Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday, 01/19/2013 Sourdough Snowshoe Race

Sourdough Snowshoe Race

11.6 miles
1,584 vert
2nd Place

My good friend Kevin Lund has been putting on this great little snowshoe race now for 4 consecutive years on the Sourdough Trail, starting near the CU Mountain Research Station and North toward Brainard Lake.  This race was intended to fill the gap left by the disappearance of the Turquoise Lake Snowshoe race in Leadville a few years ago and Kevin has managed to increase the popularity a bit over the years (60+ participants this year vs. 25 the first year), yet the limit is 80 I think he said.  It is a small race, but he has some great prizes for everyone, entry is free (donations appreciated), is close to home and has some good competition.

Allison and I ran this race in 2010, where I placed 2nd, just 10 seconds or so back and had a fun time, but in 2011, we were way too busy with then 3 month old twins.  In 2012, I watched the girls while Allison and her friend Emily participated.  Though I had a great time in 2010, I am not particularly keen to race in January, but Kevin just signs me up before I have any say in the matter, along with Allison's encouragement for me to join her, I was committed.

After taking a few weeks mostly off after Thanksgiving due to being sick, which also happened to overlap a bit with a minor Achilles niggle, I have been getting outside reasonably often over the final half of December and the start of 2013.  Just the usual laps on Green, a trip to Bear, some loops on Sanitas, but I would not really call it training (do I ever really consider it training?), just hitting the trails with friends or Sierra and always going easy, moderate at most, continually reminding myself that “it is only January”.  My fitness has felt pretty spotty as a result, as some days I feel like I am defying gravity and could be close to very good fitness with a few weeks of focus, other days, I feel like gravity is conspiring against me.

In the days leading up to the race, I checked the start list once or twice and noticed a few fast names pop up and knew that I would have my work cut out to place well, but I just went in with an open mind, looking to enjoy the experience, see where I was at and see if I could run faster than last time.  Worst case scenario I would get a good workout and have some fun in the mountains.

I positioned myself near the front for the start and I was immediately shocked at the sprint across the parking lot, much quicker than the last time I ran this race, but there were more fast people here this time.  Once onto the wide trail, the pace hardly relented and I was gasping for air, not having been at a higher elevation than the Boulder peaks since Pikes back in August.  I checked my heart rate, figuring it had to be in the 180s, but was surprised to see 160.  I think I was in 9th or 10th for the first ½ mile or more, feeling pretty maxed out and I contemplated just stepping to the side to wait for Allison and run with her, but I knew that I would be ashamed of myself if I just gave up that easily.  I just worked on controlling my breathing and hoped that I would find some sort of a rhythm.  Still, I got passed a few more times, but as the gradient began to increase a little, I started to slowly pick people off one by one, some of whom seemed to have completely exploded.

Travis Macy leading it out fast.

Me wearing all black.  Best to go stealth.

This helped my confidence a bit and I increasingly felt more in control and worked on maintaining the hardest tempo I could maintain for what I was hoping would be less than my 2:16 time from 2010.  One by one, I caught up to and passed all but 2 or 3 runners, 2 of which were often in sight, so maybe ~30 seconds up on me.  Aside from Travis Macy, I had no idea who was going onto the 30k or returning for the 11.6 miler.

As I approached the aid station/turn around, though I had not yet met him, I saw who I figured to be last year’s winner, Charlie Nowacki on the return and he gave me a friendly greeting and encouragement.  Things at the aid station went a bit slower than I had hoped, as I opted to not carry water and needed a cup to wash down the gel I had just taken.  I think we had gotten there a little faster than they expected (my split here was an hour even), where they had to scramble to get a cup from the back of the pickup truck, fill it, then hand it off.  It may have only cost me 30 or 40 seconds, but seemed like an eternity as I was now in full on pursuit for 1st place who was now over a minute ahead.

I took off for the return trip and was pushing at what felt like was my best effort, just completely in the zone and with laser focus.  I kept hoping to see Charlie along one of the longer straight-aways, but could not catch a glimpse.  When I passed Allison, still heading outbound, she told me that he was really close, but I had no idea whether that really meant in terms of minutes/seconds.  Was I gaining?  Maintaining?  Losing ground?  I just kept at it though, never settling, never looking back (though I knew there were some fast people hot on my heels), always riding that limit.  With about a mile to go, knowing the trail was now a wide highway and all downhill(ish), I poured out everything I had with memories of such a close finish in 2010 still fresh in my mind.  HR was now up close to 180 and my pace was often in the low 6 minute/mile range and even in the 5’s at times, which seemed particularly fast on snowshoes.  The last bit seems to go on forever...  I kept thinking the finish had to be around the next corner and I was happy to finally see the parking lot/finish line, where both Kevin and Charlie gave a simultaneous high five as I crossed the line.

Charlie had finished about 2 minutes ahead of me in 1:51 and alhough I was slightly disappointed to finish 2nd again, I was happy to have turned things around after feeling like quitting and I also knocked a whopping 23 minutes off my time from 2010 (though some of that improvement is simply due to faster snow conditions this year).  I also felt quite satisfied that despite my relatively low fitness level this time of year and lack of practice running with snowshoes (only my second time ever) I was able to pace myself well, exercise patience, persistence and felt as though I gave my best effort.

Me, Charlie and Kevin

I later learned that finishing behind Charlie is nothing to be ashamed of, as he is no slouch at this stuff and is training for the upcoming Snowshoe National Championships, where he is aiming for top 10 finish (was 19th last year).  He is also a super nice guy and has quite the friendly sportsmanlike demeanor (not sportsman like hunting animals on a ATV, just very humble a gracious).

Post race was a blast, chatting with friends, making new acquaintances and hanging out on a perfect sunny day in the mountains.  I had changed and was preparing to head back to run with Allison for a bit, but she finished quicker than I expected in 3:07 and was 2nd place woman (I think), about an hour faster than she has run over her past 2 races here.

Allison finishing strong, nearly an hour PR here for her.

Post race.

My only complaint was that there is no Masters classification!  I easily had that in the bag, so I'll have to keep bugging Kevin about that one ;).  All in all a great race and I would highly recommend it, even if you are not a snowshoe racer (I certainly am not).  Would love to do more snowshoe racing though, it is pretty dang fun.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Year in Review Part 3: Stats, PRs, Racing and a Few More Photos

Could probably have split this 2012 review into a few more parts, but wrapping up is probably the wise choice, as my mind is already way into 2013.

Stats  Almost embarrassingly skimpy numbers if compared to just about everyone else out there that I know or know of, but I fit in what I could to maintain some fitness and sanity, all the while trying my best to strike a reasonable life balance.

Garmin Data
Miles:          1,641.5
Vert.:           486,387
Activities:     285
Time:  375 hrs and 43 minutes

Weekly Mileage Avg.:  31.5
Monthly Mileage Avg.:  136.8 (High of 191 in Jan, Low of 78 in Nov.)
Monthly Vert. Avg.  40,532 (High of 52,110 in April, Low of 22,224 in August)

Total Summits:  182

Green:  131
Bear:      21
SoBo:    10
Sanitas:    6

14ers:  10
13ers:    1
12ers:    1
11ers:    1
Other:    1

PRs Set a few PRs this year as well, nothing Earth shattering, but it always feels good to improve and have a good run where everything feels dialed.  Came within a second or two of a few other PRs on a bunch of occasions.

Green RT PR from Gregory Lot: 49:19 (up/down Amphi/NE/Greenman)
Green RT PR from Chautauqua: 58:56 (up 1st access, down Amphi/NE/Greenman)
Green Mid Route: 38:08 (still feel like this one is more like a 37 high, but I had to stop for a bear in the trail)
Green Descent PR: 15:48 (down A/S/G in the snow.  Hope to lower this again this year, if conditions permit).


4 races in 2012 for me.

Bolder Boulder:  I don't take this sort of thing at all serious (not that I am that serious about other races either), it is a total lark and I really only do it because work pays for it.  Though I really sort of hate running on pavement, I do admit that I find the Bolder Boulder to be a real blast.  Just the energy and enthusiasm of 50,000+ people celebrating running over Memorial Day makes it all worth it.

I went into this race with no real goals or specific prep (aside from the now usual run of the mill baby jogger runs) and did not really place any expectations upon myself.  Just figured I would get out there and run, see how I felt and just go with it.

Surprisingly, I felt great, paced myself well and surpassed what I thought was possible.  I was really happy to set a PR and qualify for the A wave next year.  Though my time of 37:55 is relatively pedestrian, I felt good about it and might have been one of my most fulfilling running moments ever, or at least in a while.

Mt. Evans Ascent   I sign up for this every year under the guise of "good training for Pikes", but as the race draws near, I start heaping expectations upon myself and it all of a sudden becomes important.  Feeling confident in my training and still fired up from the Bolder Boulder, I thought for sure that I could PR there, place in the top ten or better, be top Master (aside from Lucho of course who I had picked for the win).  How wrong I was and this particular race had me questioning why I EVER race.  I was faking it for a little bit, but I knew that it was not my day and by the time I got to Summit Lake, I was getting passed left and right.  I became somewhat apathetic and just wanted to skulk off and give up, but I pressed on with nothing in my legs, just kind of going through the motions to get to the finish line and be done.  I nearly blazed over the summit and down the other side, thinking running back down might make me feel better, but thought better of it because of the quickly building storm clouds.  Caught a ride down with Lucho and his wife which was quite enjoyable and salvaged an otherwise lousy day.

Pikes Peak Marathon  Whether it be the Ascent, or more recently the Marathon, Pikes is what I look forward to most each year.  Buying a house in July however took precedence over any recreational activities and I spent the month leading up to the race completely consumed with gutting, renovating and preparing to move in on the last day of August.  I debated pulling out of the race, but Allison convinced me that I should just go into it with an open mind and look at it as just a fun day in the mountains.  George also talked me off the ledge on at least two occasions where I had completely convinced myself that pulling out made the most sense (thanks again George for your friendship and confidence inspiring words).  Even the day prior though, I was still not entirely sure that I would race until Dave picked me up at my house to head to the Springs.

I had an OK ascent, feeling strong, but still somewhat conservative in hopes of saving some energy for the 13 miles of downhill.  I was surprised to feel way better than I expected and felt pretty decent on the up and still good on the descent to A-Frame.  But then I started getting some bad abdominal cramps that had me alternating between loping and walking and I even stopped 2 or 3 times hoping it would subside. 

Despite the lousy descent though, I still managed to sneak in 3 minutes faster than last year (all of that gain was in the ascent), score a nice Masters trophy and a free entry for 2013.  Though I still feel as though I have room to improve, I felt quite satisfied all things considered.  Most of all, I had an amazing time just being out there running on the mountain with no real pressure and enjoyed hanging out with Dave, George and a handful of other running friends over the weekend.

Rattlesnake Ramble  This all came about on the eve of the race, as I was on baby duty, but Joey Luther's wife Heidi and her mom came to the rescue with an offer to watch the girls while I ran.  Bill, as always, put on an awesome race with tons of great prizes for the top finishers and raffle prizes.  I felt strong, ran the best I could on that day and ended up 5th place overall, scoring a top Master prize along the way (2nd Master really, as Andy Ames was second overall).

Other Adventures in Pictures  Though it seems as though I hardly ever get to the high mountains anymore or beyond the Boulder foothills (compared to life before children, this is true), looking back reminded me that I still got out for some great adventures.