Saturday, October 10, 2015

Flagstaff Sky Race And US Skyrunning Series

Flagstaff Sky Race and US Skyrunning Series

Last week I raced in the US Skyrunning Championships held outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The final race in the US Skyrunning Ultra Series, I was excited to try and race against some of the best runners in the country and check out some new mountains. I knew the course had some serious climbs, as well as a long running section which worried me, so I was not sure how I would do. My right foot and ankle had been wonky since the Tushar 93K race in Utah, and although it had been improving on a daily basis, I had basically only been able to speed hike since the beginning of August. No worries, hopefully I would make up all the time I knew I would lose on the rolling flat section on the big monster climbs - especially the Vertical K in the last 3 miles of the course.

So the week before, in an effort to "rest" as much as possible, I went bouldering, skateboarding, and read books - as well as worked a ton. 

 These are two poems I found in a book of Chinese Poetry published in 1919. These were written by Po Chu-i, who lived between 772-846. Although I'm not the biggest reader of poetry - or really any reader of poetry - they struck me when I read them. 

 Some bouldering up at Guanella Pass on the local granite. Good problems up there, with a wide diversity of grades. Love Matters Low (V8?) was a fun problem, although the amount of excavation work on the boulder is slightly disturbing. I'm psyched to go back when it is a tad cooler to try the slopy arete on the boulder below - looks hard and temperature dependent.

Blasting down a mountain road on the board - I need to get some better wheels and tighten up the back truck a bit. Still a great way to check out the aspens.

 Some of the topography around Flagstaff, Arizona.

 The start of the race. At 6am, the sun was just peaking above the horizon, so we didn't need headlamps, which was great, since I forgot to bring mine! I felt OK, but my legs really didn't seem to respond for the first couple miles which was frustrating.

 This is coming down off the second big climb. We ascended a peak, then dropped down off the backside to the valley floor before running around and then ascending it again via a different route. Two big climbs done in the first 13 miles - now for 15 miles of rolling, sandy Ponderosa forest running. I was still doing good here, but over the next 15 miles I once again became discourage and lacked the necessary energy to keep pace. I do really well when it is up-down-up-down, but throw in some rolling terrain, and I get dropped by those who can crank out 7:30ish miles. Of course, if I'm lucky, I catch back up on the next big climb... but not this time.

Still up high. The mountain in the background is where we were headed, and was the final climb up to 11,500' after 31 miles of running. It kicked pretty much everyone's ass.

 At the finish! I had to really fight on this race, as I was really discourage during the long rolling section about my place and overall performance. However, I just kept pushing and ended up finishing 19th overall, 2nd master. I was pretty happy with that, as I thought I was somewhere in the 30s in terms of place.

What really made it sweet, however, was that I ended up with 7th place overall for the series, and 1st master. I'm pretty happy with how it all worked out, and after only really running for 4 years (my first race ever was in 2012) I've come a long way. However, I know I can still improve, and that keeps my fire burning. The learning curve has been pretty steep when it comes to racing, running, and ultras, but it's starting to come around and I'm only going to keep working and improving (or so I tell myself ;))

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Flatirons Tour, Andrew's Amazing Summer, Sports Hall of Fame

Flatirons Tour, Andrew's Amazing Summer, Sports Hall of Fame

In an attempt to maximize page views, I'm going to drop a bunch of big names. No, not really, but over these last two weeks I've had the honor to write about and hang with some superstars.

I've written now for almost every type of publication. It took me about 5+ years before my academic writing stated to get published. That took a lot of work, research, and effort to figure out how to write in an academic setting. It paid off, however, as I now have publications in journals, books, encyclopedias and the like. About a year ago I started to try my hand at sports journalism, something I knew nothing about. With the help and guidance of Mike Sandrock, Todd Straka, and Brian Metzler, I'm pretty psyched to have finally started to get published in that world. It's been a long journey, and I've had to re-learn the art of writing, but it has been a great challenge and something that I have really enjoyed. I finally capped off that journey last week when two of my articles were published in Competitor - my biggest publication to date in the field of sports journalism. I wrote one article on the start of the Tour de Flatirons by Satan's Minions and another on Andrew Hamilton's amazing summer of 14er records. Thanks for the encouragement and help from everyone along the way!

 I made the above map for the article, but it was not included. It shows Andrew's splits on his Nolan's 14 run. All on two granola bars, a Subway sandwich, and a ton of powdered drink!

 This is a photo I took from the summit of Mt. Harvard, showing the southern half of the Nolan's line.

 Here is looking north from Mt. Harvard showing the northern half of the line.

Then, last night, after a lot of work on the part of many, many people, the 4th Annual Boulder Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place. Again, such an honor to be part of the event and to meet such amazing people.

Okay, time to drop some names (left to right): Frank Shorter, Steve Jones, Loraine Moller, Benji Durden, Tim DeBoom, Lynn Hill, Jim Erickson.

Attending the event last night really put into perspective just how many amazing people call Boulder home. There were probably another dozen Olympians, World Record holders, and the like in the audience. Small fish in a BIG pond indeed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Oh Where Does The Time Go?

Oh Where Does The Time Go?

Lots has happened since my last post. Tara and I moved out of our VW Rabbit after living in it for 3 months and we are now living the American Dream as owners of a condo in Golden. I orchestrated a coup at work and got the owners to back off, which in turn made me an official manager. As a result, my work level increased, but not my pay. My right foot has developed some sort of wonky twinge that has been bothering me for a couple weeks now - it only hurts when I run, not when I power hike. So, if you notice my strava data, it is all power hikes up Mt. Morrison, Bergen Peak, Grays and Torreys and the like. I'm just now able to run again and get back into it. We will see how that goes as the US Skyrunning Championships in Flagstaff are Oct. 2-3 and I'm all ready to go. I am working on another trail running guidebook with Adam Chase and Nancy Hobbs, so that has taken up a bunch of time writing up trails, taking photos, etc. It will be a complementary guidebook to my other one - The Best Front Range Trail Runs - as it will have different trails in it. Together, the two should cover just about every trail along the Front Range from Boulder to Colorado Springs. I continue to try and work on my journalism, writing up some articles here and there for Colorado Runner Magazine, but lately I have been too swamped to get much done. However, the real big deal is that I am in the midst of a project celebrating Boulder runners and Boulder running. It will be a full color magazine/book that will come out this January. If anyone wants to contribute photos, writing, art, poetry, or other items, please reach out to me. I've been reaching out to folks and getting content, etc., but I have not announced it to the world at large yet. It will probably consume most of Oct. and Nov. I was appointed Deputy Director of the Transpersonal Psychology Department at Akamai University, and as a result am now working a ton on revamping the program and sitting on two different Ph.D. committees. Oh, and I'm furiously trying to get into the mountains before the snow comes and the mountain running season ends.

So there it is, a major catch up in only one paragraph! As usual, I'm more frequent on Twitter, Facebook, and Strava, but I do like trying to keep this blog up. Hopefully I'll get some more time and keep it going.

 The haze from the western fires on my Nolan's soft attempt. Sadly, I'd develop a weird altitude/asthma thing after four peaks, at which point I had to bail because I could not breath. The haze from the fires has been pretty bad off and on - I'm praying for rain for the folks out west.

 Antero from Tabeguache - pretty straight forward drop from the saddle down to Browns Creek, around the western side of the lake and then straight up.

 Looking back at Shavano and Tabeguache from near the top of Antero.

 Princeton from Antero.

 The trail up Grouse.

 The sunset with all of the haze in the air - and my lungs!

 The old familiar - the Stevens Gulch road. I've been getting back into hitting up the Full Kelso route and doing Grays and Torreys. It is such a perfect line - 5,300' of elevation gain all on a nice, dramatic ridge with plenty of class 3. I'm trying to get a good FKT for the line - right now it is 4:01 roundtrip from Bakerville for the Full Kelso and G & T. Certainly can go faster, especially on the descent where I have to go a bit slow due to my wonky ankle.

 The start of the Full Kelso - just power hike straight up for a vertical K.

 Colors are going off right now up high.

 Another go at the Full Kelso FKT - still not happy with my time, but there was snow and ice up high this time, so it will have to wait until next year for a real fast attempt at this point.

Sunrise laps on Mt. Morrison - always worth it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tushar 93K Race

Tushar 93K Race

Last Saturday, way out in the Tushar Mountains, was the Tushar 93K race. Part of the US Skyrunning Ultra series, this inaugural race came just 13 days after the Power of Four 50K in Aspen. After the Power of Four my quads had some pretty good DOMS, and I really didn't do much running. A couple days of rest and the DOMS wore off and I was able to run a couple good runs on the local hills. I felt fairly good about the upcoming race and was excited to get on the road.

We left Thursday after work and drove out to Grand Junction for the night, then continued on to Beaver, Utah the following day. There is not a lot to the town of Beaver, and hanging out in town one thinks they are in a semi-desert wasteland. However, driving up the canyon towards Eagle Point Ski Area and the start of the race, the environment begins to change and pretty soon you are up in the desert alpine of the Tushar Mountains. I didn't really pay much attention to the course profile or description, hoping not to scare myself or get too psyched out. Rather, I tried to just go into the race as a "long day in the mountains."

Saturday morning the race got under way at 5am. It was pretty casual, and we all started mellow under the fading light of the full moon. I quickly fell into pace with Scott out of Salt Lake and we joked how our goal was to finish before it got dark again - 16 hours roughly. Little did I know that that was just about right for me.

The course was killer. It was a massive lollipop course with one serious out and back at the half way point. All of the course was either at treeline or above it, with a few sections where you dropped down to around 10,000' before climbing back up to the alpine. Most of it was on singletrack or overgrown, grass slopes, some talus, a bit of alpine tundra, with a few small sections of jeep road thrown in for fun. There is very little that one would consider "smooth, flowy trail" but rather "tight, technical, rocky trail" is what the course consisted of. The views were out of this world, the wildflowers were over the top, and the summits made the long climbs worth it. It was a true Skyrunning course.

My race went well. I stayed consistent most of the day, just chugging along trying to run when I could, but mostly power-hiking as fast as I could. As the day wore on, despite being tired, I was pretty happy with how I felt - I was able to keep moving and my spirits were high all day. I can't say that was the case for everyone, as over half the field dropped or were timed out. I didn't bring my camera, something that I cursed myself for during the race as it was so beautiful, but I've stolen a couple photos from other runners to showcase just how amazing this course is.

I crossed the finish line just as it was getting too dark to see without a headlamp, almost exactly 16 hours after starting. That's right, it took me 16:02:47 to cover 57 miles and 16,500' of gain. Good enough for 18th place overall, 3rd master. The winner took over 12 hours, so that should give some idea of how brutal a course this was. The aid stations were amazing - one had a live red-tail hawk just hanging out - and the volunteers really made the race. Without them I doubt that I would have finished.

 Views of the Swell on the way out...
 View from the start at Eagle Point Ski Area
 5AM Start
 It was an amazing sunrise that morning...
 View of the Tushars looking down at Blue Lake. We descended all the way down to the lake, then climbed up past it and to a saddle just outside of the photo on the right. This was only the 5th of 11 climbs. Photo from Scott Zipprich.
 Typical view with wildflowers on the course. Photo from Scott Zipprich.
 We ran along this for a bit - simply amazing!
 Sunrise with runners on the course. Photo from Austin Baird.
Big climb up Copper Belt Peak at the halfway point. Again, amazing views. Photo from Scott Zipprich.
 Typical views and running terrain.
 More views of the "course".
And done!