Monday, February 24, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Flatirons Circuit Ramble

Flatirons Circuit Ramble

Had some time to kill after work in Boulder, so I cruzed up and ran a fun circuit that involves a bit of bouldering. I've done this circuit off and on for 15 years or so, and have always found it to be very enjoyable. It combines a bit of solid running, some talus hopping, bouldering, a fun climbing route, and exposure all in one. From Chautauqua I cruzed up to the Second Flatiron access and then up the trail to the Satellite boulders. Since I'm just messing around, I do all of the easy problems in the area, then head over to the Gutter and do a lap or two there. The Gutter is a great climb, and doesn't see much traffic these days. After a solid pump, I go up the flood wash and hop through the talus behind the Second, before doing a fun scramble along a rib to the top. I wanted, this time, to then head up Green and continue on, but since Boulder's trails seem to be an icy mess compared to those in Jefferson county, I took a class 3/4 route down and back to the Mesa trail. From there, I went and ran some of the loops on McClintock, Kholer, and Skunk, which were relatively dry and runnable, before returning back to Chautauqua. Fun adventure running.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

G & T 27

G & T 27


My only window this week was today, which looked to be good in terms of snow, but not wind. Sitting in the dark back at Bakerville only two days after my 26th run felt anti-climatic. There is still such a long way to go in the challenge. However, I motivated and began the slog. The road was much better this time, as Presidents Weekend traffic helped pack down all of the new snow. That put me in a good mood, but surprisingly, when I got to the summer trailhead, it looked like most people had turned around and only a few had continued on. Oh well. Pushing forward, I was greeted with the usual blast of snow ice wind as I moved through the willows and out into the open. With all of the new snow, a couple sections are pretty sketchy right now - the traverse just below the eastern ridgeline after the Kelso turn-off but before the Grays/Torreys split was wind blown sastrugi, with a nice 100-400 foot potential slide down into the basin with any slip ups. It took me a bit to work my way along, as I didn't bring anything other then my snowshoes and poles to manage the slope. The same goes for the usual route coming back from the saddle, after tagging Torrey's you have to re-climb Grays for about 300 feet before there is a safe section to traverse across - one slip and it is a 2,000' slide. The rest is pretty straight forward, and as seems to be the norm in winter (and NOT summer), I had the entire basin to myself.

 The morning light with the wind blowing off of Kelso Ridge...
 I tried to capture the wind here... you can see some of it up on Kelso in the light...

 I'm pretty sick of selfies, but I liked the reflection in my glasses on this one...
Kelso with Longs way off in the distance...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

G & T 26 - Half A Year

G & T 26 - Half a Year


Today was my 26th week in a row that I've run up Grays and Torreys. Half way done with the challenge. There seemed to be a noticeable shift in the environment today - the air temperature was actually not freezing out, the wind was not as biting, the early start not as bad. I'm sure there is plenty more winter to come, but I thought I could sense a touch of spring today. It was the usual slog however, breaking trail after catching up to a party of four near the Stevens/Grizzly split. Down in the trees, everything was wonderful, but once at the willows and beyond, the wind and micro gusts were fierce.

Lessons Learned So Far

Consistency is key, but boy is it hard. Trying to run G&T once a week during the winter is not easy. I've had to juggle being sick twice, which put the whole challenge into jeopardy. Not to mention that this winter we seem to be getting frequent and substantial snow storms, making it even more dicey trying to fit in an attempt with work and the weather.

It gets easier, sort of. When it was nice and dry out, running G&T once a week was not a problem. I was able to fit it into my training schedule and things were smooth. Once the snow started, my times slowed a bit and the "epicness" of the challenge increased. Sitting at Bakerville at 6:00am when it is -2 degrees out and knowing that you have to try and make it 14.5 miles and 5,300' before you freeze is not motivating. However, I've now run it enough to really not be too afraid of the weather or temperature. I've been up there when it was -2 at the car with solid and consistent wind, so I know that my gear setup will allow me to make the attempt, unless it is just really brutal out there. However, each run taxes the body less and less and my ability to recover and continue with solid training right after has become easier.

If you go light, go fast. There are a lot of ways to approach the peaks, and none are better than the other. For this challenge, I've chosen to run (or speed power hike), which means I carry a lot less gear than others I see out there, especially in winter. Going once a week has allowed me to nail down my "hoped for" time, which allows me to calculate how much water and food and clothing I will (hopefully) need. Right now, my winter setup consists of:
  • 40oz of water
  • 3 bars
  • 2 gels
  • 1 fruit strip
  • Brooks Cascadia 8s (sprayed with tons of NikWax)
  • one pair of wool socks
  • running shorts
  • 2 layers of Patagonia long underwear
  • 1 outer Outdoor Research running pants
  • 1 medium weight long underwear top
  • 1 tech t-shirt
  • 1 Nike running long sleeve shirt
  • 1 hooded running jacket
  • 1 regular nylon running jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 1 balaclava
  • 2 pairs of $1 gardening gloves doubled up
  • 1 pair of Salomon race poles
  • 1 pair of Atlas running snowshoes
As long as I keep moving at a good pace, this setup keeps things light and fast. I carry the water in a hip belt that is tucked under one of the running jackets so that the water does not freeze and is kept warm by my body heat. Food is in the hip belt or my pockets. Camera and sun glasses are in my pockets. However, I don't have the time to really enjoy much of the experience - if I stop too long, I can feel the wind going right through the layers directly to my core.

The conditions change weekly. It is amazing how much conditions can change every week. Some weeks there is tons of snow, where I have to post hole all the way. Other weeks, everything has been blown clear and a fairly decent packed trail can be run. I can't wait until summer and I can run on solid ground (and with less clothing), but the winter conditions are also unique and make the mountains and basin entirely different place then in summer.

Confidence in the mountains is essential. None of this would be possible if I did not have complete confidence in myself and my abilities on this route. Pushing forward through deep blowing snow in a white out is only possible because I know the route and my abilities. Feeling comfortable skirting past fully loaded avalanche zones has taken many years of being in the mountains. Likewise, standing on top of a 14er with a bit of water, a bar, in full winter conditions, with no one around and 5,000' and 7+ miles to safety has taken a long time to feel OK with.

There are a lot of other really small lessons I've learned on this challenge, one's that I can't think of right now but that have become rote - and essential. All in all, I'm really happy to have reached this point - half a year. I wasn't too sure how it would all go, and when I first thought of the challenge back in the summer/fall, I don't think I was too serious. Now, however, with each one it becomes a bit more serious and I only hope that I can hang on and complete this.

 I don't know what is in this... but it is a random artifact of the trail...
 Another lovely morning...
Lame summit selfie...
 This massive slide happened between me going up and coming down - crazy powerful!




Friday, February 14, 2014

Random Running Photos

Random Running Photos


I've really grown to enjoy taking photos on my runs. I'm not very good, and I only have a cheap point-and-shoot, but it's still nice to capture photos of things on the run. A couple from this week...





Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday Marathon

Saturday Marathon


With another long run on tap, William and I decided to try and link together a bunch of parks and open space in Jefferson County instead of doing one of the usual loops up in Boulder. Boulder is great - I grew up there and have run those trails forever - but the idea of an adventure run closer to home was appealing. Allisa had mentioned a crazy 100K route that linked up a ton of parks - we were not up for that, but still wanted to do something similar, so we devised a plan and headed out. We parked at the top of the Mathews/Winter trailhead and headed up the Red Rocks trail. At the top of the mesa, we went bushwacking straight up the northeast ridge of Mt. Morrison. This turned out to be a bit of a saga, as the snow was ankle to calf deep the entire way - not more slogging! Near the top, you have to go around a bunch of radio towers with various warnings about radio frequency exposure and FCC guidelines. Finally, at the top of Mt. Morrison we ran down the super fun and fast southeast ridge to Morrison and Bear Creek. A quick run through some urban streets and we were hooked up with the Mt. Falcon trail system. Up that we went - the trail was packed out, but the wind up top was roaring and had us back to a slogging pace. At the top of Falcon, we dropped off the backside and down through the Indian Hills area. Our original plan was to then jump onto the O'Fallon/Lair O'Bear trails which would take us to the small hamlet of Idledale. When we got to the trails, they were totally untracked and our desire to turn this run into a mega epic (it was already turning into a mini epic) quickly convinced us to just cruz down Myers Gulch to the hamlet of Kittredge and then onto the lower Bear Creek trails. Once in Idledale, we had to run a couple miles along the side of the road to get back to Morrison, where we turned and went up through Red Rocks and back along the trails to get to our starting point. The run turned out to be almost exactly 26.2 miles (26 via Google Earth) and 6,477 feet of gain. I was blasted by the end, with William dropping me four or five times. It was a great training run, incorporating some good climbing and a fair amount of real running. As seems to be the usual habit, I took some photos during the first half, but nothing during the second half.

 Slogging up Mt. Morrison
Views from the top of Mt. Morrison
Windy madness along the Divide
The meadow at the top of Falcon

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cold

Cold


A bit cold this morning. The temperature reading for Golden was -9F when I started out, which felt about right as I had to gasp for air the moment I stepped outside. The first exposure on super cold days is always a shock. Did the "Golden Triangle" run again, which seems to exploit several of my weaknesses since I feel burnt by the time I get back home. January turned out to be a decent month, despite being sick for a couple days and not running for 7 days: 238.5 miles, 47 hours, 55,400 feet of gain. 3 speed days, nine climbing/bouldering days. A bit down from December, but right where I want to be for this time of year. Really focusing this year as I have several big goals so that I enter the season ready to go, and not like last year with only two months or so of running (but lots of skiing).

 Top of South Table looking at Golden - cool little summit
 Going up Chimney Gulch looking back at South Table in the distance.
 Windy Gap looking at Clear Creek and the Divide.

Monday, February 3, 2014

G & T 25

G & T 25

Kinda scary out there this morning. We had to be back in town by noon, so it was a brutally early start this morning, hoping to make it up and down in time for our deadline, as well as to beat the coming storm. Last weekend's storm dropped a TON of snow in the high country, and based on today, I would say that the snowpack in Steven's Gulch just doubled. It was hard to tell this morning how conditions would be, as it was still dark when I headed out. The road was a powder mess, with only two skin tracks from yesterday heading up. It was also really cold, as my toes took forever to warm up. When I got to the summer trailhead, the skin tracks turned off and went to one of the cabins, so I knew that my work was cut out for me. I began crossing the bridge hoping that some wind had come through and at least blown away some of the powder - no luck, however. Postholing from the beginning, the run was quickly turning into a mini epic event. When I got to the top of the willows, I ran across one of the largest avalanche's I've ever seen - the entire southeast face of Kelso Mountain had slid the day before. This slide was big, really big, with a debris field of over a 100 yards wide, and it went clear to the ground. I got a little spooked, as the south and southwest faces of Kelso looked really loaded and ready to slide as well. I ran way out into the basin to avoid any potential danger of a slide, which required more willow wallowing. Finally, after passing the big sign, the avy danger subsided, but the wind continued to be a pain. Also, my legs really began to hurt, primarily from the postholing which required me to lift each leg high up while also moving forward. I began to make better time, however, as the upper basin and face had been wind scoured somewhat, and I didn't have to wallow quite as much. Again, the usual tag of Grays and then the torture traverse over to Torreys through unrelenting wind had me questioning all sorts of things. I took a quick break on Torreys as I tried to find protection by the small cairn five feet below the summit and eat a bar. The next storm was already on the summits, as it alternated between blue sky and spitting snow and whiteout. The return trip was no less challenging, as all of my tracks had already filled in from the wind, so I got to break trail twice! Ahhh, always a good time in the mountains.
 Morning light...
 Breaking trail on the way up...
 Storm starting to roll in...

 Coming back down, you can just barely make out my tracks near the big sign from earlier...
Not the best photo, but the slide goes from the left all the way to the right of the frame. Massive!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Quick Sunrise Run

Quick Sunrise Run


Quick run today, but boy was it worth it. The sunrise on the new snow was spectacular.




Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snow Day

Snow Day


Well, I couldn't make it up to the Leadville Marathon with all of this new snow (side note - second time I've seen a Subie in a ditch on US 6), so I just did a fun urban run tagging the three high points from my place: Apex, South Table, Lookout. This run turned out to be a better training run than I thought because the trail sections up to each summit were power hiking slogs through powder, while the connectors were plowed bike paths that allowed for a good running pace. The alternation between running 7min pace and power slogging through snow works one of my many weaknesses.