Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring - Training Starts

Spring - Training Starts

Today is the first day of spring, and that means training needs to get serious for any summer projects or goals to be completed. Last year I was already well into my G & T Challenge, which consumed one of my two free days every week, preventing me from focusing 100% on any other goals. This year my two main goals, as stated before, are to do Nolan's and to race in the US Skyrunning Ultra series. The two goals do not go hand in hand, as Nolan's is a long walk in the mountains, while the US Skyrunning races are fast 50Ks (Tushar is 50 miles) on fairly runnable courses. As such, I need to build massive endurance and vertical stamina, while also somehow maintaining any leg speed and tempo endurance I have gained over the winter. Not an easy task, and one that I continue to struggle with in my mind. My work and volunteer schedule keeps my life pretty tight, but my plans right now are to focus on recovery, tempo, and fast speed work during the week when I have only about 1 hour each day before catching the bus to work. On my two free days, I am hoping to spend them slogging up and down mountains to get in the massive vertical training necessary for Nolans. How these two opposing training plans mesh is up in the air, but that is the idea going in from here on out. I will also be taking a random day off when I can to try and get one more long, vertical oriented day starting in April. Not sure how it will all work out, but that is the "plan".

So, to start it off, I did the M5 challenge today. I've done this before, and it is always a killer. Run (hike) up and down Mt. Morrison's southeast ridge 5 times for a total of around 10,000' and 20 miles. It went well, but I could certainly tell that I didn't have my climbing legs as I have done more road stuff over the winter.
 Long's Peak from the summit of Mt. Morrison.
Pike's Peak from the summit. So crystal clear this morning, you could see forever...

Speaking of which, last Saturday I ran the Erin Go Braugh 7.77K race in Westminster. This was the shortest race I have ever run, and I had little idea what I was getting into. Most of the winter has been spent building a solid base, with some surge runs thrown in here and there, and an occasional tempo run as well, along with vertical slogs. I figured I would just go as fast as possible from the gun and see if I could not hold on. After a mellow warm-up, I lined up and took off with the lead pack. I instantly hit a wall but kept pushing and trying to keep pace. The pack thinned out and I soon found myself running alone. Umm, I thought that only happened in ultras, not fast road races? At the turn around, I noticed that I was not alone, and the entire 400+ field was right behind me. I kept pushing, chanting positive mantras over and over in my head and just praying that I could hold on. I could feel a good burn in the legs, and my stomach started to get acidic, but I just steeled my eyes on the finish and kept pushing. I crossed the finish line and instantly threw up, right there off to the side. Nothing bad, mostly just a tad bit of water/stomach acid. This is the first (and only) time I've every tossed my stomach after only running for 4.8 miles! I guess I was pretty much at my limit. At the results, I found out I was 8th overall, and 2nd in my age group, which was a shocker. Pretty good for a MUT oriented runner I think. I might have to see if I can't loose my breakfast in an even shorter race!

Notice my hat above, pretty cool. Here is a better shot.

I got it from the magazine Like the Wind, out of the UK. I also wrote a piece for them, which finally showed up in their latest issue. Pretty psyched to have my name in print alongside Bill Rodgers (yes, him), Dakota Jones, Guy Oliver, and a slew of other running writers.

I had a good friend make me some custom snow tools for this coming season. Made by Paul Sibley, one of the original climbers of the area from back in the '60s and '70s, he did a great job. They are made of aluminum and titanium and are perfect for moving fast over snowfields on the local mountains. I got a set of two, one for each hand.

Ran up Grays and Torreys a week or so again, testing snowshoes once more. Not much snow compared to last year, but I still really enjoy the mountain and area. Soon the better lines will open up and some serious adventures can be had.

The Apex trails are running so nice right now...

Got a first-hand look at the Rowdy Mermaid kombucha brewery yesterday. Jamba is turning out some incredible flavors and brews. If I could, I'd drink a bottle a day simply for the health reasons.

Finally, I picked up about 200 pairs of old, used running shoes from BRC Littleton. I was thinking, most people are excited about spring because of the flowers, longer days, warm weather, etc. I picked up these shoes, filling my little VW Rabbit to the max, and was thankful that it was warm enough to keep the windows down. Nothing like a car full of used running shoes with the windows up and the heat on...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Updates, Grays Peak, Bouldering, Snow Running, And More

Updates, Grays Peak, Bouldering, Snow Running, And More

It's been a busy and fun month. Although I have not been able to put in the time or miles I would necessarily like, I feel like I've had a solid month and things are shaping up well for spring. I don't go into my training much here (although sometimes I think I should, simply to put it out there, maybe get some feedback, and to hold me accountable), but I am slowly and consistently working my way towards my goals for 2015: Nolans, Skyrunning series, climb V12, work on my writing, and possibly do some other stuff. Below are some highlights over the past couple weeks:

 Found this book in a used bookstore. It's great that we have freedom of speech.

 One of the many sunrises I see, as most of my runs take place early these days.

 Got out and worked on some problems up on Dinosaur Mountain during one of the "summer" spells we had this month. Lots of good stuff up there - undone lines, hard projects, and relatively few people.

 Sunrise from one of the weekly runs up Apex and Lookout Mountain.

 I was challenged to do a President's Day Bouldering Challenge by Moja Gear. The goal was to climb 43 problems V5 and under in one try, all different, all under 2 hours. I succeeded, doing it in 1:43. 43 problems is a lot, and it was a lot harder then I thought originally, but super fun to step up and try and complete. 

 Looking back at the Lookout Mountain road. I've grown to really love this run. The grade is perfect for continuous running at a hard effort. There is a nice 13 mile loop, and hammering up and then down seems to be a really solid workout. Perfect for Skyrunning type races.

 I ran up Grays Peak (14,278') the other day before this last set of storms rolled in. I was testing a pair of snowshoes for Backpacker Magazine, so it had dual purposes. At the time, the snow levels were lower then last year at the same time, but that might have changed now. My roundtrip time from Bakerville was 4:14, including some fumbling/testing of the snowshoes.

 This picture is taken about 100 yards west of where the fellow was killed in an avalanche earlier this year. It is a common slide zone, and a key part where the winter trail differs from the summer trail.

I had the honor to talk with three-time Olympian Lee Troop a couple weeks ago and write up an article on him and the Boulder Track Club. Really nice guy, and what he is doing with the BTC is pretty exciting.

A nice set of photos from the original running of Nolans 14 here.

I really love the below movie. I used to surf way back when I was a pro snowboarder, but what I like is the vibe, old-school edits, and the music. I would really dig a movie set like this, but on running.

Palmera Express from Vissla on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 USA Cross Country Championships And Sourdough Snowshoe Race

2015 USA Cross Country Championships and Sourdough Snowshoe Race

I don't have a lot of wisdom concerning cross country, having never run an XC race before (but wanting to now), but I do have one thought that has been going through my mind. I had the honor of getting a press pass so that I could sit right at the finish line and take photos and notes from the runners. It was an amazing experience to be able to be right there when the elites came across the line, and then to be in the midst of the chaos as athletes collapsed to the ground, officials directed runners to certain areas, press people surrounded the winners, with people on the sidelines yelling their hearts out at teammates. Some runners came across and seemed to recover quickly, while others fell apart and had to be dragged over to the tent and in the shade. The level of effort left out on the course was inspiring. My one thought has to do with the current scientific thinking around fatigue and what I witnessed out on the course. Science has shown that we never really run out of energy, and that it is not our muscles or the actual build-up of lactate or other bi-products in the muscles that cause fatigue. Rather, the current thinking has to do with the idea of a "central governor" that controls our efforts and monitors our body. When we start to get out of homeostasis the central governor begins to shut our muscles down to preserve itself. Fatigue in this model is really a trick, a trick our brain plays on us to preserve itself. What I saw during the race is that the Juniors and some of the Elite/Open men and women seem to be able to overcome their central governor and push one level beyond. This was especially evident among the Juniors, as many of them came in to the finish line and instantly collapsed, blacking out for a brief moment, and taking some time before they were able to walk again. The Masters and many of the Elite runners did not reach this level of effort, they ran using their mind, while the Juniors, young and throwing it all out there, somehow were able to run past their mental limits and push into that zone of pure physical limits.

So, my thought, quick and unformulated as it is, is that as we become better at our sports, we develop mental attributes that allow us to be better runners - knowing how to pace, pushing through hurdles, training smarter, etc. However, this mental development also hinders us at a critical point, the point where we need to push beyond all of our known limits and find one more gear. The Juniors, still young and running on physical and emotional strengths don't have that mental limit yet - they simply have not reached it - so they go all out and simply collapse at the end. Spectacular and something to think about. How often do you really go all out? Probably not as often as you should.

Photos from the race (some more good ones on Boulder Running here).

 Kaitlyn Benner and Val Constien out front (no central governor holding them back)

 Kaitlyn Benner winning in spectacular fashion.

 About to collapse...

 The aftermath...

 Conner Mantz winning the Junior Men's race.

 Paul Roberts from Lyons showing what it takes to go to China (no central governor again).

 CU's Paul Miller pale and dazed - but going to China (no central governor)

 Women's Open at the start.

 Laura Thweatt and Sara Hall dueling it out at the start of the last lap.


 Men's Open start.

 Chris Derrick making a surge.

 Derrick making the "3-peat goggle" sign at the finish.


Does this man exist?

In other news, I ran the Sourdough 30K Snowshoe race last week. "Running" 18+ miles with snowshoes is !*$king hard! Great time, but I failed with my nutrition and lost four places within the final 2 miles. Totally my fault, and something I will focus on next time. Still, great time. Finished 9th overall in 4:16.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Book, Red Rocks, Gavin McKenzie Interview, Science And More

My Book, Red Rocks, Gavin McKenzie Interview, Science and More

Well, my book "The Best Front Range Trail Runs" has finally hit the market, and I've noticed it at a few stores around town. Pretty excited, but I could not have done it without the support and contributions from fellow runners (and my wife). Thanks everyone! For those wanting to know what trails are covered, here is the list:
Front and center at Boulder Bookstore!

Fort Collins:
  • Greyrock Mountain
  • Lory State Park
  • Horsetooth Mountain
  • Blue Sky to Indian Summer
  • Sheep Mountain

  • Hall Ranch
  • Heil Valley Ranch
  • Boulder Valley Ranch
  • Mount Sanitas
  • Mesa Trail
  • Green Mountain
  • Bear Peak
  • South Boulder Peak
  • Bobolink and South Boulder Creek
  • Spring Brook and Goshawk
  • Marshall Mesa
  • Flatirons Vista
  • Walker Ranch
  • Eldorado Canyon
  • Skyline Traverse

  • Barry Lake
  • White Ranch
  • North Table
  • Golden Gate Canyon
  • Centennial Cone
  • Apex Park
  • Bergen Peak
  • Three Sisters
  • Green Mountain
  • Bear Creek to O'Fallon
  • Mount Falcon
  • Chatfield Reservoir
  • Cherry Creek State Park
  • Deer Creek Canyon
  • Strawberry Jack to Buck Gulch
  • Buffalo Creek
  • Carpenter Peak
  • Castlewood Canyon
  • Greenland Pairie

Colorado Springs:
  • US Air Force Academy Falcon Loop
  • Barr Trail and Pikes Peak
  • The Incline
  • Rampart Reservoir
  • Talon Loop/Cheyenne Mountain State Park

High Mountains:
  • Lumpy Ridge
  • Mount Audubon
  • High Lonesome
  • Heart Lake and James Peak
  • Ben Tyler Gulch

There are plenty of photos, maps, and other stuff, but really, the best are the stories and notes from all of the local runners who contributed. 

One of the challenges for training for something like Nolans or the high mountains is that you need to get in tons of vertical gain, while also working on nutrition, hydration, etc. The Skyline Traverse in Boulder is classic and makes sense, but since I work in Boulder, it is really hard for me to motivate to drive there on my off days. There are some really good alternatives near Denver when the snow melts, and I have been trying to hit up a few, but there are not big sections of vertical trail without doing laps. I've done the M5 challenge a couple times now, and that works great, but lately I've been looking for alternatives. Right now, one of my go-to "runs" is Red Rocks. I've come up with 4 different loops all ranging between 1 mile and 3.5 miles and 557' gain and 800' gain. Although it sounds unexciting, the time flies by and the workout of the constant up and down really gets to you. Last week I did 20 miles and 9,530' of gain, and this morning I did 19 miles and 8,720' gain. Nothing special, but solid work and only 5 minutes from my house. Plus the people watching on each lap is pretty good, so the time goes by really fast. The reason I like this is because it has the same ratio of miles/vertical gain as Nolans, which is roughly for every mile, you gain 500' repeated over 100 miles and 44,000' gain, so if nothing else the grade is roughly equivalent.

 Sunrise at Red Rocks

An alternative, and one that gets you up into the thin air, is running the Mount Evans road. The road is closed, and the first two miles are snowpacked, but most of the rest of the road is dry and windblown, so no traction or flotation is necessary. I ran the road a week ago, but didn't make the summit due to insanely high winds. Still, a killer run at altitude with no one around - the only time you will get all of the Evans massif all to yourself.

I caught up with Gavin McKenzie and did an interview with him about his 2014 season, Nolan's 14, and his upcoming plans. Great guy, humble, and a tough-ass runner.

There have been a couple other articles on this same topic, but basically, your mouth will sense when food is coming, tell your brain it is coming so don't worry, no need to bonk, even before your stomach even gets any of the calories and starts to process them. Key take away - swish your mouth with soda or carb drink at aid stations (or drink the stuff too) and get those carb receptors firing!

The above herd of elk live right by my place, and I see them all the time. However, when it is dark out, and my headlamp flashes across a hundred eyes in the dark, it still freaks me out for a second.

More articles on diet, nutrition, fats, carbs, and the whole mystery that science is beginning to unravel: here and here.

Went up to Area A and Area B at Mount Evans the other day. Long haul in on snowshoes, but for those wondering, one can climb right now as long as the wind and temps are right. I'll probably make a trip up there soon.