Sunday, May 31, 2009

Week Ending May 31

Mon - 5 miles (1,300 feet). Felt sore from Wyoming the day before, so settled for a hike to the top of Horsetooth with Dana, Alistair, Kenny, Amy and their boys.
Tues noon - 13.5 miles (2,000 feet). Mill Creek route.
pm - 8 miles easy at Pineridge. 59:35

Weds noon - 13.5 miles (2,000 feet). Mill Creek route in reverse (Up Horsetooth - Westridge - Mill - Stout - Spring Ck). 1:49.
pm - 6 miles easy with Bubba. Soderburg to Arthur's TH & back. Bubba is not an endurance athlete.

Bubba at Kenny and Amy's house in his preferred position: horizontal.

Thurs noon - 15.5 miles (2,700 feet). 2:15. Horsetooth - Westridge - Mill Creek - Arthurs - West Valley - Nomad - Sawmill - Herrington - Spring Creek - home.

Saw one of these (Greater Prairie Chicken):

Photo: Mary Tremaine

And one of these on my run (third rattler of the season; rattlers 3, bull snakes 4):

Thurs pm - 6 miles easy at Pineridge.

Fri noon - 8 miles (1,650 feet) with Amy. Horsetooth/Audra route.

Amy topping out at the Audra turn-off

Friday pm - 8 miles easy at Pineridge. 58:23.

Sat am - 16 miles. Half-mile warm-up, Pilot Hill 25k (1,600 feet). 1:45.

Sun am - 25.5 miles (7,200 feet). Crosier triple crossing with Ryan. 4:57.

Total: 125 miles (18,450 vertical feet)

Well it has been a huge May for me, and it is mission accomplished on the getting-myself-ready-for-Bighorn front. I'm sure there's more that I could and maybe should have done, but the goal for May was to rack up as many miles and vertical feet of climbing as time would allow. I ended up with 513 miles and a massive 67,000 feet of climbing. If I don't see another upward facing trail for the next week, I'll be a happy man.

Bighorn is not a huge climbing course (17,000 feet), but that's not why I put my legs through such torture. For me, hills work on multiple fronts: they make me faster, they make me stronger and most importantly, they give me confidence. But above all, I genuinely love running up hills. Besides, I really don't have too many other options where I live unless I want to drive to a trailhead (which I don't).

For the next 18 days, the plan is to focus on recovery and to take a few stabs at some FKT climb routes around Fort Collins.

May Spending/Miles

Big miles and big dollars this month. Spending per mile dropped 1 cent to 99 cents per mile. This really is an expensive game. Maybe if I drop my mileage, I will drop my spending. I need to start winning money rather than beer to offset my costs!

May 1 - Drive to and from Buena Vista. 460 miles @ $1.85/gal = $24 (Dana's car)
May 1 - Endurolytes. $18.22
May 1 - Coffee, lunch, dinner. $50
May 1 - Traffic ticket. $44
May 1 - Cabin (2 nights). $106.8
May 2 - Firewood. $4
May 3 - Breakfast @ Golden Burro. $23
May 5 - Larimer County Parks pass. $65
May 8 - Pilot Hill, Leadville registrations $83
May 16 - Drive to Crosier 45 miles = $5
May 24 - Drive to Laramie 150 miles = $15
May 24 - Vasque Velocity. $50
May 30 - Drive to Laramie 140 miles = $10


Spending .................. $498
Miles .......................... 513
Spending per Mile ...... $0.97

YTD Totals


Jan ......... $456
Feb ......... $284
March ...... $30
April ........ $318
May ......... $498
To date .... $1,578


Jan .......... 265 (33,000 feet)
Feb .......... 259.5 (40,350 feet)
March ....... 302 (32,050 feet)
April ....... 247.5 (31,300 feet)
May ......... 513 (67,000 feet)
To Date .. 1,587 (203,700 feet)

Spending per Mile: $0.99

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pilot Hill 25k

They don't make their races easy in Wyoming, but going in I was two for two in the Cowboy state and looking to keep the streak alive.

With an 8:00am start, the alarm didn't go off quite as early as it did for last weekend's Wyoming Marathon, but any time I'm conscious at 5:xx, it's tough. Got a call from Ryan B the night before saying he was in, so I picked him up on the way down and then picked up J.Z. and David Bohn from the Fort Collins Trail Runners group, and we made the 70-minute trip north to Laramie.

Pilot Hill in the distance

I figured it would be me and Ryan duking this one out, and from the gun Ryan shot off and built an early 20-meter lead through the sand flats. It always takes me a mile or two to find my rhythm and breathing early in a race, especially a shorter one like this, so I just let Ryan go maintaining my position in second. A mile or two into the race, as the climbing was beginning, I caught up to Ryan and eased past him to take up the lead, a position I didn't hold for long.

Starting the climb

A tall, comfortable and efficient-looking runner eased past me at three miles or so and began to build a solid lead. Normally you can tell when someone is running easy or working hard, and this guy had an effortless stride as he was working up the hill. I figured the winning streak was probably going to stop at two as I continued to watch him pull away from me. However, there came a point five or six miles into the climb when it didn't seem like he was picking up any more ground, but the lead was still a fairly substantial 90 seconds or so.

The course at Pilot Hill is a real mixed bag in terms of terrain, with knobbly awkward rock sections, stretches of sand, looser jeep-track stuff, stretches of grass, with nasty jutting rock sections to really spice things up every now and then, and a couple of ditch jumps thrown in just for fun. The climb, however, was pretty consistent; one of those in-between grades that is never too steep and never flat, just a steady grind. The run is a straight out-and-back, with a mile or two of extra turns on the way out, making the outbound distance just under 8.5 miles and the return just over 7 miles.

As I'm watching the leader grow his lead up the climb, I hear a set of lungs close at hand behind. I figure it's Ryan. The turn comes after the steepest section of the climb, right under the T.V. towers, and I was energized to see Alec and Cathy Muthig manning the aid station at the top. They gave me a good cheer as I rolled in, just north of 62 minutes. The lead runner was still a good minute and half ahead at the turn, with another guy I didn't recognize close behind me, and Ryan about two minutes back in fourth. Ryan is such a strong downhill runner that I doubted I'd hold that two minutes and actually liked his chances of winning or coming in second, so I decided to bolt the opening and steepest sections of the drop.

The first two to three miles of descent cover some pretty technical terrain, and I could tell that the leader was not in his element through this section, which allowed me to close to within ten seconds by the first aid station on the way back down. As the terrain eased up, I was keeping pace - not gaining ground but not losing ground either. Game on. This one, I figured, might come down to a sprint and if not, it would be about who had gas left in the tank through the always-tough 3/4 point of the race. By the final aid station (3 miles or so out), I could tell the leader had run out of gears, so I made my move and eased past him. As I was doing so, he told me not to worry about him as he was "cooked": music to my ears. I took a quick look over my shoulder to see where third and fourth were and saw nothing but scenery.

Fearing the bluff, I kept the foot on the gas through the sand flats, crossing the finish line in 1:45. A total 62 and change up, 42 and change down. Second was 30 seconds back, with third 90 seconds back and Ryan two or three minutes back in fourth.

Finishing up. Race photo credits: Pilot Hill Classic

Chatting with the guys after the race, I learned that second, Michael Huntington, is a member of the UW track team with a 10k PR of 30:4x(!), while third, Martin Stensing is a 9:50 Ironman and, well, Ryan is Ryan. For a field of 47 runners this was an impressive group of athletes. All four of us came in under last year's winning time of 1:49.

Michael, me and Ryan

I cannot say enough about this race and the organization. The course was marked every 100 meters with flags, which, over the course of 8 miles, is a lot of flags. The post-race meal was gourmet and plentiful, the atmosphere was super friendly and just about everyone went home with some kind of prize. For my troubles, I got a free entry into next year's race, or one of two other races in the Laramie trail series later in the year; an etched pint glass; and a massive bomber from the Grand Tetons brewery: my kind of race. I'll be back for years to come and hope that others will too. For $17 you will not find a better deal (except maybe Alec's free Twin Mountain Trudge, but you've got to be slightly loopy to run that one).

Three wins in Wyoming this year, one race left. We'll see what happens in three weeks.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Finishing up a Big May with a Big Bang

I've been running a lot through May, twice a day on most days and averaging upwards of 18 miles through 27 running days. Looks like I will come in at just over 500 miles for the month with over 60,000 feet of climbing.

The intensity with which I have gone after the miles this month is completely new territory for me. Through the first half of the month it was a struggle, but the deeper into May I've gotten, the stronger I've been feeling and the easier the daily two-hour, first-run grind has been. So much so in fact that the Wyoming Marathon last weekend was over shortly after I felt like I was getting warmed up. My confidence levels have never been so high, and with the Big Horn starting gun just three weeks away (to the minute), I couldn't feel better about my chances for a strong finish.

Anyway, I intend to finish up May with miles, climbing and intensity. First up is the Pilot Hill Classic, which is touted as the oldest footrace in Wyoming. This Saturday will be the 33rd running of the 15.5-mile hill climb and descent. The climb doesn't look that intense - 1,500 feet over 7 miles - but the descent is reportedly pretty loose and treacherous. The field is typically small and is capped at 100, but there are usually a couple of Cowboys from the University of Wyoming track team who show up, so the pace should be good. Just got off the phone with Ryan B, and he's toying with the idea of running, so either way I'm looking forward to a competitive race.

Sunday will be the last day of the big-mileage-and-climbing phase of this training cycle. Ryan and I have an early morning start planned for a triple crossing of Crosier Mountain - a nearby, lower elevation peak that is currently clear of snow. We plan to out and back from all three trailheads for something close to 26 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing. Should be something of an epic. We plan to get going at around 6:30. Anyone who happens to read this in time and wants to tag along is more than welcome. I would imagine we'll work fairly hard up the climbs, but probably take time at the top to refuel and soak up the unbelievable views of RMNP.

Got to love Colorado in the sun!

Rocky from Round Mountain

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wyoming Marathon

I wasn't much looking forward to running Wyoming, but knew it was a guaranteed fast long run, which is otherwise hard to motivate for. Going in, I knew the course and event were not the most inspiring, meaning there would be little to take my mind off tired legs, but it would serve as a good test for trying to run fast when worn down, an eventuality that will be unavoidable next month at Big Horn (the worn down part).

An early 6:00am start and 75 minute drive meant I was up at 4:00 to get ready: Coffee, toast, oh it's raining out: search around for rain/wind jacket. What else? Nothing, okay let's go.

It was pea soup outside for most of the drive, which was a bit scary heading north on 287, trying not to hit a deer or something on the way. Despite the crappy driving conditions, I got to the Lincoln Monument rest stop about 20 minutes before the off.

Saw Alene and Ron Michaels from the running club before the start, and chatted briefly with Bryan and Dan Goding, and Corey H at the start. Bryan and Corey were doing the double, I was in the marathon, and Dan was doing the half. Between us, Fort Collins & Loveland were well represented and we had all the race distances covered.

Dan took off from the gun and was soon streaking into the lead. I tried to keep pace for a while, but gave up quickly, content to slot in behind two other half marathoners, with a couple of marathoners in close company. It was very foggy out, so there was nothing to look at but the gravely dirt road we were running down. Too bad because there are some cool rock formations in the area. Transitioning to the first climb after three or four miles of downhill, one of the marathoners took off and the other dropped back. I let the lead runner go, but kept him in sight.

By the time we hit the frontage section of the course, the wind picked up and blew us sideways for a while. I timed the lead a couple of times and was about 40 seconds back, picking up a couple of seconds each half mile. By about ten miles the course goes under I-80 and transitions back onto dirt road. I was slowly catching the first place guy, and sped past him as he shot into a toilet at the campsite. At this point we had been running fairly similar paces so I had no idea if he was done or would run to catch back up and compete for first. I just kept my pace and headed for the turn.

I hit the turn at 1:30 and got ready for the climb back out. It was self serve on the Gatorade front and I put way too much powder in my bottle, thereby rendering my fluids essentially undrinkable until the next aid, four miles down the road. It looked like I had built a decent lead on second - maybe three or four minutes - and a much bigger lead on third. Bryan (running the 52.4) was in fourth and looked very strong. Corey was five or six minutes back on Bryan.

Not much else to say about the race from here, other than I found a comfortable pace that I thought would be strong enough for the win, while not totally killing myself - with a view to my last week of heavy miles before Big Horn. I ended up running 3:12, with a 1:30 first half and 1:42 second. I felt decent on the back second, which has significantly more climbing than on the way out, and could have pushed harder if pressed. Had to sacrifice a glove with about six miles to go after an emergency trip into the bushes. It was a well-worn glove, and it served me well through the winter. I'm sad to see it go.

Dan ended up winning the half in 1:28, beating second by just under two minutes. Bryan was first to the turn in the double and Corey was second with about ten minutes between them. Although I don't know the results in the 50, it looks like NoCo was well on the way to sweeping in Wyoming.

The race motto goes something to the effect of "where the race director promises you nothing, and he delivers." They delivered again this year. But honestly what do you expect for $45? Thanks to all the volunteers who made it out and manned the aid stations, and for the well-marked course. Thanks also to Simon from RunColo for another race comp.

Went home via Cheyenne and stopped at Sierra Trading Post to pick up what I hope will be my shoes for Big Horn. Spent the rest of the day picking out a forest of waist-deep prickly weeds.

Week Ending May 24

Mon noon - 8 miles (1,650 feet). Audra/Horsetooth route. Easy
pm - 6 miles easy at Pineridge

Tues noon - 13.5 miles (2,500 feet). 1:54. Mill Creek/Southridge.
pm - 7.5 miles (~700 feet) on Reservoir Ridge trails with a group from Fort Collins Trail Runners.

Weds noon - 13.5 miles (2,500 feet). 1:59. Mill Creek/Southridge. My legs were really tired on this one, but I pushed on through the fatigue and got it done, despite almost taking the short way home on Spring Creek when the skies opened up and started throwing hail at me. I'm hoping that runs like these are money in the bank for the latter stages of Big Horn, and not stupidity on my part that will lead to burnout. How many days left in May? The mileage and climbing is starting to get old ... fast.
pm - 4 miles. Pineridge.

Got close and personal with my second rattlesnake of the season Wednesday morning. This one was a little closer to home than the trail; right under my neighbors' deck. The snake was pretty tired by the time I got there - he'd been rattling for 20 minutes straight after he was located by Kenny and Amy's dog, Bubba.

He was tired, but pissed

We got him in this box and Kenny relocated him

Current snake count for the season: 4 bull snakes, 2 rattlesnakes and lots of slithery garter snakes (all at Pineridge).

Thurs noon - 8 miles (1,650 feet). 1:12. Audra/Horsetooth route.
pm - 11.5 miles (1,700 feet) easy at Bobcat with Chad. 1:50.

Fri noon - 9 miles easy (1,200 feet). 1:21. Horsetooth - Spring Creek - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Carey Springs - Towers - Herrington - Spring Creek - Soderburg - Horsetooth - home. Originally planned an extra climb on Horsetooth for this one, but was feeling exhausted so cut it short.
Fri pm - 8 miles easy at Pineridge. 59:30.

- 0 miles. On daddy duty most of the day. Although I could probably have squeezed a run in, I felt rest was a much more beneficial option.

Sun - 26.2 miles (~2,000 vertical feet). Wyoming Marathon. 3:12. Went through the motions on this one, but with a small field was still able to pull out the win. Second fastest time over this course (since 2000), but still 10 minutes back on Dave Mackey's 2001 course record (3:02).

Total: 117 miles (14,000 feet of vertical).

Another solid week of running, with all body parts seemingly holding up well. Going through bouts of exhaustion and high energy on my runs. The exhaustion is to be expected as I have never maintained this kind of mileage before, but the energy is a very nice and welcome surprise. Beginning to feel comfortable with running while knackered, which is good news for Big Horn. Going to try and run one more 100+ week and then drop it down significantly - hills included. In May so far, I have covered 390 miles of trail with close to 50,000 feet of climbing. If this doesn't have me ready for Big Horn, I am not quite sure what will.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dropping the Monkey at the Devil's Backbone

It was an early 7am start for the second running of Paul Stofko's Crazy Legs 10k (6.4 miles), and a crowd capped at 80 runners was ready to run through some of the most varied terrain you'll likely find over the course of 10 kilometers. See my preview here.

Chad picked me up at 6:00 and we got down to the Devil's Backbone parking lot in time for a two-mile warm up. I chatted with Dan Goding and last year's winner, Cris Repka, briefly before the start. Dan had it all figured out, saying that Steve Folkerts was going to take first followed by myself, Chris and himself. I was pretty much in agreement. Dan's dad, Norm, had other ideas saying we'd all be watching his backside from afar!

From the gun (yes, they had a gun) I found myself leading the pack over the 100 meters of asphalt and immediately slowed to let somebody else pick up the pace. Chris obliged and I slotted in behind him. The pace felt fast, but comfortable.

By about halfway through the first climb up to the Keyhole, Chris, myself, Dan and Steve had built a bit of a gap on the rest of the field. The pace felt a little too easy so I eased past Chris to up the tempo a bit and get a clear line of sight for the biggest uphill grind of the day, which also has a few tricky spots of technical terrain. Although I never looked back, I felt like I'd put a bit of gap on the other three leading to the climb, but soon heard a couple pairs of lungs behind as we made our way up the hill. By the time we crested the hill on the last switchback, I was able to catch a glance behind and saw a bit of a gap forming, but not much. However, through the next half mile on the outbound rolling section of Hunter, there was just one guy on me. I wasn't exactly sure who it was, but presumed it was Steve.

Steve is definitely a road guy, so I figured if I was going to have any shot at winning the race it was going to have to happen on the middle two-mile section, which is super technical. Despite being on the back end of a 120-mile week, I felt really strong powering up the Laughing Horse climb and found a good line through the jutting slick rock. However, I was still hearing lungs behind, despite pushing a speed that would have been really nasty if I'd caught a rock and taken a dive. I continued to push on the downhill before hitting the halfway point and the return section of Laughing Horse loop, the gnarliest part of the course.

Figuring that this was my last chance to build a lead, I ran pretty recklessly through here and absolutely flew across the rock hitting lines that I never before had on this section. I built a 5 to 10 second lead here and kept it through the last significant climb of the day on the back leg of Hunter loop. From here it is a very steep drop back to the Devil's Backbone and the last mile sprint to the finish. I felt like I was moving well on the drop, but after a quick glance saw second place was right back on me, with nobody in view behind him.

It's at points like these in a race where I usually get weak. Today was no different. I had been gunning it at about full tilt trying to drop second for most of the race with nothing to show for it. At the best of times (on a flat non-technical course), the 10k is - in my opinion - the hardest distance out there. It's a brutal mix of speed and endurance, which requires runners to find the fine line between going out too hard, while also maxing their speed potential. It hurts. But as with everything in running, pain is temporary and the finish line will always come if you keep moving forward, whether it's one grueling mile or 99 slow plodding miles. However, it's always a tough sell to keep pushing when you're really hurting.

I got down to the Wild loop marker, which meant just over a mile to go, and I was hearing those lungs again. I concentrated on pushing as hard as I could, while taking advantage of the downhill rollers to power the uphill rollers. With three quarters of a mile to go, I started hitting a pace that felt close to a sprint - way too soon - but I wanted to see if second had anything left. I did get some separation, but I couldn't maintain the pace and before I knew it second was on my shoulder making a move. To my surprise, it wasn't Steve, but Chris. I knew I had to get to the footbridge first, because it's wide enough for only one person, and I was sure that whoever got the bridge would win the race, so I put in one final effort to maintain the position I'd held for most of the race. It was just enough. Through the bridge, it's 200-300 meters uphill to the finish. Chris was still there. And so it was, shoulder to shoulder, we sprinted for the line. I managed to get a half step on Chris, crossing the line one second ahead in 42:07 for a four-minute course record.

Hands on knees panting for close to a minute, I was pretty well worked.

Dan and Steve had their own battle for third, with Steve edging out Dan by five seconds for third in just over 44 minutes.

A great morning on a tough course in a beautiful part of Northern Colorado. Kudos to Paul for putting on a great race (he drove 1,000 miles straight from Indiana to be there), and hats off to the volunteers for a well marshaled and well signed course.

Feels good to finally get the bridesmaid monkey off my back, even if it was just a 10k.

Week Ending May 17

Mon noon - 13.5 miles (2,500 feet). 1:59. Mill Creek route.
pm - 4 miles easy at Pineridge. 0:34.

Tues pm - 25 miles (4,000 feet). 3:55. Horsetooth to Arthur's and Visitor Center via Horsetooth - Westridge - Mill Creek - Howard - Timber - West Valley - Nomad - Towers - Stout - Spring Creek - Falls - home. Pretty hot and blustery out.

This one got old by the top of Arthur's Rock, but I persevered and plodded out the miles. Legs are really beginning to feel the increased mileage, but just got to grind it out until the end of May to give myself a shot at Big Horn. Ate a Cliff Shot Double Espresso for the second time ever with the exact same result: nausea. Cliff Shots are officially out of the running for BH. Hammer gels seem to be working best for me in terms of tolerance, but they still get old after six or seven. Nutrition remains a concern, but I'm sure I'll figure out some kind of plan. Bumped into Corey H (King of the Horsetooth Trail Half) at the Arthur's TH. Sounds like he's on course for his Leadman goals.

Weds noon - 8 miles easy (1,650 feet). 1:14. Audra/Horsetooth route.
am - 4 miles at Pineridge. 0:29.

Thurs noon - 9 miles (1,200 feet).1:20. Horsetooth - Spring Creek - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Carey Springs - Towers - Herrington - Spring Creek - Soderburg - Horsetooth - home.
pm - 11 miles (3,000 feet). Mile repeats on Horsetooth trail with Dan, Pete and Alex from Fort Collins Trail Runners group. Splits were 8:31, 8:20, 8:40 to Southridge turn and 12:00, 11:30, 11:35 miles. Sounds slow, but this is a steep trail with a ton of steps and some tricky footing. Really surprised at the ease and speed of first split to first Southridge turn. The last time, in February, when I timed this, I did it in 8:21 and pushed hard; today I felt so controlled I only glanced at my watch out of curiosity and was surprised to be just 10 seconds off. Second climb I pushed a little harder, but certainly not 100% and went 8:20. Encouraging. I feel very strong right now.

Fri - 8 miles (1,650 feet). 1:15. Easy on Horsetooth/Audra.
pm - 6.5 miles (400 feet). 0:52. Soderburg to Arthur's and back, easy.

Sat noon - 10 miles (2,800 feet). Up and down Crosier Mountain from Drake TH - super easy - 2:00 total: 1:10 up & 0:50 down. Not exactly the easy day I had planned prior to Crazy Legs 10k, but it was so beautiful out, and with an unexpected three-hour window of free time opening up, I had to go check out the stunning views of Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park from on high. I did, however, take the run very easy - even walked in a few steeper spots. Just under 8 minutes for the final half mile, 500 foot scramble to the top.

Sun - 19.5 miles (2,000 feet). Two-mile warm up, 10k race, then 11 miles back home on Blue Sky with Bryan and Dan.

Total: 118.5 miles with 19,000 feet of vertical climbing.

This was a monster week for me, and my legs are starting to feel like they can handle the increased mileage. Feeling so strong at the 10k today was a real confidence builder as I look forward to Big Horn in June. I'm not saying that I'm racing Big Horn to win, because there's some significant talent in the field, but I'm beginning to feel like I may have a shot.

I've got two more weeks of big mileage before June 1 when I plan to drop the miles significantly and concentrate on upping the intensity and resting.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Crazy Legs 10k Preview

Da' Bone

So there's a sweet little trail race occurring this Sunday on the Devil's Backbone trail system in Loveland. While these trails are not directly in my backyard, they come a (not so) close second to the trails at Horsetooth. I know every twist & turn, rock, root and hill intimately, and feel that local knowledge will be to my advantage. That said, these trails are pretty popular with local runners so I'm sure most starters are equally, if not more, familiar with the lay of the land on the Crazy Legs 10k+ course.

Keyhole at Devil's Backbone

The course starts and ends with a mile of fast (read non-technical) singletrack. On the way out, via the Keyhole trail on the Wild loop, there is a slight climb followed by a short but steep climb up to the Hunter loop, which, outbound, is rolling and fast. A short connector leads to the third loop (Laughing Horse), which offers a chance for more seasoned trail runners to make up some ground on speedy road runners.

The Laughing Horse loop is covered in stratified slick rock, which leans at really uncomfortable 45 degree slants, while the trail cuts a 45 degree angle across the rock (if that makes any sense), which makes for really awkward footing when trying to move fast. Loose scree and rock add to the fun. On the climb side of this loop it is important to pick a good route to the far right of the trail, allowing for a slightly more comfortable ride. The return portion of Laughing Horse is plain nasty and involves a bit of scrambling and some really unpredictable rock angles. Fortunately, this section is less than a mile, but could be worth minutes for more aggressive technical runners.

Once through Laughing Horse and the return section of Hunter, it's a short climb before the short sharp drop to the Devil's Backbone and an all out sprint through the last mile and a half of moderately undulating, non-technical singletrack on Wild. If there is a pack through this final section, it should make for some fun racing.

Er, Wild Loop

So who's racing? From what I can make out, this should be a fairly competitive race, despite the 80-runner cap. Last year's winner, Chris Repka, is signed up to defend. I think he's more a road runner (34-35 min 10k speed) than trail runner, although he was at Collegiate Peaks running the 25-mile race. Not sure he'll be a factor as I beat him to the turn at Collegiate, despite having an extra 25 miles to cover. Dan Goding is signed up. He's had a rough last few months with injury, but if fit will definitely be in the running. Dan excels in shorter trail races up to marathon distance. The favorite, however, would have to be Steve Folkerts who spanked me by close to a minute in a road 5k recently, and also ran second at the Colorado Marathon (Fort Collins), finishing in the low 2:30s a couple weeks back. I figure the technical sections will work in my favor, but doubt I'll have enough to make up for the speed differential. I'm predicting that I'll continue my recent string of second-place finishes. There are also some strong local trail runners starting who should all have a good race. Pete Stevenson, also running Big Horn in June, has been logging some serious miles, so could be a factor, as could Eric Lee who finished second last year.

Been front loading the miles this week, so I can take a couple of easier days Friday and Saturday to hopefully be somewhat rested come Sunday morning. Should be fun.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Week ending May 10

Mon - 7.5 miles (1,400 feet). 1:12. Up Horsetooth/Audra/Spring Creek. Took this one pretty easy, but was happy to get up and around with little soreness from Collegiate.

Tue am - 10 miles (800 feet). 1:18. Easy run on Blue Sky trail to Coyote Ridge and back. Two snakes shook me up a bit. Time to run under the trees.
pm - 6 miles easy. 48:20. Lap and a half of Pineridge. Calf and quads were pretty sore on this run. Might be overdoing it right now, without sufficient recovery, but I want to make May count so we'll see how things feel over the next day or two.

Wed noon - 13.5 miles (2,500 feet). 1:53. Horsetooth - Spring Creek/Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Mill Creek - Southridge - Horsetooth. Felt good on this one. Mill Creek has been cleared of all downed trees, which is great as this is going be a regular route for me through May as I try to build some mileage and vertical.
pm - 4 miles easy at Pineridge.

Thu noon - 13.5 (2,200 feet). 1:56. Route from yesterday in reverse. Felt exhausted from Mill Creek on. Pretty hot out. Decided to bag a planned pm run.

Fri noon - 8 miles (1,650 feet). 1:12. Audra route. Felt 100% better than Thursday. Hills were effortless, and was running with as close to no pain as I have in weeks.
pm - 6 miles easy. 0:50. Jogged a lap and a half at Pineridge. 118-mile, 7-day moving average from Saturday.

Sat am - 17.5 miles easy (1,100 feet). 2:35. Ran down to Devil's Backbone to meet Chad and run the Crazy Legs 10k course. Originally planned to run back for a 28-mile morning, but lingered too long at the parking lot and eventually asked for a ride home. Disappointed to cave, but oh well. Legs felt like they could have comfortably covered the distance back, but were sufficiently tired and achy that a ride home seemed like the way to go.

Sun am - 2 miles setting up T&H course.
Noon - 14 miles (1,000 feet) at Bobcat Ridge with Ryan. 2:06.

Total: 102 miles (10,650 vertical feet)

Pretty happy with how I felt this week. Decided to run through some calf issues early in the week, and was pretty much pain free by Friday. Going to try and keep building through the rest of May, and then ease into June so I'm ready and rested for Big Horn. Not really used to running 100-mile weeks, so hopefully everything will hold up through what I hope will be a 450+ mile month.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two-Snake Tuesday

Well, I guess winter is officially over.

Photo: USFWS

Went out for an easy lunchtime run on the Blue Sky Trail - a.k.a The Viper Pit - today, and two or three miles into the Horsetooth to Coyote Ridge section I saw my first rattler of the season. I saw him early, so avoided the madness of almost stepping on him, but figured he was dead as he was so flat to the ground he looked like he'd been run over by a 10-ton truck. With this in mind, I was pretty casual in stepping around him. I screamed like a girl when he shot into the strike position and rattled at me. I almost - but not quite - crapped my pants.

Standing a safe ten meters or so from the bugger, I started throwing stones to get him off the trail, but he wasn't in the slightest bit interested in moving. Considering I was running an out and back, I was concerned at his stubborn streak. No more than a half mile further down the trail, I saw another, much larger, snake sitting in the grass maybe a foot from the trail. I screamed, yes screamed, again.

In theory I have no problem with snakes, and understand that I'm out playing in their habitat on a daily basis so need to get used to living and running with them, but in practice they never fail to scare the living b'jesus out of me.

I got to the Coyote Ridge intersection - my turnaround - and ran the gauntlet back down viper alley. I was severely paranoid, but knew the exact location of the two snakes. Fortunately, both had moved on in the 20 minutes or so that it took me to get back to their location, so I didn't have to deal with maneuvering around them.

Be careful out their Fort Collins runners, especially on the Blue Sky trail, which is just loaded with snakes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Week Ending May 3

Mon - Off

Tues - 4.5 miles easy (600 feet) . Testing out calf - felt okay, but gimpy stride.

Weds - 4.5 miles easy (600 feet). Calf better.

Thurs - 8 miles (1,600 feet). Audra route. Felt pretty good

Fri - Off

Sat - Collegiate Peaks 50 (5,000 feet)

Sun - Off

Total: 67 miles (7,800 feet vertical)

A good result at Collegiate Peaks, but niggles prevented a full week of training. Have decided to drop a race or two from the schedule - Steamboat Marathon for sure - as continual recovery from races is really hampering my ability to put in solid training for Big Horn. I hope to log some 100-mile weeks through May.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Collegiate Peaks (Bridesmaid Revisted)

Peaks just south of Leadville

I had set a fairly attainable goal of beating my time from Fruita (7:44) for the Collegiate Peaks 50 in beautiful Buena Vista this weekend, but the real goal was to go one better than my second-place finish in the desert. The legs were pretty fresh, all things considered, and thankfully the calf was mainly background noise through most of the race.

We got into Buena Vista Friday and I immediately got a ticket from the local constabulary for driving 25 in a 15 mph zone. Welcome to town! After learning that cops in Buena Vista have little better to do than issue ridiculous traffic tickets, we made our way to the cabin we had reserved for the weekend and settled in for the night.

Home for the weekend

The race was a 6:30 start, so we were tucked up in bed pretty early so I could roll around and at least rest, if not sleep a great deal. For whatever reason, I was playing around with numbers in my head and trying to figure a million different variables on how to get close to Tony Krupicka's course record from 2007 (6:53). When numbers start rolling through my mind they take a long time to go away, so it was a pretty restless night's sleep. I finally gave up at 4:00 am and got the coffee going. I like to get up at least two hours before a race so I can get some food in my stomach and a couple of cups of coffee, allowing time for digestion and expulsion. My race-morning breakfast of choice is two glazed donuts, but I had failed to find donuts in Buena Vista the night before, so had to settle for scones.

Got down to race HQ about a half hour before the off and did the usual: milling around, multiple trips to the john, retying shoe laces, etc. Chatted with JeffO a bit, who recounted his torturous-sounding Zane Grey run from the weekend prior, and then hung out at the start with Bryan G and his dad Norm, waiting for 6:30.

We took it out at a relatively easy pace from the gun and, as at Fruita a fortnight back, Bryan and I caught up with each other's goings on as we eased into the opening two to three miles of hard-top running. A slew of people were in front of us through these miles, but we were certainly in no hurry so early in the race. As we made the turn onto trail, we started picking off a few of the eager beavers.

On the longer stretches it looked like there were a good ten to twelve runners ahead, and by the time I made it past Keri Nelson - the lead female runner in the 25-mile race - at 10-11 miles, I figured there were maybe seven or eight ahead, assuming most if not all were 25-mile runners. I was pretty much locked into place here with a sizable gap to two other runners in front that I was getting a visual on. Keri was keeping me honest, not giving up much ground behind. The pace felt good, and I didn't want to push, so I just settled in and focused on hydrating, fueling and running a good line through the curvy jeep track.

A good 70 percent of this race is on hard-packed forest road/jeep track, with continual ups and downs and a couple of big climbs and equally big descents. The rest of the course is a mixture of sandy trail and singletrack. The sandy sections were a major pain, and no matter how much I tried to find firm ground, I always failed.

By the top of the last big climb on the first loop, I had closed the gap significantly on one of the two guys I had been tracking. I caught him soon after, on the drop, and we chatted briefly. He was in the 25-mile race, but informed me that the guy he had been running with was a 50 miler by the name of John Anderson. Name didn't sound familiar. I was content to plug away at my pace and not worry about wasting energy chasing the lead. With 30 miles left in the race, there was plenty of time to worry about racing.

By the bottom of the big 1,000 foot drop, there was a long and tedious section of firm county road that finally led to the last mile of singletrack down to the Arkansas River. The sound of moving water was a welcome break and meant that the turnaround was nigh. I began looking for oncoming 50 milers, as the second loop was in reverse. I made it to the footbridge over the Arkansas, just a few hundred meters from the turn and race HQ, but still no runners; by the start/finsh still nobody. Hmm. Either John had dropped or he was taking his merry old time refueling at the aid station. Dana had a new bottle ready for me when I got in and I was reasonably quick back out. However, just as I was getting ready to set off, another runner came into the turnaround and shot by me. I really had no idea what was going on, but the volunteers at the start/finish assured me I was in second.

I made the turn at just over 3:20, which I had figured in my hours of digit crunching the night before would be good for a shot at seven hours if I could stay reasonably strong through the second half. Ideally, I had wanted to come through in 3:15, but I wasn't too concerned as I was happy with my energy levels and the way my body was feeling, so I set about chasing down the guy in front.

Many of the oncoming runners on their first loop gave me updates as to the position of the front runner, so even if I wasn't getting visuals on the tight singletrack, I was getting verbal assurance that he was no more than 30 seconds to a minute in front of me. By the time I got back up to the road, the margin was confirmed visually. And so began a 90-minute stalking session. We were running at very similar paces, and I was in absolutely no hurry to chase the lead, perfectly content to let him worry about the guy behind. He was shooting regular backward glances, and I can only imagine it was a little frustrating for him to see me hanging around within striking distance for miles on end.

It wasn't until mile 35 or so, and the end of a major climb and descent, that I finally caught up to the leader. We chatted a bit about race plans and other stuff. He introduced himself as John, and explained that he had gone to his car to pick something up at the turn, which was why I never saw him until he shot past me. It was pretty evident from our conversation that we were both just trying to get a read on the other guy's state of mind and body, and had little to no interest in actually socializing, but neither of us was giving up much information. His response to my question about how he was feeling was to state that he felt great. Sure.

We pulled into the penultimate aid station (38 miles) together after I had tried to make a bit of a move, which John seemed to cover with ease. Somewhere between this aid station and the next (6 miles out) there was a steep and steady climb, and for whatever reason I decided to let John gap me here as I went through a mental lapse and kind of gave up on the race for first. However, after chomping through a pack of lime sports beans I was re-energized and set about chasing John, who was now out of sight, even on longer stretches. By the time I hit the last aid station (44.3), John had three minutes on me, according to the volunteers. I knew it was mainly downhill from here to the finish, so pushed as hard as I could, promising myself that if he was within sight on the final two to three miles of road to the finish after the tight singletrack, I'd lay it down and give chase with whatever I had left.

Turns out I never caught another visual on him, but I still pushed pretty hard in an attempt to break seven hours. I got to the river in 6:59 and jogged the rest of the way in, finishing 10 minutes back on the course record at 7:03, and five minutes back on John.

I'm so stupidly competitive, I put in a final effort to pass these two 25 milers

John Anderson had a strong run for the win

I was pleased with my time, and was really pleased to find fuel in the tank late in the game. My 25 splits were approximately 3:22 and 3:41, which is way better than I managed at Fruita (3:28, 4:16) two weeks earlier where I really suffered through the last seven or eight miles. Bryan edged out Garrett Graubins by a minute or so to take third in 7:27. Helen Cospolich ran a very impressive race in just under eight hours for the win in the female race, setting a new course record in the process.

All in all a good day. Just waiting for that 'W' to materialize sometime this season.

It was great to see some familiar faces and also meet a few new ones. Caught up with Patrick Eastman and his wife from Laramie. They are expecting their first baby in June on Dana's birthday - pretty cool; chatted briefly with Derrick, a fellow trail runner from Fort Collins, in the early stages of the race; and had a good chat with John Anderson after the race. He is a strong and steady runner, who should be hard to beat at Hardrock if he gets in. Failing that, he plans to run Big Horn. I also had chance to chat a bit with Boulder blogger extraordinaire, Tim Long, after the race.

The race was impeccably marked, although there was some trail marking vandalism which caused Tim and possibly others to make a wrong turn 47 miles into the race - brutal. The course was great, although the venue was a bit impersonal and sterile which made for a weird atmosphere. The course has approximately 5,000 feet of climbing - it felt like more - but the firm and non-technical footing make this a pretty fast track.

Splits, if you're interested:

Out _______________ Back
5.7.... 48:22 (48:22)... 50.0 ... 47:27 (7:03:41)
11.7... 48:11 (1:36) ... 44.3 ... 49:50 (6:16)
14.6... 20:29 (1:57) ... 38.3 ... 28:04 (5:26)
17.9... 33:24 (2:32) ... 35.4 ... 25:28 (4:58)
21.8... 27:16 (2:57) ... 32.1 ... 39:48 (4:32)
25.0.. 24:00 (3:21) .... 28.2 .. 31:18 (3:53)

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Miles and Dollars

Broke the thousand mark on both miles and dollars in April. Currently spending one dollar for every mile I run - sounds a bit pricey.

April 16 - Gels - $5.69
April 17 - Drive to Fruita and back. 700 miles @ $1.90/gal = $63
April 17 - Olive Garden (Fruita) - $15
April 17 - New Sunglasses - $20
April 18 - Breakfast (Fruita) - $4
April 18 - Pablo's Pizza (Fruita) - $10
April 20 - Big Horn entry - $200


Spending .................. $318
Miles ........................ 247.5
Spending per Mile ... $1.28

YTD Totals


Jan ......... $456
Feb ......... $284
March ...... $30
April ........ $318
To date .... $1,080


Jan .......... 265 (33,000 feet)
Feb .......... 259.5 (40,350 feet)
March ....... 302 (32,050 feet)
April ....... 247.5 (31,300 feet)
To Date .. 1,074 (136,700 feet)

Spending per Mile: $1.00