Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saturday, 07/06/13 Grays and Torreys

Grays Peak, 14,270/Torreys Peak, 14,267
13.9 miles
5,057 vert.
167 avg. HR

Had a great run on Grays and Torreys, one of those runs that, even though I was working hard, flowed very well and almost seemed effortless.  It is runs like these that keep me inspired and the type that I always hope I can put together on race day.  Some of my splits may not have been my fastest, but I PR'ed on the descent and was only two minutes off of my accumulated split PR for this route (a day in 2008 that involved a lot of stopping and regrouping with others).

Started up the 3 mile dirt road to the Stevens Gulch TH from Bakerville at 6:20am and was happy to observe that the road was a bit damp from recent rain.  This tacky surface helped with efficiency and did wonders at keeping the dust at bay, as a near constant stream of cars passed me by.  Though these peaks are a complete zoo on busy summer weekends, I have to admit that I draw a certain amount of energy from the crowds as I get a fair bit of encouragement on these runs and it is fun to see people ahead as rabbits so to speak.

I started off at a somewhat conservative effort and just made a point to keep my breathing under control and not go into oxygen debt too early.  Even when I am at my most acclimated state, I always struggle with pace and breathing over the first mile or two of this run, but I was hardly feeling it today.

I arrived at the summer lot in 32:?? and reached the far side of the bridge exactly as my watch turned 33:00, which is where I normally begin my split for the ascent of Grays.  This is where I upped my effort a bit, somewhat deliberately, but it is also necessitated by the technical and steeper nature of the trail.

The crowds became thick, but I was able to work my way through without ever having to pause or slow down.  Most people graciously stepped to the side when they heard me give my customary throat clearing, cough or foot scuff.  Occasionally though, these tactics failed and I would, well in advance, give a cheerful and polite "on your left" and almost without fail, people move TO the left and get directly in the way.  As experience has taught me to expect this, in most cases I can cut left or right and sneak through without breaking stride, though it often involves stepping off trail or threading the needle between confused people.  I always say "thanks", "good morning" or "great day!" as to not look like an impatient jerk.

At one point, near the turnoff for Kelso, I passed a group of guys who I guessed to be their early 20's.  The guy in the back stepped out of my way, then yelled to his friends ahead that I was coming through and "showing off".  Yep, he busted me, I was just walking, then sped past to just show off for them and then started walking again once I got around the next corner.  Funny stuff.  This may have been the same group who last year or the year before told me I need to belly breathe, as if my method of running these mountains was totally incorrect and they held the secret to success.

Around 13,000 feet, I started to alternate between power hiking when necessary and running where possible, always keeping the HR consistently high.  As always, the altitude affected my watch, causing it to speed up a bit over the final switchbacks and I topped out in 1:36, a few minutes off a few of my better runs from previous years, but 3 minutes quicker than last year and it felt a lot easier.

The views were great as always and I noted how good the weather looked a few minutes before 8am, as the forecast of 50% chance of storms after 9am did not seem to be materializing.  I was pleased to have moved well beyond the crowds and shared my summit stay with 2 mellow hikers from Boulder/Ft. Collins.

I was eager to push the down a bit and test the Salomon Fellraisers I am reviewing and quickly took off toward Torreys.  Made it to the saddle in ~6 minutes and was surprised to see a runner coming towards me fast.  Turned out it was Eric Lee who had parked at Stevens Gulch and was running Torreys, then Grays before heading over to Quandary.  We had a quick chat and went on our separate ways.  The trip up Torreys was a bit slower.  I felt good, but was just not pressing the pace too hard and just enjoying the views and the unexpected tranquility of having this peak all to myself.

The descent off Torreys was a real blast and the Salomons stuck like glue in the loose dirt and rock.  I took it somewhat conservative across the well tracked and only patch of snow coming off the saddle, then opened up my stride a bit once back on dry trail.  The conga line of people heading up the hill were pretty good about getting out of my way as I darted down the hill, taking long strides and leaping across boulders and dancing through the talus and scree.  I just felt so dialed in and spot on during this descent, I felt as though I could do no wrong.  I wanted more of it.  Had I not had to get home, I very well may have gone for lap two.

I was not really looking forward to the 3 miles of running out the dirt road back to the car, as I have struggled with this section in the past.  This day however, I was still feeling fresh and kept up my pace very well, averaging 6:58 pace for this stretch despite slowing for a gel and stopping to clean my hands in a small side creek.  Occasionally I felt my pace flagging a bit, but was mainly due to mental drift and was easy to get back on track.  The best part of it all was that I hardly felt the least bit fatigued at the end and had a lot left in the tank which was very encouraging.

My running has been really erratic over the past month or two, almost always fun, but more often than not has me questioning my fitness, as my schedule has me either running super early in the morning, or during the hottest time of the day where I tend to struggle.  I needed this one.


Bakerville to far side of bridge at Stevens Gulch TH:  33:00
Stevens Gulch TH to Grays Summit:  1:03:15 (1:36)
Grays to Torreys:  17:51
Torreys to Stevens Gulch TH:  37:31
Stevens Gulch TH to Bakerville:  20:42


  1. Man that sounds like a great day out and a fine run for you. Love those times (few and far between for me) when things just feel smooth and easy. Conversely, I had my worst run in a long time just over a week ago on Wheeler Peak. I need one of these...

  2. Wow, really nice time; I need to get one of these flow runs on the peak - I seem to really drag on the final 3 miles of the road despite it being all downhill!