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!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fa La La Half, Where the Monkey Sleeps, Hells Canyon, Nitrate Supplementation, Grays and Torreys

Fa La La Half, Where the Monkey Sleeps, Hells Canyon, Nitrate Supplementation, Grays and Torreys

On Saturday Tara and I ran the Fa La La Half Marathon in Westminster. This was my second road race and second speed race in the past two weeks. Coming from mountain and trail running, I didn't really have any good idea of how fast I might be able to run this, nor was I sure of my fitness. I was thinking 1:30 would be a nice time to try and aim for, but depending on the course, wind, etc., I was unsure of whether that was a reasonable goal or not. I ended up running a 1:32:16 which was good for 13th place overall, and 1st in my age group. I'm pretty pleased with the result, and I know with a bit more prep and some more speed work I could break 1:30. I do have to say that I'm coming to really enjoy the pain associated with these faster road races versus the slower trail/mountain ones I'm used to. Pushing hard and flying along for a good distance is pretty rewarding in its own way.
Getting a bit tired of waiting during the pre-race instructions - there seemed to be a lot of them.
Got out on JD's "Where the Monkey Sleeps" V10 the other day. This is a super thin problem with terrible holds and non-existent feet. Despite getting shut down, I came pretty close. The campus and fingerboard training is paying off.

Another article on nitrate supplementation, beet juice, and it's benefits. I used Red Rush prior to the Half on Saturday, taking one shot each morning three days prior to the race and then one more shot on race morning. Although I don't feel a "rush" I do believe the stuff works and have noted several benefits when taking the stuff, namely less lactic acid and seemingly faster recovery from efforts. The science is pretty conclusive that taking around 500mg of beet juice a day will help with oxygen delivery, vasodilation, muscle contraction, and more. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Although the R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon is an ultra classic, I've always thought of and wanted to do a run down into Hells Canyon on the Snake River in Idaho. Having worked up in the area, I know the terrain and depth of the canyon, and always thought it would be super cool to try and put together a run. The problem is that it is very remote country, and there are no clear-cut trails descending down into the canyon. However, it looks like two guys have finally put together a line that is fairly straight forward for pulling off a R2R2R of Hells Canyon. I need to put this on the list for sure.

Ran up Grays and Torreys again yesterday. This is becoming my "Green Mountain" these days, as it is the biggest bang for your buck in terms of altitude, elevation gain, and mileage. Other then driving down to the Springs for Pikes, no other peak or run gets you all three so easily. Unlike two weeks ago when I ran Grays only, this time it was perfect out. On days like this, winter fourteener running is the way to go - a packed trail, minimal wind, descent temps., and no one around. Beats summer mountain running hands down, but then again, days like that rarely happen. I'm sure next time I go up, it will suck and I'll hate it.
 Looking west towards Breckenridge and beyond...
 Looking south - you can just make out the Sangres...

 Longs way off in the distance...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Shoe Donations And Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run

Shoe Donations and Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run

I've been helping out Mike Sandrock and One World Running for a number of years now, as I really believe in the organization and what it does. One hundred percent volunteer run, OWR collects shoes from all over, hand washes them, sorts them, and then hand delivers them to runners in need around the world. This past weekend I had the honor to help with the shoe donations for tribal runners at the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre as part of the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run.

There is always a ton of volunteer work involved in something like this, and I was happy to be part of it. On Saturday, Tara and I loaded up my VW Rabbit with about 150 pairs of shoes, along with a couple hundred shirts and made the drive out east to Eads, Colorado. We made good time, and pulled into the area in the middle afternoon - just enough time to unload all of the shoes and get them organized by size. A little later Mike showed up with another car of volunteers and another 150 pairs of shoes, as well as more shirts. There were about 200 tribal runners participating, and getting all of their shoes organized and the right sizes to the runners was a bit of a task. Kaden Walksnice was coordinating the run, and he told us what to do. After getting the shoes organized, we participated in the ceremonial dinner, where many prayers and stories were shared.

The next morning, at sunrise, we drove out to the site, which is run by the NPS. They allowed us to drive in to a certain area, where all of the runners and participants parked and prepared for the morning ceremonies and events. Sandrock, myself, and Peter H. went and did a nice tempo run around the site and out along the bluffs overlooking Big Sandy Creek. We got back just in time as the ceremonies were starting - ceremonial painting, blessings, singing, prayers, and more. It was such an honor to be able to attend and be there during such an important event. Finally, the healing run got under way - and it was a healing run. The elders lead everyone, followed by the runners who would run the course all the way back to Denver for the closing ceremonies on Wednesday.

I would like to thank the Cheyenne and Arapaho people for allowing Tara and I to attend and be part of this amazing spiritual healing run. Here are some photos of the event that I took.

 That evenings sunset - powerful times.
How many pairs of shoes can you fit in a VW Rabbit? About 150 from my experience.
Sorting out the shoes...

 Kaden Walksnice - thank you for allowing us to be a part!

 Sunrise on the way out to the site...

 Tara and Mike at the painting and blessing.
 Some of the runners...
Powerful drumming and singing
Elders leading the start...
The elders lead us out of the site, where the lead and eagle staff were handed off to the runners for the rest of the healing run.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More Mt. Morrison, New Trail Guidebook, 10K Race, Grays Peak, Cerebral Oxygenation Among Kenyans

More Mt. Morrison, New Trail Guidebook, 10K Race, Grays Peak, Cerebral Oxygenation Among Kenyans

One week ago, on Saturday, William and I had planned on doing a big day of laps on Mt. Morrison, going for twelve hours if possible. Sadly, mother nature had a different idea for us that day. We started at 6am and made it to the top of the first lap for a beautiful sunrise. However, starting on our second lap the storm that was supposed to roll in that evening arrived early. We were in good spirits and challenged mother nature to bring on the snow and cold. On the third lap, it started to really blizzard and the trail in sections started to get really slick (the rock section at the top and the initial .5 miles that is pretty steep and loose). We continued on our way, but as conditions continued to deteriorate and the trail became less and less manageable, we thought it best to save ourselves from a possible ankle-twisting slip and call it a day after four laps. Still a great time, and given the conditions, not bad: ~16 miles and ~8,000' of gain.

 Looking west from the summit at sunrise
 Above the storm clouds at sunrise looking east
The summit on lap three, storm raging below

Over the past year+ I've been hard at work on a new guidebook to trail running along Colorado's Front Range. Well, on Monday I finally received two advanced copies of the book. Published by CMC Press, I'm really happy with how it turned out. It was a ton of work, running all of the trails (many multiple times), taking hundreds of photos (over 150 in all), checking and re-checking stats, information, etc. I was pretty burned out on it and kinda not into it by the end, but now that it is done and in print, I'm really excited. I also had a lot of great help from fellow runners, who contributed nice bits throughout the book to help break it up. I'm really thankful for their generosity and for CMC Press for publishing it. Copies should be hitting stores in a couple weeks.

On Saturday, I ran a fast road 10K. Having never run a road race of this kind, and coming off a summer of mountain slogging, I wasn't really too sure what to expect. I had a vague idea of trying to beat :40 minutes, but I really had no idea if that was possible for me. The course consisted of 800' of climbing, with the first 3/4 mile following a gently uphill dirt service road before hopping onto a bike path and rolling along around the Arvada Reservoir. About 2.5 miles in a solid 500' climb went up onto the mesa behind the reservoir before turning east. I went out right behind the lead pack, figuring I'd just try and redline it from the gun, holding a bit back for the end. I felt pretty good once I got off the dirt road and started to get into a groove, and then caught a few guys on the climb as that is my strength. Up on the mesa, I was able to pull in two other guys before having to battle a fairly decent headwind for about two miles. The lead pack was up ahead, and it was just me and some dude in Newtons fighting it out - no idea on position, but just pushing each other. I took over the lead and responsibility of breaking the wind at mile 4, and then tried to make a little break at mile 4.5 at the start of the final climb of 200' or so. I was maybe twenty yards ahead, but the wind and effort started to get to me, and Newtons started to pull me back in. He caught back up and then drafted for a bit, at which point there was a final climb up and then a rolling section to the finish line. He made a move on the final couple meters of the climb, and then very subtly pushed a bit harder. I had nothing to respond with, and just tried to hold on as best I could. I crossed the line in :41:51, which was good enough for 9th place overall, 3rd in my age group. I was pretty pleased, since I had no idea what to expect given the distance and racing against some fast roadies.

Making my move with Newtons on my tail

New article on how some Kenyans are able to maintain cerebral oxygenation during maximal self-paced efforts. Interesting stuff, although as Dr. Samuele Marcora noted, we don't have any data from others to compare this to.

Nice video of Jennilyn Eaton and Craig Lloyd's new Zion Double Crossing FKT.

After sleeping in and not wanting to do anything as it seemed windy outside, Tara and I finally rallied and we went up to Bakerville to give a go at Grays and Torreys today. I have not been back since completing my challenge, and with the howling wind and blizzard like conditions, I instantly got PTSD. "Running" up the snow covered road, I kept thinking how I had run this damn thing every week all last winter. This sucked - it was cold (around 6 degrees), windy, snowing, and I could be down on the Front Range running on some nice dry trails. However, pretty soon I had reached the summer trailhead, my PTSD had mostly vanished, and I was ready to put on my final layers to try and push through the brunt of the storm above the willows and into the open tundra. Climbing 14ers in the winter is great if you can deal with the cold and snow, as there was no one else in the entire basin. Once again I got into my power hike and just put my head down and broke trail. Conditions never got better and after passing the Big Sign and the Kelso ridge turnoff, it got really cold and windy. My jacket started to freeze into a single frozen icicle and I started to get a blistering headache from the pure, cold wind. Needless to say, after tagging Gray's summit, I elected to get the hell out of there before I completely froze, not tagging Torrey's summit.

 Lovely conditions up there

 It's only 4,700' down and about 7 miles to get to the car...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First Winter Run, Ketone Bodies, Zion Double Crossing FKT, UTMB, Nanga Parbat, 24 Hours of Sanitas

First Winter Run, Ketone Bodies, Zion Double Crossing FKT, UTMB, Nanga Parbat, 24 Hours of Sanitas

Well, winter rolled in with a vengeance this week. On Monday I was running laps at Red Rocks, where I started in shorts and a t-shirt but finished with a jacket and pants. The arctic blast was forecasted to roll in Monday at around noon, but early Monday morning it was warm and sunny. I went for a quick 7,000' of gain on the Red Rocks loop, hoping to beat out the cold front. I didn't quite make it, as I watched in awe as the cold air first rolled into Denver and down Cherry Creek - a moving blanket of clouds and visibly cold looking air. After it reached south Denver, it backed up and started to come around Green Mountain, rising up and over the hogback. Then, on my 13th lap a brisk wind picked up and within a half mile it went from 60 degrees or so to around 30. I tucked tail and did one more lap before calling it quits.
 Morning sunrise tempo run.
 Sunrise from on top of the local mountain.

I ran across an interesting article the other day that may be a nutritional breakthrough for endurance sports - ketone esters and nutritional administration of ketone bodies. As the article explains, the ketone diet works, but only if you are working at a fairly low effort level. There doesn't seem to be any scientific evidence that a ketone diet works for effort levels above 70% or so. However, there may be some benefit to utilizing ketone bodies for energy supplementation during exercise. But how does one utilize ketone bodies without going into starvation mode, which is really the only way the body produces them? New studies indicate that scientists may have come up with a synthesized ketone body that is bound to an ester which allows it to be stable, while still being able to be broken down in the stomach. Yes, a ketone body milkshake is coming soon. The science is still out on whether this type of fueling will prove to be beneficial or possible, but it is very intriguing, especially for endurance athletes as it may not upset the stomach while still providing a steady and reliable source of fuel. You can read the article here (and the article they reference concerning the ketone milkshake here).

Ran up the mountain this morning. Radio said it was zero degrees out, and I would believe them. It is that time of year again...

Looks like the UTMB is no longer associated with The North Face. I'm sure it is all about the financials, but an end of an era nonetheless. Here is to hoping that the new partnership with Columbia Sportswear Company is just as beneficial.

There are two new 'zines out that I really like. The first, Like the Wind, is out of the UK and is really nice. Not your typical runners magazine, but rather a cool, art focused graphic book with stories, art, photos, and more. No ads, just page after page of really creative content. The other is Meter by Tracksmith. Again, a solid magazine, but in full newspaper print size, with double page photos, art, and excellent writing. Both of these two magazines are hands down more interesting, creative, and cool then anything I've seen on the market. Really inspiring. I wish there was something similar for climbing.

Two great endurance events took place over the past two weeks that really embody the sport. First is the new FKT on the Zion Double Crossing set by Craig Lloyd and Jennilyn Eaton on November 7 in 24 hours and 50 minutes. The Trans-Zion seems like a great run, almost better then the R2R2R these days, but the Double is just amazing. Just six days before, here in Boulder, locals Adam St. Pierre and Henry Schliff completed 24 hours of Mt. Sanitas. Wowza! They pulled of 28,000' of climbing and 70 miles during that time. Here is Adam's report, and here is Henry's. I really dig these types of efforts - low key, no publicity, just people out there pushing the limits really for their own personal reasons.

I've done my share of winter climbing and mountaineering, having summited a couple 17,000' and 18,000' peaks. However, the 8,000 meter peaks are an entirely different animal. Now imagine trying to climb one in the winter. Talk about suffering. This video really got to me. I really felt the raw human emotion in this video, especially at the end. You may not even care about climbing big peaks, but I think anyone who has pushed themselves to the limit can feel how stripped down these two climbers are.