Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Days Of Doubles

Days of Doubles

With limited time on many days, but a desire to still get in plenty of vertical and run in the mountains, I've been doing a bunch of doubles. Pick a mountain, and tag it twice, while adding in some miles in between to get some solid distance and vert.

I ran Evergreen Mountain twice, with a larger loop then around the north side of the Alderfer/Three Sisters Park up in Evergreen. Running up Evergreen Mountain is pretty fun, as it only gains about 1,200' and the trail is really smooth, allowing you to really push at a nice tempo pace. I was eyeing the granite slabs on the north side on the way up, and after figuring out the landscape, came down and ran up the mountain again, but this time cutting straight up from the junction of the East/West Evergreen Mountain trail and the Summit trail. If you cut straight up and right from the junction, after a couple hundred feet you arrive at the base of a fun series of granite slabs that go for about 200' or so, with many variations. It tops out right at the scenic overlook near the summit. Added a nice alpine flavor to the run, as the slabs were all wet from the rain and they are covered in moss and lichen just like up high. I then tagged the Three Sisters and The Brother for a bit more scrambling.
 Looking south from the summit, which also has some fun scrambling on it.
 Looking down at the slabs from the top.

Looking up one section - you can make it class 2/3 or class 3/4 depending on your line.

Lookout Mountain has come to be my Monday morning run. From my place, I can run up and over it twice on a combo of singletrack and quiet roads for a total of 18 miles and 5,000'. I really like this run because the road sections force me to open up my stride and hold a faster pace then if it was just all trails.

In an effort to escape the heat today, I ventured up to Saxon Mountain to see if it was runnable. This run is great, gaining 2,900' in one solid 6.5 mile climb on a super rocky, but very runable old jeep mining road. Going from 8,500' up to 11,400' it allows one to get in some good climbing and running at a zone that I find difficult. Below 8,500' I don't have any trouble, and anything above 12,000' you generally power hike unless it is flat or downhill. But that zone between 9,000' and 12,000' where one can - and should - still run but where the altitude begins to impact your pace and effort I find the most difficult. So Saxon Mountain is perfect training for this zone and for the higher peaks and bigger summer projects at a relatively early date. A couple of rock slides have happened, so there is no way for any jeeps to get up past about mile 2, making this run even better.
 This slide has completely blocked the road.
 Looking down 2,000' at the endless switchbacks.
 View of Mount Evans from the summit.

Good, rocky terrain - perfect training ground.

Friday, May 23, 2014

G & T 40, The Man Who Never Wore A Watch, Everest Continues

G & T 40, The Man Who Never Wore a Watch, Everest Continues

Ran up Grays and Torreys for my 40th time today. Much better then last week, but the snow was a bit soft and punchy - not nearly as good as two weeks ago. Still, a great time up in the mountains. No wind, but some building clouds and a few sprinkles. The road is fully melted out to the Stevens/Grizzly split, and pretty much melted out to the old mining cabin. Should be fully melted out within another week. The section between the summer trailhead and the big sign is still fully covered, and although I was able to run the full route this week, I did punch through a bunch as it is not freezing at night and the snow is not getting hard. A small wet slide occurred while I was up on the mountain - fairly small, but I saw evidence of several others.

I've had the honor to meet Steve Jones a couple times, and each time he is the most humble world record holder I have ever met. Such a great guy, I was excited to read this article. There are a lot of good quotes in it, including this one:
I wasn't wearing a watch—I never wore a watch—but when I was coming down the final straight and saw the clock turning over 2:07.51, 2:07.52, I knew it was a fast time. A guy put one of those silver blankets on me and said, "Do you realize you broke the world record and it's only your second marathon?" And instead of saying, "That's great," or something, I said, "And it's only the first one I've finished."

I wear a watch, but I don't look at it until the end of my run. I try and run primarily on feel, like Jonesy did. I certainly don't wear a GPS unit (although I have my eye on one...). It's all about effort, determination, and moxy.

There has been a fair bit written about Everest ever since the tragedy earlier this season. However, the mountain is not closed, as was often reported in most Western media outlets, and today the first successful climbs of the 2014 season took place. Although most teams moved to the Tibetan side (there are something like 120 people lined up to summit in the next few days if the weather holds), the Nepal side is still open for business. How much business? Well, if you have $20,000 extra lying around you can get flown in and avoid the whole Khumbu Icefall (the location of the avalanche). This is on top of paying for permits, Sherpas, etc. It's all about determination I guess. Alan also wrote a nice piece on climbing and risking it all in the Himalaya.

Any guesses on Zegama results? I'm rooting for Cam and Alex as they are the local boys, and Stevie Kremer for the ladies. Speaking of Skyrunning, the Kendal Mountain run and the La Maratona look like they might fit into my schedule.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Old School Classics, Slabby FAs, Spring Trails

Old School Classics, Slabby FAs, Spring Trails

Did a bit of house cleaning the other day and pulled out these old school classics. From an article by Arthur Lydiard from 1971 in "New Views of Speed Training":
"There are very many athletes in the US who train like hell. And when the season starts, they continue to train very hard. I used to train my athletes so they could race. We didn't train to train. When we started to race, we trained very lightly. The two key words are fresh and sharp. You have to be fresh and you have to be sharp is you want to race well."
I see Lydiard's words of advice here just as pertinent then as now. There are plenty of ultra and other runners out there who seem to train way too much, and come into races flat. I know I've been victim of this myself, and with the option to race all year, it is hard to distinguish between training and racing. It also depends on your goals - I know I have several for this summer, some of which can be viewed as "training" runs despite their length and difficulty. Still, the idea of incorporating some form of periodization into your training seems to be the smart way to go - if you don't, you will likely get injured, burnt out, or hit a plateau.

I've been doing track sessions now for 5 weeks, once a week. I do 4x400s and 4x800s with 400 jogs inbetween, as well as some warmups and cool downs. My time for the 400s has improved by 4 seconds and my time for the 800s has improved by 9 seconds. Small, but important gains. I don't have a running background, so I don't have any highschool or college numbers to compare my times to. I'll keep at it as much as I can over the summer and see what happens, but after 3 more sessions I'll switch up the distances to 600s and 1200s to change up the stimulus. Then, after 8 sessions I'll drop back down to the 400s and 800s and hopefully see a good improvement.

The only problem with my little speed work is that I've ramped up the vertical now that summer is approaching for my summer objectives. I've averaged 54,000' of vert per month since November, but am on track this month to hit 75,000' or so. My legs and lungs may be getting stronger, but they are also getting slower, thus the speed work once a week, plus some faster home runs. Some photos from my recent outings.

 Shots from the trails out of Pine, Colorado - miles and miles of flowy singletrack.
 Shot of the Continental Divide from a double Lookout Mountain morning.

 The "Wall" in Deer Creek - I love running the outer perimeter of this park.

The view from the top of Golden Eagle Peak, aka Bill Couch Mountain.

During my recent run out on some trails in Pine, I also had fun climbing up some slabs off in the woods. Adding slabs or some other scrambling to the run spices things up a bit and is a fun way to change up the rhythm. There are a lot of FAs waiting to be had and plenty of places to explore. I usually climb in this area in the fall when it is not so hot and the ticks are not out, but I had to get some photos for a book I'm working on. 
 This was a fun slab FA climb, following the crack/seam system - about 120' and class 4/5 climbing
I did some small stuff around this feature, but it is about 3 pitches worth of perfect climbing all waiting for some first ascents.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

G & T 39, More Transvulcania, Metabolic Costs Of Running, Training Question

G & T 39, More Transvulcania, Metabolic Costs of Running, Training Question

Ran up G & T yesterday for my 39th time in a row. After last weeks perfect weather and conditions, this time around it was back to full winter conditions. A-Basin was reporting around 20" of fresh over the course of the week, so I knew it was not going to be the best, but was still hoping for minimal slogging. The lower first half of the road up to the Stevens/Grizzly split was still runable and I carried my snowshoes in my hands. After that, however, the new snow became a bear and by the time I got to the abandoned mining cabin I had to put them on. Another storm was moving in, so I had to move as fast as possible and hope that the weather held throughout the morning. Above treeline the winds were fierce once again, blowing the fresh powder around and instantly cover my tracks. Any exposed skin was beaten and sliced raw by the micro-tears caused by the blowing snow/ice crystals. Up on the ridge, and between the saddle, it was a constant gale, forcing me to rely heavily on my poles to not get blown over. Needless to say, I was not happy with another run in winter conditions. I'm really hoping that this was the last time and I can leave the snowshoes and poles behind. Filled up another bag of trash at the trailhead - as the snow melts, it is amazing to see all of the trash that has accumulated over the winter from lazy people dumping bottles, cups, diapers, foam seat cushions, wrappers, and other crap.

 Started using List of John recently. It's a fairly simple, but cool website that lets you track your peak bagging excursions. You can use it for free, but I donated so that I could get use of its full features. I've logged 85 summits on the year so far, with 38 14er summits.

Another video from this years Transvulcania.

Interesting new article on the metabolic cost of running. Looks like body weight and forward propulsion compromise the majority of the metabolic cost of running. Propulsion is hard to work on, but body weight is something everyone can tweak. As most know, training weight versus racing weight can have all of the difference in terms of putting up a fast time - and this study backs up that commonly held wisdom. There is a reason for being lean and mean.

Something that has been on my mind lately in terms of training philosophy is the idea of doing two fairly hard workouts back to back, such as a 15 mile tempoish run on Saturday and another 15 mile tempoish run on Sunday versus the more common 20 mile slow run on Saturday and a 10 mile recovery/shake out/tired legs run on Sunday. Both give you the same miles (30 total), but the 15/15 allows you to go harder on each workout and often in my case results in a faster overall time. If you are training for longer races, which would be the more productive set of workouts? Perhaps alternating between the two every other week? Assume total vert. is the same across the 30 miles.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Local Runs, Muscle Fatigue And Exhaustion, Twitter, Transvulcania

Local Runs, Muscle Fatigue and Exhaustion, Twitter, Transvulcania

Been trapped to the local hills lately, and with a couple big plans this summer I've been trying to get in some solid vert. and miles. My local mountain is Lookout Mountain, which if you approach from Chimney Gulch can give you 2,000' of vert in one go, and if you approach from Apex is about the same. The other day I did a Double Lookout, which involved going up Apex and then on to the top of Lookout before dropping down Chimney Gulch to the highway. I then turned around and reversed the route, getting in 18 miles and 5,000' of climbing in 2:46. It was a mellow day, and I only ran into a few other people out on the trails, which was really nice as I imagined I had the whole mountain to myself. Today, with the new snow I did 4 laps on Apex for 16 miles and 4,200' of climbing in 2:31. I was wearing the new La Sportiva Bushido's today, which I got a demo pair to try out. They felt pretty good. They were really light and nimble, but also felt like they had a lot of stability and the extra rubber on the toe just bumps off any rocks you may hit. I'll be putting them through some solid miles before giving a final verdict and review.

In between I tried to do a track session to see if my times had increased at all. Sunday morning was the day the blizzard rolled in, so I was out trying to push through 400s and 800s with sleet, snow, and freezing wind/rain. Needless to say, my times were about the same, which given the conditions I will take as a sign of improvement. If it had been nice with no wind, I think my times would have reflected a bit of an improvement. Hopefully next Sunday will be good.

I joined Twitter a week or so ago, and have really enjoyed it so far. I've already had a cool conversation or two with several Olympic medalists and some other runners, as well as a couple climbers and people in the biz. However, one of the more recent interesting conversations that I have just watched has been between a couple sports scientists over interpretation of data and results concerning muscle fatigue and exhaustion. The article that started it off, and has now been edited, is here. On Twitter Samuele Marcora really took Ross Tucker to task, and the back and forth between the two was great to watch and learn from. A couple interesting articles were posted (here and here). Needless to say, the research concerning whether muscle fatigue actually causes muscle exhaustion is very interesting, and from what I can gather, Samuele Marcora and colleagues work demonstrates that muscle fatigue does NOT cause muscle exhaustion. This is big in terms of endurance sports, and points to other things going on then just muscle fatigue and lack of energy. For example, is there a Central Governor, and can you defeat it? Apparently yes, there is one and yes it is possible to bypass it. How and whether you can at will is still up for debate. My degree is in psychology, and I certainly have had experience and know others who have been able to harness their mind to push beyond fatigue situations. There have also been times, however, when that has not been possible - the level of exhaustion was too great to overcome. The question is, how do we distinguish between these two situations and use that knowledge to our advantage.

Transvulcania was an amazing race, as always. A good video on some behind the scenes stuff with KJ and others here. There is also a nice interview with Sage Canaday from a Spanish website here (interview in English). My biggest question is how does KJ handle the downhills? Skimo is almost equivalent to speed hiking/running up hills, so I can understand how he does so well on the climbs, but skimo does nothing for the downhills and your quads. Does he just have a really soft touch? Can he just suffer better then anyone else? I would imagine his quads would blow up, especially on the 8,000' downhill near the end, but they didn't. Simply amazing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

G & T 38, Track, Summer Boulder Problem

G & T 38, Track, Summer Boulder Problem

On Wednesday Kendrick and I got out for a great run up Grays and Torreys. This was my 38th running of the peaks, and perhaps one of the best in terms of weather that I have had since November. We were able to do the entire run without snowshoes - the snow on the road is all packed, and the long section between the summer trailhead and the big sign is consolidated and hard. Above the big sign it is smooth sailing. After a long, stormy, cold and often dark winter, it is so nice to be up high with spring like conditions. On the way down, Kendrick asked me if I was going to continue this challenge after #52. I don't think I could handle another winter - reflecting back it was pretty miserable.

Been getting to the track on Sunday mornings for a session of 400s and 800s. After my first session, my times were really slow. Now, after a couple times I've seen my times drop by about 3-7 seconds for the 400s and about the same for the 800s. From my understanding of how the body responds to stimulus and change, it takes about 4 consistent sessions/workouts before one will really start to see any improvement. The first time your body and muscles are simply dealing with the new stimulus. On the second time, you are still dealing with the new stimulus, but your body at least knows what to expect. By the third time, your muscles have begun to adapt to the new stimulus because it has now started to become part of your routine. The real gains come in workouts 4-8. After 8, you either need to change up the workout or do something else. I'll see this Sunday if my times continue to drop.

I've been looking for a good hard problem that I can work on this summer that is close to home. Most of the climbing that I have not done involves a drive up into the high country, which on work days I can't do. So, the hunt for something local that would be new. I think I found it this past week - Extra Otis V11. I used to climb at Morrison a bunch about 15 years ago when it was more hip, but have not been there since. Now that I live in Golden, however, it is just 5 minutes away and provides a great hard training ground. Extra Otis may not be the most aesthetically pleasing of problems, but it is hard and I haven't done it yet. Time to check it off the list.

Still looking for a race to do this month or in June. I was going to do Sageburner, but can't make it now. There is the Rocky Mountain 50K in Wyoming, but it is mostly on FS roads, which means you need to be fast, and I've been doing more vertical then speed. Anyone know of some local races that might work?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

G & T 37, A Super Long Run, Flagstaff Bouldering, And Huang Jin Gui

G & T 37, A Super Long Run, Flagstaff Bouldering, and Huang Jin Gui

Yesterday was my 37th running of G & T. Last week was great, with spring like conditions and a slightly faster time then during winter. Yesterday was back to winter, at least in terms of the trail and snow. Loveland had reported getting 2' of snow over the past three days, so I knew that it would be a bit of a bear. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find the first 2+ miles of road packed with several sections of dirt. Things are starting to melt out fast. However, up high, after the turnoff for the Kelso Mountain East Ridge, the trail became powdery and then by the summer trailhead it was untracked and back to winter conditions. I had run up the road with my running snowshoes in my hands like last week, but this time needed to put them on to make it through the willows without too many issues. Still, the day warmed up and it was a spectacular day to be up above 14,000'. Only 15 more times to pull off a full year.

 Looking south over South Park to the Sangres and Sawatch

Citadel Peak and the Never Summers in the distance

A nice story on an incredible Gwich'in runner up in Canada who has run 1,200km over the past month plus in an effort to raise awareness about the Peel Watershed. He basically ran 40k per day for 30 days! Some serious endurance running - and through incredibly difficult conditions.

A little write-up on Paige Siemers - a friend and super humble athlete. She qualified for the Olympic Trials again this winter.

Flagstaff, Arizona is quickly turning into a running mecca (again?), and it is also a hotbed of sick bouldering and climbing. ClimbingNarc posted a new video on a long cave problem that will hopefully bring some of the strong kids down to check the area out. I haven't been down there to climb in about 10 years, but perhaps next winter...

Acheron SDS - Second Ascent from Blake McCord on Vimeo.

Yesterday, May 2 was the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Shishapangma (26,289 ft), the last of the 8,000m peaks to be climbed. Since it is located in China-controlled Tibet, it was a Chinese team that got the first ascent. Annupurna I was the first to be climbed in 1950, so all 14 8,000m peaks were climbed within 14 years, which is really fast if one thinks about it. Only 26 people have climbed all 14 - an amazing feat!

The other day I enjoyed a wonderful pot of Huang Jin Gui, also known as Yellow Gold. This is a high grade oolong tea from Anxi County in Fujian Province, China. I was drinking the 2013 spring harvest. With thinner and smaller leaves then some of the Tieguanyin's from the same area, the tea is lightly processed and is a step between a "green" oolong and the more traditional "darker" oolongs. A really nice tea all in all.