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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The price of setting a Manitou Incline PR

Dear City of Manitou Springs, please accept my apologies for writing, clearly I can't read very well at all.  I would understand if you discarded this letter - dismissing it from the guy who clearly couldn't read.  I understand how easily it would be for you to easily assume that you wouldn't expect me to write right - when clearly my ability to read signs is negligent - especially before 6 am on a weekday.

Instead of venting my frustrations in an angry letter, I am actually writing to give you some suggestions with what to do with my $35 parking ticket that I acquired earlier this morning.  Please put that money to good use - perhaps you could use it to buy a sign and attach it to the parking meter that I parked right beside?  On that sign could you maybe write that even "if you attempt to pay money in an area not designated for "public" parking until after 8 am and the meter doesn't take your money - instead it just says: try later"  I clearly missed a sign saying that the area was for resident parking.  Entirely my fault. I really am sorry.

Another thought for the $35 I will be sending is maybe putting up a larger sign at the base of the incline regarding dogs - specifically what to do if one encounters something that has come out of the base of a dog - as I encountered today - right in the middle of the trail - just below the false summit.  At the time of cautiously maneuvering past it, I and those around me were clearly struggling with our breathing and focus - but to have to focus on that?  I clearly did not get my $35 worth for that piece of entertainment.

Really though - I had a good day on the incline and then further up Pikes Peak on Barr Trail (capped out at 3300' elevation gain for my 2+ hr run).  So with that in mind, here's another thought for what to do with my parking fine: Maybe place a statue in my honor of my new PR on the incline?  I took 55 seconds off my previous best.  I'm really happy for myself and was hoping you would share in my excitement.  That may sound a bit egotistic I realize and I apologize for that also.  It's probably best you put that statue up in honor of the guy who told me he did a 24:57 today (6 1/2 minutes faster than me). 

Once again, I'm sorry, because it was my fault and I am not one of those people who blame their own mistakes on someone else.  I'm not angry, I will pay the fine and I have certainly learnt my lesson, albeit a costly way.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Running the Continental Divide

So, I finished the Turkey Tracks Trail 1/2 marathon on Saturday and felt really good.  I wasn't planning on driving home till the next day so I chillaxed for a few hours, went for a swim, drove to Durango about 45 minutes away and checked that out.  Cool town.

On Sunday I woke to a thick, smoke filled sky from a nearby fire on the San Juan Mountains.  I took a few minutes to wander around Pagosa Springs, then headed East at a casual, tourist pace.

I had picked up the local tourist guide and scoped out some sights to see and noticed some trails to explore.  20 minutes drive out of town along Highway 160 were 2 good tourist spots.  I stopped at a waterfall and hiked back off the road there 1/3 mile. 

Then 5 minutes up the road to an overlook with sweeping (albeit smoke filled) views to the West.

My sights were set on a trail near Wolf Creek Ski Fields, Trail 813, the top of Wolf Pass: the Continental Divide Trail.  Streching from Mexico, through the USA and up into Canada.  3100 miles of trails and a few dirt roads.  The section where I was is one of the better marked and identifiable trails.
I took my water bottle, camera and jogged off.  Out and back to an undetermined point along the trail.  I would go till I either ran out of water or was eaten by wildlife.  6.75 miles later I came back to my car.  In between: 1400' of Elevation gain, an Ascent of Alberta Peak (11,820'), one scared Elk that I startled - he also startled me cause neither of us saw the other one coming, a view of a fairly newly burning wildfire, traversing the top of Wolf Creek Ski area and a bunch of photos.  An awesome run.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Turkey Tracks Half Marathon Race Report

I had this trip planned before the Black Forest fire claimed 2 lives and over 500 homes.  The day before the race we learned that our house was still standing, and likely would be okay.

So I drove to Pagosa Springs - with my mind on the fire and my family - but also with a desire to just get away from some strain and stress.

I scoped out a couple of different sections of the course later that evening.  I had found a happy place.  The 13 1/4 mile course was at least 12 miles of singletrack - almost all of it smooth, dirt and just simply beautiful.

The area is named after wild turkeys that frequent the area.  I didn't see any while there.  There were plenty of wildflowers.
The half marathon course was a clockwise loop, run at the same time as the full marathon - which did the same loop, for their second lap they ran counter-clockwise.  A small turnout of runners.  Just over 120 for the half.  60 for the full.
Pagosa Springs sits just to the West of the Continental Divide at an elevation of 7200'.  Scenic, rugged, beautiful.

I started the race way too fast, trying to get to the single track where I knew passing would be difficult due to the narrowness of the trail.  Shortly after we started I reminded myself I was nowhere near race fitness condition - my focus should be on just running, enjoying myself and eventually finishing.

So the miles clicked off, the first 5 miles were a gradual downhill so I dialed back on the pace and just settled into what seemed doable, comfortable - it happened to be an 8 min pace.

The runners spread out and we all settled in.  I was leading a conversational pack for several miles, chatting about the trail, fires, stuff.  At 5 1/3 miles and about 42 minutes into it, we took a sharp right turn and began the gradual climb for the next 5 miles.

With the now gradual uphill, my pace slowed somewhat but so did that of others in front of me and behind.  Our conversational group spread out, I began passing people.  The miles continued to click by.  I was enjoying myself, not pushing hard, but still putting forth effort.  By now I had purposed in my mind that breaking 2 hours was not only a realistic goal - but doable.

A few steeper sections slowed me, definitely a lack of training and fitness being the cause.  They were short however and eventually after 10 1/4 miles or so the trail leveled out.  By now I was down to an 8:45 avg but feeling fairly good - no aches or pains in my ankle or knees.  No lack of hydration and not looking to eat the bark off the pines and aspen trees.

So, I ratcheted up the effort a bit, and pressed forward.  The trail snaked through the trees which were thin in areas, allowing glimpses of runners ahead.  They became incentive to catch.  For the next couple of miles I began thinking I didn't have enough miles left to catch up to those ahead.  That is a thought I very rarely - if ever - have.  I am usually wanting a race to be done.  But here I was saying to myself - "give me more, I don't want to be done".

Alas - the trail ended and the last 3/4 mile was on a forestry road.  I put my head down and upped my effort more, passing a few more people and eventually finishing the 13 1/4 miles in 1:53 and change.  Good for 23rd place overall and 5th in the always speedy 40-49 yr old age division.

I was pleased with how I did - still early in training for my goal race in August - this was a good indicator to show that I have a ways to go to get to peak fitness, but I am heading in the right direction.  It was such an enjoyable course to run on, the organization of it was first class and I would consider doing it again.
Socks and a homemade finishers medal - made out of clay

Monday, June 17, 2013

Black Forest fire impact on my home and family

It's hard to put into words what took place last week in my neighborhood.  The statistics will say that the fire is the most destructive in Colorado History: 2 dead, 509 homes destroyed, over 14,000 acres burned.  Lives are changed forever.

For me, it began Tuesday afternoon - slow day at the office so I asked my ex-wife if I could come and hang out at the house with my kids.  I left the office about 2:15 - started heading towards Black Forest and immediately saw the smoke rising from the fire, which according to later police reports had started about a 1/2 hour earlier.

My drive to the house takes me up along Hwy 83, right along the Western edge of the fire boundary.  Ten minutes after I went through, roads were closed that I had just driven on.  The fire exploded and headed East.  My drive was to the North East of Black Forest.  The twenty five minute drive from my office I spent on the phone with various people, all the while watching the smoke clouds grow and realising this was "the big one".

Having lived in the Black Forest area for about 14 years, I know the place well.  I know the roads, the trails, the topography, the shops, sights and many people who live within it.  Knowing the area that the fire started in relation to my house - as I was driving I thought the house would be safe, telling my family that I would give it a less than 5% chance of ever getting to their home.  I tried to be reassuring - but what did I know.

I stayed out at the house, approx 8 to 9 miles NE of where the fire started, until almost dark.  We climbed on the roof of the home to get a better view, then back in front of the TV to hear updates and watch what was happening.  We did this for hours.  The wind was strong, blowing from West to East - fortunately for us, blowing the smoke to the South of the home.

I left the home and headed back to my apartment for the night.  Waking Wednesday morning and deciding on a 3 mile run in Fox Run park - not much smoke in that area.  I finished my run and went to work.  As the morning wore on, my communication with my family increased as the winds picked up from the South, developing the fire even more.  The fire was now heading North, in a direct line to the house.  It was still a long way away - but it was heading in an uncomfortable direction - and it was moving quickly.

Early afternoon, smoke was now engulfing the house.  My ex-wife agreed I should come out there.  I raced out, even quicker than the day before.  By the time I got to the house smoke was so thick, visibility was at a minimum.  Breathing was difficult and anxiety levels were rising.  We gathered things of value.  Each person in my family considered things differently.  My 2 daughters got the biggest bag they could find and filled it with stuffed animals.  My son grabbed race medals.  My ex-wife had the important documents.  I just wanted to grab them all and get us out of there.

We evacuated - by now it was mandatory - so traffic was building.  We relocated to my apartment, West of the fire in a now "pre-evacuation zone".  The girls then went on to a friends house.  My son and I stayed at the apartment, then later that evening, we went to another friends house to eat dinner, and watch events unfold.  That night, as my son and I returned to my apartment - I didn't know if the house was still standing.

A sleepless night ended early - we got up and smoke blanketed the city.  The worst of the fires destruction was over but the uneasy feelings of so many people echoed - "was my house still standing?"  Helplessness, numbness, unsure as to what to do.  There was nothing we could do.  Trying to stay busy, my son and I went to the fitness center at the apartment.  I ran 4 miles as quietly as I could, watching and listening to the non-stop news coverage.

We left and I went to the office - I got word that my family saw live TV from a news helicopter that was flying over the house - it showed an army helicopter dropping water on trees less than a 1/2 mile from the house. It was still standing!  But for how long?  Fire crews were on the streets.  I thought it could be safe, but if the wind repeated from the day before - the damage might not be stopped.

The wind picked up from the South again, my apartment was mandatorily evacuated, another quick drive to get a few things out of there.  Anxiety levels increased again.  My family was graciously given the use of a house to stay at for as long as we needed it.  We drove there and waited, watching from a distance.  The irony was the house overlooked the Mountain Shadows subdivision in NW Colorado Springs - a panoramic view of the Waldo Canyon Fire damage was right there for us to see.  Was this what our neighborhood was going to look like?

The fire lists of homes destroyed was increased from 65 to 360 - our house and nearby ones were not on the list.  The closest home to ours that was listed as destroyed was a mile away.  Anxiety levels were feeling better.  Still, that Thursday night was another night of restlessness.

Friday morning bought good news, fire maps showed the house outside the lines.  It was looking better.  Still unsure, but better than it had been in the past 3 days.  I had a weekend getaway trip planned long before the fire.  I decided, and my family agreed that it was okay for me to go.  Mandatory evictions of my apartment area were lifted later that day.

I stayed in touch throughout the next few days and by late Saturday night - my family was allowed to go home.  The house was undamaged, although quite smoky.  No signs of fire on the property or neighboring lots.

I drove out there late Sunday afternoon, in a Thunderstorm.  3 detours past checkpoints manned by the Colorado National guard and I was finally there.  It was tempting to take a walk to the South to see were the fire got to.  Common sense prevailed and we stayed put.

So, the house my children have known as home for the past 7+ years is safe.  We won't forget the past few days.  Our appreciation to the firefighters, law enforcement and military personel is unable to be fully expressed in a simple "thank you".  Our sorrow is deep for those who lost their lives, those who lost their homes and those whose lives are forever changed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Black Forest fire - in my neighborhood

"Oh no!" - I walked out of my office in NW Colorado Springs, looked NE and the Black Forest Fire had just started.  I drove speedily to my house which is approx. 8 - 10 miles Northeast of where the fire started.  Fairly soon after I got there, several local roads were closed down.  My family was getting nervous, watching homes burn on live TV.  I bounced between watching TV and going outside to monitor the wind direction and of course looking constantly at the increasing smoke cloud.  As the afternoon wore on with temperatures in mid 90's and steady winds pushing the flames, the fire grew rapidly through the heavily forested area, destroying dozens of homes and burning thousands of acres.
View from the roof of my house at 4pm (looking South)
By late afternoon and into the early evening the winds had changed directions - initially they were blowing the fire directly towards us - they turned to come from the West, and the fire went to our South.  Aside from losing power - my family is safe.  

View from a nearby road at 7pm (looking South)
Thursday morning update - an aerial view seen this morning from a news helicopter showed my house, with helicopters dropping water on trees nearby, approx. less than a 1/2 mile away.

Feeling a little numb right now.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pikes Peak Marathon - applying lessons learned

The goal race for me: The Pikes Peak Marathon where according to race predictions I will come 151st.  Always amusing to look at pre-race predictions - and then later compare and see where I actually finish (hopefully better than 151st).  My goal this year is simple: to run better than last year.  Last year I exceeded my expectations.  This year, with a better understanding of the race = new expectations: faster and better than last year.

Having run it and having a year to obsess think about running it again, and specifically how to train for it now, and then running it again - 2 things I need to work on.  Actually 3.

1) Fuel / Fluids - Last year I failed to hydrate enough and eat enough / correctly during the race - especially going up the mountain.  By the time I got to A-Frame, 10 miles in and still 3 to go, (already near 12,000' elevation) - I was wobbly and nowhere near properly fueled up for another 3 miles and over 2000' of climbing.  When I finally got up to the Summit Aid Station I treated it like a Buffet table, eating waaaay too much.  When I got to Barr Camp on the way back down I almost, and probably should of, barfed.  So earlier this year and now going into the Summer - the science experiment of trying different fluids and food while running / training - is an ongoing thing.  I'm learning, I'm trying stuff, and so far the stuff I am trying seems to be working - meaning I haven't thrown up yet, I haven't passed out yet, and I haven't cooked my kidneys yet.  I still have a ways to go to learn what will help best on race day, what will sit best in my gizzard, and how much / how often to eat and drink on race day.  I am determined to do better this year doing this.  Hence the trying out stuff on training runs and the few races I'll be doing leading up to the race.

2) Better training - I will do more race course specific training this year.  Last year I did a couple of 20 mile round trips - from the start line up to A Frame and back.  I drove to the Summit and ran down the trail several miles and back - did that a bunch of times.  I did a 4 1/2 hr training run.  This year I will do those again, but add more, including a couple of complete Ascents, a extra 4 1/2 hour run, incline work on the treadmill, flat tempo runs and more core work.  One thing that hurt the most last year was my mid-section and all those organs stuffed inside.  The downhill pounding really took it's toll.  This year I will try to have a more stronger mid section, back, hamstrings, hips.  My knees and ankles are another issue here - I am trying to strengthen them at the same time being careful with them not to blow them out.

3) Suffer more.  I'm a wimp.  I try to avoid pain and suffering.  If running up a mountain for 13 miles and then running down the same mountain for another 13 miles didn't hurt so much, I would do it more often.  But it hurts.  So I don't.  But I should.  But it hurts.  If I want to do better than last year I will need to.  So I should.  And it will hurt.  I will suffer.  I think that is supposed to be good for me.  I don't like hurting and struggle to believe sometimes that hurting and suffering helps. So, when the time comes to do that - I back off, probably more than is necessary.  This is likely just as much a mental struggle as it is a physical struggle.  I would like to be mentally tougher.  I would like to be physically tougher too.  Not sure how to do these aside from just getting out onto the trail and just getting to work.  I have thought about getting into an arena with an angry bull chasing me, but that not only sounds like no fun at all, plus I don't think it would help in my training.  On the other side of this mindset is: I really enjoy running and most runs I do are really enjoyable, achievable, fun.  Running up Pikes Peak is really intimidating, overwhelming - but it is awesome, and with that it requires suffering and hard work.  I just need to remind myself that if I finish it sooner - the suffering ends quicker and the enjoyment starts earlier.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend adventures in knuckledragging

So I live by myself during the week - any number of words can be used to describe how that is.

When it comes to weekends - I have my kids and it is awesome.  Now that soccer season is over paused - we get to do whatever we like, and we like to get out and explore.  This weekend was our first time out in months due to a busy soccer schedule since February.

I started my weekend on the treadmill - before my sleeping beauties woke up.  On tap was a combo 8 mile tempo / climbing run.  This is the 3rd time I have done this, adding more speed and climb each time.  First 3 miles at a 7:30 pace (0% grade) and then the fun misery begun.  Went to 15% grade for the next 30 minutes and literally hung on for dear life (without holding on).  Speed slowed dramatically and before long I was at 18 min pace.  As things progressed I went to 1 minute of running, followed by 1 minute of walking.  Ended up grinding out just over 1.6 miles this way.  Finished up the 8 miles at 0% grade and had speeds of about 8 min down to 7:30 avg.  Needless to say the legs were wobbly after that.  Tough run.

After the troops woke up and we ate breakfast we targeted nearby Mt Herman for our hike.  I had run around the base of it once before with Steve about a year or so ago, but I had never been up on top of it before.  I also didn't know where the trail(s) to it were - so we drove up Mt Herman road a few miles until we came to an easy to miss trailhead.  We would have missed it if it wasn't for a couple of cars parked.
So, we got out, a sign post marked "Trail 716" seemed promising.  Just over a mile later, with over 1100' of gain we made it up top.  A little breezy up there - but great views.

 No hike is complete with my peeps that doesn't have us running down part or most of the trails.  So, what took us 40 minutes to get up, took us 1/2 that time to come back down.  It was fun.  That one goes in the books to do again.  Of course we had to be rewarded for our journey - so frozen yogurt at "In the Moo" was our reward of choice.  And then some swimming.   I have just incorporated swimming into my training and it is tough, tiring and hopefully good for me.  Trying hard not to swim like an empty bottle (float around for a while, gradually taking on water and eventually sinking).

On Sunday, after an easy 2 miles (9 min pace, 0% grade) on the treadmill, followed by more swimming - the kids and I joined a group of people and played soccer for a few hours.  I tried to hide in goal but that didn't work out very well.  More swimming was needed after that.

Monday morning rolled around and I got out early to try to beat the heat - plus also went to a regular fitness test loop - the Greenland Trail / 8 miles.  What a tough slog.  Was hoping for a 64 minute loop but my whole body was revolting against the idea.  Managed a 67:30 for the day, only a 480 something foot climb which is usually fairly comfortable, but today I was just worn out.  Tuesday will be a much needed rest day - with maybe some swimming and a ride on the bike.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So: Like any good prize fighter who retires from their sport of boxing, only to come out of retirement for more money - I too have come out of blog-writing retirement for the lure of a big payday.  However, the only $$$ payday I see in the immediate horizon is a little known, and not often consumed, candy bar - that I have no interest in eating.  When suffering through a forced 6 week layoff from running I was faced with an option / choice - consider becoming a competitive eater, or, bide my time, eat smart and when I get cleared to run again - then do so, albeit carefully and gradually.  A challenge, but possible to do.

Now: when the results of an MRI came back almost a month ago - and contradicted what 2 doctors had said: Likely a torn tendon (5 to 6 months to heal, including surgery) - but hope for a stress fracture (cause that is only 2 to 3 months).  MRI results said a lot of funky Latin words describing tendons, bones, nerves, and other doctor stuff - but they said no tears and no breaks.  The docs said get running whenever I feel like I can, but be careful, smart and don't overdo it.

What: My first run was 2 very slow miles on the treadmill, that came about a week after several times on a stationary bike and elliptical.  During and after the run, the ankle was tender, but no worse feeling.  I took a few more days off and then 3 weeks ago I managed to string together a 20 mile week, almost all of it on a treadmill.  My last run of that week I ventured onto a trail.  My ankle didn't like the lateral side movement, so I was very careful about that.  I survived though.  And now I am up and running, not fast, but I am running again, and loving it.  My ankle is about 95% healed and getting better each day.  This week for the first time - it has not hurt while running on it - just mild pain when I touch it.  So: I don't touch it, or twist it.  My right knee is giving me some grief but after a chiropractic adjustment on it yesterday, realigning a bone with the kneecap - that feels better today too.

Each successive week I have increased mileage 5 miles per week and after this Saturday I will have run 35 miles this week - including a lap of the Falcon Trail on the Air Force Academy - a 13 mile trail run with about 1400' of gain.   I'll look to continue to increase another 5 miles in the upcoming weeks, maxing out at a 50 mile week, with a few less mile weeks in there to help recovery. Trying to run smart is a challenge to not overdo it, but so far, so good.

It's good to feel the burn in the quads and calves again.  It's good to run.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hiatus is over

Well, it has been 6 months since I last posted anything on this and while it may be true that time flies when you are having fun - for me, the past 6 months has not had a lot of fun in it.  Instead it has been a span of frustration, suffering, misery, hurting, awkwardness, learning.

I still have a lot to learn, especially on a personal level.  I'll leave the personal stuff there - personal.

This has (mostly) been a running blog and quite frankly I have missed posting stuff.  Recently I have started to catch back up on some of the blogs I used to peruse and got to think: "Hey, I used to do that, it was kind of fun, maybe I should do that again." 

So I will look to pick up blogging again and focus on my running exploits, throwing out there some favorite recipes I have learned (just kidding), maybe mixing in some stuff about my kids. 
Our most recent family photo

My 3 amigos are running less, but playing soccer more, and getting better at it - which is really cool to watch.  In the Fall I will have a kid in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school.  They are growing up and fortunately (and very gratefully) I am very much a part of their lives - and get to see and be a part of that.

Actual recent photo showing my new running and weight loss training "before" photo.

On the running front - despite a seemingly endless and very miserable six week layoff recently from any kind of running, due to a very severely sprained ankle - I am back running.  I am certainly nowhere near any kind of good fitness level yet, but I am improving. 

I missed 2 races due to the ankle injury recently - including my nemesis (The Greenland Trail 8 miler) and a 1/2 marathon in Jemez, NM.  I was going to use these as kind of a springboard to my Summer of training for my goal race of the year.  Fortunately I found another race to run in that is now less than 2 weeks away, and I am getting excited about it.

The Turkey Tracks Trail Run is a half marathon in Pagosa Springs that looks like it could be fun: lots of single track trails through forests and meadows, with a bit of climbing (it is Colorado after all), and it is in a beautiful area to run - that I have not run in before. 

I will need to treat the race as a tanning training run as I have only been running again for 3 1/2 weeks.  I've had a couple of good runs, ankle is about 95% and getting stronger.  My silly right knee injury from two years ago is still giving me grief, but I am working on getting that better also.  If I can keep my body from falling apart - then I might be able to run okay.

I turned 45 years old back in April (insert sound of groaning).  And with that comes the delight reality of a new age group to run in.   Does that give me any better chance to pick up an occasional age group trinket?  Maybe.  Hope so.  Will have to wait and see.  But honestly that is one thing that I am aiming for in my goal race of the year. 

More on that in the next post - which I hope will not be in another 6 months time.