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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 Review, New Science Articles, Colorado Ultra Runners Of The Year

2014 Review, New Science Articles, Colorado Ultra Runners of the Year

It's already five days into 2015, and things are already heating up (literally, if you are paying attention to today's weather compared to the past two weeks). 2014 turned out to be a good year, and I was able to accomplish several of my goals: finish the G & T Challenge, run and rank in the US Skyrunning series, get back into climbing and boulder V9/10, have some adventures, and run some races. The one goal that I failed on was doing Nolans, which as I look back now, other then the logistical and planning errors, was also hampered by the G & T challenge. In fact, a lot of my other goals were slightly compromised by the challenge, simply because I never got to have a week off, a down week, or anything similar. Although such a challenge didn't wear me out, it certainly didn't keep a spring in my step or allow for proper rest and tapers. I've only been "running" for three years consistently, so I don't have the logs to compare to over the years to see just how 2014 stacked up, but here are some numbers.


Miles: 3,167.5
Vertical Gain: 713,897'
Hours: 559.92
Peaks: 184 summits, 71 14ers, 27 13ers, and a bunch of others


Miles: 2,747.23
Vertical Gain: 521,943'
Hours: 399.81


See here, no stats, but a narrative recap.

I want to say that I'm getting faster/stronger, but it is hard to tell that from the numbers. I don't have PR times at set distances to see if I have actually improved, but I want to say that the numbers support my perceived gains: in 2014 I was able to run 420.27 miles further, with 191,954' more of gain, in only 160.11 hours more time. My average miles per hour, however was slower: 5.6 in 2014 and 6.8 in 2013. Perhaps that extra 191,954' of gain explains that.

Plans for 2015 are still in the works, but they involve running the US Skyrunning Ultra series, with an aim for top 5 overall, attempting Nolans again (early summer), doing some other races, and climbing V12 if possible. I will be a master this year, so we will see if that means anything. I believe I have a good shot at the US Skyrunning series since it will be a major focus, and I won't have the G & T challenge to slow my leg speed down. As for Nolans, well, we will see, although I'm more confident then last year with more experience under my belt. Climbing V12 should be possible if everything stays on track, as I am now back to my 2011 strength, and V10s are regularly within my range. As for other races, I'm planning on the Sourdough snowshoe 30K, the Twin Mountain Trudge, and then trying to figure out a spring that will benefit an early Nolans attempt. I'm currently thinking something like 24 hours of Utah (March 21-22) for the all day effort experience, Desert Rats 25 miler (April 18), Collegiate Peaks 50 (May 2), then give it a go early June. I would prefer some more mountainous races, but there doesn't seem to be any around.

I wrote a recap of the 2014 Ultra Performances of the Year by Colorado runners for Colorado Runner Magazine. A lot of amazing races and performances last year, and I hope to keep track again and put together an even more comprehensive list next year. 

Obviously, I run a lot at sunrise, but that is a perfect time to get out and get in a solid run up the mountain. Hence, my sunrise heavy photos.

Finally, another set of very interesting and informative articles on running and endurance performance.




Monday, December 22, 2014

Snowshoe Race And A Slew Of Articles

Snowshoe Race and a Slew of Articles

Ran my first ever snowshoe race on Saturday in Beaver Creek. In fact, this was my first time on snowshoes this year. Last year I used them a fair bit during my G & T challenge, and although I did technically use them once earlier in November on a miserable run up Grays Peak, I have not used them at all as it has been nice and dry both down low and up high. Needless to say, I was not in great "snowshoeing shape" whatever that might be on Saturday. I don't know much about how snowshoe races are run, but from a little research online prior, I figured it would be on packed or groomed trails, perhaps on the Avon golf course or something. Boy was I wrong. I later learned that this race in particular is known to be challenging. As the RD said, he tries to make a snowshoe race with some running, not a running race with snowshoes. That means that the "course" consisted of arrows tacked to trees at random intervals leading one up, down, through bushes, over and yes under logs, with ample bushwhacking, vertical gain, and general adventure. Certainly a fun challenge as we ran, then trudged, then slid, then ran again all through the aspens and woods just above the town of Avon right outside the Beaver Creek ski resort.

I had a blast, and although I had to slow a bit after the first mile to get my heart rate back under control, it was a great race overall. I will certainly keep it and others on my radar - I really dig these low key events. After my initial redlining, I was able to get my heart rate back under control and keep a solid pace that resulted in a 6th place overall finish with a time of 1:06:23. One thing I noticed, is that some people had directly mounted their shoes to the snowshoes, which I would assume results in a lighter setup. Something to look into if one were to pursue any more of these with any seriousness.

 Warming up, something I did not do enough of!
 And the gun goes off!
 Leading the charge up the first hill.
6th place overall - great race, fun times.

A slew of articles that I have read over the past week or so, some really good ones in there.

First are two on diets. A real good analysis of the whole BulletProof Coffee crap. I like to say, follow the French and keep the coffee black and eat a croissant to get your butter if that is your thing. And to go with the BulletProof Coffee trend, here is a good take on the Paleo diet trend. When I was getting my Ph.D. I spent a lot of time researching human development and human prehistory, and there is so much evidence out there that demonstrates we are omnivores more then anything else. Most of the Paleo stuff I've read is highly selective in its choices of evidence and rarely looks at humans from a global or even continental perspective, but rather picks and chooses what to take as evidence from one cultural group or another. More often then not, those cultural groups were outliers, and were not the norm for humans and human subsistence at that time period.

GZ posted a good article the other day on Ron Hill and his lost legacy. I was one of the uninformed, so thanks GZ. I do believe there are lots of others out there, past runners and climbers who are still around today that people just don't know about. Steve Jones comes to mind. He lives in Boulder, and I see him on a regular basis, yet most people don't know who he is or what he accomplished. A quick example: The other day Steve is sitting in a coffee shop in Boulder, next to him is one of Boulder's more elite ultrarunners, and right next to him is a CU kid into running (mostly fast trail stuff). All three are within 15 feet of each other, yet all three fail to recognize or acknowledge each other. Or maybe that is just Boulder?

OK, a couple new science articles for those interested in trying to stay up-to-date on the latest science of running:
The last article is the one I find most intriguing. The psychology of running, racing, and sports performance is perhaps one of the least understood areas of the sport. I know from personal experience that if I get bogged down in negative thoughts during a race, I don't perform as well. My new mantra during a race, which I try and repeat over and over and over without letting any other thoughts enter my mind is: light, fast, smooth, easy. I just keep saying those words over and over and over in a meditative mantra fashion. It's helped during the last three races for me, with two age group podiums and two top ten finishes.

Black and white of Denver from high up on Apex the other day.

Great report on the Boulder Bad Ass 100 here. Not sure if it will ever be repeated. If you didn't know about the 24 Hours of Mt. Sanitas run, here is a short article I wrote on it.

Finally, another article from GZ - we are just soft and have given up trying. Time to go train!