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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A week with 3 2 hour runs

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all who read this - and no, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in New Zealand.  Too bad though because I for one am always looking for an excuse to overeat tasty food.  I did that with reckless delight yesterday with friends - whom I am very grateful for.  I am just as grateful for other friends who asked me to come share some of their food and fellowship - alas I didn't make it to anywhere else. 

By days end I was happily anchored to a calorie filled table, laden with pies, pastries and other delightful goodness.  Some of which I even baked myself, including Scones (from a New Zealand recipe).  I also played around with making Blackberry & Apple mini pies (as in baked in a muffin pan).  I tried 3 different types of crusts (White flour, Wheat flour, Brown Rice flour) and learnt that the white flour crusts were the best.  The most awesome part of it was that I somehow managed to make the lids removable - which then allowed for a generous dollop of whipped cream to be added.  The angels were singing with delight - or maybe that was just me.  In any case - not only did I like them, but the people also did.  I was glad to be a part of the fun and the giving.

There was a definite need to run this week with such a big food intake yesterday.  So this morning I waddled around the 13 mile loop of Falcon trail with my slowest time in recent weeks.  But this capped off another 40 mile week - my 4th in a row.  On Tuesday and Wednesday I got in 2 other 2 hour + runs - first time I have done back to back long runs in who knows how long.  Tuesday I did the Mt Herman 8 mile loop with 2300'+ gain in the fresh snow which was really fun.  Then on Wednesday I did Falcon Trail again in a creaky 2:03.

So I am quite pleased with 4 40 mile weeks in a row - not training for anything - but enjoying the weather, the trails and the ability to not gain too much weight by staying on top of some good mileage weeks. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another 40 mile week in the books

I managed to get my 3rd week in a row of 40 miles of running per week.  2 reasons - I am eating too much and if I don't run I will get fatter.  The other - and more important in my mind - reason is that I really enjoy running at this time of the year. 

Bundling up and running in the snow - especially on trails where the snow is freshly fallen and yet to be trampled on by anyone - is one of my favorite things to do.  I got to do that today and it was awesome.  More on that in a moment.

The beginning of the week was the 7 1/2 mile race at Palmer Park which was fun, because I enjoy the racing environment and the resulting desire to push and compete.

Monday I did another lap of the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy - my fourth time around it in the past 3 weeks.  Each lap (13 miles) I have alternated direction and gone 2 to 3 minutes quicker each time.  I was happy to go under 2 hours this past Monday (Clockwise) - the first time in several months.

I did a tempo run of sorts on Wednesday for 8 miles - managing to hold a 7:35 pace on the return 4 miles.  Still really slow, but faster than all my other runs have been lately.

Did a 4 mile slip and slide on the snow and ice yesterday and then came today where I did my new favorite loop of Mt Herman.  8 miles with the first 1 1/3rd mile gaining 1600'+.  The rest of it is mostly downhill, but has 700+ of gain mixed in.  98% of it on singletrack trail. 

There was about 4" of untouched snow up top, very slippery getting up there, 20 minutes slower than last week to get up to the top and 35 minutes slower overall.  But it was awesome.
Mt Herman, I park on the right and go up the side

Summit of Mt Herman, looking SE

On the trail (716) down from the summit
 
In Limbaugh Canyon on Trail 715

2 miles to go, an overlook of Palmer Lake and to the North


Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall Series Race at Palmer Park

It was the 4th and final race of the series - although only my first race, deciding to do it a couple of days before.  Just under 7 1/2 miles on mostly single track trails.  I finished squarely in the middle of the pack with a 1:07 finishing time.  It was fun to get out into a race atmosphere again - but more fun was to run on trails I have not been on before.
I felt okay as I had just managed to finish up a second week of 40 miles - so I had some sort of endurance in the race, although not a lot of speed.  No big deal, was fun, good weather and then in the kids races later my youngest daughter finished as 3rd place girl in the 3/4 mile race.  Fun times for all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feeling forty

I'm not actually forty - 5 1/2 laps of the sun more than that if one must count.  With old age comes wrinkles, creaky bones, seemingly increasingly bad tolerance of niff norfs, along with bad math, or if one already has bad math - then that gets exposed.

Why does one mention this math problem?  Well I am finally running again after a bit of a slow recovery from surgery - 2 weeks ago I managed to put together a 20 mile week - 3 runs with a fair amount of walking in it because I was just too exhausted to run.  Then last week I decided to add to the distance and try to do a 30 mile week.

Thanks to a combination of bad math on my part - along with great weather for this time of the year - 30 miles became 40 miles.  And I am okay with that.  In fact, it was great.  Not training for anything, waking up and deciding if and when and where I wanted to go for a run.  Changing my mind several times before and during a run.  No structure.  Alas there was also no speed, there is extra weight I have gained.  But all in all it was good to be running again.

My week was capped off on Saturday with a lap of Falcon Trail with Steve.  A slow but really enjoyable 2+ hour run.  I thought after that I would be needing a rest day on Sunday - but 60 degree weather was irresistible so I opted for a Mt Herman excursion.  I did the 1600' climb up the NE draw to start with and then meandered down trail 716 to Mt Herman road - connected that to trail 715, just before the shooting range - which both times I have run beside it has felt way too close.

Fortunately I made it safely through there and dropped into Limbaugh Canyon which flanks the West side of Mt Herman - so quiet and pretty through there, complete with a few stream crossings and fun single track trail.  Making it to the North end provides a great overlooking view of the town of Palmer Lake.  Having only been on this trail once before - with Steve as my guide - I was doing well so far to stay on track.  Oops, spoke too soon as about a mile later I found myself behind a 6 foot tall fence.  I noticed the fence when I noticed 2 signs - both blank and white.  I left the now dirt road that I was on and went to the fence, managing to pull it back enough to read on one sign "NO TRESPASSING". 

Great, I'm on the wrong side of the fence.  Wonder what the other sign says......"BEWARE OF DOG".  Oh crap.  I nearly did.  So I tip toed along the fence for a bit, till I came to a gate, locked.  With fortunately no sound (or sight) of the dog I gracefully leaped somehow managed to climb the fence.  Climbed uphill to where I heard some hikers on a trail and found the trail.  And then backtracked along it to see where I had missed it.

After seeing my missed turn I then turned back around and returned to my car.  9.3 miles, 2600'+ of gain and 2 1/4 hours of unplanned fun.  I'm guessing the correct route is about 8 miles and 2000'.  One I will look to do again.  If and whenever I feel like it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My new pitchfork tattoo and other random things after surgery and way too many painkillers

Surgery was 9 days ago - no more gall bladder.  Apparently I was a good patient - although I was unconscious throughout - which is usually my best behavior.  It still hurts, but that is likely because I took myself off the pain killers (Percoset) a few days ago.
It was kind of fitting that my last race before surgery was one in which I won an award - a clay pitchfork.  Because the scars that I have now on my belly look like I have been stabbed with a mean ol' pitchfork.   One of the more interesting things - at least to me - is that instead of stitching me up -the incisions are glued up.  I guess that is better than duct tape.   
But surgery went fine - it was in the middle of the morning and I was released by the middle of the afternoon.
So, I wasn't sure how long it was going to take for me to get healed up and back on my feet.  Fortunately, my sister came in from out of town - to take care of me and help out with the kids.  My task the next few days was to rest and recover.  One of my long lost favorite things to do was now top of the priority list: Nap.  I passed this with flying colors, napping at least twice a day for several days while the world continued on without me.  Just for fun on one evening I took my dose of Percoset and then tried to stay awake - the result was not pretty: Percoset 1 - Slobbering, drooling fool 0.
Monday rolled around and I went for the follow up visit to the surgeon where I heard music to my ears: I can now eat anything I like.  Just to be sure I asked if that included ice cream and the angels then began singing to me as I heard the answer: yes! 

Home made apple pie goes best with ice cream
So, since Monday I have eaten ice cream, tacos, apple pie, pizza, bacon, cereal, brownies, shortbread, chocolate - things I have not eaten in several months - and it has been AWESOME.
At times a few thoughts crossed my mind - like - "I'm probably going to gain some weight here if I keep this up".  My response: "Yes".  And then: "Should I start exercising soon?"  My response: "No".

Finally yesterday morning - after a glorious bowl of Marshmellow Mateys cereal for breakfast - I was definitely feeling the need to do something other than just resting and eating.  So, I went for a walk at nearby Spruce Mountain.  It's one of my favorite places to run / walk / be at.  I took no watch, no GPS, just took it very easy, not doing any of the climbs, just meandering around the base of the slopes all the while enjoying a relaxing, casual, comfortable stroll - truly appreciating the late fall colors and the cool crisp weather. 
And then to wake up today and see snow - I had to go back to Spruce Mountain because I like it even more in the snow.   Another nice walk that I greatly enjoyed - enhanced by the first measurable snow in the area of the season.
I'm not sure when I will go running again - likely not too far away.  I have had my fill of junk food - although I'm sure it will mix back in irregularly with my diet.  I'm looking forward to running - this time of year is always fun for me - I love to bundle up and run in the snow.  I may be shaped a bit more like a snowman after all my eating catches up to me, but with one less organ in my gut, in my opinion that is more space for chocolate.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shakeout run after the 50K

I am quite surprised with how I have been recovering from my long runs recently.  I'm not sure if that means I haven't been pushing hard enough during the races or it is a sign of some good fitness.  But in any case I bounced back quickly after the 50K on Saturday and was ready to run by Monday.  I decided it was better to not tempt fate and held off a few more days.

Yesterday I did some short sprints with my youngest daughter while we were both watching her brother playing soccer.  As goalie on an undefeated high school team he has not seen a lot of action.  So as spectators - his cheering section - we are often not paying attention to the games.  Yesterday we did a few quick sprints along the side line and it was enough for me to feel like I was ready to get out and run again.

So, this morning I hit the nearby Santa Fe Trail and set out - not really sure how far I wanted to go, or how fast.  I went North from Baptist Road which has a very slight uphill direction and settled into a comfortable 8:30 avg.  It felt good and easy, no issues with the system and I kept on going.  Good thing I took some fluids cause I went all the way to Palmer Lake - just over 6 miles.

I decided to keep going to make it a measurable run and ran past the lake a little more till total distance was 6.55 miles - halfway point of a half marathon.  I had maintained the 8:30 pace all the way comfortably and turned around and headed back.

I was feeling peppy and decided to pick up the pace to see if I could roll a decent time for the half marathon distance.  So I settled in to a 7:30 pace and was able to maintain it all the way back to finish with an overall 8 min mile average and a sub 1:45 finish time.  Felt good to be on a solid trail and nice to get a good shake out run in along with a nice distance.

I don't have any more race plans for the year - so I'll run when I feel like it, probably do somewhere between 0 and 30 miles a week for a few months.  Surgery for the gall bladder is next week so it will be nice to get that out of the way - to both help me feel better, eat more variety and after recovery from it - to get out and have some fun runs.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Devil Mountain Ultra 50K Race Report

This was my second visit to Pagosa Springs - each time to run a race.  In June this year I had run the Turkey Tracks Half Marathon and really enjoyed the single track trails, the rolling terrain, low key atmosphere of the race and was impressed by the race management / volunteers.

Having never run a 50K before I was quite unsure as to how I would handle the distance, but I had prepared well in training for it, having had lots of time on my feet, running 3 marathon distances over a 4 week period of training and spent a lot of time getting vertical training.  I had figured out fueling and fluids in training also - so going into the race I was feeling quite prepared.

Even the 27 degree temperature at the start wasn't too bad - I had planned accordingly with layers of clothes to drop at aid stations on the way.  My upcoming gall bladder surgery had little impact on training or during the race.

So, at the race start I was quietly confident that things should go reasonably well.  For the most part they did - with a very bovine exception.   Cows are not my favorite critters right now.  In fact at the end of the race there was grilled hamburgers and even though I am not supposed to be eating ground beef to set off my gall bladder - I ate a burger with great satisfaction.  More on the bovines as this report unfolds....

The 6:30 am start time was more dark than light - but the race began along a dirt road for almost a mile before swinging on to single track.  By the time we reached that it was light enough to see.  Of the 60 or so starters I settled right in the middle of the train of runners - settling into an easy and slow rhythm.  We ran along smooth single track for the next mile - fairly flat.  If only the rest of the course was this smooth. 

We turned back onto the road briefly and then turned onto a rugged fire road.  Footing became a little more difficult due to it being mostly a mix of loose rocks of varying sizes - we began steadily climbing also, but the changing elevation wasn't noticeably hard.  It was the rocks of varying shapes and sizes that were just everywhere though - so any rhythm was lost.  I kept working and within a mile had reached the crest of the hill and in doing so had passed several other runners.

As we crested the top, the fire road we had been on now adjoined another fire road - and this one was much less filled with the rocky scree.  For the next 6 miles an approx. 1700' gradual descent allowed me to ease back into a better running rhythm - all the while being careful not to push too hard as there was a long climbing section soon to be encountered.

10 miles into the race the low elevation point (7100') came and with it the first obstacle I was not prepared for - a stream crossing.  It was about 15' wide and at least a foot deep, with no way around it but through it.  Being in a valley now, with heavy frost on the ground and wet feet it would have been easy to have some negative thoughts, instead I just pushed on with now squishy feet.

Ahead lay a 7 mile stretch of single track with over 2800' of elevation gain.  I expected it to be not too terribly bad compared with what the Barr Trail has for the first 6 miles of the Pikes Peak Marathon.  I thought that way going into it any way.

Introduce the bovine factor into the race.  I was born in New Zealand - so cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and other farm animals were part of my life growing up.  Almost all farm animals are domesticated down under - meaning they are fenced in to rolling meadowed countryside.   Apparently in this part of the planet they are set to roam free during the Summer - and not just in the fields - but also the forests.  It was on race day that I discovered that I never knew that cows liked single track trails as much as I do.

Add in the large amounts of rain in the past weeks, including rain, sleet and snow the day before the race - footing became ridiculously hard.  What was frozen now became mud and the hoof-prints of the cows made the footing completely unstable.  For the next 15 miles any hope I had of trying to run steadily was gone.   But everyone else was experiencing the same conditions - if I wasn't having fun - then I figured not too many others were thrilled either.

At 13 1/2 miles I almost caught up to a guy as we entered the 2nd aid station.  I dropped off my hat, gloves and long sleeve shirt to try a have less weight.   My shoes were anchored in mud though.  The people at the aid station told me I was now in 10th place.  Wow, I had passed more people than I thought after the initial mile.  Thoughts of a top ten finish now entered my mind.  It was still a battle to be positive and not depressed by the tough footing - but a potential top ten finish was helping the mindset a lot.

A mile after we left I passed the other guy and moved into 9th place.  The sun was now causing the footing underneath to really get sticky, so as I continued uphill oftentimes I would slide completely backwards, I resorted to grabbing tree branches and pulling myself up some of the steeper spots.

After 6 miles of going noticeably up I had slid up into 8th and then for the next mile the course took us out of the trees and across a high meadow.  This allowed me to see another runner about a 1/2 mile ahead - but also a bunch of cows.  I yelled at the cows something along the lines of "I can't wait till you're hamburgers!!"

The next mile continued up as we traversed across to the high point of the race (9976'), I gradually began to gain on the guy ahead of me but by the time I got to the high point we were now back in trees and began heading down so I had lost sight of him.  We now had a 4 mile downhill stretch that was a snowmobile trail of sorts, with a lot of trees down across the trail it made for some hurdling experiences.  About 2 miles into the downhill I caught and passed the next runner.  Now I was beginning to think I may be able to get into the top 5.

Aid station 3 came at mile 20 - the volunteers there told me the next 2 runners had left at least 5 minutes before I did.  So I took a little extra time at the aid station to fill my water bottle and grab some extra food.  Just as I left I heard them cheering for the next runner coming in - but I knew that it was the guy that I had just passed and he was slowing.

2 more miles of downhill followed by 2 1/2 miles of nagging uphill over fallen trees, muddy trails and the sound of cows mooing close by - but not close enough to see - this was a quiet part of the race for me.  The final aid station at mile 24.5 came out of the blue - I had been running by myself almost all morning and then all of a sudden I came upon it with a half dozen volunteers.  It was good to see life forms and I snapped out of a bit of a trance.

At this aid station the course splits - 50 milers went one way, 50 K'rs the other.  All had started together and run the same course to this point and the race rules were clear that a 50 miler was allowed to drop to 50K at this point.  I asked the volunteer where I stood.  1 runner had gone the long distance - 5 were ahead of me heading for home.  The 2 runners were ahead of me by 5 minutes I was told.

I really wanted to get into the top 5.  6th didn't sound as good to me.  What did look good though was there were no signs of cows to be seen - and the next 4 1/2 miles was mostly downhill.  I was hoping to be able to get some time back on the downhill - but we followed another old fire road that was strewn with many more downed trees and rocks that were lying in wait to grab an ankle.  So I couldn't really open up the gas much - despite wanting to and feeling capable.  But at least it wasn't muddy - and the cows had not been here.  The descent increased and I managed to get some speed however and caught and passed a guy.   I was now top 5. 

As the downhill was nearing an end we crossed a road.  In the previous years - apparently the course finished on this last 6+ miles of road.  This year the race directors had found a trail to have us run on.  So we crossed over the road and headed down into a valley.

I think I may have preferred the dirt road after I experienced this so called "trail".   The trail was a narrow game trail that ran alongside a stream - that then crossed the stream, only to cross it again, and again - we crossed it a half dozen times.  Mud, water, climbing over trees.  Rinse and repeat.  This last 6 mile stretch was going to be tough - but little did I know the first part was the easy part.  Then the tough part came.

I caught 4th place guy just before we came to the last stream crossing.  I made an effort to look like I was strong and charged passed him - crossed the creek and then discovered the trail went vertical - as in - straight up.

Checking my GPS data post race this was a stretch that was just over 1/4 mile - that gained about 250' of elevation.  B-R-U-T-A-L-L-Y  T-O-U-G-H.  I told the race director at the finish that if he had a shovel at the top of the hill I would have used it to dig a hole and bury myself in it.  28 miles in to the course and then a quarter mile of energy sapping misery.  It was almost game over.

But I had passed the guy at the bottom of it and was determined to not let him stick with me on the incline.  My slow stagger upwards apparently was faster than his and when I got to the top, I couldn't see him behind me.  3 miles to go.  I was spent.  I ate the rest of my food trying to find some energy.  It took me about a mile to get moving faster than a shuffle.  I was nervous he was going to catch me.  I knew that I had no chance of catching up to 3rd place.  At this stage though I was just wanting to finish.

I kept plugging and after going through a bunch more mud I finally saw the finish line.   A very welcoming crowd cheered me in and I crossed the line with a time of 5:42:12.  Good for 4th place overall, 1st in my age group and first Master.

It was a day of firsts for me.  My best race result ever.  A truly demanding course that required a lot, that took a lot - but all in all I was glad I did it and now a couple of days later - has left me with a desire to do another 50K in the near future.  It will be one with no cows.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A devil, a horse and 5 more miles

"50k is only 5 more miles than a marathon - that shouldn't be too hard".  That's what I have told a few people about what I am expecting on race day tomorrow.  Of course I have been kidding when I have mentioned it.  Because quite honestly I have no idea what an extra 5 miles is going to be like.

The Devil Mountain Ultra 50K race is in Pagosa Springs and has 5000 +/- feet of elevation gain that includes Horse Mountain (approx 9900' elevation) and the race namesake - Devil Mountain.

I have really been looking forward to the race - the curiousity of running further than I have ever before, and how that is going to feel.  Having no idea how long it is going to take me to complete it (Goal #1). 

My mind has been occupied with race strategy (I must, must, must start out slow), with potential (I would like to win an age group award) and even the weather - overnight low tonight is supposed to be in the high 20's, warming to low 60's.

I'm excited, nervous and ready to just get out and run - and enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Of course I run off course

I don't think that I am directionally challenged - or I did think that.  Now I am wondering if I am not only losing my marbles, but I am losing my bearings. 

Last Sunday it was during a race - on a course that I have run before - where the pre-race instrucions were simple: "run with the reservoir always to your right".  Of course 7 miles into the race I was off course, nowhere near the reservoir, instead on a game trail, waist deep in tall grass, waking up wild turkeys who clearly had not seen any other people that morning.  I was definitely where I should not have been.  It ended up being a 1 1/3 mile detour.

Then there was today, somewhere between Manitou Springs and Crystal Park, when I was surrounded by nothing but scrub oak, not a trail anywhere close to me, sort of knowing how I got there and kind of knowing where I needed to be going.  Only I couldn't.  I heard a voice somewhere nearby yell out to me: "You're trespassing!  Turn around and go back".

I thought about dropping to the ground and hiding.  I couldn't see who was yelling at me, but they could clearly see me - hopefully not through a scope.  So I turned around and went back, I think.  I found a trail, sort of.  I meandered around trying not to trespass, trying not to be seen, trying to run.  Eventually I found a paved road and made my way back to Manitou Springs.  I had 10 miles, a few scratches and over 2 hours on the legs. 

I was a little frustrated and needed to run some more in a familiar place.  2 reasons: I wanted 22 miles on the day for my last long run before the 50K in 10 days.  The other reason: I needed to prove to myself that I was capable of running and not getting off course.

So I ran up Barr Trail to Bob's Road and back.  It's a trail that I have run on dozens of times before, one that I am familiar with, I have a comfort in knowing where it goes, how it goes and how long it goes for.

I got my 22 miles for the day in.  I ran / walked / hiked / wandered aimlesly for 4 1/2 hours.  I gained about 5200' feet of elevation.  By the time I was done I found where I parked.  I found my car keys.  I then found my way back to my apartment.  I was in familiar surroundings - not off course any more.

I have a big race coming up, I don't want to get lost and go off course on that.  It's not something to really plan for, but it is now certainly occupying space in my already occupied mind.  I was reminded today and last Sunday to pay attention to where I am when I am running.  I should look around and enjoy the scenery but also keep track of the track I am on. 

If I see a bunch of wild turkeys again or if I hear a booming voice yelling at me for trespassing - it is possible that I am having a directionally challenging moment.  I think it was Hansel and Gretl that left a trail of things behind them so as to know where they were.  Maybe I should do that to.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pony Express Trail Run

This is a lap around the Rampart Reservoir near Woodland Park that I ran 2 years ago, that was cancelled last year due to the damage along part of it caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire. 

It is advertised as a 15 mile race, but everyone I checked with had it at 14 1/3 miles - or thereabouts - with one guy getting lost and getting almost 15 miles in.

And then there was me - I did the deluxe tour.  More on that later.

Only 40 people started the race, my guess is due to all the rain in the past week, and potential for more on Sunday.  Every time there is a flash flood warning they close Highway 24 - the most direct route between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park.  For the morning though, the weather was decent - although true to form, by mid afternoon the road was closed down due to the rain again - but by that time I was home.

With 40 people in a race it was a fun and friendly atmosphere - in the pre-race anouncements, one note stood out: "Make sure the lake is always to your right".  Sounded like a good bit of common sense.

My plan was to try to maintain an even tempo throughout the race of 9 minute miles.  It was to be my second to last long run before the 50K in 2 weeks.  I have no idea how I will do on that - so I have not been working on any speedwork - just working on trying to maintain a steady pace - especially on long runs.

The first 1 1/3 mile is all downhill, dropping a few hundred feet - takes us to the waters edge - before then settling in to circumnavigating the reservoir in a clockwise direction.  There are very few flat sections, lots of water crossings, mud, a section where we ran across the dam road - and rolling, rolling, rolling terrain.  Overall about 1100' of elevation gain though, so it was a great place for a steady tempo run. 

After running the lap we would then return back up the 1 1/3 mile to where we began.  I had this in mind throughout and wanted to bank a bit of time for this to get in under my goal time of under 2 hrs, 15 minutes - which was a 9 minute pace throughout.

At the start I tried as hard as I could to stay slow and easy, wanting to not go faster than 9 minute miles - so as a result, a mile in I was only ahead of about 10 people, possibly less.  No worries though - I wasn't racing.....yet.

1 1/2 miles in we came to the first water crossing - wet shoes, mud up the legs.  Although I had not thought too much about what the course would be like, I immediately was happy.  I love playing in the mud.

As the miles and rollers progressed I was passing people.  The reservoir has lots of coves that wind around the perimeter - so it was easy to look across and see other runners ahead.  I thought about taking mental notes of other runners ahead of me to see what kind of gap they had - but reminded myself again that I was just out to run and stay steady. 

I had settled into a comfortable 8:45 per mile pace in the first 1/2 dozen miles - it just felt so comfortable and maintainable, so I went with it.  I thought ahead of the last uphill 1 1/3 mile and figured I would lose some steam up that, but would worry about that when I got there.

About 7 miles in I looked to my right across the bay and saw a group of runners ahead - my guess was about 30 to 40 seconds.  They were walking up a hill.  I thought it wouldn't be long before I would catch up to them.  I kept on going straight ahead and the next live thing I saw - several minutes later - was a group of wild turkeys - directly ahead of me on the trail.  Whaaaaat?  Surely if that group of runners had just gone through the turkeys would not be there, would they?

Besides, the reservoir was still........right.........ummmm......there????  Where was it again?  I couldn't see water.  I was following a trail up through a meadow - sure it wasn't much of a trail, it was narrower than I was on a few minutes ago, but it was still a trail.  Sort of.  The fact it was leading me into waist deep grass that clearly had not been trampled on by runners was my final clue that I had gone off course.

But hey, I saw some wild turkeys - that was fun.  So I turned around and backtracked, finally getting back to the trail proper.  As I rejoined the trail I ran into another runner whom I clearly confused as I was now running the wrong way.  I stopped, looked to my left and there was the right trail.  So I turned and off I went, mentioning to the other runner that I had taken a detour (Which ended up being 1 1/3 mile round trip).

My average pace per mile time was now up to 8:55.  Still no big deal, I really wasn't bothered because this was still just a fun long run I was on.  I did dial up the effort a bit and before long I was passing people again.  Sure it was the same people I had been passing before - but we were all having fun.

I now had no idea how many people were in front of me - so I thought that it would be fun to just see how many I could pass, all the while trying to maintain the steady pace - which I had got down to an 8:50 average by the time I hit the dam road (with 5 1/2 miles to go).

I was still running comfortably, eating my fig newtons and swedish fish (my new favorite running fuels) and every now and then I would come up and pass someone.  Many of the people I passed would ask if I had already had passed them - and I replied that yes I had, but had taken a detour - "the reservoir was supposed to be on our right, right?"

We continued on, going through about a mile or two of burn scars - sad - but some low level vegetation was starting to grow back.  Still running through water and mud, I was in a great mood and this kind of running is a lot of fun to me.

As we neared the end of the lap of the lake and turned onto the 1 1/3 mile long road section back to the start, I saw another runner about a half minute ahead of me.  Good, someone to try to pace off and catch.  I was still at 8:50 average and felt good - so I put my head down and gradually began to reel her in.

But she was determined, cause she had seen other runners ahead and was chasing them.  I eventually caught up to her, but in the process we both passed 4 other runners in that last stretch.  As I caught them I actually got faster and dropped the average per mile a couple of seconds.

Crossing the finish line in 2 hours 17 minutes - taking about 8 minutes off my previous time that I had run the race.  Surprisingly I had managed to pass about 2 dozen people after my detour and ended up in 10th place overall.  My first top ten finish ever that I can remember.  Sure if I didn't get myself lost I might of actually come in 5th or 6th - but I really didn't care.

It was a fun, muddy, long run that I had completed while maintaining the same steady pace throughout.  Goal achieved.  Plus I got to see a bit more of Colorado in my 15.6 miles - along with some startled turkeys out for a Sunday morning stroll.
Photo: Tom Dewane

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Falcon Trail - clockwise PR

Soggy conditions underfoot this morning - but I love running in this weather - if I am wearing enough clothes.  I thought today I was wearing too much, by the time I was done.  I was soaked from head to foot and mud socks were in full effect also.

I went clockwise and wanted to get after it - but was actually feeling a little sluggish throughout much of the run.  I think that is likely a result of a lot of miles under the belt in the last few weeks.  Conditions probably slowed me down a little bit too - but not too much.

Stream crossings were much higher than I have seen before, one was even an inch over a bridge.  Fortunately the trails are mostly sand and granite - rather than mud - so not a lot of sticking to the bottom of the shoes.

60:53 to the half way point, which is faster than I have done before, but in order to PR an overall fastest time I needed to be under 60 minutes.  I had some good reserves in the tank though and pushed the second half and finished with a 1:53:55. 

That's a new clockwise PR - about 4 minutes faster than my previous best, and 65 seconds off an overall PR.  So I am happy with the effort and the result.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mt Herman

It's not the Incline in Manitou Springs but it is a good quick climb in a short distance - and it is closer to where I live.  With it raining this morning I almost stayed inside and ran on a treadmill - but decided instead to just enjoy the rain.

I added a layer and a woolly hat so as to not catch a cold and headed a few miles up the way from where I live to Mt Herman.  Parked in the lot at the North end of it and started my watch.  I had hiked on this trail once before a few weeks ago - although I did lose it once and ended up bush-whacking my way up to the Summit.   I kind of knew where I was going and knew it was no more than 1 1/2 miles to the Summit.

The rain actually made for good footing, the normally dusty and loose trail was quite firm and I really didn't slip much at all - going up or down.  I was able to pick up the main trail both up and down this time too.

The climb up was a good one - just over 1.25 miles, 1660 ' elevation gain.  I made it in 33:15.  Coming back down I was a little tentative, not wanting to slip - so I held back a little bit, but really not much.  Making the descent in 19:27.  Round trip time was 52:43.

So I now have a solid baseline time established for myself.  I'm not going to chase after beating it any time soon - but I would one day like to challenge a sub 30 ascent, maybe do a sub 15 minute descent.  Sub 45 minute round trip would be a challenge for me for sure.

It was a little wet, but quite enjoyable and a good bit of vertical training - albeit being only just over 2 1/2 miles for the round trip.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Barr Trail and Elk Park Trail

Got my 3rd marathon distance in the past 4 weeks with this run.  Started at the Pikes Peak Marathon start line in Manitou Springs and went up to Barr Camp via Barr Trail (approx 7.5 miles), then took a right turn onto Elk Park Trail (for another 5.5 miles).

I have not been on this trail before, it was quite varied with a couple of stream crossings, a few rocky sections, a good climbing section for the last mile and more up to the Elk Park parking lot - right at tree line.  But my favorite sections were traversing along the side of the mountain, in the trees, along soft, dirt single track - made even more spongey by many years of leaves and pine needles falling on the trail.

It was a good long run, getting in just over 6000' feet of elevation gain, maxing out about 100' below 12,000' elevation.  Taking the pace nice and easy for a 5 1/2 hour round trip and really enjoying the Elk Park trail which I had all to myself - aside from a few Marmot's and other little critters.

After getting up to the parking lot, I turned and went back on the same trails and finished up with just over 26 miles on the day.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

American Discovery Trail Marathon

It was a clearly defined goal / responsibility: Finish in just under 4 hours, all the while maintaining a steady and consistent 9:07 - 9:08 average pace per mile for 26.2 miles.

At the start line in Palmer Lake there was just a slight breeze, we started at 6:30 am and got going just before the sun came up.  The first mile included a lap of the lake and it was a slow one due to the early race congestion.  Not to worry, as we finished the lap of the lake (empty of water for the past few years) we settled in and by the end of mile one I was on track with a 9:07 pace.   

Beside me was Bob from Minnesota - today was the last of the bucket list marathons day for him.  His 50th state to run a marathon was our state of Colorado and this was the race he chose.   Although he fell off the initial pace - he did finish.  Congrats to him - an awesome achievement to run a marathon in all 50 states.  Also along side was Carl from Colorado Springs and Gunnar, aged 73 from Arizona - who was born in Norway and was a ships captain.  Needless to say - not a lot of altitude training for him.  Both Gunnar and Carl also finished the race.

As the miles started clicking by and the sun crested the horizon I noticed our shadows running alongside us.  Several times I looked beside me and to my surprise I was towing a group of about 20 runners with me.  I carried a small flag on a stick with me identifying the pace goal of a 4 hour finish - it was a magnet early in the race for people to line up beside and just behind me.  Needless to say I was feeling a little popular.

The first few miles were very conversational as I got to know some of the other runners, with the gradual slope downhill the pace came very easy.  In my mind this was a 4 hour training run, with the added responsibility of being an encouragement to those around me who had much more definitive goals and ambitions in this race.

I wanted to stay well fueled and hydrated - carrying with me fig newtons and swedish fish for my calorie intake along the journey.  They worked great.  I had no issues with bonking, getting hungry or any stomach issues throughout the run.  I had left my water bottle in my fridge accidently - but with aid stations every 2 to 3 miles I didn't need it, plenty of water and gatorade available.

The middle section of the course, beginning just North of the Air Force Academy air field has several rolling sections in it and unfortunately many of those who were following me started dropping off the pace through these miles.  I really wanted to slow down at times to try to keep them latched on to me - but I needed to stick to the pace.

At halfway the time on my watch showed 1:59:20 - right on target.  By this time only a handful of people were beside me unfortunately.  People were still spread out though in front of me and most were moving well.  We continued through the Air Force Academy and eventually made it to the Woodment Road aid station at mile 17, my son was there handing out water, so I got to briefly chat with him which was good.

A mile or two later we came up to a group of people holding up hand made signs, the one that was brightest was "Free Hugs!!" - I couldn't resist and got a great big hug from a complete stranger - I'm sure she is a lovely lady.  The couple of guys that I was running with commented in jest that I needed to do less hugging and more 4 hour pacing.  I agreed and kept going.

BY now it was getting warmer and I had began noticing that my mile splits on my watch were .05 or slightly more miles longer than the mile marker posts on the course.  So, I realized that I should plan on tracking a 26.3 marathon distance, which for sub 4 hours the pace needed to be closer to 9:05 - 9:06 pace. 

By now I was passing people more frequently as my pace stayed steady, but those others were starting to drop off a little.  The common mood was less joyful than it had been at the start of the race where it had seemed people were happy to be with me, now as I began to go past people they were muttering and telling me off for passing them.  I had to stick to my task though and tried to be encouraging to those I passed.

The 4 hour sign did however seem to be a motivator to a few people and for the last 8 or so miles 2 people leap frogged just ahead of me as they tried to stay ahead of the 4 hour pace goal.  As they would start to slide closer to me I would encourage them, occasionally pass them, but kudos to both of them, they didn't quit and managed to both finish  a minute or so ahead of me.

By mile 22 I was able to get a good read on mile marker signs verses my gps mileage and saw that I was tracking right at a 3:59 pace.  My quads were talking to me with some fatigue by now but it was manageable. 

As I entered America the Beautiful Park and the finish area it was a fun atmosphere I got a lot of "Good job four hour pace guy" as I ran the last 1/2 mile and crossed the finish line with a chip time of 3:58:59, gun time of 3:59:22.  I had completed my task, achieved my goal - and was not too worse for wear.

All in all, a good long run that was a little more than a training run, it was an accomplishment that left me feeling satisfied and good about the days work.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

15 days between marathons - what am i doing?

Pikes Peak Marathon was August 18th, the American Discovery Trail Marathon is Labor Day morning.  15 days between 2 polar opposite marathons.  PPM has 7800' of ascent and descent, peaking over 14,000' elevation.  ADT has a net loss of about 1100'.  ADT runs on hard packed gravel and concrete - wide open trail.  PPM is about 90 % singletrack, not to mention roots, rocks, step ups, step down, sharp turns.  ADT is point to point, PPM is an out and back (better described as an up and down).

The training for the two races is completely different.  For PPM a boatload of vertical, lots of long runs and several drives to the Summit of Pikes Peak to try to get used to the lack of oxygen.  For ADT - ummm, I have done nothing specific for it at all.  That's because the motivation for the 2 races is completely different too.  Pikes was my goal race of the year.  ADT is a race I signed up to run a 9:07 - 9:08 average per mile pace so as to finish within 2 minutes of 4 hours.  It will be my first time as a pacer. 

The only things the 2 races have in common are that they are both marathons and both local to the greater Colorado Springs area.  It's a bit of a shame that the 2 races are so close together on the Calendar - because I would like to give them both a good effort.   As of now I am leaning towards just doing ADT next year and giving it my best effort in the hopes that I can get a Boston Qualifying time (3:25).  That would mean I would not do PPM.

So this week I ran a tempo 8 miler on Monday, a 10 miler yesterday at 9 minute average and today I ran the 13 mile loop of the Falcon Trail (clockwise).  I think I am carrying some decent overall fitness from PPM into ADT - so I am basically relying on that to get me through the 26.2 miles on Monday morning.  I am also banking that it will be a good training run for the 50K that I am thinking of doing the last week of September. 

If I make it through the ADT marathon okay - I will likely commit to the 50K - which I have never run that distance before, and as a result I have no idea how I will do.  But I guess that is part of the draw towards doing it.

ps - my time today on the Falcon Trail was 1:58 - a new PR for the clockwise direction, but over 5 minutes slower than the counter clockwise lap I did about a month ago.  I'll tack on a couple of short, easy runs this weekend - giving me 40 miles on the week - and that will be the extent of my training for ADT.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Greenland Trail - A Pesky PR

This is an 8 mile loop on dirt with 540' or so of elevation gain - this has been a combination of nemesis / fitness test for me in the past few years.  I set my PR on the trail August last year - a few weeks before Pikes Peak Marathon.

This morning I went with no intentions of going zippy - just wanted to do a moderate 8 minute average for a 64 minute "shake the cobwebs out" run.  I have run 3 times since PPM - each time was just an easy jog, near 9 minute average.

Started out the first mile at exactly 8 minutes and all seemed good.  The first 3 1/3 miles are a gradual grade up, mindless at times and often times I have gone out too fast - and subsequently have hit the crapper by the time the last few miles roll around.

I didn't look at my watch again until just before 3 miles in, I thought I had been maintaining the same effort as mile 1, but was surprised to see my average was down to 7:52.  Hmmmm, I thought - maybe I should see what happens if I kept going like this.

Kipps saddle is the meat of the run, a decent climb up with just a couple of flat spots.  I kept going and by the time I reached the top of the saddle, with 3 miles to go - I was 40:20 in to the run.  I have been able to do 7 minute miles from here to the finish before.  So, I was encouraged with the possibility of coming close to the 61:16 PR I had set a year ago.

I pushed forward, feeling strong.  The 3 miles begin mostly downhill, then with 3 flat and slightly uphill traverses across spread out amongst more slightly downhill trail.  At 1 1/4 miles to go the last downhill goes for 1/3 of a mile - leaving just under a mile of rolling terrain - that is also more downhill than up.  But it always seems like a long, tough mile when working to get through it in a hurry.

2 miles to go and I was tracking well, not sure what I could finish up with, but sensing I was now tracking a new PR.  I slowed just a bit on some of the flat traversing sections - wanting to keep a bit of energy to push the last 3/4 mile.  As I came down the last hill I had lost track of math - not really surprising - but I knew I had a shot of getting under 61 minutes for the first time ever.

As always - that last mile was wearying, but I managed to find another gear and grind out a solid effort, crossing the 8 mile mark and finish line in 60:30.  46 seconds better than ever before.  The last 3 miles in 20:10 - really close to a 5K PR pace. 

Really happy with the time, not expected nor planned for - but I will take it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

After Pikes Peak marathon - it's time to run forward

“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you” - Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

My goal race of the year is in the books.   I didn't run as fast as I wanted to, but I won an age group award and that was one of my goals.  It's too soon for certain - but as of now - I don't think I will do it next year.  Of course, I may change my mind.

Instead I may focus on a Boston Marathon Qualifying time - which for my age group is 3:25:00.  I ran a 3:25:34 PR a little over 2 years ago - which gives me hope of the potential of a BQ.   But that is next year, between now and then I have a couple of other events shaping up.

I signed up to pace the 4 hour group at the local American Discovery Trail Marathon on Labor Day.  I have not run as a pacer before, but I am actually looking forward to it and feel quite confident of running a steady 9:08 - 9:10 pace for 26.2 miles on a course I have run before and run on parts of it very frequently.

That run will be a training run however, as I am looking further ahead to a race in late September that will take me longer than I have ever run before.  50 kilometers.  It is after all only 5 miles longer than a marathon, should be easy to do that.  I am kidding of course.  I expect 31+ miles on a hilly (Over 5000' gain) mountain trail to be just as tough as the PPM, possibly tougher.

I have recovered well from this past Sunday.  My quads were fine by Tuesday and really didn't hurt much at all on Monday.  Any residual soreness I have had has been my right calf - still occasionally spasms, a little wierd.  I went for a 3 mile hike up Mt Herman late on Tuesday, taking my time and enjoying a new (to me trail) that gained almost 1700' in less than 1 1/2 miles.

My first run since PPM was this morning, 3 1/2 miles at 9 min pace - which felt very comfortable - on the Santa Fe Trail.  So I am looking forward to easing back into running, building on my current fitness and trying my hand at my first "ultra" distance in about 5 weeks.

Oh yeah, then a week or so after that I have my gall bladder surgery scheduled.  That should be fun too.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report

The day arrived clear and calm - I was prepared to run, to hurt, to suffer, to finish.  The night before I had dropped off my kids and asked them each to give me something to write on my arm that might help me in the race.

From my youngest - "Just breathe"
My oldest daughter - "Don't fall"
My son - "Love it"
I wrote them all on my right forearm in black ink - so that whenever I looked at my watch I would be reminded.

The gun went off and I settled into a comfortable pace along Manitou Ave and made the turn onto Ruxton Ave.  As the climbing began I felt good, dialing the effort back a bit as we went past the Cog Railway and then Hydro St.

As we hit the steep paved section just beyond Hydro Street most of the people around me immediately went to walk / power hike mode - as is my custom, I kept running - albeit very slowly.  Power hikers easily passed me.  But I have learnt that the sooner I start walking the more frequently I will walk later on up the trail.

As we turned onto the trail I was feeling good, the temperatures were nice but I could feel them warming and wondered how warm it would be when I came back down.  This prompted me to remember to drink plenty of fluids throughout the race.

As we continued up through the W's there was not a lot of changing positions, most runners kept in single file.  Occasionally the train would pass a runner, or a runner would go past the train.  I had made a mental note of my desired splits - I thought I was capable of a sub 3:20 summit time.  When I crested the top of the W's I was almost a minute ahead of my initial split goal - and feeling very encouraged, more importantly though I was feeling like I had not expended a lot out of the tank.

I quickly repeated to myself what was written on my arm - the note that stuck out then was "Love it" - so far I was loving how things were going.   I was also reminded to keep breathing.  When I looked at "Don't Fall" what came to mind was to focus and stay focused.  A long, long way to go.

As I approached the Aid Station at No-Name Creek I ate my first snack - a home made Helen Bar which has become my go to food while running and crossed the split timing mat at 57 minutes, under a 3:15 summit pace and still feeling good.  Loving it, breathing and focused.

As the trail now entered the Aspen groves I knew there was a few long switchbacks that help gain elevation quickly over the next half mile or so - but then after that the flat section of the trail comes.  That was good motivation as I continued forward.  Still running, mostly with a now familiar group of other runners whom I had been with for the last couple of miles.  We would leapfrog past each other occasionally - but for the most part everyone had their eyes forward, heads down and were pressing on well it seemed.

The next place of note for me on the trail was Bob's road aid station where I had another Helen Bar and stopped to refill my water bottle with water and a packet of Skratch Hydration.  Unfortunately I had trouble getting the packet open and had to stop for about 30 seconds - nevertheless I got it done and filled and kept on going.

Next landmark for me came shortly after, the 7.8 miles sign.  In preparation for the race I had determined that once I reached that landmark I could estimate it would take me 2 hours if all was going well to reach the Summit.  Unfortunately I forgot to look at my watch as I passed the sign - remembering when I had already gone by it.

On towards Barr Camp next and this next section was a tough one to keep focus on as there is a lot of flat, even downhill running parts of the trail.  It's tempting to open up the gas a bit, it's also easy to lose focus and allow the opportunity to regroup breathing and heart rate go by.  I went through this section average at best, all too soon it ended and the grade increased.

I got my focus back and kept working, still running and making good time, eventually getting to the Barr Camp Aid Station in 1:40 1/2 - still tracking a sub 3:20 summit time.  I ate again and kept going, still being able to run.  I was feeling okay as I entered this next 2 1/2 mile stretch below tree line that is always a tough one.  It's now above 10,000' feet and has been a really tough stretch of the course always in the past. 

I was determined to keep running it as much as I could.  It gets a little rocky in places, step ups become more frequent and running rhythm is choppy at best.  By now I was starting to pass a few more people - it always gives me motivation to pass someone.

About a mile past Barr Camp is the Turn off for Devils Playground - a trail I have never been on, although would like to one day.  Today was not a good day to go exploring though.  I kept repeating my mantra's "Keep Breathing", "Don't fall" (Stay focused) and "Love it".  Love it was losing it's appeal a bit by now but I managed to run more than hike as much as I could.

And then it happened.  Last year at A-Frame I stepped up on a rock and a shot of fire came across my right calf.  This year it came 4 miles from the Summit.  I have no idea what it is, cramps, fatigue or something to do with the compression socks that I was wearing.  At first it wasn't untolerable - but certainly was recogniseable.  I had been fueling well - much better than last year.  I just don't know what causes it - it has only ever happen in this race to me - each of the past 2 years

It remains a mystery why it happens - I hope to figure it out one day.  The result of it happening was that I had to decrease my effort and push forward.  Every time I tried to dig a little deeper and push forward with more effort the fire in both calves would flare up.  Fortunately I was near the A-Frame aid station so I drank most of my remaining fluids, hoping that would help.

As I got to the aid station I gagged down a gel, chased by a few grapes and refilled my skratch bottle.  I was to A-Frame checkpoint just under 2:27 - ahead of last years time and still ahead of a sub 3:30 summit.  Adding to the calves firing now my lower back was hurting, stiff and uncomfortable.  I had reached survival mode. 

Above tree line I managed to jog for a while but quickly resorted to hiking as the calves kept firing with any attempt at increased exertion.  I ran when I could, hiked more than I should and kept pressing forward.

Just below Cirque is the last Aid station before the summit.  I tried to eat my last Helen Bar and got half of it down, stopped to refill my bottle with water and Skratch and then kept moving.  A dozen or so steps after the aid station I threw up - having never done that before while running it was a new experience, not a happy one.  I didn't feel any better after it but was commited to keep moving forward.

I had little to offer for the next mile to gain the Summit - I managed at times to run for a few steps, but was walking mostly.  I held out some hope that once I got to the turn-around I could make up some time - but the closer I got to the top the more my legs were burning and now my stomach was feeling incredibly tight.

The stop and start effort through the 16 golden stairs - due primarily to the 2 way traffic - was frustrating because I just wanted to get to the top and begin the descent.  Finally I made it to the top in 3:31 1/2 - 2 minutes faster than last year which seemed promising at the time, but I knew that I was in for a tough struggle in getting down.

Survival mode was in full effect, I was able to pass people but I didn't have any push in me.  Each time I tried my calves kept on firing out and with a tense stomach area that may or may not have been contributed to with the gall stones - I just couldn't "go".
    I reached A-Frame, quickly looking at my watch and by now I was slightly behind my time from last year.

I was frustrated but couldn't do anything about it.  I drank 2 cups of water - best water on the mountain as they filter it out of the stream beside A-Frame - and grabbed some grapes. 

With me feeling like crap now I needed to at least stay upright, so I took it carefully through the rocky sections, still occasionally passing people but nowhere near as many as the previous year. 

Slowly the miles ticked off, I went through Barr Camp, drinking more water and was able to get down some more grapes.  Below Barr Camp my calves were worthless and the few noticeable step down rocks caused fire ups that made my knees wobble and I thought I was going to buckle and crumble a few times.  Fortunately, I didn't and managed to keep going.

I tried to stay positive, trying to convince myself that I was still "loving it" - I really wasn't.  I hurt.  I kept breathing but the stomach was tight, couldn't get any good deep breaths and I was so ready to be done.  I was checking my time as each mile slowly went by - I already knew that I would be slower than last year, and was in danger of falling behind a 5:30 finish time.

That became my motivation, that and the finish line where I could just lie down.  2 guys passed me near No-Name Creek - I tried to keep up but my body revolted at the idea of trying any harder.

Every now and then I would pass someone, giving me a brief push of adrenaline - but that was short lived as I still had several miles to go.  I entered the W's, the temps were warmer now and I had been hearing rumbles of thunder on and off for the last 1/2 hour - so it felt a little humid too. 

As I turned off the W's the last aid staion was there and I passed a girl - the eventual 9th place female finisher - a guy volunteer yelled out "don't let a girl beat you!"  He was outnumbered by other volunteers there and was roundly boo'd.

It was the home stretch and I came to the pavement, just over a mile to go.  All I had left was fueled by a desire to just finish.  I found another gear and pushed forward - getting closer and closer to the finish.  As I did the crowds increased and so did the encouragement.  A huge boost and much appreciated.

Finally I turned onto Manitou Ave and crossed the finish line 5:24:48 - good for 77th place overall - almost 6 minutes slower than last year.

After a few minutes in the tent, admittedly a little frustrated with the time I had posted, I managed to get up and wander across to check the results.  To my surprise and joy - I had finished 5th in my age group!  That made a tough day feel so much better.  I loved it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Running the Pikes Peak Marathon on Sunday

What that means (to me) is an opportunity to overcome mental limitations, to push myself harder than ever before - and then, only to push beyond that.  It is an event where expectations are high, desire is great and the challenge is huge.  It's tough, it will hurt, it is not easy at any time during the race.

I have trained hard and well for the race.  Sure I would like to not have had a sprained ankle 3 - 4 months ago, and needing to have surgery to remove my gallbladder soon after the race has impacted me some too.  But I am not looking for, or wanting to use excuses. 

I have pondered obsessed needlessly over race splits, other runners, other runners previous race results, other runners predictions, and wasted too much time considering what I need to do in order to "beat" them.

I have experimented with food, hydration, training runs, shoes, clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses and sleep.

I have had many people express interest and support - hoping that I do well.  Their well wishes and encouragement has been well received and I truly appreciate it, and them too.

I have met some great people, fellow runners, on the trails - chatting sometimes with them, sharing stories and some of the details that I know about the race.

I am grateful that I have the experience of completing the race before. 

I know the trail quite well.  I know what it is like to be really lightheaded above tree-line.  I know what it's like to go through the 16 Golden Stairs with a few hundred other people.  I know what it is like to fall on the trail - going up and coming down.  I know that it hurts.  I know what it is like to reach the summit and realize that it is only halfway through the race.  I know that coming down the mountain is a completely different race.

I have had some really good training runs - that point towards a really good result.  I have had some frustrating and miserable runs - that point towards me not even bothering to show up.

But, I will show up on Sunday.  I will run.  I will try to run smart.  I will try not to race anyone else (at least going up - coming down may be a different story).  I will try to stay focused throughout the entire race. 

I know what it is like to finish the race.  I know what it is like to cross the finish line knowing that I have given my best effort.  Last year that was a finishing time of 5:19:05.  This year I want to finish knowing that I have given my best effort - if that translates in time faster than last years - I'll be happy.

I would like to win an age group award.  That requires beating some other runners.  I know that I can't control or impact any other runners - so I need to remember that and run my own race, in essence ignoring everyone else.  If I do that - and it results in a shiny trinket, then I will be happier still.

If I don't - well there is always next year.

For those doing the race (and / or the Ascent on Saturday) I wish you all the best.  Do your best.  Run hard and run with excellence.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The 4 letter word that will most impact my Pikes Peak Marathon

The 4 letter words that will be used this weekend for the Ascent on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday are sure to be plentiful, colorful and in many cases unrepeatable.  These are 2 tough mountain races that really test strength, mental focus, character, stability, endurance, and in many cases: humility - and these are often before each runner reaches the starting line.   After the starting gun goes off: 4 letter words let loose.

I have run both races, the Ascent 2 years ago and the marathon last year.  After running both races and each year doing better than I anticipated in regards to a finishing time - I am going into this years race with an uneasy feeling. 

Before I describe that feeling, let me write what it is not: it is not a lack of preparation.  I have trained hard, I have trained well.  I may be in the best running shape of my life, certainly recently anyway.  While I have had some disappointing training runs, I have had plenty of training runs that point to a good result on race day.

It is not a lack of confidence.  This comes from preparation.  I feel better prepared this year going in to the races and that gives me more confidence.  It helps tremendously that I have done both races, that I have put in many hours and miles on the race course itself.  I am more familiar with the course than ever before - so much so that I have begun to notice a couple of "new rocks" on the trail above tree line.  They weren't there a few weeks ago, either erosion from recent rains and snow up top, some animal or someone has caused these rocks to move from one side of the trail to the other.

So, the uneasy feeling I have that I mentioned above?   That comes from the 4 letter word that is likely to impact not just how I do during the race, but also before the race.  It may even prevent me from starting the race.  The 4 letter word: Bile.

For those reading unfamiliar with Bile - a definition: "a clear yellow or orange fluid produced by the liver. It is concentrated and stored in the gallbladder, and is poured into the small intestine via the bile ducts when needed for digestion. Bile helps in alkalinizing the intestinal contents and plays a role in the emulsification, absorption, and digestion of fat".

A week ago I woke in the middle of the night with noticeable stomach pain.  I thought it may have just been gas, indigestion or that I ate too much before going to bed.  After about an hour I eventually fell back to sleep, waking the next morning feeling fine.

Wednesday night / Thursday morning - I woke again, this time the pain was worse and seemingly not going to get any better.  I couldn't get comfortable, it was miserable.  I got up, I walked, I sat down, I lay down, no matter what I tried the pain intensified.  Finally, I drove 15 minutes to the hospital ER.  After 2 hours I was eventually released.  During those 2 hours I was put on a drip that included morphine and a couple of other things, I gave a urine sample, had my blood checked, was x-rayed and had an ultra sound.

Diagnosis: Gall Stones.  My gall bladder is diseased. A definition if you really want to read it is here.  My gallbladder needs to come out.  Fortunately they said it wasn't critical that it came out then and there.  But these stones don't pass and the gall bladder doesn't heal itself.  Sometime soon I will be having surgery. 

The cause: my Bile couldn't keep up with my diet.  Honestly that one surprised me when the doc told me.  I am eating more healthier than ever before.  But apparently not enough.  Specifically the things that cause this are fatty, greasy, spicy foods.  Things I eat that fall into these categories are pizza (cheesy and greasy), ground beef (meatloaf is a favorite) and of course ice cream.  Even though my diet has been decent - it has not been good enough to prevent this from happening.

So, while I wait to see a surgeon, my diet has undergone some changes, and continues to do so in an effort to avoid another flare up - before the race.  Gone is dairy (cheese, milk, ice cream), pizza, ground beef, ham, desserts, any kind of spicy stuff.  I am scrutinizing everything I eat that has fat in it.

The result: I feel quite weak at times, almost always nauseous, hungry and yet often hesitant to eat anything in case it sets of my gall bladder and ends me in emergency surgery.  And then of course there is this race coming up that I have been preparing for.  I asked the ER doc if I can run and he in essence said - maybe.  "You can try, but I don't know how much running you can do.  If it hurts - stop".

So, I left the ER, slept for a few hours, got up a little groggy - and ran.  If anything I wanted just to sweat out the morphine and other stuff in my system.  I started slowly and it was uncomfortable - my whole stomach area was tender to touch (still is).  But it didn't hurt to badly - so I kept going for a few more miles.  Eventually I felt better, turned around and ran back to my car - got in 7 miles.  For that moment - it felt manageable, not comfortable, but doable.  I have run twice since (Saturday 11 miles and this morning also).

The next test was to find food that I could eat that didn't do me in - a science experiment on my body began and is continuing.  So far: turkey, fish, chicken, pasta noodles (just boiled in plain water with no sauce), potatoes, bananas, apples, blackberries, raspberries, toast, orange juice, eggs, raisins, oatmeal, brown rice, grapes, spinach, romaine, peas, corn.  That's about all I have tried so far.  If anyone has gone through a similar experience as this and has food suggestions for me - I'll take them.

I need to carb up - not just before race day, but now too as my energy levels are quite low.  Last night I had pasta noodles, ground turkey and peas - that seemed to give me more energy for a 6 mile run up on the peak today. 

If I can hold on till race day I am hoping adrenaline will help.  I realize the mountain could do me in just as easy as my gut - but I want to give it a go and race the thing.  My race expectations are lowered but my ambitions are still high.  I am not sure where that will leave me.  But if you are out there on the trail on Sunday and a keeping track of 4 letter words - listen for "BILE!!!"

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Running for miles and hours

I have a friend that rides a road bike, a lot.  He also rides a mountain bike but his "thing" is biking on the road.  He occasionally races, he trains a lot - covering hundreds of miles each week.  He eats well, he recovers well.  He loves to bike as much as I love to run.  We hang out frequently and often talk about training, biking, running and life.

One thing that is different with us is how we measure our training.  He measures training by hours.  I measure it by miles.  Each has merit.  Each gives results that bring satisfaction, data to review and journeys to remember.

One thing I have noticed more with my running schedule and subsequent logs - is that I go into each week with a rough mileage goal for each week.  But by weeks end I often look at the hours and minutes and then compare with previous weeks. 

Due to a 6 week long break from running due to a very frustrating ankle sprain, I have only been running for 12 weeks since.  With 2 weeks to go until the Pikes Peak marathon - my running miles and running hours will drop off as I start to taper.  But looking back at the past 12 weeks this afternoon, I have noticed something......

Without going into too much data overload - as I started back running, for the first 7 weeks I gradually built up my miles each week and with that the hours also built up.  At the end of 7 weeks I had just run a 40 mile week, having run 5 times and it took me about 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Week 8, I added another 5 miles to the weekly total - but the time to do this went to up to 9 hours, 11 minutes.  An almost 3 hour increase difference.  The next week I added 5 more miles, the running time increased an additional hour.  For the remaining weeks from then till now, I have been running 45 to 50 mile weeks with running time being between 9 hours and 10 1/2 hours (aside from one "easy / recovery" week).

Why the bump up in hours?  Simple answer is increased vertical running.  In the past 5 weeks while running 25 times, my average distance has been 9 1/2 miles, it's taken me an average of 1:52.  (Certainly has not been speedy running).  I have also run up over 47,000'.  That results in the extra time on the trail.

Why post all this info?  Because I am looking for an excuse as to why yesterday it took me well over 4 hours to run 20 miles on Pikes Peak and be frustratingly almost 15 minutes slower than I wanted to be.  Yesterday I wanted to be speedy, I wasn't.  Yesterday I ran for a longer amount of time than I thought I should have.  I was frustrated.  I felt okay, I had enough fuel and fluids.  The weather was perfect.  The trail wasn't too busy (for a Saturday).  I just didn't achieve what I not only wanted to do, but thought I was capable of doing.  I was a little defeated - especially mentally.

My lesson that I learned: running up Barr Trail to A Frame and back is hard, it is over 5600 feet of climbing and Pikes Peak never takes a day off from being unrelenting.  I learned and relearned that any amount of confidence I may have going in to the race needs to be tempered with a huge and healthy dose of respect for the mountain.  Not to mention that the race has another 6 miles and 2200' of going up and down more than I did yesterday.

I have some confidence that training will pay off, along with being mentally prepared, running a smart race, being properly fueled and hydrated will all contribute to some measure of success on race day.  Each finisher will have one thing in common, running the race requires completing roughly 26 miles.  One thing will be different for almost every runner: time taken to complete.  I'm just hoping that the 46 hours of running, walking and hiking during training over the last 5 weeks pays off.

I have no idea how long that will be for me - earlier last week I was thinking great things, but after yesterdays run - a slower time than last year is possible.  Come race day - who knows.  I guess that is part of the adventure and journey and that journey is guaranteed to take me a while, hours and hours.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Barr Trail 7.8 miles sign training run

As mentioned in the last post - in these last 3 weeks leading up to race day I will be on the trail for almost all of my training runs.  Started this morning at the race start line and went up almost 6 miles to the 7.8 miles to the summit sign.  That for me has always been a good measuring point, always gives me a better idea than the top of the W's and No-Name Creek checkpoints.

Of course there is still soooooo much more trail to cover between there and the summit, the wheels fall off more times than not - but, it is a round trip just shy of 12 miles, certainly better than running 12 miles on a flatter surface (although that often sounds more appealing during the W's).

I had been perusing the pacing calculator last week and had some splits in mind for todays run, which I was hoping to do at, or very near to, race day effort - on the uphill part.

The results - about 20 seconds ahead of the goal at the top of the W's, about 20 seconds behind at No-Name Creek and about 25 seconds behind at the 7.8 sign.  So, I am pleased with that, but not banking too much on it - because in reality I was giving a strong effort knowing that I was turning around and not having to go the extra 4500 or so feet up.

I turned and came down and a slightly faster than moderate pace.  The W's on the way down were crowded and it also seemed like there were so many more rocks sticking out trying to get me. Fortunately I made it through unscathed for the 11.75 miles, 3100' gain - and finishing it just under 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Monday, July 29, 2013

PPM pre-taper taper week

With now less than 3 weeks till race day -  I am ready to start a taper - but really need this week to get some more tough training runs in.  So, cutting out a day from running this week and next - going from 5 days a week to 4.  Building in an extra recovery day each week will hopefully help balance the training.  My goal is to get to the start finish line healthy and in one piece.

So, not really tapering - more like 4 very course specific runs for this 45 mile week.  In fact, almost all of my runs in these 3 weeks will be on the course. 

I drove to the summit this morning and had an 8 miler on tap.  My goal - down 4 miles at an easy (10 min avg) pace, then work hard on the 4 miles back up, trying to keep the average under 20 min miles.

What I can't simulate is all the other runners being on the course on race day.  The reality is on an out and back course, or more properly said in this case: the up and down course - is that you get to see all the other runners in the race.  Some places on the trail are just not suitable for 2 way traffic - traffic that is in a hurry, at high altitude, on rocky sections of decomposing granite.

I can't train for that really - so I don't really bother thinking about it.  I just need to be as smooth and steady through the other runners, those coming down when I am going up, likewise with those going up while I am maneuvering down.

Today there were a good amount of people on the trail - lots of hikers and no doubt other runners getting some high altitude training in.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - the 16 golden stairs are almost as tough going down as they are going up.  They require a lot of focus, rock hopping and oftentimes I am using my hands for balance on the side rocks to get through. 

Below there though it opens up and today I was feeling peppy so I switched to cruise mode all the way down to tree-line and then the 3 miles below the summit sign.  That next mile below there is another section that really requires focus with lots of rocks, roots and the shadows are always an issue for line of sight.

I slowed through these and eventually made it down 4 miles, approx. 2800 feet below the summit.  It's a tough transition to go from downhill to uphill in this fashion - today my legs immediately were complaining.  Slow grind gear was engaged - and I plugged forward.

After about a 1/3 of a mile I started to get into a rhythm and managed to make some better progress.  I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run significantly more than I have in recent memory for the next 3 miles - so much so that my average pace was under 20 min miles. 

But then came the stairs and I slowed noticeably.  Changing my mind that even though they are hard to go down through - they are definitely worse to go up.  But I made it eventually and summited in a time under my goal of 2 hours.  A successful training run in the books.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Running Problems - solved

I don't think a trail runner would stoop to making something like this.

Of course - watching that video then brings this to mind - which I have posted before - but still brings a smile to me... And then this video kind of reminds me what it is like to run down Barr Trail on Pikes Peak = this one being on a bike in Chile. Which then leads to actual downhill running - Emelie Forsberg in New Zealand. Ahhh running - so simple every child that learns to walk, wants to run - some grow up to be better runners than others. Others supply products to runners....

Happy Friday

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The USAFA Falcon Trail

This trail is becoming a favorite of mine.  It's a 12.9 mile loop, with close to 1400' of elevation gain.  Approx 98% singletrack (you cross a few roads every now and then) and has a few rocky spots that require focus and concentration, but is mostly smooth.  It's quite popular for mountain bikers, runners and don't be surprised if you see people riding horses on the trail sometimes.  It offers awesome views of the Air Force Academy including the chapel, the golf course and backs right into the Rampart range foothills. 

As a civilian, access to the trail is not allowed until 8 am - and I was at the gate today then, ready to do a lap.  The weather was good, 70 degrees when I started just after 8:15.  Cloud cover had the humidity level up a bit, but not too bad.  I think the faster direction to go is clockwise, my nemesis is counter clockwise because of an ascending climb that seems to take forever that begins less than 2 miles into the loop.

My previous best time (for either direction) has been 2:14.  I usually run through the parking lot at the end of the loop to round out the distance to an even 13 miles.  Today - I wanted to push, believing that if couldn't break 2 hours then I should be left on the trail as food for wildlife.

And so off I went, counter clockwise, with a couple of bottles in hand, keeping the first mile at a smooth 8 minute pace - it is slightly downhill and a good way to start - easing into the run.  It was a good opportunity to see how my body was feeling after Mondays Pikes Peak effort of 6 1/2 hours (26 miles).  I was glad there was no soreness in my legs.  A good start.

2 miles in and the climbing had begun - I focused in moving smooth and steady.  In every previous run I have struggled on this 1 1/3 mile long climb because it's such a mind numbing section to do in oppressive heat because it is quite exposed - today however, there was a bit of a breeze and the sun was not bearing down so hard.

Approx 3 1/3 miles in and my pace had slowed to an 8:49 average - pleased with that because I was hoping to be at 9 or faster.  Then a downhill stretch that takes the trail close to the Academy chapel, followed by another climb - less severe than the first - but still needing effort to achieve and maintain pace.

My plan on the climbs (5 noticeable ones in this direction) was to be slower, but steady and smooth - while trying to not redline and bonk out later.  At the end of the second climb the trail comes past an overlook for the chapel - about 5 miles in - and this was where my pace had slowed to a 9:02 average.  Again I was quicker than I was expecting.  Encouraging signs so far and a gentle downhill followed for approx. 3/4 of a mile before the 3/4 mile climb to the high point of the trail - the parking lot to the Stanley Canyon trailhead.

My desire was to be there as close as I could be to an hour - 62 minutes being my initial target.  As I approached the halfway point I fueled up quickly and at 6 1/2 miles my watch read 59:20.  A 2 hour loop was reachable now - with the finish being 800' lower than the high point I was now at.  There were still 2 tough climbs to go, and of course 6 1/2 miles - but the downhill sections, especially near Stanley Canyon were long and smooth.  A chance to drop my average - which was now up to 9:08 per mile.

I was feeling okay, no real big fatigue in the legs and I felt like I had fueled well so far.  I was also feeling confident I could go sub 2 hours, maybe even pull off a 1:55 if I pushed it.  So, I dialed up the effort a bit.  The miles clicked off and the average dropped below 9, then below 8:50 before I got to the fire station where 2 or so weeks ago I had spent 15 - 20 minutes trying to recover from dehydration and exhaustion on a 2 lap / 26 miler.

Today - I shuffled by, barely even glancing at it, instead looking at my watch and then the quite mean uphill section just past the fire station that is possibly the steepest part of the trail.  Fortunately it is less than 3/4 mile long.  Unfortunately it beat me up and I slowed dramatically.  But I eventually made it to the top and had just over 3 miles to go.

Some tired math in my head resulted in me thinking that if I could push a bit more now, then not only could I get under 2 hours, but 1:55 was reachable.  I dialed up the effort as the trail eased downhill.  An 8 minute mile resulted.  My quads were now reminding me of the 7800' descent they had carried me just 3 days earlier and I was getting weary.  I began to wish for company, someone to push and motivate me to keep moving.  The memory of last years PPM descent came to me where for long sections of trail below tree line it was just me running alone.  I couldn't rely on anyone else but me to stay focused and keep pushing.

2 miles to go, one more climb that was looming, my math was telling me that sub 1:55 was possible - especially if I could navigate the final climb because at the top of that it was only a 1/2 mile to go till the parking lot.  I struggled and pushed, fatigue a factor now, as well as a desire to be done.  I made it to the top of the last hill, overlooking the Football stadium, but I didn't even glance at it.

I pushed on - it wasn't easy, but trail running isn't easy if you are in a hurry - which I was.  Finally to the parking lot and 12.9 miles.  I ran a weird little loop of the parking lot to bring the total distance to 13 miles.  My 2nd half of the course was a zippy 53:30 for a total time of 1:52:50.  A new PR and feeling good about my improving fitness.

All in all - I am encouraged about where I am at physically after a run like today's.  I took over 21 minutes off my previous best time on the trail.  That's much, much better than I was hoping for and is a welcome surprise.  But I am quickly reminded that it was less than 1/2 the distance of my goal race, and about 6400' less gain than PPM has.  So, I think I am safe to say that I may be fit enough to do a Trail half marathon - but as for a full marathon such as Pikes Peak - I'm not there yet, and not much time till it gets here, whether I am ready or not.