivation to push too hard, but knew I wanted to stick to the Keyhole route (long version with no Jim’s Grove variation), not worry about time, enjoy my surroundings and keep my effort low enough as to not feel the effects of the smoke.

I started at 6:26am and it was already quite warm and the smoke from the fires all over the state was present, but not really as thick as I had feared. I felt pretty lousy for the first five minutes or so, as it is always a bit of a shock running early in the morning at 9,000+ feet, but I soon fell into a comfortable rhythm and once I was warmed up, felt like I had boundless energy and felt well acclimated.  I momentarily contemplated heading back to the car to ditch a few items and restart my watch for a hard effort, but I diligently opted to stick to my plan.

Each section of trail passed by seemingly quick and effortless (effortless because I was not putting much into it really) and I could not have been more content or have been enjoying myself more, totally absorbed in my surroundings and free of worry, doubt, obligations or expectations. Near the Keyhole, I switched my brain from runner to hiker mode and took things pretty casual and cautious to the summit. Nothing about this final section is hard, but there are a few sections where you would not want to fall and I sheepishly admit that those sections caught my attention more than normal this time. I was conscious of the fact that I now have much more at stake than my previous trips, before becoming a dad and negotiated the exposed sections with great care.

The summit arrived seemingly fast (though not really that fast with a 2:05 ascent time). Even though this was 14 or so minutes slower than PR (using all the shortcuts for my previous PR efforts), I was happy with it given the added distance, relative minimal effort, casual approach and pauses to chat with other hikers on the ascent. I spent around 15 minutes on the summit just enjoying the (limited) views and conversing with fellow hikers.

I took the descent very easy and in fact was slower going down the upper section (37 from summit to Keyhole vs. 34 for the ascent), though I did spend time casually talking to other hikers along the way. One college age girl was quite impressed with my speed in relation to herself and the other hikers and was quizzing me about my training. "Do you do this a lot?" (I responded with "not nearly as much as I would like"). "How long have you been training for this?"... this I was unsure how to answer, do I train for THIS? Can I break it down to a yearly training cycle? Since I started running? Since I started climbing 14ers? Since I started climbing mountains when I was 4? I just simply and truthfully replied "a lifetime".

Below the Keyhole, the day really warmed up and I was thankful to have brought two bottles of water, as I drank it all and wanted more. I wanted to push a bit on the downhill, but I took a chance in (wrongly) selecting my La Sportiva Electrons, which provided AWESOME grip on the rock, but have an awkward fit/sizing and I could feel my toes getting smashed with each step on the technical descent. I was wishing that I had somehow been able to snag a size 10.5 test pair as the 10 is just too small (though I am normally 9.5 or 10 with a little extra room depending on the shoe) and really had to adjust my stride to minimize toenail damage.

Finished up in 3:46 for the roundtrip, quite slow by some standards, even slow by my standards, but was one of the more rewarding and enjoyable outings I have had in a long time, regardless of what the watch said. A perfect way to turn 41.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday, 06/16/12 Mt. Evans Ascent

14.5 miles/3,500 vert.

Quick and dirty recap....

My race did not go at all as hoped and I ran a PW (personal worst) and fell way short of my goals.  I was a little down on myself throughout and for a few hours after, but have let it go and am just calling it a good (though expensive) training run.

Nothing was particularly wrong during the race, but I did not feel that I had much to give, or really gave it my all and did not feel like I was at my best.  I could probably dredge up a few lame excuses that led to a less than ideal build up to the race, but they are hardly worthy of mention, just things that most of us encounter from time to time (sickness, family demands, work demands etc.....).

Once it became clear that things were not going my way, I just became somewhat apathetic and my goals incrementally slipped from lofty to simply finishing and getting off the mountain.

Upon crossing the line, I crossed paths with Lucho (who was long done after getting 2nd in 1:50) and offered me a ride down, but not before I ran up to tag the true summit block.  Running back down to the lot, I seriously considered continuing all the way back down to my car cross country, but my road shoes would have made it difficult, I had already made Lucho and his wife wait and the clouds were building in such a way that I knew the weather was going to get nasty quite soon (which it did big time).

Though I signed up for Evans as a training race, I of course set lofty (and now obviously unrealistic) goals after running what I felt to be a good race at the Bolder Boulder.  I think I had an overly inflated sense of confidence going into it, especially given that my training really lacked quality over the past 3 weeks.

During the entire race, I questioned what it is that I really like about racing.  At the time, I honestly could come up with very little and thought to myself how I would have rather been off doing my own thing elsewhere on my own terms.  Of course, had I achieved my goals, I would have been itching to sign up for another race or two.

Oh well, water under the bridge and I'll just use this as a wake up call that if I want to do well in August, I'll need to get my nose to the grindstone a little more.

Thanks to Jim P. for the below pictures and a huge thanks to Lucho and his wife for giving me a ride down and for the great company.

Being a sore loser as Jim graciously took my photo and offered up friendly encouragement (he looked like he was having WAAAY more fun than I was).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday, 06/04/12 Random

Funny stuff relating to the troubles going on at the Shack with Johan and the Schlecks:

A few pictures from the Bolder Boulder that I lifted from the Brightroom site:

The guy in front (who was given a little head start as to not get tripped up) had prosthetic legs below the knee.  Ran near him for much of the race, pretty amazing.

The shoes make me look fast(er than I am), but the floppy shirt makes me look like a mountain biker in a road race.

I could potentially go all Footfeathers with the right zoom/crop techniques.... ;)

My silly arm moves.

Making faces at 189 bpm.  I just noticed a B wave runner here, 35:4? or so.  Nice work.

Quit it with the watch already.

More stupid arm moves and grimacing.  Aside from the B wave runner who passed, I was mostly with A wave runners whom I had caught up to.

A final zig and a zag to the line.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Friday, 06/01/12 Missouri, Belford, Oxford

16.81 miles/7,155 vert./5:53/avg. HR 148  Garmin Data

Partners:  Homie, Joe and Tony

I had Friday off to do as I pleased in the mountains and was able to coordinate with Homie, Joe and Tony for a nice helping of 14ers.  Our plan was to do a point to point/car shuttle from the Rockdale TH (near Winfield) and over Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia and then down to my car at the Winter closure for the Frenchman Creek TH.

After a fun evening of laughter/catching up and a way too short night of sleep for me, we got started a bit before 7am and had a nice cold double creek crossing (knee deep) to wake us up before starting the 2.5 mile 4x4 road climb up to Clohesy Lake.  We were somewhat spread out at times at the start (due to various creek crossing tactics) but were all together for the final mile or so before the lake.

Above Clohesy Lake, the trail got super steep as it headed for the summit ridge of Missouri and we all spread out a bit as we settled into our own paces.  It was obvious that Tony was feeling great, as he took off up the hillside, where we could see him climbing away for some time and then was pretty much gone for the day after topping out on Missouri.

Normally, I would really enjoy such a steep trail that tackles the fall line, but I was not feeling all that great and seemed to be putting out too much effort for as slow as I was moving.  It seemed like a struggle to just get up the hillside, never mind try to push hard and I had a rare moment of wishing for switchbacks.  Nothing in particular really felt bad, but I just had no pep in my legs whatsoever and was quickly lagging behind.

Still thinking that I would continue all the way over all 5 peaks, I just dialed back the effort considerably and pretty much took it easy to the summit of Missouri, where Joe and Homie were patiently waiting.  After a quick gel, we were on the move again, dropping the ~1,300 or so feet down to the basin below the S. side of Elkhead Pass, before regaining the elevation up Belford.

Again, I was struggling to keep up, where my HR was not all in line with my perceived effort and I was quite thankful to top out on the summit of Belford and take a little break.  At that point, I was 99% sure that I would not be adding Harvard and Columbia and felt bad for slowing up Joe and Homie, as they had a long ways to go.

The trip to Oxford was generally relaxed, as we again all settled into our owns paces.  On the summit, we spent a few minutes consulting the maps, where Homie was trying to encourage me to continue on, but I knew that just returning over Belford and back to camp was going to be plenty enough for me.

My return trip went better than I anticipated and though not pushing hard, I was able to get back to the Missouri Gulch TH in decent time.  The ~2.5 miles of dirt road back up to camp however was not so fun, where I alternated jogging with short periods of walking.

Back at camp, I spent some time soaking in the creek and then just relaxing for the 3.5 hours until the gang returned.  It was actually really nice to spend a few hours doing absolutely nothing.

Though I did not feel as strong as I had hoped, it was awesome to spend a day in the mountains with great friends on the first day of June (my favorite month).  I felt surprisingly good in regards to the altitude (despite not getting up high much over the Fall/Winter/Spring), but I think that my legs were just not quite recovered from my hard 10k on Monday and subsequent run up Green (probably not the best combo), as my legs were sore enough to have me limping on Tuesday and Wednesday.

No complaints though on a near 6 hour run, three 14k summits and 7,155 vertical.  A good way to ease back into the high mountains and certainly a great workout. 

Joe and Homie nearing Clohesy Lake

Homie pointing out the route from Huron down to Clohesy Lake

Huron/Clohesy Lake

Homie about to pass/drop me to the summit of Missouri.  He is in super shape right now.

Punchy snow leading to Elkhead Pass


Harvard again from Belford


Looking North from Belford