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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Indian Creek 50

At 3:42 am on Saturday morning, when sensible people are sleeping, I woke up and knew what I was about to do would not make a lot - if any - sense, to most sensible people.   Some 16 or so hours later, I lay back down in my bed and my mind was filled with what had taken place throughout the day.  It didn't make sense what had happened that day.  But it happened.

I ran the inaugural Indian Creek 50 mile race that day.  A race I had signed up for just 1 week prior.  I had not trained specifically for the race.  I didn't know what to expect of the race.  I didn't know how I would do in the race.  My thoughts going into the race always kept going back to one thing:

50 miles.  That is a looooong way to run.

I had never run that far before.  I didn't know how it would feel - aside from expecting it to be incredibly tiring.  I didn't know what I would eat or drink during the time out on the trails.  I had no clue how long it would take me.  I had no idea I if I would actually be able to finish.  50 miles is a distance I had not ever come close to doing before.  32 miles was my high water mark, completing that earlier this year in the North Fork 50K.

My 2 main goals were: 1) Finish.  Specifically - we were starting at 6 am, in the dark.  So I had to wear a headlamp for the first hour or so.  I was hoping to finish without having to use the headlamp again at the end of the day.
And 2), finish before my Garmin ran out of batteries.  I had no real idea how long it would last.  8 hours?  10 hours?  12 hours?  If I finished I wanted to be able to see the data:  The distance.  The time.  The vertical.  The average pace.  I wanted to be able to log what I was doing, and would do - that long, long day.

Indian Creek is located just a few miles SW of Sedalia, CO - about a 45 minute drive from where I live.   I had never been on the trails before there and no idea what to expect.  The pre race info indicated lots of climbing but nothing up over a high point of 8100'.  It was a course that consisted of 3 different loops, plus an out and back section in the middle of the 3rd lap.  There were 2 races taking place, both starting at the same time - the 50K was completing the first 2 laps, the 50 miler, 3 laps.  130 people had signed up for the 2 combined races, much more in the 50K event.

A 6 o'clock start time meant headlamps were necessary for nearly a full hour.  This would help with a definite need to go out slow.  An uphill start for the first 1 1/2 miles, onto an unknown trail, in the dark = slow start.  And I was okay with that.  I was more interested in finishing - not beginning - but I knew in order to finish I needed to go out easy. 

Admittedly I had an "A" goal.  A goal to not just finish before the sun went down or before my Garmin died.  I was hoping for a 10 hour or better finish.  That averaged out to 12 minute miles.  My 3 previous ultra races - 50K races I had averaged between 10 and 12 minute miles.  Alas - none of them had the combined elevation gain that this one had.  But why not set a goal of 12 minute miles?

I also had decided to not look at my watch at all for the first lap - no real reason aside from really just wanting to not feel any extra pressure for the first few hours.  I wanted to just run by feel, to feel comfortable with the course, with how I felt, without adding any unhelpful stress to my mind.

A breeze and 50 something degrees welcomed us at the start line as we set off.  The first mile and a half was all uphill, gradual, on a fire road - I settled in with the middle of the pack and began the longest race of my life.  I didn't feel nervous, worried or doubtful of not being able to complete what lied ahead.  Admittedly I didn't also feel over-confident or overjoyed about the potential to be running

I settled into a very comfortable rhythm and I didn't take too long before we left the road and took a right turn onto single track.  This meant single file running.  The trail was rolling up and down for the next stretch - more down than up, in mature forest and on a trail that wasn't technical at all, but still had some roots and rocks ready to reach and grab ankles.

I rolled both my ankles within a 5 minute space, nothing too serious, but just enough to give some brief pain - and a reminder to slow down.  Which I did.  I was ready for the sun to come up so I could see better.  I was in a train of people and the headlamps were playing with our shadows - so I think it made our footing unsure - I wasn't the only person to stumble.  Several people tripped also.

We came out of the trees and as we did the Eastern horizon began to gradually lighten.  We were now running in scrub oak and each step forward beckoned more clearly now.
This trail is within the park - we didn't quite get into this part.
A downhill stretch was next for the ensuing few miles as we went Northwards, negotiating downhill switchbacks and watching the sun begin to crest the horizon.  We were heading towards Roxborough State Park and some beautiful rock formations.  As the sun rose I was reminded of Garden of the Gods, in the past watching the sun rise on the giant slabs of rock has always been soothing, exhilarating, inspiring.

This race morning I glanced several times towards the rocks as they were touched by the rising sun and I was warmed by the early rays of light.  I was happy to be where I was, doing what I was doing. 

I was also glad that I could turn off my headlamp and now see where I was going.  But now, it was uphill.  Steep sections lay ahead and it was necessary to slow to a walk on several sections as there would be no prizes for me to foolishly try to run them up.  Common sense ruled and I walked for several hundred feet at a time.  The day was young, the race was long - and I would be doing plenty more walking later in the day.  I adopted the mindset of run when I can and when I should - and when I should walk - then walk.  The steep sections were short and once passed them the uphill was just gradual - I slipped into my grinding gear and plugged forward.

About 8 miles in, 2 or 3 miles into the uphill section, we came to the first aid station and I was feeling good, not hungry, thirsty or tired.  The aid station volunteers here had hauled in all their supplies 6 miles!  Amazing.  Awesome.  And they had everything a great aid station could have.  I at first hesitated to take anything - ultimately decided to take a PBJ sandwich bite and kept going.  The aid station was the high elevation point of the lap.

By now the runners had spread out, 1 guy had passed me just before the aid station.  I glanced back as I was leaving and saw 3 or 4 other runners nearing the aid station - runners I had eased past in the last couple of miles.  I told myself I wasn't racing anyone, I really wasn't even racing.  I was just out for a long run.  A long, long run.  With lots of running and some eating throughout the day.  I haven't eaten PBJ sandwiches in years - today that would change.

The next half dozen or so miles was mostly downhill, in some mature pine forest and single track trail, mixed in with a fire road and 1 particularly long, tiring and steep uphill section.  Soon after the aid station I passed 1 guy and then I didn't see anyone for about an hour until I finally came to the start / finish line aid station.  During that stretch I ran comfortably, controlling my effort, walking the steep uphill's and maintaining a steady effort.

At the aid station I took off a layer of clothing, along with my headlamp and put it in my drop bag, refilled my 2 water bottles with Skratch and ate a few more PBJ sandwich bites, along with 1/2 a banana.  As I was about to leave the aid station I looked at my watch for the first time.  Just over 15 1/4 miles, just over 2 hours, 40 minutes - about a 10 1/2 minute per mile pace. 

Perfect.  Surprisingly ahead of where I hoped to be, feeling good, not very tired.  The only thing that was off was that I thought the lap was about a mile longer than I thought it was supposed to be.  Maybe I had read that wrong.  No big deal.

Lap 2 - off on a different part of the course, running clockwise now (lap 1 was counter clockwise) and the next 6 miles was mostly downhill - with a few sections of uphill mixed in.  Temperature's were a balmy, and breezy 60 something degrees.  A mile and a quarter from the aid station I crossed a creek and noted that distance on my watch for later in the day I would be coming back the other direction - 1 1/4 miles from finishing.  A landmark to remember.  It would be a while before I came this way again.  I wondered how long.  I wondered "if".  I wondered "when".  I had a fleeting thought of "why"?  I smiled, even chuckled out loud - answering the thought that was in my head with: "I'll be back, don't know when but I do know why - because I am running the race of my life and I wouldn't miss it for the world".

The next 6 miles lead to the lowest elevation point of the whole race course, even adjoining the Colorado Trail near Waterton canyon.  The Colorado Trail section was a long, descending, switchback filled, tall timbered, pine section that was fun to run along and down towards the dam.  With the tall, thinned pine trees and many switchbacks along the section of the Colorado Trail, it was possible to see the trail way below us.  I could see the occasional runner, along with a few mountain bikers out enjoying the day.

While it was awesome to enjoy this section of the race - a shuddering thought pounded through my legs and on up into my brain as I stepped forward, downward towards the next aid station - that thought - I would be running up this section for the last 6 miles of the race.  That was going to be tough.  I was not looking forward to that at all.

At the aid station more PBJ sandwich bites, a topping off of a water bottle and a few drinks of coke and a check of the watch, now averaging 10 1/4 minute miles thanks to the downhill miles - and noticed the checkpoint mileage sign and my watch were now 1.4 miles different.  Unless my watch was wrong - I would be running more than 50 miles today.  I smiled again - bonus miles.  So far I was having a good day, may as well enjoy a few extra steps.

The race now turned uphill again for the next 4 miles or so, a need to get back into grinding gear.  I found a good and steady groove and kept moving, passing a couple more runners over the stretch between aid stations.  As I got to the next aid station - the first one we had passed shortly after the sun had risen I saw the net mileage indicator and now my watch was over a mile and a half longer than what was written on the sign.  I took an extra drink of coke, thanked the volunteers again and marveled that they had so much stuff at the aid station - all hand hauled in 6 miles.

Marathon distance completed shortly after the aid station and I was about 4 hours 45 minutes into my day.  Downhill again for a good stretch as we headed back along the first loop - opposite direction from earlier in the morning - heading back towards the Southern outskirts of Roxborough State Park again.   I was alone for this next stretch, in my own happy place, moving along at a still comfortable pace.  Maybe this 50 mile race was not going to be as hard as I thought?  I was over halfway and less than 5 hours in?

The course answered: "Not so fast"!  For there was not only the last 6 uphill mile stretch awaiting several hours down the trail - there was a 4 to 5 mile stretch of not too gentle climb up and away from Roxborough.  A new gear needed to be found - the low grinding gear.  I got it.  I stuck it in super low drive and pressed forward.  Just a little faster than a walk, certainly a lot slower than a free flowing stride.  But I stuck with it and kept it moving forward, passing a half dozen runners who were walking up the hill over the next series of miles.  Encouraging words were passed back and forth.  I kept going and made it back into the section of trees that I had run through earlier that morning in the darkness.  This part seemed to take forever.  In the darkness of the morning it didn't seem so long, maybe because it was rolling downhill then, but it was uphill rollers now.

A 50K runner that I caught on the uphill latched onto me and we rolled along for a mile together, gathering in more runners, chatting.  He was full of encouragement - declaring we were in the top twenty.  He was hurting but determined to hang on and finish his first 50K.  Finally we came to the 1 1/2 mile downhill section leading back to the start / finish line/ aid station.  I dropped him as his quads were not allowing him to keep up and I had run out of fluids - feeling a little parched and now getting weary.  I was ready for the aid station and for the first time during the race a thought came into my mind - unwelcomed.  The aid station is right where my car is parked.  Why not call it a day?  It's been a really good run.  Why tempt fate and keep going?  I checked my watch and indeed it was now further than I had ever run before.  I had run a milestone distance.  I was now into my 34th mile.   I could call it good and make it back home none too worse for wear - and enjoy a rewarding scoop of ice cream.


Keep going.  It was a fleeting thought anyway.  I was going to see - and feel - what 50 plus miles felt like.  I made it to the aid station and couldn't find my drop bag.  I wanted to fill both bottles with Skratch.  But I couldn't find my bag.  I stopped looking and filled my bottles with water, ate several more PBJ bite sized sandwiches, a half banana, several cups of coke and was about to head out when someone found my drop bag for me.  I good lift to my spirits.  I poured the Skratch into my water bottles, stopped to eat more PBJ and drink more coke.  I shook the hand of the 50K runner I had ran the last stretch with and noticed 2 other runners in the aid station about ready to move out onto the final lap.  Mr. Yellow Shirt had got there just before I did.  Ms. First place lady was a few minutes behind me coming in.   I must have spent 4 or 5 minutes there, not in a rush, determined to fuel up.

I checked the watch, about 1/4 mile shy of 35 miles.  And off I went, leaving with Mr. Yellow shirt and just ahead of Ms. First place lady.  And now it was uphill time again.  The fueling had helped - especially it seemed for Ms. First place lady as within a mile she had gone past me.  I latched on for a brief few strides but she was clearly stronger than me at this point so I watched her go away from me.  I reminded myself that this was not a race to beat anyone - but a goal to finish, to keep moving, to run all day.

I made it to the top of the hill and back onto the Indian Creek trail proper which was a wide trail, rolling mostly downhill, then uphill, then downhill again.  There were some long straight sections in which I glanced back and every now and then would see Mr. Yellow shirt.  The distance didn't close.  But it didn't grow either.  I now had a dual mindset.  1) Keep moving and finish.  2)  Try to stay ahead of Mr. Yellow Shirt.

The second to last aid station (this was now the 3rd time I had come through here - this being the one with those volunteers who had dragged the supplies all those miles) - eventually opened up before me.  I was now just over 40 miles in.   I looked at my watch, 7 hours, 38 minutes in.  I was now 2 hours further than ever before.  I knew it was over 10 miles to go.  I fueled up again on PBJ sandwich bites, coke and ate a snickers from one of the volunteers.  It was awesome.  I spent about 2 to 3 minutes at the aid station and the last 1/2 minute of that was with Mr. Yellow Shirt.  I could not drop him!  As I left I told him to bring it home strong.  And with a focus I headed out.  The next section was a section of rollers, more down than up.  Also on this stretch were 50K runners on their 2nd lap.  I was encouraging to them as I passed them and most of them cheered me on also.

I passed another 50 miler guy about 2 miles after the aid station and he was hurting, but still moving.  I tried to encourage him but couldn't really come up with much of anything to say.  I came to a crest of a hill, pausing a moment at the top of it to take a drink and 2 mountain bikers coming the other way stopped there too.  They asked me what I was doing.  "Oh, just taking a drink, just ran 43 miles and have about 7 or more to go".  It was amusing to watch their jaws drop.  I kept moving. 

I came to a place in the trail where it split off the earlier part that we had run.  It was flat, slightly rolling for the first 1 1/2 miles - then went up steeply for 3/4 mile.  That hurt.  Walking time.  Suffering time.  Reality check time.  I not only wanted to keep moving, but if I wanted to stay ahead of Mr. Yellow shirt - I needed to keep moving.

Finally it ended and I joined up to the Colorado Trail again.  Downhill back down towards Waterton Canyon for 2 miles.  But then unfortunately I would turn around to come back up.  I decided to try to push the downhill a little bit.  My quads had been holding together well.  I really had not pushed any of the downhill's hard at all in an attempt to keep the quads from fraying out.  And this was the last stretch of downhill to take advantage of.

I didn't go super fast - just picked up the pace.  I also was wary of Mr Yellow Shirt - fearing he would be bombing the downhill.  It was a fun stretch of the race, I really like the Colorado Trail, or at least that section of it.  I made it down to the last aid station.  More PBJ sandwich bites, more coke.  Filled up the water bottles and even ate a couple of boiled potatoes.  I took a few minutes there like the previous aid stations.  Making sure I was getting fueled up.  Alas, after a couple of minutes of fueling and chatting / thanking the aid station volunteers - Mr Yellow Shirt came into view coming down the hill.  I just can't drop the guy!!

I took off - 6 miles of uphill to go.  6 miles with a guy on my back.  6 miles of a race that I have never run so far before.  And it was UPHILL!!!

I found the slow grinding gear again and stuck with it as long as I could.  On the steeper sections I walked, but the runnable uphill parts I dug into that low gear and pushed forward.  As I went up through the switchbacks I could see below me and Mr. Yellow shirt, low and behold, he was coming.  I dug a little deeper and it felt okay.  I even passed a couple of mountain bikers going up the hill.  I didn't bother saying anything to them.

I came off the Colorado Trail and onto the last section of trail to go - still 4 miles or thereabouts to the finish.  I few rocks and roots scattered along the way reached out towards my weary feet, trying to trip me.  I stumbled a couple of times, managing to keep my feet.  I was in a bit of survival mode now.  Not so much due to pain - just due to being so very tired.

I came to 50 miles and hit the lap timer on my watch.  I had beaten my goal: 50 miles in less than 10 hours.  9:53:35 to be precise.  But I still was far from being done.  I hadn't seen Mr. Yellow shirt for a while.  But I knew if I slowed he would catch me.  I kept moving.  Running when I could, walking the steeper sections.

The bridge with 1 1/4 miles to the finish finally came into view as I noticed the sun starting to slip down behind the hills.  I was going to finish before the sun went down.  But was I going to beat Mr Yellow Shirt?  I crossed the bridge over the stream and looked across the meadow - hoping not to see anyone.  I didn't.  It was quiet.  The wind had died down.  The sun was going down.  I had run almost 52 miles.  I wasn't finished but I took a moment to capture in my mind just exactly what I had done, what I was doing.  I shed a tear.  I took a moment to enjoy the moment - and then kicked myself back into gear - let's get this done.

1 1/4 miles eventually passed.  I ran it all, albeit very slowly.  Probably slower than I have run that distance ever before.  I looked over my shoulder several times, seeing no-one in yellow, red, blue or any colored clothing.  Mr. Yellow Shirt would not beat me.  He had pushed me, but I had persevered.

Finally I shuffled through the parking lot, shed another tear drop and was welcomed across the finish line by a very enthusiastic crowd and race director "Sherpa" John Lacroix.

53 miles.

10 hours.  35 minutes.

9650' of elevation gain

4th place overall (3rd male, 1st Master).

12 minute per mile overall average pace.

Later that night, after a refreshing shower and a rewarding bucket of ice cream - I lay down in my bed.  My body tired but not broken.  My day almost complete.  My ambitious goal of 50 miles in 10 hours beaten and then added to. 

I had run 53 miles.  A thought entered my mind as I drifted off to sleep.  Only another 9 miles or so and it would have been 100K?  Huh.  Something to think about.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Running the rebound race

I'm not too familiar with what exactly is a rebound relationship - aside from thinking it has something to do with: being in a relationship for a while, then for whatever reason that relationship ends and before you know it - you jump back in almost immediately into another relationship - sometimes a little recklessly or even foolishly.

Enter the running variation of a rebound relationship......I don't think I am alone in experiencing the following: finish a race that you had invested a long amount of time, sweat and hard work into - but you don't do so well.  You don't finish how you expected.  You did just "okay".  It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, or an empty feeling in your gizzard.  You are left with a need for a "second chance", "redemption", "payback".

So you (me) start to look for another race to get "revenge" on your last performance.

I finished the Stump Jump 50K just 4 weeks ago with the feeling of not achieving what I wanted.  I would even admit that I was flat out frustrated.  2 days later I found the "rebound race".
I didn't immediately sign up, I wavered back and forth between committing to do it and bailing on it.

I kind of trained for it - if you count one 25 mile meandering run in the foothills a couple of weeks ago.  But I didn't commit to being fully prepared for another lengthy race - just 4 weeks after my last one.  I gained a few pounds in the past 4 weeks.  Took about 6 or 7 days that I didn't run at all.  But last Saturday night I signed up for it - but not the 50K.

I will be running the 50 miler.  My first ever 50 miler.

This will be 18 miles further than I have ever run before.  With over 11 1/2 thousand feet of gain, it will be the most vertical I've ever done.  And of course the length of time to do it - of which I have no idea how long that will be - will be by far the longest time running (shuffling, walking, staggering) I will ever attempt.

If and when I finish - the only rebound I will likely be thinking is rebounding from one tub of ice cream to another.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall running fun

The past 3 or so weeks I have managed to get out to really enjoy some trails and the thoroughly intoxicating splendor of Colorado at this time of year - right in my back yard.  I love this time of year with the colors changing, first snow and pretty, pretty scenery.  I am fortunate to live where I do - nature's playground.  Photos are from Mt Herman, Limbaugh Canyon,  Stanley Canyon, Rampart Range, Emerald Valley Ranch and beyond.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stump Jump 50K race report

I don't really feel like writing a race report.   Not just because I didn't have the race that I wanted to - but because me whining and complaining about my race is not worth it, instead it is rather futile and meaningless when it comes to the fate of my fellow runner. 

Falling over 4 times during the race, getting stuck in the early part of the race for miles at a time behind trains of 20 to 30 runners at a time on slow and narrow single track, getting lost and off trail - twice, once for over 15 minutes - getting a ridiculously silly looking series of scratches that begin near my belly button, goes up across my stomach and ends below my armpit - looks like I was swiped by a bear (it was really just a bramble branch about as thick and mean as barb wire fence - but just a flesh wound - with a pretty display of blood that I had for 3 1/2 hours out on the trail).

I finished the race with a grumpy mindset - one that I carried for the final 3 hours after getting lost and finally finding my way back to the trail.  I was a grump due to falling short of a time goal (5 1/2  hours) that in hindsight was easily attainable if I hadn't gone off trail - it also would have been in reach if I started out smarter, meaning further towards the front of the field instead of over 100 places deep for the first 8 to 10 miles.   I finished the race feeling grumpy and yet not feeling sore or even very fatigued.  So much so that I have run each of the days since (no more than 4 miles at a time).

I finished the race and within 2 minutes was thinking about trying to find and sign up for another 50K or even a 50 miler in the next month or 2 (I probably won't).  I finished the race and  I wanted to get out of Chattanooga and away from the race quickly so as to drive back to Nashville and hang out with my sister and her family.  I didn't stick around to pick up an age group award - instead just drove the 2 1/2 hours in stinky, dirty, bloodied running clothes.   I just wanted to get the race out of my mind.  I did have a good visit with family for the next few days before flying back to Colorado on Monday night.

When I got home I checked my email - first, one with the final results: 5 hours, 35 minutes and change.  35th overall out of 323 finishers.  1st in my age group.  I knew these things before I left the race on Saturday.  I didn't know about what was in the next email.........

I never did meet Gary Jacks.  I shared a trail with him on Saturday in Chattanooga Tennessee.  Some time after I had finished my race and already left the area - tragically, Gary did not finish that race.  He passed away while still out on the course.

I know now that I will not ever forget this race, and while I doubt I will do that race again, one thing I will do is forever to be grateful to finish a run, and I hope it will be every run - no matter how far, no matter how long, no matter how sore, or tired, or hurt.  If I finish every run - I will try to remember Gary Jacks and remember that he didn't get to finish his last run.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tip Toe-ing along the Taper Trail

Race Day is 3 days away.  Gulp.  I'm not ready.  I mean I am ready to run - I just don't believe I am ready to run my best.  I peaked perfectly for the North Fork 50K early this Summer - having a great training cycle leading up to it, being as fit as I ever have been.  I had been smart with eating, training, recovering between runs and I went in to the race quite confident of getting a good finishing time.  It worked out well and I ran a 5 hr 21 min race - a bonus was finishing 5th overall - completely unexpected but thrilled to grab.

That race was not my goal race of the year though - this one on Saturday is.....or was....or still is....but I just can't see myself pulling off a similar time as I did in June's race.  I'm not sandbagging - I don't even know what that means as I am a middle of the pack runner who happened to finish 5th in June - but that's because a bunch of fast runners were not in the race - plus I finished well over an hour behind the race winner.

My realistic goal is try beat 5:30.  If I do that then it will because the course will be kinder than it looks, the weather will be good and I will run a smart race.  That all may be possible - but when you add in the key ingredient that I have not trained as well for it as I did for North Fork - then I can't see myself doing as well.

I hate "The Taper".  My mind is soft and it often leads to thoughts like those expressed above.  Whether they are true or not, whether it is because instead of running 10+ hours a week during the real training period - that shrinks to just a few miles in this past week - and I begin to feel lazy, tired, heavier and quite honestly - completely full of self doubt for the upcoming race.

So - this taper trail I have been on the past 10 days or so - despite the mind games - has been one in which I have tried to stay out of a funk - and get some good runs in.  I did, for the most part.  Sure the runs were not as good as they could have been, certainly when comparing to the 2 weeks leading up to North Fork.  But they have served their purpose and now I am as ready as I can be.

I fly out tomorrow to Nashville - will run 4 miles or so when I get to my sisters house.  Drive to Chattanooga on Friday and run the race on Saturday.  I'll see how the race plays out, suffer a bit, try my best and really be grateful that I can and will be able to run.

A couple of Sundays ago I was in the midst of a 3 1/2 mile training run that was a ridiculously hard run - on a winding, dirt road that apparently was once named in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the windiest road in the world - that being the road up Cheyenne Mountain from the Zoo to the Summit.  I got a ride to The Will Rogers Shrine 1.4 miles past the Zoo.  I then ran the next 3 1/2 miles and 1700'+ up to The Broadmoor's Cloud Camp (excuse the shameless plug).  During the run with each step as my legs were crying out, as my eyes were drawn towards awesome views below - I had the thought that I really should be more grateful that I can run.  That I enjoy running.  That I am healthy.  That I choose to run mostly on trails and get distracted by squirrels, butterflies, flowers and some of the prettiest scenery around.  I'm grateful that I have people that care about me, that love me.  They could care less if it took me 5 1/2 hours to run a race or 15 1/2 hours.  They would still say I did great - and mean it sincerely.

Life is fickle, running is fickle some days more fickle than others.  I have no idea how Saturdays race will go.  I'll finish most likely - I may or may not do well (according to my goal of 5 1/2 hours) - afterwards I will eat to much, gain some weight I'm sure and run a whole lot less than I have been doing in the past 6 or more months.   A few days after the race I'll start running again and look for some runs to do strictly for fun - with no training purpose in mind.  And I will be more grateful for where I live, where I can run, that I am loved, that I enjoy the hurt of the run, the joy of the run, and the happy place it puts my mind into. 

And I will not taper.  That messes with my mind too much.

Sunrise from Cloud Camp - yeah I was spoiled and got to spend the night there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Distracted by a long walk

I'm not sure if I have shared on here a bucket list item that my son and I mutually have....I'm in the midst of tapering for the Stump Jump 50K in 1 1/2 weeks - so with less time running and more time to waste get distracted, earlier today I took a few moments to look up something that I want to do with my son when he graduates from High School.  He also wants to do it, we started talking about it before he even started high school and he is now a sophomore. 

"It" is in New Zealand - where I was born but have not lived for well over 20 years.  In the years that I have lived in the US I have been back to New Zealand only a handful of times.  I have never done "it" before.   I never even herd of "it" until about 2 years ago.  If my son and I get to do this thing I am certain "it" could be one of the most memorable experiences we have ever done individually and together.

"It" has a name.  "Te Araroa" - which is a Maori name.  (The Maori people were the original settlers of New Zealand and Te Araroa translated means "The Long Walk").

In a brief video capsule - this is what it is.....

In a more descriptive form - the facts: A 3054 KM walk - from the Northern most point of New Zealand (Cape Reinga) to the Southern most point of New Zealand (Bluff). 

Average time to complete the "walk" is 120 days. 

Fastest time to do it....

Jez Bragg did it in 53 days 9 hours.  My son and I have a goal of doing it in about 75 days - give or take a week or so.  I can't wait to try it.  We talk about it every now and then - trying to wrap our heads around the concept of 3054 kilometers.  That seems oh so very long.  We make the mistake too often in looking up 3054 kilometers to see that it is just under 1900 miles.

1900 miles.

One Thousand, nine hundred miles.


That is like walking from Colorado Springs to New York City - and then still having over 120 miles to go!!!

That's not a bucket list - that's a kick the bucket list - as in "grab a shovel, dig a hole and jump in, cover yourself with dirt and grow daisies out your armpits" kind of list.

But we want to do it / try it / experience it.  We want to live it, breathe it, feel it, suffer it - LIVE it.

We spend time looking at the Official website for the trail.  We get distracted by You tube videos of it which inevitably lead us to watching other You Tube videos like this....(nothing to do with the trail itself - but quite entertaining and a little frightening also).

Its still 3 years or so away till we may try it - who knows what can and will happen between now and then.  But with a little extra time on my hands for the next few days (aside from going to work and still running a bit) - the Long Walk has been fun to revisit in my mind today.  

I'm hoping we get to do it - I expect if we do it will leave an imprint deep in my son's and my mind.

Seems like it did his.....

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 70 mile week sandwich

I began and ended my week with the same run / 7.5 mile course.  Sandwiched in between those 2 runs were 3 long runs that when looking back - were tough to chew and swallow, but once digested - should sit well in my belly.

Sunday began with the 7 1/2 mile run I have out the back of my apartment that is a lollipop course with over 600' of gain in it.  It was a breezy start into a wind so I started out just grinding the first few miles.  I woke up eventually and got my legs under me, starting to feel strong so I pushed the effort a bit as I continued and ended up taking 1 3/4 minutes off my previous best effort.  Was pleased with that.

No run on Monday, Tuesday I was off work.  Picked up a kid and dropped her off at school and then drove to Mt Herman trailhead.  It was warm already by 9 am as I got started.  First lap was a moderate effort on the 8 mile loop for a 1:49 time.  Second lap started out okay although as always was difficult on the 1600'+ climb up to the summit starting out the lap.  I tried to stay with a moderate effort and measured pace and was doing well.  With 3 miles to go I was tracking a new PR, feeling fatigued though.  Problem was - I had 3 miles to go, and then another lap.

By the time I finished up lap 2 I had slowed and my time for the lap ended up being 1:57 - now 1 minute behind my 3 lap PR.  And by now the wheels had feeling off and I was toast.  I needed to finish this run though, trying to convince myself that even though my final time was going to suck - I needed to build my endurance and time on my feet.  Problem still was I had to gain the summit.  What a slog.  It was miserable as I was so weary.  I stopped several times - barely resisting the temptation to sit down, lie down, pass out.

I kept moving, slowly and finally got to the high point.  I meandered my way down the other side managing to run when I could.  As I made my way around the back of the mountain I ran the downhill's and flat sections - walked slowly up the uphill's.  If it wasn't for the fact that I needed to pick up the same kid from school I would have taken much longer than I ended up doing.  Lap 3 was 2:19.  Total time was 6 hours, 5 minutes.  24 miles.  Over 7000' of gain.  I barely made it to school on time to pick up the kid.  What a long day.

The one good thing about this "run" was that I wasn't sore afterwards, just weary.  Very, very weary.

Wednesday a rest day and then Thursday my next long run of the week.  13 miles on Falcon Trail.  I went counter clockwise and started out the first miles feeling slow and sluggish but as I got into the climbing section of the South end of the loop I felt better and went to work.  5 miles in and I figured I had an outside shot of getting halfway / to the high point in 60 minutes.  I had only managed that once before.  I ended up missing it by a few seconds for a 60:05 to the 6 1/2 mile mark - redlining the effort over the last /2 mile which resulted in once I crested the high point - taking a minute to walk and catch my breath.

I dialed it back while still maintaining a moderate to hard effort for the last 6 1/2 miles and ended up with a lap time of 1:54:45.  One of my faster times in recent months.  Best since mid June.  This was a good run and helped with a confidence boost after Tuesdays effort.

Friday I did a moderate effort for 18 miles on Santa Fe Trail.  Started at Northgate and went up to Palmer Lake and back.  Out in 80 minutes at 8:52 pace.  Turned - it was mid 80 degrees by now - and upped the effort to 8 minute pace for the next 3 miles.  I though about trying to come the whole way back at that effort but fatigue caught up so I gradually slowed down and ended up finishing the last 9 miles at an 8:13 average.  Total distance 18 miles.  2 hours 34 minutes.

Today (Saturday) I finished off the 70 mile week with the same run I started out the week with.  After a sluggish and slow start I dialed it up and ended up with a 63 minute lap - 65 seconds slower than last time.  A good work out to cap of a week with some really hard work in it.

So - the meat of training is over - less miles on tap this upcoming week - I'll look to work hard on most, if not all of the upcoming miles this week.  Want to stay sharp.  Still don't feel quite up to where I was going into the last 50K race in June, would like another couple of weeks of long training runs like the past 2 weeks - but will take what I have managed to get in - and look forward to the Stump Jump 50K 2 weeks from today - with expectations of being somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes slower to 5 minutes faster than the last race.

Monday, September 15, 2014

70 mile week in the books

Longest week of mileage since way back in the last week of May.  The theme for the week was double's.  As in double loops of local trails. 

Sunday: started the week with an easy shakeout run of 4 1/2 miles in 40 minutes on the trail behind my apartment.  A crisp 43 degree morning, beautiful and sunny skies.  The run was just a shakeout run from the heavy workload of the week before.  That week was more than just covering 60 miles, it was about working hard on just about all of those miles.  As a result I was tired - for days afterwards, including this morning's run.

Tuesday: took a rest day the day before and then did a double loop of Falcon Trail.   26 miles in 4 1/2 hours.  Still felt slow and weary throughout, caught up to me in lap 2 and so I ended up walking a lot of it.

Wednesday: A double loop of Mt Herman.  16 miles in 3 hours, 49 minutes - with 4700'+ of gain.  Felt better on this run than the day before, yet was still a very physically taxing effort.

Friday: took a needed rest day on Thursday.  Friday morning woke up to this....
First snow of the season.
Drove up through Palmer Lake to the Greenland Trail and did 2 laps.
Not as much snow here at the Greenland Trail parking lot.
First lap was a slow and measured effort for a 1:08 loop (8 miles).  Then I pushed harder on the second lap and did a 1:06.  The last mile I decided to really push and managed a sub 7 effort.

Saturday was a long day - drive a kid up to Steamboat Springs for a soccer game.  I got in 5 miles on Santa Fe Trail before we left for the 3 1/2 hour drive.  Got there early for the game so I managed to get 2 1/2 miles in along the Yampa River while waiting for the game to start.  Steamboat is a nice town - Mt Werner overlooking  it was impressive, the Run Rabbit Run race going on while we were there.
Mt. Werner.  Would like to have had time to run / hike up it.
70 miles for the week without the intensity of the week before - but feeling sluggish on almost all of the runs.  One more week of 70 miles on tap for this week.  Hopefully will feel a little stronger.  Still don't feel ready for the 50K coming up and I may not get to the start line fully where I want to be - but should hopefully not be too far off.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Doubling up

Double trouble.  Double the fun.  The Daily Double.  A Double take.  Double or Nothing.  Double Vision.  Double Down.  Double Up......I could go on.  Lots of things to reference with Doubles.

The last two days I pulled off a noteworthy double double of sorts for me.  Not just because it was something that I haven't ever done before.  But because it was really good endurance training - for me at least.

Not that it all went well.

Tuesday:  I am fortunate to live just a few minutes from the entrance to the Air Force Academy where the Falcon Trail is a favorite trail of mine to train and run on.  When I tack on a loop of the parking lot it is a 13 mile run - with 1300'+ of elevation gain that gives added work to a good 2 or so hour run on a really nice trail that is usually not very travelled upon during mid-week.

I had run only once since last Friday - that one run was just an easy and short-ish effort.  So I expected to go into this Tuesday's run with some pep.  Didn't happen.  I started out feeling tired, not really feeling slow, but just feeling fatigued.  Maybe not enough sleep and/or not eating well the previous couple of days.  I stuck to what felt like an easy to moderate effort and ended up with a 2:05 lap going counter clockwise.  In hindsight this was too fast.  But it didn't feel too fast - it just felt tiring.  I possibly should have stopped, but I had the day off work and wanted a long run. 

I turned and was now heading clockwise for a 2nd lap.  I tried to be conservative and really slow down the effort in order to keep moving without walking.  It seemed to work for almost 4 miles - then I couldn't muster any effort or desire to run any further.  So I resorted to walking, a lot.  Every now and then I convinced myself to run / jog.  Sometimes I even ran for a mile or so.  I also walked for larger sections.  I seem to bonk each and every time I try a Double Falcon run.  Don't know what it is - I'm sure the 26 miles has a lot to do with it, but I also believe I have a mental roadblock built into it.

What had the potential to be a new 2 lap PR (old one is about 4:15) quickly went by the wayside.

I kept moving alternating walking with running and feeling like I would never make it back to my car.  Finally with 3 1/3 miles to go of almost all downhill with the exception of the last 1/2 mile I convinced myself to move - and maintained a slow run / shuffle all they way to the end, including the last 1/2 mile of misery.  2nd lap was 2:25 almost for a 4 1/2 hour total for the 26 miles.

I lay down on the picnic table in the parking lot after I was done - and if it wasn't for not having any fluids left - would have gladly stayed there and easily fallen asleep.

Wednesday:  Much better sleep the night before.  But woke to rain and 46 degrees.  I waited until just after 9 am - had the day off work so I could afford to get a late start - the rain stopped as I pulled into a parking area at the foot of Mt Herman. 

I started out slow - way slow - really wanting to pace myself for this days effort.  I wasn't feeling too sore or even overly tired from the day before.  I also wasn't feeling overly peppy either though.  The 1700' climb up the first 1.3 miles was and always will be a wake up and get it over and done with section of the 8 mile loop.  The trail was a little slick in places but by the time I reached the summit the clouds had lifted and the sun came out.

This brightened my spirits and I continued over the Southwest side of the mountain and onto the lap.  I felt okay and managed to get into a steady rhythm - finishing the first lap only 30 or so seconds slower than last weeks first of 2 laps.  Today I was also doing 2 laps - but last week I had not been out for 4 1/2 hours and 26 miles the day before.

Needless to say my second lap - particularly the climb back up to the summit was slow.  The weather was good and clear now and I had shed a full layer of clothes at the beginning of lap 2.  After I came back down the mountain and neared the approach to Limbach Canyon I ran up on and passed 3 mountain bikers struggling up the trail.  I saw them from about a 1/4 mile away and they worked as a good motivation to keep me from walking. 

I always have a sick satisfaction of passing people on bikes - gives me an ego boost thinking that my foot power is stronger than their pedal power.  It may be the case on steep uphill terrain - certainly not on downhills though.  In any case - I passed by them, cheerfully saying good morning and trying to make it look like my effort was so much easier than theirs.

Minutes later I was heading downhill - moments after that they came flying by me.

Fun was over - just keep moving.  I did, fairly well even.  It wasn't till about 2 miles to go that I let my mind give way to my weary legs and resorted to walking some of the uphills.  I didn't walk too much though - I had more of an attitude of just get this done with.  So my second lap ended up being only a couple of minutes slower than lap one.  Overall time for the 16 mile, 2 lap effort (with over 4650' of gain) was 3:49.

For my double double I did a combined 42 miles, over 6300' of gain and 8 hours, 19 minutes of movement on the trails.  I have never run this back to back workload in the space of a 2 day period ever.  I'm thinking it was a good investment in the endurance-o-meter bank.

Needless to say - was quite tired afterwards.  Glad it was over.  Looking forward to another good night sleep and a rest day tomorrow.  I have another double lap of a nearby loop in mind for early Friday morning. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

A good week of training hard in the books

With now less than 4 weeks to go till the 50K this past week was a tall task for me.  Started with pacing the American Discovery Trail marathon on Monday and maintaining a sub 8 minute pace for 26.3 miles.  That really worked my legs as well as that mental wasteland that is my brain for the 3 1/2 hours.  I possibly benefitted more psychologically than physically due to the need to stay focused on pace, effort and being engaged mentally throughout the entire run.  Afterwards the legs were cooked quite well as well as my brain.  But I was encouraged - despite missing the mark by a mere 6 seconds.  I had run better than I thought I could and would.

Took a rest day Tuesday and then Wednesday jumped back into it with a lap of Falcon Trail on The Air Force Academy.  This 13 mile loop with over 1300' of gain in it is a trusty training ground for me that really keeps me honest.  I hadn't been on the trail for several weeks and managed to pull off a halfway decent 2 hour and 3 minute lap.  Legs were still quite sore and I kept the effort moderate to easy - yet came out with a surprisingly faster time than I thought I would do going into it.

Thursday took a 5 mile jaunt along Santa Fe Trail - out easy and back at 8 minute pace to try and loosen up the still a little sore and quite weary legs.

Friday I woke to a steady rain and not a huge desire to get out and run.  But I had planned on getting up early and doing a good hill run before work.  2 laps of Mt Herman on tap.  16 miles and over 4650' of gain.  The first lap was a wet slog in which I was drenched before even a 1/2 mile into it.  I learnt the jacket I was wearing was not waterproof in any way, shape or form - so it was a nuisance.  Shed it after a lap - it had stopped raining by then - and did the 2nd lap 4 minutes faster.  Overall time was 3 hours 42 minutes.  Legs were more sore later in the day and the day after than after the marathon effort earlier in the week.

So, Saturday was a much needed day of rest from running.

60 miles on the week - in just 4 runs.  3 of which were good quality.  This week and next I look to do more miles in an attempt to try and recapture the fitness I had going into the 50K back in June.  I still feel like I am about 3 - 5 weeks behind where I was then and hence where I want to be.  But I am happy with the progress and hopefully if I make it through the next couple of weeks I can taper right in time to get a decent effort in for the Stump Jump 50K.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 American Discovery Trail Marathon

16 hours prior to the start of the race I didn't know if I was running the race.  I had signed up several months prior to pace the 4 hour group - having completed it close to perfectly last year.  However earlier in the week before the race I was notified about doing either the 5 hour group or the 3:30 group.  I really wasn't wanting to run for 5 hours as I didn't really think it would help for the 50k training as much as a 4 hour marathon run.  I had not trained at all for a 3:30 marathon, a 4 hour one I thought I could probably pull off - not easily as I am still not in my best shape.  But I thought I could do it.

On the afternoon before race start I went to the race expo to pick up a race packet and see what the race coordinator would see.  They didn't even have it confirmed that I would pace.  We talked for a few moments and then settled on a time.  Alarmingly, it was now going to be 3:30.  8 minute per mile pace.  Gulp.

Some history with me is needed here - regarding previous marathons as well as previous races on this course.   3 years ago I set out to run a 3:30 marathon here.  I trained for it.  I started out fine, did great for about 16 miles, then held on for another 3 or 4,  Then bonked, faded and eventually finished somewhere in the 3:38 to 3:40 range.  I had run 1 other marathon since then that I set out to beat 3:30 in - in Utah, 2 1/2 years ago.  That I did break 3:30 in - by just over 10 minutes.

So, after not sleeping much at all the night before the race, knowing I was not prepared well, nor with a good history on the course, and required to run less than 11 minutes off a PR - I lined up with butterflies in my stomach, and a weight on my shoulders.  I was also surrounded by people voicing their intent to break 3:30.

It was a crisp start to the day - a beautiful Colorado morning.  I was afraid that I would not be able to look up and enjoy it much at all - instead as we started I barely was even watching where I was running, instead just fixated on my watch - the part that displayed the average per mile pace.  I was glued to it - trying to settle in as quick as possible to 7:58- to 7:59 pace.
That's me on the left holding the flag - a daunting task ahead.
The first quarter mile was slow - I was at 8:50 average when the crowd loosened up and allowed me to pick up the pace.  I sped up too quickly and soon saw the average was at 7:45 - arrgh.  I was failing before I was even 3 minutes into the race.  I slowed down and finally the watch said 7:58 average. 
Whew, I let out a long breath.  I settled in to a rhythm.  As I did I couldn't help but see the shadows beside me as the sun was coming up.  A train of 20+ people tucked in right behind me.  Watching me, relying upon me.  I felt a pressure to perform that was far greater than last year, far greater than in any other race I have been in.

The pace felt okay.  I felt like I should be able to carry it for at least halfway without having to really work too hard at it.  In hindsight running the Pikes Peak Marathon course 10 days prior - spending 5 3/4 hours on my feet, plus a 22 miler I had run on Wednesday - that at the time was miserable and slow - but had helped me get a bit of endurance training in me.  I hadn't however run 8 minute mile pace for any length of distance in many, many weeks.  So I was hoping to just rely upon some built up reserves in the past few months.

But it is pretty hard to rely on wishful thinking for 26.2 miles.  It also requires some hard work.

The miles clicked by, I stuck metronomically to the 7:58 pace - slowing marginally for the few rolling hills and occasional short and sharp climbs over the first 13.1 miles.  I hit halfway at 1:44:20.  My knees were complaining a bit but it was tolerable.  I was hydrating and fueling well also.  The group of runners with me at the half way point was now less than a half dozen.  The pressure was still on me - but all but one of the other runners seemed like they were able to hold the pace.

Sure enough, as we made our way through the Air Force Academy and eventually onto the paved trail South of Woodmen Road - it was just me and an Air Force Academy Cadet.  We had been talking on and off all morning and I had learned that he had run the Pikes Peak Marathon Course 15 days prior - in 5:18.  Kudos for him, but also encouraging for me as it was only a minute faster than my peak time 2 years ago.  I recognized a runner of similar ability as me and in reality instead of me being the pacer - he was really motivating to me.  We ran together for almost the entire race.

The last 10 miles of the course is not really enjoyable to me at all.  Way too much pavement - which after running 16 miles on trails is not kind to the legs - at all.  There are a couple of rolling stretches too that really suck a consistent pace right out of me.  This days work was starting to take it's toll.

With 4.2 miles to go I was now down to a 7:59 pace and really working quite hard to hold that.  Struggling with increasingly sore quads now but even more frustrating than that was a headwind that had started as a breeze about 2 hours prior - now was a steady wind in my face.  I was supposed to be carrying a flag showing the 3:30 pace - but each time I tried to hold it up above my head it would start blowing from side to side as well as slow me down.  So I just rolled it up and carried it for most of the 2nd half of the course.

The end was nearing, but so was my end.  I was tired, so ready to be done and not quite sure how I was still at a 7:59 pace.  However - I hadn't really been looking at the mileage markers as I passed them to mentally sync them with my watch.  Until mile 25.  It was then I realized 26.2 miles on my watch was not going to be enough.  I would need to go further to finish the course.  The problem was I was now at 8 minute flat pace - and my legs were toast, butter side down.

I tried to push that last stretch, my legs were just not listening however.  26.2 miles came and went (in 3:29:25) but the course wasn't done.  I pushed hard one more time only to see the clock tick past 3:30:00 as I came up short.


Grrr.  Not blaming the course at all.  Blaming me.  Fortunately no other runners were with me as I crossed the line - in fact the Academy Cadet had dropped the hammer down at mile 25 and finished a full minute ahead of me.  I was stoked for him.

It felt like I failed, because I really did not finish before the time limit.  Close is nice.  6 seconds was only a dozen or so steps.   Even a day and a half later - in which my quads are still very sore - I have mixed emotions about the race.   It was my second fastest marathon ever.  A course PR.  I came 39th overall (out of about 330 something finishers.  Oh and 2nd in my age group gets me an award - which I will pick up later this week.   So all that feels nice.  It surely was a help for the 50K coming up in 4 1/2 weeks too.

But I missed the time goal by 6 seconds.  The highs and lows of a runner......sigh.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The pressure of going under

"Under".  Quite the prefix.  Under-water.  Under-neath.  Under-pressure.  Under-achieve.  Under-estimate.   These carry with them mostly negative meanings or thoughts with them.  Yet with running, especially racing, we (I) often have goals and desires to go "under" in a good way.  Under 25 minutes for a 5K.  Under 4 hours for a marathon. 

However, also with running - maybe this is just where my head is at now - we (I) often times feel under trained, under prepared, to tackle a race or a particular run.  For me this often times leads to thoughts of doubt, hesitation and a desire to not even attempt a run or race before I even start.

I kind of feel this way as I am heading into the upcoming 50k in less than 5 weeks.  I wish I could have a few more weeks to train, to log more miles, to run some longer distances - I was in pretty close to my best shape ever when I ran the North Fork 50K back in late June - but due to time off with a knee injury and gaining a few too many pounds at the same time - I am not close to where I was 8 or so weeks ago.

And then there is tomorrow.  The American Discovery Trail Marathon.  I'm pacing for it like I did last year.  I ran a very consistent race last year for the 4 hour group.  Maintaining the same pace throughout and finishing in 3:59 exactly.  This past week I got talked into the 3:30 pacer role.  8 minutes per mile I can do - but I have only ever gone faster than that once for a 26.2 miler.  I have run this same course twice before - last years measured effort and 3 years ago when I tried to go at 8 minute pace or better and hit the wall over the past 6 miles, finishing in about 3:38 something.

No pressure this year or anything with people trying to qualify for Boston, me not having run an 8 minute mile in recent memory, me feeling like I am doomed to fail - and let people down.  "Under" the gun.  "Under" pressure.   "Under" prepared.  "Under" trained. 

I should be sleeping.  It is likely I won't sleep well tonight.  Have to get up just after 4 am to get to the shuttle.  I have no idea how I will do in the morning.  I would like to think I might be able to pull it off.  I also think that I don't have a chance.

Race report to come - sometime.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pikes Peak Donut Run

The Pikes Peak Marathon was this past Sunday, I have run it each of the past 2 years, the Ascent I did the year before that.  After coming in a surprising 5th in my age group last year I decided I had achieved all I wanted to on the Mountain.

A year goes by, I keep a distant eye on the race website and are tempted a few times to enter and give it another shot - but don't.  The race takes place this past Sunday and throughout the day I steal time to look up the race splits in progress, wondering how I would be doing. Having come off the recent knee injury I know I wouldn't have done great - but still think a few times: what if?

So, a few days pass since the race and yesterday I have a day off from work.  I have the 50K coming up in about 50 days and the longest I have run in the past 2 months is 14 miles.  I need a long run. 

I'm also in the mood for donuts.
Somewhere high up there is a Donut with my name on it.
Admittedly I could have just gone down the street and bought a donut.  But I have gained weight in the past 2 months and need to shed some of it, so I need to exercise to get the donut.

I set out from the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent start line at 7:15 a with a loose goal of summiting in 4 to 4 1/4 hours.  Hang out at the summit for about 10 to 15 minutes and then come down in 2 to 2 1/4 hours.  So - the overall goal / what I thought I was capable of....was 6 to 6 1/2 hours.

I took my phone, a bag of Swedish fish - which is my go-to running fuel, 2 small water bottles tucked into my hip and 1 handheld water bottle and started off.  I was walking within 20 minutes as I was midway up "The W's" - not that I wanted to start hiking so soon but just that I quickly figured out that if I was going to make any kind of progress then I would need to be conservative - especially early.

So I hiked the steep and technical spots and ran when I could and eventually made it up to Barr Camp in about 1:58.
The view of the summit from about a mile below Barr Camp.

Barr Camp - not serving donuts here.
Not a great time to Barr Camp - but not bad either.  It is usually a good indicator (at least for me) in previous summit attempts that I should double the time to Barr Camp to get up to the peak.  So - a potential sub 4 hour summit was looking possible.

I kept on with the run when I can / hike when I should-strategy as I continued up towards A Frame next.  I stashed my hand-held water bottle at the turn off to the Bottomless Pit trail - still about 1/2 full - so as to pick up and use on the way back down.  My other 2 water bottles I had filled with Skratch and began to work on those.  The Swedish Fish also kept me up on fueling.

 Surprisingly there were a lot of hikers - many of whom must have camped at Barr Camp the night before - on the next section of the trail.  I tried to run past them as I came up on them.  A bit of an ego thing.  I made it to A Frame at around 2 hrs 50 minutes.  This had been the longest I have been on my feet running (or at least moving forward) since The North Fork 50K back in late June.  And I wasn't even half way done with my day !!!
A Frame - definitely no donuts here.
No thought ever crossed my mind of turning around here though - only 3 miles and 2000 feet or so to go till my donut.  I hadn't gotten this far to turn around now.  I pressed on and for the next 3 miles I hiked about 90% of the way, shuffling into a jog only on a few occasions.  My lack of time at altitude was definitely a factor above tree-line.  I couldn't jog for more than a minute or more at a time before feeling dizzy.  I just needed to both 1) get to the Summit 2) and then get back down - so hiking was the smart thing to do.  No need to blow a gizzard.  (For reference point to those unfamiliar with what exactly is "a gizzard" - think some sort of internal organ).

At A-Frame I realized that a strategy of mostly hiking the rest of the way up would result in a sub 4 hour summit.  And that it did.  I finally made it in 3:55:25.  Not great but not bad either.  The good thing was that I wasn't feeling too awful.  The better thing was that I had bought $5 with me to buy a donut and a Gatorade.
A fat filled reward - fuel for the downward journey.
I hung out in the Summit house for 10-12 minutes and inhaled the donut, filled up one bottle with the Gatorade and drank the rest.  Took a couple more pictures and then walked back to the Marathon turn around point where I had stopped the watch.
The view from the Summit looking East.  Awesome.

The View from PPM turnaround point looking South.  Super Awesome.
So, now for the downward journey.  2 goals.  1) Don't fall.  2) Try to get near 2 hours so as to make the round trip time less than 6 hours. 

I started out slow as is customary and necessary for the top mile as it includes the 16 Golden Stairs and some technical rock hopping.  I passed a lot of the hikers that I had passed previously on the way up.  They were both encouraging and a little incredulous that I was now running back down.  I didn't take the time to stop and explain to them that I was a little crazy.

I made it back down to A-Frame in about 29 minutes - a decent and controlled effort.  Rolled my ankle a little just below there but it was minor and I kept running until the pain went away (no issues with it later or today).  Made it down to Barr Camp in about 54 minutes.   This lead to the thoughts that if I kept it up I should easily get under 6 hours.

I had picked up my water bottle and was hydrating and fueling well.   I stopped a couple of times to burp out some gas build up - that relieved a little of stomach stress.  The stomach wasn't great but descending 7800' + is not going to do many peoples innards any favors.

Below Barr Camp I really started getting tired.  5 hours in and my body was saying enough.  By No-Name Creek the temps really started heating up but I kept moving forward and got down to the Cog Railway and on to the pavement for the final mile or so.  That is such a tough long stretch after spending so much time on a trail, but eventually I got down to town, took a left turn and ran a few feet to the finish line area of the PPM race. 

Down in 1:50 and change - actually about a minute or more faster than the race last year, a bit of a surprise.  Total round trip time was just under 5:46 - plus the 10-12 minutes at the Summit.  A satisfying effort and time result.  It also reinforced in my mind that I don't need to do the race again.  But maybe I will - I don't know.  Don't need to worry about it for months yet.  What it did point in my mind was I didn't train at all for it and was only 20 minutes off my race result from last year.  If I trained for it like I trained from the 50K in June - as in doing a bunch more mileage and vertical training - I may be capable of a PPM PR.  But that would really hurt and today - the day after running the course should be reminder enough that I really am a wimp and should make the smart choice of not signing up to do it again.  But that is to be determined.....

After all - the donuts at the Summit are worth the run up to get them......

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Running with Fruit Salad

I'm not really a fan of cheese, I really do not like tomato's - however I do like ketchup.  I eat chocolate and candy way too much, although not as much as I used to.  I have always been a good eater of vegetables - aside from  pumpkin: yuck.  And I like fruit.  I like many different types of fruit and actually enjoy a good fruit salad.   A fruit salad with pineapple, grapes, apple, strawberries, melon, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries - that to me is a good one.  Lots of variety, really colorful, different textures, and not only those - good for me too. 

Sometimes I'll get a bunch of fruit and blend them into a smoothie, but I don't enjoy that as much as just picking my way through a bowl of different fruit.  Admittedly I'll add some ice cream in there at times - but let's just move on from that shall we.....

The last few weeks have a fruit salad of types for me.  Meaning - a whole bunch of stuff mixed together and most of it good for me.  Unfortunately - my running has taken a back seat - some of it by choice - other times due to other commitments and an injury.

2 weeks after the North Fork 50K I was easing back into running having recovered well and quickly - I was playing Basketball with my son and we smacked knees - hard.  Instant pain, swelling and I knew it was not good.  After much resting, icing etc it was feeling a bit better - so a week later, after having not run for a week I ran the Classic 10K - having a free entry got me there.  After a few short warm up strides my knee felt way off and I should not have run the race.  But I did and the adrenaline seemed to kick in.  I toed the starting line thinking of  race strategy I have never employed in who knows how long.  Normally I start out slow and try to either stay steady or pick up the pace.  This time I was going to go opposite that.

Due to my knee not feeling like it would hold together I thought I may as well go as hard and as fast as I could for as long as I could.  After a couple of miles at near redline effort for me my knee was doing okay, relatively speaking, so I thought I could make it through the race.  I passed the 5K mark and was only 15 seconds off a 5K PR - well on track to break my 10K PR.  I slowed a bit over the remaining 5 K but still ended up coming in 30 seconds faster than ever before.  A pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Instead of waiting 45 minutes for the shuttle to take me back to the start - I decided that I would run back.  Dumb decision as it was a miserable run back, my knee really started to ache and by the time I was done I was in great discomfort. 

No running for 2+ weeks.  I couldn't.  I had trouble walking, especially negotiating stairs. 

I saw a doctor and fortunately nothing seemed broken or torn.  Just a very deep bone bruise and inflamed area behind the knee cap.  Lots of Icing, resting, wrapping, elevating.

Finally 2 weeks ago and having now gained 8 pounds since the 50K I was done with the dumb knee.   I had enough and started to lightly jog.  Adding a few miles each day.  Having a lot of walking times during the run.  Icing after each time and trying to rest up.  I got in 14 miles for the week.  By the end of the week my knee was about 80%.

This past week it was feeling better and I added a bunch more miles on and seemed to have come out of it with the knee intact.  I did do a lap Falcon Trail from the B52 connector yesterday - 14.2 miles and my knee did okay.  Possibly a little too much mileage too soon - but the day after the run - in which I did take the day off - the knee is okay and I will hit a trail somewhere tomorrow morning.  I'm putting my knee at about 90% right now.  As for my fitness - well that has issues.  The slowest lap of Falcon in months and months.

I have the Stump Jump 50K coming up in less than 7 weeks.  I have no chance of being in my best shape before then.  That's disappointing but I will give it and training for it my best effort.  Going in with low expectations will possibly help.  Going in under trained will not.  Going in injured will not be a good choice so I will try to train smart, lose some of the gained weight and be as best prepared as I can.

In the past few weeks I have had opportunity to get a good amount of swimming in which has helped with my fitness, helped also with the knee coming around.  I should have been doing more swimming earlier in the year as I really like the benefits of how it helps fitness, strength and not such a pounding on the legs and feet.  I will look to keep on doing that as much as possible.

Other fruit salad or miscellaneous items that have happened in the past few weeks - sold my house, helped get my family moved into their new place - a few long days involved with those items.  Work at The Broadmoor has been going well.  My kids are back into soccer and doing well.  My son is starting goal keeper for the Varsity Soccer team - as a sophomore.  My oldest daughter's team went undefeated in a soccer tournament this weekend.  Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent was this weekend and even though I said I was done doing either after last year when I came 5th in my age group - I paid attention enough to the results today to think I might have done okay in this years marathon.  So I am thinking about next year for that - but I am also thinking about maybe trying a 50 miler out which could lead to a 100K and possibly a 100 miler.  Not sure about any of that yet.

So, back to checking in with a training log for the next few weeks leading up to the 50K.....

Saturday, June 28, 2014

North Fork 50K race report

As I type this - I hurt, I'm tired, I'm sore.  I'm also not trying to wipe a huge smile off my sunburnt face.  I had a race today that worked out pretty darn well for me.

It was a cool 40 something degree start at 7 am but I decided to run shirtless because I knew it was going to warm up and I didn't want to have to carry anything unnecessary later in the race.

I positioned myself at the start beside a 50 mile runner that I knew from the last 2 Pikes Peak Marathons - who is a little quicker than me, but I figured he was going to start out sort of slower due to him running an extra 18 miles.  At the start, both 50K and 50 mile runners head out at the same time and run the same trail till almost 15 miles into the race.  As we rounded the 1/2 mile flat stretch at the start around Pine Lake I counted about 25 to 30 people in front of me.  I was hoping for a top 20 finish out of the 121 starters.

We hit the beginning of the first hill and immediately the 50 mile runner dude I was beside started walking.  End of my plan to stick with him.  I know that the longer I run without resigning myself to a walk - the better I do.  I suck at power hiking / walking.  I find it better to just keep shuffling at a slow and steady jog.  So that is what I did for the first 3 mile climb up the initial 1000' feet or so of the race.   Immediately it got warmer as we climbed up into the exposed burn scar area.

The climb wasn't too difficult as I hit the top still averaging near to 13 minute mile pace and feeling quite good.  I let people pass me without any desire to go with them, instead just maintaining a steady effort.  By the time I entered the first aid station at 4.3 miles I had settled in with a train of 5 other runners, one of which was a 50 mile runner, the others running the same race as me.

The next 5 miles was a down and up, 2 1/2 miles each direction, dropping 600' then going back up (a different trail 600'.  I was in the middle of the train of 5 others the whole way down and we shared a relaxed conversation and pace the whole way down.  I learnt the woman in front of me had run a 5:30 50K in Wyoming last year and so that gave me a confidence boost that I was hanging with her.

As we made the turn to head up the group stretched out and before long 3 had dropped off the back and it was just me and 2 others (including 5:30 lady).  The climb was long and yet it was steady and I just stayed as consistent with my effort as possible, after a while I gradually pulled away from the other 2. 

As we neared Aid station 2 we left the trail we were on to head across to it - about 1/5th of a mile to it, then doubled back to the trail we were just on - with the brief out and back I was surprised to see so many other runners in such a short amount of time, about 6 ahead of me and then about the same on the way back.

The next mile plus was a continuation of the uphill, albeit at a less vertical accumulation.  I passed a guy tying his shoe, then a guy who had stopped to pee, which made me realize I needed to do the same - so they both passed me again.  Then we began a meandering descent over the next 3 1/2 miles of about 1000' through some really pretty forest on awesome trail terrain.  During the descent I passed the other guys as well as several more runners - these had started an hour earlier, as permitted to do so as they were 50 milers who needed extra time on the course to avoid cut offs / dq's.

Half way down the descent the trail opened up into another burn area, allowing for nice views around the horizon of peaks - but also of the trail below where I could see for about a mile ahead - seeing 6 or more runners ahead at times.  Temperature's were also beginning to rise, but with that - a breeze was also picking up that remained the rest of the race, especially in exposed areas.  It was a welcome breeze that kept things tolerable, mostly.

Finally at the bottom of the descent was Aid station 3 and a refill of a water bottle.  14.7miles in and now a tough climb ahead.  I thought the climb was supposed to be in the burn area but it ended up not being so, which was good as it was a climb for about 2 1/2 miles and about 1000' feet of climb. 

4/10ths of a mile from the aid station the course split for the 50K and 50 mile runners - I wasn't paying attention to the signs and went left, 50' or so along I had a panicked thought that I went the wrong way - I turned around and fortunately a guy was 20' behind me in a yellow shirt - I asked him if we were on the 50k course and he gave me a convincing "yes".  So, I turned back around and started heading up, and up, and up. 

This was a grind and immediately I went to a lower gear, but the thought came to me that this is what I had trained for, on the Falcon trail and Mt Herman especially, going up, keeping moving, keeping the effort steady.  I kept running, slowly.  But not walking.  I was not ready to walk.  Along a straight section I saw a guy ahead of me and determined he was about 1 minute ahead of me.  Someone to key off.  He was also not walking.  I lost sight of him as the trail took several turns, head down - keep moving, keep the effort steady.  A mile or more later I caught him, he was now walking, I eased slowly past him and tried to say something encouraging.

The climb continued, I kept jogging.  We turned on to the Colorado Trail and finally some change in terrain.  It was a mile of rolling hills up and down, then a section of up again.  It seemed this section was also home to a boatload of mountain bikers, about 20 of them, all coming from the opposite direction.  Several stopped to let me pass, several stayed right on the trail and I had to side step them.  I tried not to grumble but it got frustrating.  Finally I hit the high point of the course at about 8100' and knew it then lead to a long downhill stretch.  As I began the downhill I quickly came up on a lady runner and breezed by her, only to turn a corner and almost collide with some slow moving bikers coming up the hill. 

The next 1/2 mile was a rolling section including a couple of short uphill's before finally heading down again and into the 4th aid station.  As I stopped to get a water bottle filled and eat some food I asked the aid station volunteers where I was - I almost choked on a fig newton when they said I was in 5th place.  I told them that was not possible, I'm not that fast.  They said I was, but was also about 10 minutes behind the 4th place runner.

The next 3+ miles was downhill through the burn scar and with 700' of drop it was here that my quads started talking to me.  Then my stomach started to feel really tight, cramping like.  It actually hurt a bit and whenever I tried to get my pace going quicker I had to back off.  My mind was now in a bit of survival mode - I wanted to keep 5th place, not much chance of getting up any higher.  5th place!  Wow!  That would be a surprise.  I wanted it.

As I went downhill the trail had several switchbacks allowing me to look back and up amongst the burnt out forest.  I tried to but couldn't see anyone, which was good because that would have depressed me.  It was however tough to see anything but burnt tree stumps.  Who knew if other runners were actually there.  Finally the downhill ended and I came out of the burn scar briefly, to turn onto the trail alongside Buffalo Creek.  Alas it signaled the start of the last big uphill climb.  3 miles with 900' of climb.  The next 3/4 mile was a gradual climb and took me back to aid station 3 (now 5).  I stopped there for a minute and downed several cups of coke, some more fig newton's and had a good laugh with the aid station workers about one of them not doing anything.  They were giving him grief because all he was doing was sitting in the shade - so I told him to "do something useful and hold my empty coke cups" - that brought resounding laughter from the others.

On to the next climb - I ran for about a minute and then could not run anymore.  I was now 24 1/2 miles in and entering not only the toughest stretch of the race, but also my low point.

I walked for 2 or 3 minutes and then tried to run again, with a little success for a while, but the uphill was winning.  I had also been in the burn scar since the aid station and it was warm now.  That didn't help.  About 3/4 mile out of the aid station I looked back, hoping not to see anyone - instead I saw the same yellow shirt guy from 10 miles earlier - and he was running, I was not.  I don't know if he saw me but I saw him and it kicked me into gear.  I muttered out loud that I do not want to finish 6th, 5th sounds so much better and I managed to get moving at my slow jog pace again.

Before too long I left the burn area and entered forest again, walking on the steeper sections but rallying to run on the more gradual uphill's.  I kept looking back but couldn't see anyone, but my line of sight was much more limited in the forest.  I was running feeling like I was being chased / hunted.  It kept me moving.

After what seemed like an hour since the last aid station, I got to the final aid station and downed some more coke and fig newton's.  3 1/2 miles to go, almost all downhill.  Time to trash the quads.

My time had slowed but I was well ahead of my previous 50K race pace still (5:42:12) which at 31:18 miles was an 11 minute avg per mile.  Between the 5th and 6th (last) aid station my avg had dropped from 9:45 to 10:15 - not great, but still well ahead of a PR.

3 1/2 miles down and it was way down, the steepest sections of the course, dropping about 1100'.  My stomach was tight again and my legs were achy to say the least.  But I managed to push.  I was running again in burnt, open areas on switchbacks that allowed me to look back and thankfully not see anyone pursuing me nearby.  A mean uphill stretch of 1/4 mile uphill at mile 31 reduced me to walking it - but then back to the steep descent.

Finally back to the lake and on to the finish.  I was ready to be done and finally I was, at 32.18 miles and 5 hrs 21 minutes and change.  I had run an extra mile than my first 50K - but was 20 minutes ahead.  I was warmly greeted at the finish line with confirmation of 5th place overall and 3rd in the 40 to 49 age group.  Note: the winner was 43 and crushed me by about 65 minutes.

I was and still are thrilled with the results, a little irked that I suffered on the big climb out of the 5th aid station - I will use that for future training motivation.  But for now and the next several days and more - time to rest, recoup and eat ice cream.