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!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Audi Power of Four Race

Audi Power of Four Race

I went into the Audi Power of Four 50K race with a couple goals in mind: get points in the US Skyrunning series, stay steady and strong for the entire race - don't crash and burn, and use it as a build up race for Nolan's. I'd say I accomplished all three goals, but I still was a bit disappointed in myself.

I won't go into a turn by turn race report, as that really only helps those who ran the course. Instead, the quick summary of the day is that there were three major climbs, two major descents, some traversing, meandering, and then a final mellow descent down to the finish. It rained off and on all day, making the course extremely muddy and wet, but it kept the heat down which was a good thing. I've heard a lot of people gripping about the first part of the course, where we went straight up Aspen and Highlands - pure powerhiking. I've also heard some people complain about the descent off Highlands - straight down ~2,000 in just under 2 miles. I found those sections to be fun and challenging, just what I would expect from a skyrace. My complaint with the course was the last section on Snowmass where we tooled around on tedious singletrack switchbacking slowly down to get in the correct miles to equal a 50K. Basically, I hated the running part!

And really, that is where I fell apart. Going up, going down, no problem, but the long traverse over to Snowmass in the deep mud, and then the tooling around on Snowmass for over 7K to just get in some random miles really killed my spirits and I mentally threw in the towel. I guess I'm just not a "runner" deep down.

I ended up 7th Master and 37th Overall. My watch said the race was 33 miles with 11,000' of gain. Despite my mental failure, I had a great time at the race - incredible course, great aid station volunteers, and a pretty fun day out in the mountains. If there were any complaints, it would be more options at the aid stations (pretty much only water, a few had Coke, and some Clif products) and some sort of medal at the finish line. This last thing seems to be a trend with the Skyraces, perhaps because the RDs need to pay the Skyrunning Federation too much to be part of the series or something, but I know mentally I really wanted something to prove that I slogged through that course. Now I've got less then six days to continue to recover and prep before the Tushar 93K in middle-of-nowhere Utah.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Talking About Races

Talking About Races

I've had some interesting experiences lately talking about races. I'm on Strava, but don't really get too into the analytics of it. Likewise, I have a GPS watch, but don't really know how to use it, and so I only clock car-to-car times, or on Strava, elapsed time. For me, this is fine since in a race it is about elapsed time, not moving time. However, when talking to people about races or even training runs, more often than not they are referring to moving time. This is not necessarily a problem, but I've noticed that after these talks, I end up having self-doubts about my abilities or training. Below is an extreme example that I ran across on Strava from earlier this week.
Now here is an example of where moving and elapsed times are totally way off. This may be no big deal, except that I often have a hard time parsing this out in my head, and instead think that I need to run way faster, or give up completely.

For example, I'm doing the Audi Power of Four 50K race in a couple weeks. I've never done the race, but I was talking with someone who did it last year and they were saying things like "it will be really fast on the downhills, probably sub-5 min/miles." I'm like, shit, I don't know if I have ever run a sub-5 min/mile, let alone during a 50K. I'm going to get killed! But is that really true?

Does talking about races help or hinder? For me, I can't decide. I think I learn some things about the course, what to expect, but at the same time, I seem to come away from these types of conversations a bit worse off. I get negative and have self doubts about my abilities and my training. I like to think that I'm training as best as I know how given that I work full time and have other responsibilities, but I also know there are people who will be at the race who are professionals or who don't have any other life constraints except for running. I don't come from a running background, but a climbing one. So running fast is not something I can just do. I ran some fast races this winter, but now my mountain legs are back and that means I've slowed down. Anyways, I'm just not sure how good it is to talk with other runners about things unless they are totally opposite, like running in Europe or something that doesn't directly touch my life. Even talking about local runs, I often get discouraged because I don't think I will ever be that fast. However, it could just be the difference between moving and elapsed times... Just some thoughts.

 Old stuff in the Niwot Ridge biosphere - a nice hard run can be done here up through the biosphere to the ridge itself.
 Sunset in the Sawatch Range.
 This is the east ridge of Yale, which is the descent on the Nolan's line going north to south.
 This is the ridge coming out of Maxwell Gulch on Princeton, which is the ascent on the Nolan's line going north to south.
 This is the descent off Princeton, follow the ridge, turn left and down to where the snow almost ends, then off into the grass and follow the faint climbers trail to Alpine.
 I got these in the mail to try. A new shoe company with a new concept. They feel really interesting, but I have yet to actually run in them. We will see shortly.
 Long's in the distance from a run up Audubon from the winter trailhead. Why pay the entry fee when it is pretty easy to just run the trails from the winter trailhead.
 Looks, a brown object! No, a big bull moose. There were three of them in the willows just past Brainard Lake the other day. Apparently they are pretty common there right now.
 The flowers are in full bloom in the mountains right now!
 Nice perspective of James Peak's east face.
 The Continental Divide and the Pfiffner Traverse.
One of the most appealing looking sections of trail I know of! Yes, please run here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lots Of Green

Lots of Green

I was looking over my Strava today trying to figure out how many times I've done Green Mountain since May 1. From what I can tell, I've run up the thing 33 times now since May 1. Not bad when you consider I've also done Bear and SoBo a couple times as well as some of the higher peaks now that they are melting out. It's not the most ideal training for almost any kind of running event except perhaps Nolans or something similar, and I have noticed that although the vert. doesn't seem to impact me nearly as much as it did at the beginning, my speed/leg turnover has dropped off a bit. I've tried to keep two days a week focused on some kind of run with a bit of leg turnover in it, but as we have been camping up on the Peak to Peak even the "fast" days are not that fast as they are run at altitude.

It has been a good training block: 53 days, 509.7 miles, 121,034' of gain. I've taken a couple rest days, and still been able to maintain some climbing strength, but overall despite the rain and dreary spring we had, I'm pretty happy where I'm at. The first big race is coming up July 19 - Power of Four. It's a 50K and I know I will not have the speed necessary as I'm sure there will be some fast people, but I'm hoping to pick up a little speed over the next four weeks while maintaining my focus on vert.

Coming from a non-running background, this is perhaps the most consistent period of running I've ever done, so I'm hoping it pays off for my summer goals. I know they are pretty lofty, but you might as well aim high!

Photos from some of the runs, peaks, and secret spots we are camping follow.

 Looking down Skywalker Couloir on S. Arapaho - a easy climb on the peak.

 This is the real Olympic Torch from the L.A. Games!

 One of the best traverses around - Audubon to Navajo, I call it the Blue Navajo. Still needs to melt out a touch.
 More of the traverse, with Navajo in the background. I've done this traverse twice, always from Audubon. Hoping to hit it up this summer if time permits.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Is Done

May Is Done

Well, that was a wet month! Although I had plans on getting up into the high country and starting to get on the Nolan's course this past month, that did not materialize due to the insane amount of rain and snow we received. The snowpack actually increased during the month as opposed to the usual melting that begins. So, I was limited to the Front Range peaks, banging out laps on Green Mountain with a few faster runs tossed in here and there. Overall, despite a crimp in the plans, things turned out OK. I did 291.1 miles and 63,415' of gain (with the same in descent). That is right about where I want to be, although I would have hoped to have more of it at altitude.

I did get in a couple good sessions for the Skyrunning series at altitude, with a 10 mile tempo at 10,000' and a 10K at 10,000', along with some stuff down on the plains, mostly surges of 30 secs. to 1 min. during a run. Playing the balance between trying to build for Nolan's while also keeping some speed for the Skyrunning is certainly hard, but I think as long as I get in one or perhaps two good speed sessions per week I will be alright. We will see as the races approach.

 Went to the Flatirons Running event with Kara Goucher. She is obviously better and more used to taking photos then me. I had an English class with her at CU back in '95 - neither one of us could remember what it was other than the fact that we hated it.
 Got to meet and run with Meb Keflezighi also. Pretty cool. His shakeout run was at 7:20 pace. I could obviously crush him with my stature and girth, if I could catch him! ;)

 I was pretty proud of this photo, simply because I was able to hold the camera steady enough to do a mega-zoom after running Green Mountain. My heartrate recovers pretty fast I guess.

 Green had about 5 different streams running down the mountain, something that you hardly ever see. So despite all the rain, the mountain has been pretty magical.
 Standard after run legs for the past month.

 Snow on the Brainard road. Still tons of it. Won't be melting out until mid-June.
This is the road to Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trailheads. Not even close yet!

So, despite everything, a fairly descent month. I backed off on the climbing, only able to get in a couple days a week due to life factors, but I was able to maintain my fitness, which was good. I'm hovering around the V9 grade right now in 2-3 attempts, with onsights at V5-6 on a regular basis. I was really happy to be able to go and do an old circuit of mine up on Flagstaff that involves 4 V4s, 3 V5s, 2 V6s, a V7, and a bunch of moderates without any problem. This is more a backburner this summer as my primary goals are Nolan's and the Skyrunning series, but I do want to keep my strength up as I have projects in mind come fall.

As for living, we are still both living in our VW Rabbit. Life is good up at 9,000' on the Peak to Peak. If anyone needs a housesitter, let me know! ;)