Defn: a human male displaying evidence of devolution - exhibits distinctive "caveman-like" tendencies. This man often dribbles in public places; cannot drink a beverage without spilling it on himself, the floor or someone else; may also run into objects like lampposts & bushes; has a definite "sloopish & short legged" running style that is slow and low to the ground, often resulting in the dragging of knuckles.

These throwback neanderthals, along with their questionable diet, should clearly be avoided.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire impact on Air Force Academy

Photo - taken Tuesday, Trails reopened Sunday
With so many of the local Colorado Springs Trails still closed due to the Waldo Canyon fire......

From Thursday
.... and wanting / needing to go for a run - more of the mandatory evacuations were lifted Friday (6/29) for areas in Rockrimmon and the USAFA.  So, I set out this morning to see if I could run the Falcon Trail - a 13 mile loop that in essence circles inside the Academy boundaries in the Foothills, just North of Colorado Springs and the impacted burn zone. 
Falcon Stadium w/ Blodgett Peak overlooking.
The guard at the gate said most of the trail was open, but wasn't certain if all of it was.  As I set out I passed several bikers who had done most of the loop and they told me the whole way around was open.  This is such a good trail to run on, keeping you honest and needing to stay committed with 13 miles and over 1300' of gain, not technical at all aside from just a couple of spots.  And plenty of views and scenary to behold.
Aside from wanting to get a good and testing run in, I was also curious to see what impact the fire has had on the Academy, as well as on Blodgett Peak at the North end of Peregrine - close to and quite visible from the South end of the trail. 

I am happy to say that the impact - although noticeable - especially to Peregrine and Blodgett Peak - is minimal to the Academy.  As you will see in the following photos - the fire is still burning in places, but the helicopters are doing a fantastic job and the Academy has several new fire lines cut in near the trail.
Blodgett Peak
Small, new firebreak cuts through the trail in several places.
A newly installed and very wide fire break
I stopped and chatted w/ a Mtn Biker when I took this last photo.  We watched the helicopters and chatted for a while - both agreeing that 1) The Academy is safe.  2) They took this very seriously - responding appropriately.  3)  The helicopters are fascinating to watch up close attacking the spot fires on Blodgett Peak.

I'm sure in the days, weeks and months to come - trails and more areas will open back up.  If you are reading this and are not local - please come visit Colorado Springs, spend lots of money and enjoy what we have to offer.  I don't work for the city or any tourist companies in any way at all - but I call this place my home and I can 100% vouch that we need tourists, we need business, we have plenty to share that you will enjoy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire trails impact, photos 6/26/12

6 pm update below - with frightening photos......
(From Yesterday - Pikes Peak to the Left, Blodgett Peak on the Right)
I had thoughts of running / climbing Blodgett Peak this afternoon - but that trail along with many of the local trails are closed.

I haven't personally checked them all, but from what I have seen and heard the trails closed are:
* Waldo Canyon (where the fire started back on Saturday)
* Red Rocks Canyon
* Barr Trail (on Pikes Peak and scene of the Pikes Peak Marathon)
* The Incline
* Palmer Park
* N. Cheyenne Canyon Park
* Sections of the Santa Fe Trail (at Sth end of the USAFA)
* Stanley Canyon
* Stratton Open Space
* Ute Valley Park
* Garden of the Gods
* Pulpit Rock Park
* Section 16

* Highway 24 is also closed between Manitou Springs and the El Paso / Teller County line, along with Pikes Peak Highway - the road to the Summit - and also the scene of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb on July 8th: may be impacted.

I drove to the Blodgett Peak Trailhead at about 1pm this afternoon and saw the sign of the trail closure.  In the few minutes that I was there and on the drive away - the smoke increased noticeably so I drove up a nearby road overlooking Ute Valley Park and Flying W Ranch and took the following photos of the fire flaring up again - along with several of the planes fighting the fire.....

The Summit of Pikes Peak has a live camera pointed towards the fire 
3:10 pm looking NE towrds the fire from Pikes Peak Summit (14,415')
6pm update - I drove to Manitou Springs from my office (at about 3 pm) in Rockrimmon - took 20 minutes - for an appt - then started heading back past Garden of the Gods, up 30th, to Centennial, then down Allegheny to Rockrimmon. 

On my way back the fire crossed the front range and into NW Colorado Springs.  Took me 2 hours to get back to my office where I am posting these and leaving asap..... These first 4 photos from Old Colorado City area.

These next photos from Garden of the Gods heading North - the fire just crested the ridge.

Now I am on 30th St, still heading North as the fire is now coming down the front slopes towards Peregrine / Nth Mountain Shadows

As I got to Centennial / Allegheny I could no longer see the front range, in fact I could barely see anything at all.  2 photos of the sun, one of the traffic and ash.  Very strong winds right now, I heard as I was stuck in traffic of homes on fire and firefighters being forced to retreat.  This is not good.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Slacker Half Marathon Race report

The race is billed as "...the highest DOWNHILL half marathon in the country...." and with almost 2500' of elevation drop, it results in speedy race times.   Mixed into the race is some climbing - more like gradual slopes - but with the downhill taking it's toll, 166' of elevation gain feels like so much more.

Starting in a sea of Sports Bra's and Compression socks at the Loveland Ski area at 8:15 am, temparatures were already pushing 60 degrees.  By the time I finished in Georgetown it was mid 70's and climbing.  I believe the heat did take it's toll somewhat, at least it certainly required paying attention to diligent hydration.

Was a bit of a dusty start as the herd set off down a dirt connector road through the ski field for the first 2/3 of a mile before we came to a paved bike path for the next 5 miles.

I really wanted to hold back at the start, without being held back by the crowds.  So I settled into a pace that carried me through the dirt stretch, mostly getting passed by people who were enjoying the downhill, but forgetting that the race was 13.1 miles long.  So, as soon as we hit the paved bike path and started a gradual upslope - the herd slowed.  It required some weaving through the crowd to keep up my momentum. 

At mile 1 my pace was 7:07, a little slower than I wanted to be.  I had decided at the start to set my watch to record mile splits, but was only going to watch the average pace.  My goal was to get through the first 3 miles at a 6:58 to 7 minute average.

Finish goals were to PR and beat 1:36:06 - a 7:20 average.  I felt very confident that I could do that.  Realistic and probably #1 goal was 7 minute miles average.  This too would be a challenge as I had run a (flat) 10K the weekend before at a 7 minute pace and thought that might (hopefully) translate okay into the 1/2 marathon distance that was mostly downhill.  If the planets aligned then I would get under a 1:30 finish time - but that would require a pace of 6:52 per mile.  In hindsight, I don't believe I have that ability.  Not going to write it off, but not going to anticipate it either.

Back to the race..... I didn't really care about if I was passing people or if they were passing me, I was intent on staying with the pace in mind, trying to watch that I didn't overstride on the steeper descents so as to really crush the quads.  I was also focused on making sure I grabbed enough water at the aid stations (every 2 miles).  I carried with me a secret weapon.
I learnt last year that Gel Packs and the like just don't sit well with me - so in trying stuff, these are the latest and greatest things I am trying on longer runs.  For the Slacker I had a couple every couple of miles.  I think they helped.  Mile 8 I had a bit of a problem with them when I choked / gagged a little trying to swallow some, but survived.

So as we made out way down the bike path I pushed forward and by mile 5 I was down to a 6:55 average.  I was feeling quite good, miles were clicking by easy and seemed fast.  Legs were good.  No pain at all in the knees or hips.  Temparature wasn't a problem as we were in the shade of the trees for most of the first 6 miles.  So far, so good.

At mile 6 we hit the next aid station and I knew from the previous 2 times I had run the race that a bit of a climb would follow.  We were now off the bike path and onto a paved road, plus into the direct sunlight and quickly warming temparatures.  It was only a 1/4 of a mile and (according to the Garmin) only 86 feet of climb.  But all of a sudden my legs felt like lead. 

My only regret in the race was that I possibly didn't eat enough for breakfast.  We had bananas with us, but left them behind in Georgetown by mistake.  That extra bit of fuel may have helped in that moment and for the rest of the race - perhaps the fish were just not enough.

Fortunately, the up section soon ended and we started down again.  By this time I was running mostly by myself.  Every so often I came up alongside and passed another runner.  I really had no idea where I was as far as place was concerned.  I was still doing okay, bouncing around the average pace between 6:53 and 6:58.

Coming into the aid station at mile 8 I realized I was starting to get quite dehydrated and had to make a conscious decision to get more fluids into my system.  So I walked through it, taking in 2 gatorade cups and 3 cups of water.  I realized then that getting a finish time of sub 1:30 was likely out of reach.  If I were to push it then I might have really overheated.  So, I instead went to plan B - trying to stay at 7 minute average or better.

I went into mile 8 aid station at a 6:55 average, mile 9 was then run in 7:17 and potentially my wheels were about to fall off.  The heat was now a factor, I was thirsty and my quads were now more than a little shaky.  For some reason - for which I was really grateful - there was another aid station at mile 9.  More fluids.  More fishies.  I pressed on, trying to hang on.

As we came into mile 10 we hit another flat, if not slightly uphill section and crossed under I-70 - which provided a bit of shade and relief, but also some slowing.  Coming out the other side we then would run right alongside I-70 for about 1 1/2 miles.  I quickly caught up to 2 other runners who were walking.  One of them, whom I later found out was the 2nd placed Woman, latched on behind me.

She stayed right behind me, dragging, drafting and I got a little frustrated - but in reality she was pushing me forward and it kept me on track.  She stuck with me till mile 11 and the next aid station.  I slowed to a brief walk again here and took on a bunch of fluids.  This was right around the steepest part of the course.  Quads were cooked by now, average pace was at 6:58.

I thought ahead of what the rest of the course held.  Fortunately the night before we had driven the last mile of the course and then walked the last 1/2 mile to see several more sections of climbing gradual upslope.  It was about a 1/2 mile of weaving through the town of Georgetown.

I knew that I needed some time to bank - as that last half mile was going to be a struggle.  Mile 11 was my fastest mile of the day.  6:33.  I also passed several more people during that section, the girl who had latched on at mile 10 dropped behind me.

Almost done, entering Georgetown and the flat and slightly uphill sections began.  I was grinding, suffering and so thirsty.  But I was still moving and passing by people that were now walking.  It was tough, mile 13 came as my slowest mile of the day (7:17) and the last .1 of a mile was a bit of a blur.

I crossed the line at 1:31:36 (official time was 37 - but my watch / time looks better) for a 4 1/2 minute PR, 5th in my age group and surprisingly 39th overall (1664 finishers).

As for the family, my son rocked a new PR also.  Taking 8 minutes off his best and finishing at about 1:46 - taking 2nd in his age group and getting a nice medal to go with it.  My wife beat her goal time also and finished in the top 29 percent of finishers.
Dude in the orange is my kid
It was a good race, factoring in the PR and my finishing place being one of my best ever.  Ultimately it was good training for the Pikes Peak marathon (especially the descent).  We are all really happy with our results and efforts - and already looking forward to next year. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday fluff

Some random stuff......
* The latest indication that I am getting old: last night at dinner, chatting away with the family, talking with my wife about what we are going to take with us during the race - I mentioned that I will not be taking my walkman.
Full disclosure, I don't own a walkman anymore.  I do however own an ipod.  I don't ever call it a walkman - but last night I apparently did.
My children looked at me like I was speaking a different language.  Youngest daughter asked: "What is a walkman?"  I had to explain what it was.  Oldest daughter responded: "Oh, I thought it might be someone who walks alongside you when you are running slow."

* Speaking of different languages.  My son went to the library earlier this week and brought home a device that is basically a book on tape / digital recording.  I don't remember what the device is called, but it is like an ipod.  The name of the book / recording: "Speaking Italian for Dummies".  Apparently he wants to learn a new language this Summer.  I think it is just a teenage boy's ploy to get an accent that teenage girls admire and swoon after.  Hey, being from New Zealand - it worked for me when I moved to the US.

* I go to see the Chiropractor every couple of weeks - have been doing so for about 1 1/2 years now (started going after a car accident - rear ended by a Trash truck).  I don't know if I am in the best shape of my life right now, but I am in the best shape I have been in a while - thanks to running, eating (mostly) better and I really think going to get cracked has helped too.  So, shout out and big thanks to Dr. Harvey for my continued improvement.

* I have a Garmin Nuvi - GPS for the road - yesterday it froze - despite unplugging it several times and trying to restart it - still froze on the start up.  Bummer.  I let it sit overnight, still nothing - I believe it has spoken it's last "recalculating" so patiently to me - despite my constant ignoring of the directions - because I know a shortcut.  Probably time to get a new one.  I've had this one for about 4 years.  I literally feel lost without it.

* Slacker Half Marathon tomorrow.  Really looking forward to it.  3 goals:
C) beat my PR (also set there, 2 years ago) of 1:36:06
B) Run 7 min mile average for a finish time of 1:31:30
A) Go nuts and beat 1:30 (6:53 pace - yikes, that's going to hurt)
Race report Monday assuming I can walk / type / see straight.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sailing and Slacking

In my past life, I was a landscaper - really enjoyed transforming landscapes from barren to beautiful.  I was not afraid of the tough physical labor that it involved - and as a result, I hurt, still do.  Doing that for 7 years beat me up physically and I am still affected by it today - 9 years since I "retired".  It's not that I regret it, but I do wish for a few less aches and pains.

Fortunately, running makes me work hard also - in a different kind of way than landscaping did.  I enjoy the work that it requires of me - it also results in some aches and pains, along with being often pleased with the achievements.  I guess what I am saying is that I enjoy - and always have - achieving things.  Plus - I don't mind commiting to working hard to achieve a favorable result.  It is nice to set a goal, work hard and meet it.

Enter: Sailin Shoes 10k fun run this past Saturday morning.  Tuesday last week I remembered that it was happening, thought about entering - but held off.  Wanted to see how I felt later in the week.  Thursday came and amongst a decent flare up of arthritis (more swelling than hurting) in the knee - I ran Waldo Canyon, pushing the pace going up, really taking it easy on the way down.  Was leaning to doing the race, but not committed.

Friday morning, the knee wasn't right - but I knew enough that by Saturday it would be better - not fully okay, but runnable / bearable.  So, I signed up for the race Friday afternoon.  My goal - use it as a last tempo run before next Saturday's Slacker Half Marathon.

The Slacker is named such because of the 2300 foot elevation drop from start to finish.  Tis therefore potentially a speedy course, one would think that a faster pace can be achieved on that course than on most other (flatter?rolling / uphill) courses.

For the Slacker - I have trained and set myself up to believe that I should be able to run at a 7 minute pace average throughout - and possibly faster.  It certainly won't be easy, admittedly I have not been able to run that far at that pace ever before - but training has given me glimpses that it is achievable.  I am going to make a go at it for sure.  So, for Sailin shoes I wanted to run the 6.2 miles at a 7 minute average per mile.

The race was downtown Colorado Springs and has a total of just over 150' elevation gain - enough to keep runners focused, if not honest.  A noticeable Northerly breeze at race time, plus a doozy (thankfully short) of a hill climb a 1/2 mile from the end - kept my pace for the first 6 miles at 7:03 average.  (Bounced around the mile splits from 6:55 to 7:12).  But a surge over the last 1/5th of a mile got my average down to 7 minutes.

My time was 43:35 = official time was a few seconds slower.  In doing that I achieved my goal, plus set a 10K PR by almost 2 minutes - a nice bonus.  (29th place out of 313 finishers).

So - a couple more easy runs this week - then time to start Slacking - in a way that is, if not speedy, is sure to hurt a little - with hopefully a result I will be pleased with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Family Track time - week 2

Seems like the family had more fun than suffering last Thursday when we went running together, so we went to a nearby track yesterday for some more (fun and suffering).

It's nice, because we are all together and yet all doing our own separate thing as far as distances and speeds go.  Plus we get to watch and cheer each other along.  Watching my kids run is something that I totally enjoy and can never get enough of.

Was a little less breezy but a few degrees warmer than last week.  It's kind of odd to look at the data afterwards and note that for 7 miles on a "flat track" - I had almost 100' elevation gain.

In any case, everyone ran hard and fast - seems like we all did better this time around and around and around and around etc.....

I got my 1600 time faster by 12 seconds.   My (2 sets of) 800's were also a couple of seconds faster.  I did 4 sets of 400's (with a 400 easy lap in between each) and those were at least consistent with each other - but the same time as last weeks couple that I did.

As for the 100's - I saved those till the end and admittedly I was ready to be done as I did 4 of them, averaging around 16 seconds - slightly slower than last week.

Pleased with the (my) effort and times - I know last week when I did them on Thursday I was still feeling it on Saturdays long run and again for an 8 mile tempo run on Sunday.  Today - I feel like I have recovered better already. 

Will enjoy a rest day today and see what Waldo Canyon holds tomorrow.  Contemplating a local 10K on Saturday to check the tempo / pace for the following weekend's Slacker half marathon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Falcon Trail Run

Peer Pressure sometimes works in a positive way.  About 9 miles into a 13 mile run when you hear "Walkers coming through!!" and it is aimed at your group - a notable response happens.

Prior to that, my son - (1 month in to being a teenager - if turning 13 years old is when that officially happens) - and I met up with Steve and Kathleen - of Happy Trails fame at the US Air Force Academy.  While Kathleen biked 30 miles along the roads at the Academy - Steve guided myself and the teenager around the 13 mile loop.

Temps were warm to start (just after 8 am it was already in the 70's) and continued to heat up as we moved on.  The plan was twofold: 1) run for 13 miles, 2) get used to being on our feet for 2 1/2 hours or so.  It was to be a training run for the 2 next races coming up for the kid and I.

The pace - easy (just wanted to get out and enjoy it). 
The trail (13 miles w/ just under 1400' climbing) - fantastic. 
The weather - noted already, by the time we were done was upper 80's.
The guide (Steve) - very gracious and patient with us. 
The other runners (my son and I) - weary.  Thursday's track workout was lingering still.

We set off going clockwise and about 3 miles in, I was spent.  Wasn't hurting - was just plain old tired.  My boy was too.  He was carrying a 20 ounce bottle and had almost used it all up.  We stopped and Steve pointed out the Burger King - couldn't smell the food cooking yet, but if we had gone the other direction and come by there a couple hours later - might have been tempted to stop in.

We kept going SW, heading towards Peregrine and Blodgett Peak
Moon setting above the Peak
At 4 miles in I filled up the teenagers water bottle (I was carrying my Camelbak) and we set off on a gradual 2 1/3 mile climb to the high point of the trail.
By this time our pace had slowed, the temps were toasty and we were tired.  Several creek crossings were nice and tempting to get a quick soak in.
But we kept going, slow running, walking at times, lots of Mountain Bikers and other runners / hikers out enjoying the trail.
Running in the trees was a little cooler, the trails are smooth, just a few technical areas and the "steep, climbing section" was only about a 1/2 mile.
We made the high point, which is almost 1/2 way, where the parking lot to "Stanley Canyon" was filled with cars - people looking to get some notable climbing in heading up there.

Steve had been leading the way to this point.   Shortly after cresting the high point we put the teenager up front as it was time to start heading down for a while and I thought he might be interested in leading for a while.  Not really. 
We continued along though - he ran the (8 mile) Greenland Trail race 4 weeks earlier - the longest he has run in a while.  So, notably the boys wagon was dragging.  Some good glimpses of the Chapel from the trail as we came up on the South side of it.
Shortly after passing by it, we started on the last climb of the day, with the teenager up front, we started into it and were about a third of the way up, he was up front but slowed to a walk.

A couple of switchbacks faced us, coming down towards us was a group of scouts.  The leading couple was about 30 feet in front of us, saw us, turned around to annouce to the rest of the troup, "Walkers coming through".  Not really thinking, I immediately spoke up and told the teenager that they were calling us walkers instead of runners.

He started running, possibly the fastest, certainly with the most effort all day - as we passed the leading group - they turned around and yelled back to their group: "Runners, coming through!!!".  I heard Steve chuckle behind me as I was smiling.

The kid ran all the way to the top of that high point, well and truly past the Scouts.
4 miles to go, almost all downhill so much easier and potentially quicker.  But he was done, tired, hot, had some stomach cramping which really didn't help.  We walked, ran some and took our time, going past the (2) Golf courses and about a mile from the end the kid kicked into gear and finished well.  2 3/4 hours on the trail.  A zippy 13 minute mile average pace.  I think the goal was achieved of time on the feet.  Next time we will not do it after a hard track workout and hopefully in some cooler weather.

A big thanks again to Steve for your patience and for introducing us to a great trail - one that we both would like to do again.