Monday, July 28, 2014

La Maratona Vertical Race

La Maratona Vertical Race

On Saturday the second US Skyrunning Sky race was held at Copper Mountain. Coming just 6 days after the first race, it seemed that there was not a lot of time for rest and recovery. This was especially true since I ran Shavano and Tabequache on Sunday and had to throw in a run up Grays and Torreys on Wednesday afternoon to keep my record going. Despite the packed week, I felt OK going into the race. I had caused a weird cramp in my left quad on Monday when I was climbing, executing a high-step over a small roof that required me to put all of my weight on my left foot in a weird position, resulting in part of my quad locking up. It was really painful for the rest of the climbing session, and then on Tuesday I could feel it with every step. Lots of self massage from my wife really helped, but I was still feeling it big time on my G & T run during the descent so I was a bit worried. After another day off and then a shake out run on Friday, I figured I would start the race, but if it started to act up I would pull out since I didn't want to screw myself with a major injury being so close to finishing G & T and about to embark on my big summer projects in August.

The race got off to a late start as we had to wait for the EMT to show up, but once it was under way things went smoothly. I purposely went out slow as to ease into the race and see how my quad felt. After the first climb to the summit of Copper Mountain (12,441'), I could start to feel my quad on the descent, so I worked on my form and tried to keep it easy. When we started the climb to the summit of Copper Mountain again, the uphill relieved any pain and I started to pick up the pace. I was never passed, and I was able to pick off about 3 people on the first loop. On the second loop, people started to fade, and I picked off two more on the climb. I was feeling good, and when I passed another person on the descent I started to pick up the pace. My quad pain had disappeared, so I started to really motor thinking that somehow the race was shaking out the cramp/knot instead of making it worse. The third climb was not that bad, and I was able to catch two more people before reaching the summit and making the final 6 mile bomb descent back to the finish. Since I had gone out so slow, I still had a ton of energy and really just started to hammer the downhill - it was great to be able to run for the first time all week with no pain. Towards the end, I saw another racer and really tried to hammer and catch him, but the course was too short and I was 15 seconds behind him at the finish.

Despite the "injury" and my non-tapper week, I was really happy with my race. I could have placed higher if I had gone out harder, but I was unsure how my quad would hold up. However, I had solid energy all day, and could have kept climbing for many more miles, which is good to know. From what I can tell, the race was long at around 28 miles but a bit short on vertical with only ~6,500' of gain. I ended up with 11th place overall in a time of 5:03:15.

There is only one more Sky distance race in the series before the championships in October. I think my overall points put me in the top ten for the series so far, so I might have a good chance if I do the championship race of ranking in the top 10 for the series. That would be pretty cool, especially since both races so far have been running races, not mountain slogging races, which I have not trained for. If I can hold up during August, I'll start to do some serious running training to get my speed up and then hopefully make the trek to Flagstaff for the final. I'm hoping everything works out, but there are still lots of ifs between now and then.

Friday, July 25, 2014

G & T 49

G & T 49

It's almost done.... My only shot this week, in between racing back to back Saturdays and work was to squeeze in a run up Grays and Torreys on Wednesday afternoon. I knew I was taking a gamble with the monsoon, but it was my only shot to keep the record going. Driving up things did not look good as there was torrential rain and flooding between Idaho Springs and Georgetown, and when I pulled into Bakerville the rain was still coming down. However, I spotted a brief window in the clouds and hoped that it would hold, as the run if you go on the standard route is fairly fast. It turned out to be the perfect run, as the rain chased away everyone else and for the first time this summer I had the entire basin and mountain to myself. People were driving down the road as I was running up, and I could tell they thought I was a tad bit crazy running up in just shorts and a light tech shirt, but I know this place so well I new I would be fine as long as the lightning held off. When I got to the summer trailhead only one car was there - a camper - and from their to the summits and back I did not encounter a single person! Really, despite the threat or getting drenched, possibly hypothermic, or hit by lightening, running during the afternoon monsoon might be the way to beat the crowds on 14ers in the summer. Three runs left...

 From the summit of Torreys - the monsoon comes in bands, so blue sky was coming my way.
 Got a photo of this helicopter flying over the G & T saddle from the top of Grays.
Back down and safe, with another band of rain building.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kendall Mountain Race And Shavano And Tabequache

Kendall Mountain Race and Shavano and Tabeguache

Saturday was the 37th running of the Kendall Mountain race. It was also the first race of the US Skyrunner Sky series. I signed up for Kendall because I wanted to do the US Skyrunning series, and the race sounded pretty cool - run up and down a 13,000' peak. Little did I realize that with the new Skyrunning series, some really stout competition would also show up and make the race a full on competition.

Tara and I pulled into Silverton late Friday afternoon after doing some scouting in the Sawatch. We easily found the perfect camp spot above town looking directly at Kendall Mountain (13,066'). As we were enjoying the sunset and looking at the course, I quickly realized that this was going to be a runner's course, and not so much a mountain slogger's course. Oh well, not my strength but I'd still give it my best. We hooked up with Kendrick, and as the evening progressed he let us know that the favorite was Joe Gray. What? Nine time US National Champion Joe Gray was running? Great, there goes this race. It turns out that the addition of the race being part of the US Skyrunner Sky series attracted a really stout field - and that was really cool. Skyrunning is big in Europe, and this year has seen the expansion of Sky races in Australia, Canada, UK, and the US. However, trail races in the US are much different then those in Europe. We don't have the big crowds, the media blitz, the spectators, the sponsors, and often, the money. What we do have in the US are some solid down-home races with good times and good vibes. So, how would the first Skyrunning race in the US (of the Sky distance) be? Would it be Euro, or stick to its roots? The short end is that Nick and Jamil of Aravaipa Running did an excellent job of bridging the two worlds - still a super down-home vibe with local flavor, yet a stacked and competitive field.

And the competition was thick. During the warmup and start, the pros were doing their warmups, looking sharp while the regular trail runners were milling about with their hydration packs and bottles. The contrast was obvious - racing shorts and singlets, racing glasses, and racing shoes versus hydration packs/bottles, gaiters, and Hookas. Before the start even the local dogs were picking up on the vibe and started to howl and get all antsy - there was some serious adrenaline flowing. Finally, a tad late (classic US style) we all lined up on main street behind a fictitious line and the gun went off. Right away about 30 guys went out at 5 minute pace! Um, this race goes up 3,700' feet at altitude; 5 minute pace will blow up almost everyone. I went out at a conservative 6:30 minute pace until the first hill at about mile one, at which point I gave up even trying to keep an eye on the lead pack and just focused on running my own race. I've been slogging in the mountains all summer, with only a few tempo/speed work sessions to count for this summer, so I was not going to hang with anyone who was in real running shape. My only hope was to outlast people, beat them at altitude, or pass them on the downhill. All three of which happened. The race is 6.5 miles up to the summit, then right back down - 99% of the race is on jeep mining roads with only a few hundred feet on semi-technical ground to reach the actual summit. I was probably around 40th place by the halfway up point, where Kendrick was manning an aid station. From there, I dropped into a power hike which I knew I could sustain for a very long time, as opposed to continuing to suffer in some sort of run shuffle. I moved up a place or two on some of the steeper sections, and then as we got into the thinner air I started to gain ground. Finally, I was coming into my element, and with the final technical section to the summit I passed three people on the ascent. I tagged the summit and quickly turned around and started to run down the technical stuff - passing more people once again. This section really separated the runners from the mountain sloggers. I started to push the downhill, and passed several more people as I bombed back down the mountain. After I had passed everyone that I could see, I committed a fundamental error - I gave up racing. I kept up my pace, but my desire to really push faded as I dropped into my usual mental state of just cruzing back down a mountain. I realized this psychological mistake as it was happening, but I could not force myself to push hard(er). There were no rabbits for me to focus on, and I figured everyone in front was too far ahead for me to catch them, so I mentally quit racing. Finally, after the long descent, there was a painful flat and then subtle uphill section to town and through a few blocks to the park and finish. I crossed the line in 2:12:57, which was good enough for 27th overall.

Initially I was disappointed in my performance. I knew I was not in running shape for this kind of race on this kind of road terrain, but I was hoping for a higher placement. However, after learning about who was in the field, and looking at previous race times, I'm fairly happy. Last year only 2 people finished under two hours, and only 5 under 2:10. So, on any other year I would have been in the top ten for sure; but it was not any other year, it was this year. A Skyrunning year. So, despite my initial disappointment, I'm actually fairly pleased. For not having done the right kind of training for such a race, I am happy with how I stacked up against some of the best in the country. What I am not happy with is my mental weakness. I've only been racing for about two years, and I never raced before that (in high school or college), so I don't have the background to draw upon. I'm also not very competitive in most regards. Still, that is no excuse for my mental state during the race. I know it takes a lot of practice and experience to be able to race well, and to keep the focus and mental acuity to continually push hard, and that is something I'm working on. But I guess it was a bit disappointing to realize I still have so much work to do on this end. Perhaps if there was someone right next to me like at the Scar Top race a few weeks ago, I could have kept my race game going, but with no one there to really push me I just didn't have it. Perhaps because I thought I was much farther back in the field then I actually was I didn't have the desire to keep pushing. I don't know, but it is something I need some serious work on.

Silverton and Kendall Mountain from our camp site.
Sunrise on race day.

The following day, Tara and I went and did Shavano and Tabeguache, two 14ers at the southern end of the Sawatch. I could tell I raced the day before, and was pretty much gassed the whole time, but still made it up both summits and back to the car before 9:00am - 3:27rt.

On the summit looking north.
Lots of haze in the Arkansas Valley due to all of the humidity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

G & T 48

G & T 48

Ran the Kelso, Torreys, Grays loop on Monday. Pretty straight forward except for being attacked by a ptarmigan on the summit of Kelso. I was busy trying to eat a bar and all of a sudden this thing came at my ankles with a weird hissing noise. Startled, I took a few steps back and it took me a second or two before I could focus my attention on what was going on. The ptarmigan was buzzing right at me about six inches off the ground, all puffed up with it's wings slightly extended. I couldn't figure out what was going on until I saw and heard the baby chicks chirping. I backed away, but the mom just kept coming at me, so I raised my arms and made a loud guttural sound. She backed off for a second or two, but then came at me again. It was fairly funny, but I was pushed off the summit by a little bird! The rest of the run went well, and I completed the roundtrip in 3:58 total time from Bakerville. Only four more times to reach the full year. (side note: why does Strava and the other sites separate moving time from elapsed time, and then highlight moving time. Elapsed time is all that matters, at least in a race or FKT, and if I was concerned about my workout time, I still would count elapsed, not moving.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Belford, Oxford, Belford, Emerald, Iowa, Missouri

Belford, Oxford, Belford, Emerald, Iowa, Missouri

Last week I ran a variation of the Belford>Oxford>Missouri route while scoping out some routes. I had a good time, but was slightly disappointed in my time, as I thought it was a bit slow. Having raced the day before, I knew I would be tired, but still thought I could have gotten a better time then I did. After taking longer then expected this past week to recover - speed races really get me apparently - Tara and I went back yesterday and I tried the run out again. This time, however, I added on Emerald Peak (13,904') and Iowa (13,831') via the upper Pine Creek basin. I started at 5:32 and cruzed up Belford fairly fast - it's just a pure power hike from bottom to top. From there, it's an easy jaunt over to Oxford and then back, with a quick re-tag of Belford's summit. From there I ran down to Elkhead Pass and then down somewhat into the basin. There is a high bench with a small pond below Iowa which I aimed for. This allows you to then traverse fairly fast over to the eastern slopes of Emerald instead of side hilling it along Iowa's eastern face. From a hidden, second lake I ran up a grassy ramp to Emerald's east ridge, which I then went up. Emerald sits in a spectacular location at the head of Pine Creek, offering excellent views of Harvard, the Apostles, Ice Mountain, and beyond. From Emerald, it's an easy run over to Iowa and then to Missouri via it's south ridge. From the top, I still had plenty of energy, and contemplated dropping to Huron, but the monsoon clouds were getting pretty thick and I didn't want to get caught in something big on Huron's eastern scree face. So I just ran down Missouri, at which point I ran into William and we caught up on things - including learning the results of Hardrock (only in the mountains of Colorado can you be out and randomly find out who one Hardrock). He turned off and went up Belford and I cruzed down back to the car. I felt much better this time around, with a time of 5:45 with the addition of two more peaks - total numbers are around 18 miles and 8,500' gain.

 Summit of Emerald looking south
 Harvard from the summit of Emerald

Iowa and Emerald from Missouri