Monday, May 31, 2010

Round Mountain Spring Time Trial

Round Mountain is without a doubt my favorite hill to time trial. Towers is all good and well, but it's a dirt road and that's not really my thing. Round has everything. It's got its grunts, some flats, some views along the way, mile markers, rocks, roots, tons of switchbacks, and speedy technical sections. Honestly, you couldn't ask for more from a mountain, and at 4.5-4.75 miles (unsure of exact distance) with 2,700 feet of vertical it has just about the right stats to make it a challenge, but not be too intimidating that the thought of it makes you want to roll over and go back to bed (Pikes).

This was to be the second installment of the Front Range time trial series, the first having taken place on much different terrain up the front side of Green. We had almost the same cast of characters in attendance minus Brandon, Cat, Victoria, Slush and Brownie, but plus Nick P (finally Boulder shows up), Cherilyn, Rick and Travis. The last time (July `09) I TT'd Round I ran 52:55, so that was floating out there as a fastest known time (FKT) and the morning's mark.

Rick had taken off up the mountain before I got there, while Cherilyn and Travis set off a few minutes before the rest of us, apparently tired of our mindless chatter. As usual, GZ got the ball rolling by taking a flier from the gate, while Lucho was busy waiting for a satellite signal from space. Undeterred, Lucho was on us within meters and much like on Green was soon out of sight with Eric not far behind and Bob making up the last of the podium positions. I was in a state of absolute oxygen debt after a cold (no warm-up) start, and my legs felt like bricks after a heavy weekend of miles and vertical. A couple of minutes in and I was still feeling terrible, so I just slotted in behind George and figured I'd tempo the hill.

Just before the first mile marker, I finally felt like I was hitting a bit of a rhythm and that I would be able to push out a solid effort. Half way into the second mile, I caught sight of Bob a couple of switchbacks up and was overtaking him by 2.5, just before the beginning of the technical flat section, which I hammered harder than I think I ever have. By the time I popped out past the three-mile marker, Eric was beginning to come into view, so I set about hunting him down although he was still a good couple of switchbacks up on me. I finally caught him shortly after the four-mile marker, and then concentrated on getting my head down for the remainder of the climb, confident that Lucho was still way up on me and uncatchable.

The split at four miles was just under 42 minutes, so I knew a PR was going to happen, but that the sub-50 was going to be touch and go. Apparently I didn't have enough left in the tank to dip under 50, but I got close, hitting the summit cairn in 50:24, which was good for a PR haircut of two and a half minutes. Considering I had 52 miles and over 12,000' in my legs from the prior two days, I'll take it.

Eric was next up (51 low), followed by Bob (53:30), George (55:47), Nick P (60 low), Cherilyn (60-61 - no watch, but best guess based on her start time and proximity to GZ at the finish), Rick (62 high, coming from sea level) and Travis (no watch). Pete was a DNF after puking two miles in. Lucho also puked at the top (Rick reportedly has video evidence) after registering a blistering 47:58. I think anyone who has run Round can attest to how fast that time is - damn, Lucho!

So, yeah, another fun morning with a great bunch of guys, some good BS'in, and perfect weather. George and I headed back up to the two-mile marker for 13 miles and 4,200' on the day, while Nick pushed out another summit as he builds back up for Hardrock in six weeks after five weeks on the DL.

Splits (versus previous PR):

9:58 (10:09)
11:33 (11:53)
9:43 (10:35)
10:25 (11:04)
8:43 (9:13)

Some action from the morning:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week Ending May 30 (WS - 4 Weeks)

Mon - Noon: 6 miles easy on valley trails (500'). Legs felt okay after Jemez, but definitely sore and tired.

Tues - Noon: 8.5 miles easy (1,800'). Still some soreness in the quads, but legs felt strong other than that. Falls - Spring Creek - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Herrington - Spring Creek - Soderburg - home long way
PM - 5 miles steady at Pineridge. Ran 7 min pace here just to stretch the legs out a bit. Despite the lingering aches in the quads, this was a nice cruise.

Weds - Noon: 11 miles easy (2,400'). Falls - SC - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Carey - Towers (to top) - Secret Trail - Westridge - Rock - home long way. Hamstring tight again, probably from the Pineridge cruise on Tuesday.
PM: 6 miles easy (500') on valley trails.

Thurs - Noon: 9 easy super easy (2,300'). Audra/Horsetooth long. Thutt (thigh/butt) area giving me some gyp, so went below even my usual easy effort. Seem to have shaken most of everything else from Jemez.
PM: 6.5 miles easy with Alex's FCTR social group at Pineridge. Good burgers, beer and conversation afterward.

Fri - Noon: 10 miles easy (1,200'). Soderberg to Well Gulch and back via Overlook/valley. Super easy again due to lingering thutt pain. Scoped out a rare .8 mile stretch of trail I had yet to see in Lory (Well Gulch).
PM: 2 miles easy. Jogged around the park to feel out my hamstring before picking up Alistair.

Sat - AM: 31 miles (7,100'). Met top American (Justin) and Nick P early in Boulder (out of bed at 4:45) for a run with my all-star crew for Western States. Justin, fresh off his 2:29 marathon in London, will be pacing me, while Nick will be whipping me through the aid stations at record pace. I don't know the trails particularly well down in Boulder, but I do know that we started on South Mesa and made our way through scenic Eldorado Canyon, with a spur climb/descent thrown in for good measure, over to Walker Ranch for about 3/4 of a lap before tying in to Flagstaff, which took us to the back side of Green/Bear from where we cruised downhill all the way back to Nick's gaff in south Boulder. After today's run, I have a new appreciation for the Boulder Mountain trails. It turns out that you can in fact piece together a decent run on singletrack that is actually worthy of the name, although the vert still racked up to make for a big climb day, despite no single ascent of much more than 1,000'. A solid outing, although my boys need to work on their climb a bit - Justin especially if he thinks he has any chance of beating me at Pikes this year ;) Bumped into a few Boulder Mountain Park regulars, with a double passing of the D-Rock and a single encounter with Team Shart and Jim P.

Courtesy Nick P and his Garmin.

Sunday - AM: 21 miles (5,200'). Another 4:45 wake. Ouch. Double loop of Lumpy Ridge with Pete and Alex. This one begins and starts just outside of Estes Park. The 1-2 mile trail up to Gem Lake is obscenely popular with day-hikers (mostly Texans), but the rest of the loop is typically clear of traffic for the most part. Couple of good 1,000'+ climbs delivered on each loop with an altitude range of between 7,800' and 9,100', which has to make this one of the best training routes around. Not a drop of snow to be seen and even Longs was looking like it will be ready in a month or so. Twin Sisters (11,000'+) also looked to be clear, so a trip up there next weekend could well be in the cards.

Got bored trying to figure out how to edit the video footage from Lumpy below, so either don't watch or accept as is.

Total: 116 miles (21,000')

Felt like the recovery from Jemez went well, and I was able to keep things in gear for most of the week. Strong weekend with some good longer runs. These were more about time on feet than mileage or speed, and the run Sunday felt good - a little creaky to get going but for the most part my body responded when asked. Some more climb and mileage planned for tomorrow morning to cap out a heavy three-day stretch, then easy for a couple of days before reloading for next weekend.

Round Mountain, west of Loveland of Hwy 34 at 7:00 am for anyone interested. Slated as a time trial, but not personally expecting anything too miraculous.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And By Contrast...

Some shots from the same general area on Memorial Day 2009 (one week later than the 2010 shots below). I'm gonna blame the little boy from Spain.

Photos: Travis Rose c/o Ken Crouse.

WS Trivia: in the group photo is one of the few (possibly only) mother/son teams to complete the race in the same year, Barbara Ashe and Jady Palko (in black) - they both finished in 2009.

Did Somebody Say Snow in the Sierras?

Not sure if these conditions are typical for this time of year in the High Sierras, but I was just forwarded these pictures from the Western States course, and I have to say, that looks like a lot of snow. I knew there was a reason I chose to participate in the Twin Mountain Trudge again this year!

All photos: JMJScott.

A buried outhouse, so we're talking a good eight feet of snow in this shot at the Robinson Flat trailhead, which sits at approx 7,000' & 30 miles into the course. High point on the course is ~8,500', so it would appear that significant snow is almost guaranteed through much of the early going this year. Current snow depth in Squaw Valley is a reported 6.5 feet. This is good news for Colorado boys and girls who've been trudging through crap like this all winter.

A shot from the trail to Dusty Corners.
Robinson Flat again.

Good luck using the facilities!

Of course, there will be significant melt through the next four and a half weeks, but it certainly looks like we'll be in for a good amount of trudge action.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Week Ending May 23 (WS - 5 Weeks)

Mon - Noon: 9.5 miles (2,500'). Audra/Horsetooth long, with a tag of the summit for kicks. Kind of funny to weave through the crowds now that CSU is done for the year and the weather is warming up. You run this thing all winter long and, on a day-to-day basis, you typically see very few people (often no-one), with those dedicated outdoor enthusiasts that you do see being rightly unimpressed by the fact that you're out running. Then the fair-weather hikers come out of the woodwork and you're dodging people left, right and center, all the while being hailed as an athletic hero for a feat that you're repeating for probably the 150th time this year. I tend to just exchange pleasantries, nod, smile - whatever - and keep on keeping on, but occasionally I'll play along and induce another ego-massaging comment before I'm out of earshot. Sometimes you just can't help it, especially when it's hot out.
PM: 6 miles easy (500') on valley trails.

Tues - Noon: 6 miles (500'). Cruised on the valley trails. Felt good.

Weds - Noon: 8.5 miles (1,600') easy. Home - Falls - Spring Creek - Stout - Sawmill - Loggers - Herrington - Spring Creek - Soderburg - home. Kind of sluggish despite lightning-caused cancellation of second run on Tuesday.
PM: 5 miles easy at Pineridge.

Thurs - Noon: 5 miles easy (900'). Falls loop.
PM: 10 miles (2,000'). Out and back to Sawmill on Valley from Soderburg as warm up for Towers tempo. Saw first rattler of the season at Sawmill/Valley junction. Surprised myself with a harder than planned 30:13 up Towers.

Fri - PM: 3 miles easy with Tim in Los Alamos

Sat - AM: 50 miles (12,200'). Jemez 50.

Sun - PM: 1 mile hike with Alistair at Horsetooth. Streak ends at 105 days. Some pretty gnarly blisters on my heels plus all-day Daddy duty ensured the end of the streak. Feel good about ending it a little earlier than planned, although fretted a bit that it might bring bad luck. Wah?!

Total: 103 miles (20,200').

This was a good week with a couple of quality runs, and an adrenaline shot to the confidence meter on Saturday. Decided to do the easy week taper thing for Jemez, but ended up going way harder than originally planned on Towers on Thursday (probably 85%), which left me with a tight hamstring Friday and Saturday. I felt it for most of the run at Jemez, and it threatened to mutate into cramping at various points along the way, but never became anything more than one more thing to take stock of as the race went on.

Dana was out of town all day Sunday, so I never got the opportunity to run, thus ending my running streak at 105 days. I considered dropping Alistair off with my neighbors for a half hour so I could log a completely unnecessary run, but eventually made the call to stop being such an idiot and get on with enjoying the day with my son. We got out for most of the afternoon at Horsetooth, but can't have covered more than a mile, as we were mostly just playing on the rocks, throwing stones and having sword fights. Alistair covered probably twice the ground I did - running back and forth - and was very understanding of the fact that Daddy wasn't up for anything too vigorous. Picked up a couple of nasty heel blisters at Jemez, so all the hiking was done on the front of the feet. Quads were sore, but have certainly been worse. Today (Tuesday) and yesterday the quads continue to hold some aches, but have felt solid through a couple of runs.

Two more weeks of 'training' and then the focus shifts to recovery, rest and sharpening through the last 20 days. Been thinking through various race strategies for States, which I won't go into here, but most people who read this blog probably know the skinny on my plans anyway, as I haven't been shy about letting people know about goals and such like.

Hope to bag back-to-back long runs this weekend, probably 30-20, and then it is the FoCo leg of the Front Range TT series on Monday morning (Memorial Day). We'll be doing it on Round Mountain, just west of Loveland off Hwy 34, and anyone and everyone is welcome to come join the fun. Stats for the rocky singletrack climb go 4.8 miles (9.6 RT) w/just under 3,000' of vert. The current FKT stands at 52:55, but I am fully expecting that to be decimated on Monday. Personally, I'd like to go under 50 minutes. There are faster guys than me coming out for it, so I'm sure I'll no longer have the FKT after it's all said and done. The exact start time hasn't been finalized, but it will likely be earlier rather than later. More to come on that.

Got a comment from some local mountain bikers on my Towers post from a few weeks back. Apparently they'll be out there tonight charging up the road on the FKT route (bikers typically don't take it all the way to the top when they TT Towers, but they will be doing so tonight), so it will be interesting to see how their times stack up against run times. My money is not on the bikes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jemez Mountain 50 Miler

Wow, that one hurt!

Jemez is easily the toughest 50-mile race I have ever run, and the rate of attrition among runners was, not surprisingly, quite high. The race committee offered 50-mile racers the option of dropping down to the 50km race at the Pipeline (17-mile) aid station if they weren't feeling it, and it turned out that a lot of people chose that option, which is a shame because the real test/fun on this course starts about 50 meters after the Pipeline aid station and never really lets up from there until the finish. So anyway, before I get into the meat of this trip report, hats off to everyone who gutted it out in the 50-mile race and chose to experience the beauty of the Caldera, Cerro Grande (10,200') and Pajarito Mountain (10,400') - just unbelievable stuff.

So I picked up Lucho in Denver Friday morning and we enjoyed a relatively quick and uneventful trip down to Los Alamos by way of Taos and Alamosa. We had arranged to stay with Dick and Judy Opsahl who, as it turned out, were incredibly gracious hosts, making the short stay in Los Alamos that much more memorable. I'm going to have to check, but I think Dick is the oldest ever finisher of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. At the age of 66 he completed the four oldest 100-milers in the country: Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch. Not surprisingly then, the conversation at the Opsahl's house was lively and incredibly fun.

The engaging Dick and Judy Opsahl

Dick and Judy live in a beautiful location nestled on the outskirts of town in a wooded oasis, just a mile and a half from the start line. Dick has a trail that he built (the Opshal trail) leading from his back gate to the trail system that we would run on the next day. Tim and I jumped on the opportunity after our six-hour drive to run a couple of miles on the course so we could shake the inertia out of our legs and also get a little sneak preview of the course.

We got to packet pick-up soon thereafter and hung out with some of the guys we would be running with the next day: Nick Lewis, Dakota Jones, Bryan Goding, Ryan Burch, Brooks Williams, Karl Meltzer (platform shoes and all) and on and on. The hall was packed with trail running enthusiasts, which is always a pleasure to see.

Got a terrible night's seep and woke up to the sound of multiple alarms at 3:20 in the morning - quite possibly the toughest part of the whole day. Friends Pete Stevenson and Mike Priddy were also staying with Dick and Judy, and they slipped off to the race start a couple minutes before Tim and I. Soon after they left, I started looking for my car keys, and in an increasing state of panic realized that I wasn't going to find them in time. Having not found them by 4:30, Tim and I were getting ready to add an extra mile or two to our day by running to the start. Fortunately, there was another group staying at the Opsahl's and they were just beginning to rouse for their 50k race, which started an hour after the 50 miler, and were agreeable to saving us from a panic-stricken warm-up by driving us to the start.

Tim Waggoner, aka Lucho, at 4:00 am race morning.

Mike Priddy.

Last-minute preparations.

From the off, Karl took up the pace at what, to me, seemed like a completely unreasonable rate of knots for a 50 miler. Within a half mile, the lead pack of six was clearly separated from the rest of the field, and as the sun came up through the opening climb of the day, it was Tim, me, Ryan, Dakota and Nick L in that order. After leading us through the first two miles like a paid rabbit in a road race, Karl stepped aside and wished us all well, obviously deciding to take it easy with his broken arm for the rest of the run.

The 1,500' climb out of Rendija Canyon was probably the easiest of the day and was a great way to warm up. By the top, at 8 miles or so, Tim and I had put a few switchbacks on Ryan, Nick and Dakota as we began the first of many crazy, crazy descents (~1,000', 1 mile). By the second switchback down into Guaje canyon, I had lost my footing on one of the tight, tight marble-strewn switchbacks and was off down the side of the steep canyon wall. If it wasn't for some heavy brush, I would probably have gone all the way to the bottom a little quicker than planned. Anyway, by the time I came to a stop, I was entangled in brush on my back with my arms and legs flailing in the air like a beetle trying to get back on his feet. I grabbed at the brush, managing to get myself upright before hoofing it back up on to the trail just in time to see a bemused-looking Tim ease by. Ryan was right there too and I soon reestablished myself in the conga line, being sure to take things just a step or two easier than before.

Some switchbacks on the opening climb out of Rendija Canyon. Photo: Jason Halladay.

Tim let Ryan and I push through, and predictably enough Ryan was soon racing down the switchbacks at an insane pace. This is Ryan's bread and butter, and I don't think I know another trail runner that can negotiate technical down as well as Ryan can. If needs be, I can keep up with Ryan on the downs, but it is always way more of an effort for me, so typically I just let him go, knowing that I'll inch back to him on the flats and ups.

By the time we hit the river at the bottom of the canyon, Ryan and I had put a decent gap on the rest of the lead pack. Ryan was 50-60 meters ahead of me, but well within my crosshairs, and by the base of Caballo Mountain, we were again in lockstep. I pushed out a bit of a lead on the Caballo climb, beating Ryan to the top by a minute, maybe two. I had thought going in that this was the toughest climb of the day, so was pleasantly surprised to find that it was largely runnable. As it turned out, Caballo, while hard was by far the easiest climb of the three mountains.

Top Caballo. Photo: Pete Stevenson

Hitting the Caballo turnaround (a tree) while being licked/tripped by a dog. Photo: Rachel Leah

Coming back down on this out and back section, I got a time check on the competition. Tim and Dakota were three to four minutes back, Nick L about 10 back, with the rest of the field pretty spread out after that. By the bottom of the drop, Ryan was of course right back on my shoulder, despite the fact that I felt like I hit it pretty hard.

Pete got a shot of Ryan and I on the way down Caballo. In the next photo, Ryan is about to hurdle the downed tree behind me. Photo: Pete Stevenson

We then ran together to the Pipeline aid at 17 miles, and then jumped off the ridge into the abyss of an insanely steep scree slope. Again, as predicted, Ryan was way more aggressive on this and put another 50-60 meters on me by the bottom. Thankfully the scree drop was no more than 300 feet, and actually provided access to some of the best running of the day.

Into the abyss. Caldera off in the distance. Photo: Jason Halladay.

Photo: Pete Stevenson

Coming down into the Caldera grasslands, we hooked in with a nice jeep track, which descended at a beautiful grade and provided sweeping views of the Sierra de Los Valles mountain range. We would be hitting two of the summits on our way back to the Pipeline aid station. On this four-mile stretch of hardpack, I caught back up to Ryan and eased by him before we hit the Valle Grande aid station, which was the launching point for easily the toughest 15-mile stretch of 'running' I have ever had to negotiate in a trail race.

Basically, we took a left and headed through a marshy grassland for the mountains, following a series of flags that would mark our route. We wouldn't see trail again for a good hour and half. The hike up Cerro Grande was borderline laughable, with a little bit of everything thrown at us, including a double navigation of a huge boulder field, tons and tons of downed trees and a ridiculously steep slog to the top.

It was hard work running across the Caldera. Photo: Pete Stevenson

Some boulder action. Photo: Pete Stevenson
Looking back on the Caldera: Photo: Pete Stevenson

I was expecting some kind of trail back down Cerro Grande, but it was more of the same, just this time with gravity working in our favor rather than against us. We would pick up a bit of game trail here and there, but it was largely cross country until we hit the creek that had carved out the Canon de Valle, from where the deer trail became a little more consistent and eventually turned into something that resembled a real trail, and finally turned into some fantastic running.

Ryan, of course, had gapped me by a minute or two on the technical, cross country descent, but would pop into view frequently enough as we ran alongside the creek that I wasn't concerned about losing him for good.

Coming into the Pajarito Canyon aid station, nestled deep in the forest, I was beginning to feel a fairly serious fade coming on. I couldn't believe how long it was taking us to cover the miles. I already felt like I had run 50 miles and we were only 29 miles in, with one huge climb and descent still to negotiate, followed by a steady 3,000' descent to the finish. It was all beginning to seem like too much, and so I settled into a shuffle and started thinking about how to rally my way out of this.

Ryan was still just a minute or two up on me, so he too must have been hurting as we worked our way up Pajarito Canyon to the base of Pajarito Mountain. I eased past Ryan just as we started our climb out of the canyon, and I got to the aid station at the base of the Pajarito climb no more than 30 seconds ahead of Ryan. I guzzled four, maybe five cups of coke here in hopes of getting a good and immediate sugar rush for the opening section of the climb. Much to my surprise, the opening switchbacks were long, mellow and completely runnable, but that didn't last long. We were soon back to the insanely steep stuff, and any running that was on offer lasted no longer than 10-20 seconds at a time.

The sugar rush wore off about half way up the climb and I was back into the netherworld of being ridiculously tired, yet having enough energy to keep plugging. I continued to suck on my EFS liquid shot and it continued to provide me with just enough energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other. After a couple of false summits, I finally hit the top of Pajarito, and got a look at the upcoming descent, which according to the flagging would take us straight down a double black diamond ski run. I'm not much of a downhill skier, so when people were telling me about this drop before the race, I didn't really have a point of reference to understand just how steep it would be.

Let me tell you, anyone who is prepared to throw themselves off a mountain on a pair of skis at that grade has to be even more insane than us idiots who were running down it on tired legs 35 miles into a 50 mile slug-fest. While the course flagging was pointing directly down the hill, I chose to break it up a bit by cutting in my own switchbacks. Half way down, the course veered off the ski slope and into the trees where we picked up a trail that criss-crossed the ski slope at a grade that was still incredibly steep, but not quite as insane as the more direct route down the hill. A few shoulder checks confirmed that Ryan was still charging, two to three minutes back on me, meaning I couldn't let up on the gas one iota.

There was a good crowd on hand at the ski lodge at the bottom of the mountain and I got a nice energy boost from that. As I was fueling up on coke (a cola) and oranges, I heard people cheering Ryan in, so I guzzled one more cup of coke and headed out maybe a minute before Ryan pulled in. As usual, the coke gave me a good rush out of the aid station, and I was able to pick up a strong pace (all things of course being relative), which was aided by the fact that the course now hooked in with the 50km race all the way back to the finish, so there was a steady stream of runners for me to target and pick off - always solid motivation.

I felt like I put in a really solid run in the three miles between the ski lodge and Pipeline. After a few shoulder checks coming into Pipeline, I was pretty confident that I had built a good four- to five-minute lead on Ryan. I imbibed more liquid sugar at Pipeline and got out quickly, pushing hard up the last 700' grunt.

Finishing up the last grunt of the day (~mile 40). Photo: Jim Stein Photography.

Knowing that I had a 3,000' descent to negotiate back to the finish, I was far from confident that the win was in the bag, but this descent was the main reason why I had come to Jemez in the first place. Forty miles into a grueling mountain 50-miler, I was sure to have tired legs, so five weeks out from Western States, it was about as perfect a training run as I could possibly ask for, especially with a hard charging Ryan just minutes back on me. I had to keep pressing. Perfect.

Unlike some of the other descents, this one was at a very reasonable grade, and provided some glorious singletrack fun. I continued to pass 50k runners and reveled in the fact that my quads felt great, almost fresh. 'Keep hammering,' I told myself. And I did.

Four or five miles into the drop, it started getting old, but every step was a step closer to a chair and a beer, which is about as much motivation as I need late in a run like this. A few shoulder checks near the bottom, and still no sign of Ryan. I was pretty confident that with little to no more downhill, the win was essentially in the bag, so I just focused on running the last few uphill sections, and crossed the line in a pretty satisfying 8:26. Ryan came in five minutes later, closing out yet another solid 50-mile run. I almost feel guilty beating Ryan again by such a narrow margin, but fact is buddy, that's 3-0 so dinner's on you!

Hanging out with Bryan at the finish. Photo: Pete Stevenson

So anyway, a really tough race in a beautiful part of the world on some ridiculous terrain. Think carefully before signing up for this one. I got what I came for, which was a solid training run and some serious vertical loss. A bonus for me on the day was the sub-8:30, which was something of a goal going in, and the subsequent confidence boost that comes with a run like that. I'm beginning to feel like I might be ready to knock one out the park in five weeks (or at least to the warning track). Bring It!



first aid (4.9): 41:10
Guaje Ridge (7.1): 26:53 (1:08)
Base Caballo (10.1): 32:27 (1:40)
Caballo top (12.1): 33:00 (2:13)
Caballo base (14.1): 15:45 (2:29)
Pipeline (17): 31:32 (3:01)
Valle Grande (21): 31:15 (3:32)
Pajarito top (?): 1:21 (4:53)
Pajarito Canyon (28.7): 44:16 (5:37)
Pajarito base (32.6): 32:25 (6:10)
Ski lodge (36.2): 18:14 (6:28)
Pipeline (39.1): 25:37 (6:54)
Rendija Canyon (48.1): 1:12 (8:06)
Finish (50.5): 19:56 (8:26:17)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jemez and some other bits and pieces

Just a few thoughts as I get ready for a huge day in the mountains on Saturday. And I do mean huge.

I knew when I signed up for Jemez that it was the kind of course I might enjoy: a ton of climbing (12,000'+ to be (almost) exact), wilderness, views, cross-country fun, and a highly competent race committee. I hear the food is good too.

After taking the time this week to explore the details a little further, I have actually come away a little intimidated by it all. Not only is a lot of the running taking place above 9,000', but there are also three trips above 10,000', which is an altitude I haven't run at since last year. While running at (relative) altitude is not really an issue for me, it is my first run of the year at sustained altitude, so you never know. More of a factor, however, will be the descents.

The Jemez course is known for its big climbs and crazy-steep descents. I welcome both, but am a little fearful, I guess, of getting carried away on the descents. That said, the course offers the perfect opportunity to assess how my downhill legs are progressing with regards to sustaining a solid effort late in the game at Western States. At Jemez, the last nine-mile section of the course is essentially a 3,000' drop, and this comes in addition to what have been described to me as insane descents earlier in the race where one essentially jumps off mountains on to scree slopes and hopes for the best.

Sustained and prolonged downhill running (and heat) still remain something of an x-factor for me in my preparations for States, so hopefully this weekend will offer up some clues as to what, if anything, I need to tweak in the five weeks before June 26. We're currently looking at a high of 78 for Los Alamos on Saturday, which means I get hills and heat ... perfect.

So, yes, Jemez is most certainly a training run. I've said all along that the singular goal for the first half of the running year is Western States, which has meant compromising other races that I might otherwise have tapered for. With that said, however, I have been feeling fairly rested this week and think that I might be able to put forth a competitive effort on Saturday. There is some good - and evenly matched - competition which will keep the effort honest, and while Senor Karl has suggested that Kyle Skaggs' course record (8:08) is not in jeopardy, I think it is fair to assume that Karl's ranking as the second fastest dude over the course (8:58) is in danger. Kyle's course record is so much faster than times posted by others that I have to assume that it would take a highly motivated run from a very talented mountain runner to beat it. However, I am betting that the winning time will be somewhere in the mid-eights (versus 9:14 last year).

What else? I took my running streak into triple digits on Monday. That's right, 100 days and 150 runs without missing a day. I plan to end the streak with my run in California next month, as I have learned that while good for motivation and getting out the door, running streaks are - on balance - poor training tools. They coerce you into running when you know you should be resting and that's a dangerous game, especially when nursing aches, pains and injuries.

Umm, if you fancy a crack at a Towers PR, or just a run up Towers, and read this in time, then we'll be at the Soderberg trailhead at 6:00 tonight. Hope to see you there. Oh, and happy birthday to me - I just got even older.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week Ending May 16 (WS -6 Weeks)

Mon - 6 miles easy (500'). Soderburg to Arthurs and back. Felt something in the right achilles area. Pretty sure it's the same tendon issue I was dealing with a few months back. Red flag.

Tues - 5 miles Falls loop (900'). This was planned as a longer run, but two miles in I felt a sharp pain in the right achilles, recognized it immediately as the same pain I was suffering from in February, so stopped, walked the rest of the hill and jogged super easy back home.

Weds - 2 miles uber easy in town on bike paths. I'd like to say that there was some logic behind this run, but in all honesty it was nothing more than an exercise in keeping my running streak alive. I convinced myself however that I was out there on a 'tester run.' Pain manageable and feeling better but definitely still there.

Thurs - noon: 5 miles easy (900'). Falls loop . Thought about heading up Horsetooth, but kept it safe by going easy and short. Pain still there, but feeling like it is heading in the right direction.
PM: 6.5 miles super easy on the bike paths with FCTR. Pizza and beer post-run. Love it.

Fri - noon: 5 miles easy (900'). Falls loop.
PM: 6 miles (2,400'). Green Mountain (Boulder).

Sat - AM: 19.5 miles (4,700'). Horsetooth summit - Westridge - Mill Creek - Howard - Arthurs summit - Arthurs down - Mill Creek connector - Valley/Nomad - Sawmill - Herrington - Spring Creek - Soderburg - Home. Just about the worst run I've had this year. I was way overdressed for the muggy early morning conditions, and couldn't be bothered to strip down, so ended up suffering through a sweat fest. Told myself it was good heat training for WS - whatever. Original plan was 30+ miles around the reservoir via Horsetooth, Arthurs, Lory Visitors Center, then roads to Laporte and back around on the dam roads/38e. By the top of Horsetooth, I had chopped that idea down to Horsetooth/Arthurs/Towers summit and back, and then by Sawmill I decided to cut the last climb at Herrington and head home with a tired tail between my legs. I ate very little for dinner after getting back late from Boulder the night before, then had a small bowl of cereal before heading out. I was out of juice, bonking by Arthurs, and had somehow failed to bring any fuel with me - doh. It was a long, wet, sloppy trudge home.

Sun - AM: 20 easy (4,600') with 10 x Pikes veteran Dan Turk around Horsetooth/Lory. Falls - Spring Creek - Mill Creek - Howard - Westridge - Howard - Mill Creek - Loggers - Carey Springs - Herrington - Spring Creek - Home the long way. In total control of this run after Saturday's disaster. Went essentially the same route and felt great. And so it goes. Super mellow the whole way on a beautiful spring morning.

Dan chomping on some boiled potatoes 3/4 the way up the Howard trail.

Fresh coat of paint on Longs.

Total: 75 miles (15,000).

Week didn't really get going until Friday, but that's alright as I probably needed the rest. Had a bit of a scare Tuesday with some tendon issues in my right calf. Recognized it immediately as something that shut me down for the best part of a month in February, so was very cautious. Wednesday was a very light two-mile jog, and by Thursday things seemed to be headed toward my side of the equation. By Friday I felt confident enough to give the Green TT a shot, which may or may not have been a good decision. Felt fine Saturday and Sunday, so I got lucky this time.

Anyway, I followed Green up with a horrible attempted 30-miler on Saturday that was unceremoniously chopped by a third in the midst of a bonk-fest. I didn't really feel like getting out and repeating the same run today, but I'm glad I did. The two runs were night and day. I was sore in a few places from the step-up workout on Green and the disaster on Saturday, but energy-wise I was great, plus it was a beautiful, beautiful morning. Funny what difference a day and a run can make.

So anyway, Jemez Mountain 50 miler next weekend. I am not sure if Karl will be running with his broken arm, but whether he does or not it's looking like a good race. Dakota, Ryan and I will again go head to head after the showdown in the desert last month, and PI teammate Nick Lewis will also be right there in the mix - others too, I am sure. Looks like a beautiful course with some serious climbing and descending to do, so it's going to be a great day of running regardless of the race. Ryan is hungry for this one, and he's the defending champ so I'm picking him for the win.

Three weeks of serious training left before Western States, which all seems very manageable after this lighter volume week. Just keep hammering away at the miles and the climb/descent I guess. Then it's three vital weeks of trying to stay sharp and bullet proof while also trying to get to the start rested. Starting to feel the murmur of a tingle.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Green Mountain TT

Green up the front side is not so much running as it is climbing with a few steps of running thrown in every now and then. Typically I consider anything over 1,100' per mile to be borderline pointless for running, especially on trail. Green mountain up the front side fits that bill with 2,400' feet of climbing in just over two miles. However, the craziest thing about the Amphitheater route up Green is that the bulk of the 2,400' ascent is in the first mile, meaning the grades are beyond borderline stupid for running, and a powerhike is as good, if not better than a running cadence.

On this particular evening, we were greeted with slick rocks through the opening scramble due to the continuing rain, and then super slippery slush above, say, 7,000' where the trail became a little more reasonable and consistently runnable yet frustratingly slippery. To sum up, the conditions were terrible.

So anyway, we had a time trial going on ... in Boulder ... and the total number of Boulder residents that showed up? Zero. Apparently the Boulder folk don't play outside when it's wet.

In attendance, and awarded full man and woman points were: George Zack, Tim Waggoner (Lucho), Bob Sweeney, Brandon Fuller, Kerrie (?), myself, Eric Bergman, Pete Stevenson, Victoria Funk, Cat Speight, Alex Alvarez and a (very) late PittBrownie.

We had more than three people running together and we were ostensibly "trying to better each others' times," which according to the Boulder Open Space regulations constitutes a race. Somehow the rangers had caught wind of our gathering (from an anonymous email no less), and as I was unloading at Chautauqua from the drive down and chatting with George, a friendly ranger showed up and asked us if we had anything to do with a race that was going on.

"Race? No, just out for a run with a couple of friends."

The ranger of course new that we were lying through our teeth, but I don't think he had the heart to shut us down. He mumbled something about permits and then sheepishly headed back to his cabin. Soon thereafter, the group headed off in different directions to reconvene at the Gregory trailhead.

There had been some chatter about the route before we all got there. George was firmly in favor of taking the most direct route, while a few others - myself included - thought it might be nice to take the longer and mellower Ranger route so we could actually run. George was having none of it and, frustrated with the chatter, took off up the mountain with no notice. The run was on.

Lucho slipped in behind George - soon overtaking - and then I think it was Eric, myself and Bob. I tried to keep pace with Lucho through the opening few switchbacks, but soon gave up on that as I was clearly not firing particularly well. My breathing was super heavy and my thighs were on fire from all the big, immediate and unpredictable step-ups through the rocks. I just settled in and ran a comfortable pace. I say 'ran' but really it was no more than a token running cadence. At one point I did a shoulder check only to see Bob right behind me walking faster than I was running. I just gave up on running, trotting were possible, but basically hiked the lower section.

By the time we got to the snow and the more runnable stuff, Lucho was out of sight, Eric was being passed by Bob 10-20 seconds in front of me, and I was back to holding my own, although I still couldn't muster much of an effort. Eventually I started feeling a little more comfortable with the whole outing and my various system started operating at a comfortable level. I passed Eric with a few hundred feet of climbing to go, and then near the top started reeling in Bob, but it was too little too late.

Lucho was up in 32:xx, which given the conditions seems pretty fast to me. I got up a bit after Bob in a disappointing 36:02, followed by Eric - maybe a minute back - and Zack two back. I forget who was next, but I think it was Pete, Kerrie and Brandon. Easy going down via Ranger, then some Zack Rabbit IPAs in the parking lot, a little trash talking and we were on our way back home a little after 9:00.

So it turned out to be a fun evening, and we'll do it all over again in a few weeks in Fort Collins, well Loveland, on Round Mountain which is entirely runnable and a much more reasonable 3,000' over 4.7 miles.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week Ending May 9 (WS - 7 Weeks)

Mon - Noon: 7 miles (800'). Super easy on Valley Trails.
PM: 7 miles easy at Pineridge, last two with Dana/Alistair (on his bike).

Tues - Noon: 5 miles easy (1,000'). Super easy again. Falls loop.
PM - 6.5 miles (1,200'). Super easy again with FCTR group.

Weds - Noon: 9 miles (2,300'). Horsetooth/Audra long route. Easy again. Felt a bit of pep.

Thurs - Noon: 5 miles easy (1,000'). Falls loop.
PM: 9.5 miles (1,800). Towers Road handicap. 2.5 miles to Soderburg TH, then hard effort on Towers. Up in a surprisingly easy PR and new FKT (29:27). Legs definitely felt fresher than they have in a while after a couple of very easy days. That combined with the fact that I had Eric pushing me from the start, I was able to maintain a consistently strong effort up the hill. Eric PR'd, going under 30 mins and the old FKT, ten seconds back on me. Still didn't feel like I was in overdrive, so starting to think that 28:xx, maybe even 27-high, is in the cards this summer once I drop the mileage post WS100 and focus on quality Pikes training.

Fri - Noon: 9 miles (2,300'). Horsetooth/Audra long route. Easy, easy.

Sat - 25.5 miles (8,200'). Crosier Triple Bagger with Mike. An out and back from each of three trailheads to the top of Crosier Mountain (9,250'). Went at a moderate yet steady effort the whole way on this one. Climbs go: 3150', 2500', 2200', over 5, 3.8, and 4 mile legs respectively. Half mile, 500' summit grunts in 9:08, 7:57, 7:30.

Mike hits the summit

Summit elev.

Requisite summit shot.
Total climb on the day.

Not that I really need a watch to give me a visual representation of what I've just run, but strangely satisfying to look at.

Sun - 18.5 miles (1,000'). From home, 14 miles to Laporte via 38e/Centennial/Foothills trail/Laporte Ave/Overland, then hooked in to the Fort Collins Marathon on the bike paths at the 21.5-mile point. Stopped at the 23-mile point to chat with Bryan and Dan Goding, who were out watching on their bikes, then ran with Sam Malmberg for a bit before stopping again to chat with Brooks Williams who was waiting for his Dad to come by. Saw Pete coming soon after, so jumped back in and ran the last three miles at 6:40 trying to keep a clear path for him through the half marathoners. I counted 50+ in the last mile alone, which is not an ideal set-up for front-running marathoners by any stretch of the imagination. Pete cruised to a huge PR, finishing 13th, right on his 2:54 goal and chopping exactly an hour off his time from two years ago. Solid.

Pete bringing it. Photo: Mike Hinterberg

Ran with Alistair in the kids race, followed by lunch and a stroll with Dana and Alistair in town, then out for a three-hour hike at Horsetooth with Alistair, Chad & Isaac. Fun day.

Total: 102 miles (19,600').

So this was a good week. Turned a bit of a corner on Tuesday after indulging a bit here about feeling tired. Took Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday super easy, and by Thursday felt rested enough for a hard effort up Towers, where I shaved a chunk of time from my PR. Easy on Friday, then a big day of climbing and descending at a comfortable pace on Saturday, followed by a beautiful Sunday morning running the reservoir roads into the very north end of town, hopping in on a little marathon action, running with my son, celebrating Mother's Day with the family at the Stonehouse, and then giving Mom the afternoon off with a long hike up to Horsetooth.

It didn't feel like I was pushing the miles at all this week. I was planning a big weekend, so took that as an opportunity to rest midweek. Feeling a little sore in a few spots today - but in a good way - so will go easy again through the week, I think, and then run hard on Friday and hopefully do something long on Saturday or Sunday. We'll see. Anyway, four more weeks to iron out the fitness before the heavy lifting is done, and then 20 taper days to make sure the hay in the barn is dry enough to eat (mixing my metaphors, and stealing a line from AJW).

So while I was much more relaxed about volume this week, I would be a liar if I said I wasn't targeting 100 miles. If nothing else, it represents my tenth straight week in triple-digit land. Obviously the fixation with banging out 100-mile weeks is as much psychological as it is anything else, but then racing 100 miles is probably as much mental as it is physical, so the confidence factor is huge. On that note, I'd say that right now I'm feeling as physically and mentally tough as I have throughout this whole process, so I'm hoping that I can ride these last few weeks out and bring it all with me come race day - all while trying to keep the rest of life's challenges and duties (which get short shrift on this blog) in some kind of balance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Towers Handicap Recap

The Towers Road Handicap has been underway now for six weeks. We (Fort Collins Trail Runners) run it once every two weeks, and attempt to go hard, or as hard as we feel like going that day. The handicaps are based on previous times up the hill or best guesses.

Towers is 3.5 miles & 1,750' of climb, with the first .5 being relatively flat. The footing on the service drive is typically good, although it gets mushy at the bottom when wet. Yesterday we had the best conditions yet, with just a few puddles and ruts to negotiate. First up earns the title King/Queen of the Hill for the fortnight.

The official FKT route starts from the trail map at the Soderburg trailhead. Runners head north for .45 mile on singletrack trail (Swan Johnson) to Towers Road, then head directly up the hill (west) for just under three miles, making a left near the top to a clearing that houses telecommunication towers and a couple of mobile buildings. Watches stop for the FKT route when you slap the last building through the clearing:

Frank getting his slap on.

Kings and Queens thus far:

4/8: Jonathan Zeif (JZ)
4/22: Laura Backus
5/6: Brian Walter
5/20: Kerry Doyle-Gundlach
6/3: Travis

Records (Fastest Known Times):

Nick Clark: 29:27 (5/6)
Amy Hartley: 38:45 (5/6)

Times through May 20:


Alex A......DNS..........43:47.........DNS...........DNS.......DNS
Alex M.....39:44........40:36..........DNS..........38:16.....38:18
Dan T........DNS...........DNS...........DNS.........DNS........35:06
Mary G......DNS..........DNS...........67:00......66:10.......70:46
Mary B......DNS...........DNS...........DNS..........DNS........46:02
Suzie........DNS...........DNS...........DNS.....Loggers..Heartbreak Hill


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Windy Days and 100-Mile Training

I had one of my best runs in quite some time today. I ran five miles in approximately 50 minutes with about 1,000' of climbing in howling winds.

What's so great about that? Not much in and of itself. In fact, I'd probably have been better off not running at all, but five easy was the internal compromise. You see, my running brain is in a state of confusion right now. It knows full well that I am in need of rest, yet it also knows that I need to run and it has become fixated on 100-mile weeks and an annoying running streak.

Anyway, I'll tell you what was so great about today's run.

Firstly, there was very little fatigue in my legs (something I have been dealing with - and running through - for a few weeks now). Secondly, and more importantly, I didn't take that as a green light to go out and hammer a bunch of miles or rocket to the top of Horsetooth at record pace. Instead, I stuck to my plan of trying to re-find some training and racing mojo by going easy and accepting the fact that I'm teetering on the brink of burnout. There, I said it.

Honestly, I can't believe how tortured my legs felt on Sunday at the Crazy Legs 10k. Right from the get go, I had as close to nothing in my legs as I've felt in a while. I still competed, and actually managed to muscle out a decent run, but I felt like crap and didn't enjoy a second of it. And that's a problem.

Anyone who reads this blog with any degree of regularity probably realizes that I have a competitive personality - annoyingly so at times. It's that competitive nature that gets me out the door twice a day to go run a bunch of miles. I respond well to running twice a day, however that second run is often a chore rather than a pleasure. And that's a problem.

The minute this running gig becomes too much like hard work is the minute I need to give it up. But I can't let that happen. I enjoy running and being in the mountains too much to let that happen. Besides, I want to pass on to my children and to others around me the joy of being in the mountains, and I won't be able to do that if I'm hating every second of it. So obviously I need to refocus here and get back to enjoying the training process and away from grinding my way through it.

I know that to be competitive at, say, Western States in June I'm going to have to grind out some miles, but when I'm running aimlessly around Dixon Reservoir at 4:30 in the afternoon, padding my weekly mileage before picking up my son from daycare, my thoughts are typically zeroed in on either race strategy or they are off day dreaming about an epic run that strings together six or seven peaks. I find more distraction from the mundane nature of my reality in the latter, yet the competitive side of my personality ensures that I keep moving forward in search of the racing goals that I otherwise find myself thinking about.

Numbers are important to runners, but they can also be incredibly dangerous. In recent weeks, I've been heading out the door on nearly every run with a watch strapped to my wrist, and I've found that the correlation between wearing a watch and enjoyment has been a negative one. Through the months of January and February I didn't wear a watch on any of my training runs - only at races - and I felt an amazing sense of liberation in that. As the trails have cleared and the running has become more predictable, I have for some reason been strapping the digits to my wrist more frequently, which in turn has caused me to want to run my training runs at a harder pace and, not surprisingly, has resulted in a greater sense of accumulated fatigue.

Therefore, other than for specific workouts, I have decided to ditch the watch for the remainder of this training cycle as it provides little in terms of feedback. I simply don't need a watch to tell me that I completed a run faster or slower than I did yesterday; that's all there in perceived effort.

And so I have to find compromise, which is why today's run was such a good one. I kept my stupid running streak alive, but I allowed myself to run at a pace that wasn't far removed from a hike and I didn't even remotely feel like taking a turn that would have added two, five or ten miles to my outing. No, I stuck to the plan, embraced the wind and enjoyed my run. Half way around a hiker was quite clearly enjoying his day too.

"Carpe Diem," he exclaimed as I sauntered past him. "Carpe Diem indeed," I responded.

There's not much to learn on this blog about training for endurance races - I make it up as I go along - but this I do know: it has to be fun or it just ain't worth it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week Ending May 2 (WS - 8 Weeks)

Mon - Noon: 14 miles easy (1,500'). 2:02. From home to Indian Summer and back on Blue Sky. Long way home.
PM: 7 easy. A loop of Pineridge & Spring Canyon Park before meeting Dana and Alistair for some biking action.

Tues - Noon: 14 miles (1,500') easy. 1:57. As yesterday noon. Legs kind of flaky and tired, but pushed out a slightly harder effort than Monday.
PM: 6.5 easy (1,200'). At Reservoir Ridge with FCTR group.

Weds - Noon: 12 miles (2,700') easy. 1:44. Made this one up as I went along. Woke up with tired legs and figured I would take an easy day, then as the morning progressed I started thinking I'd do a Towers loop from home for an easy 10, then half way up Towers I decided to tack on a couple of extra miles around the base of Horsetooth and also take the long way home. That's how my running mind is working these days: every run needs padding, which is to say I am chasing the miles - a syndrome that can lead to disaster, but I guess I've just got to keep it together for another 8 weeks and then the chase stops ... abruptly.

Anyway: to Soderburg on 38e/Shoreline, up Towers at a moderate - yet decent - pace (3:42 (Towers), 11:05 (Stout), 20:20 (Herrington), 30:08 (Mill Creek), 35:38 (Summit)), then Westridge - Rock up - Audra down - Southridge back up to '2 mile' - Rock down and home the long way.
PM: 7 miles steady at Pineridge. 50:30.

Thurs - Noon: 9 miles (2,200'). 1:26. Easy lunchtime Horsetooth/Audra loop. 4-5 inches of snow overnight, nothing but mud by lunch. Wet feet.

Here in the morning, gone by noon.

PM: 14 miles easy. Seven at Pineridge (54:51) before meeting up with Alex, Alex, Pete, Kyle, J.Z. and others for a 7 mile FCTR social run at Pineridge and on the bike paths.

Fri - Noon: 8.5 miles (2,100'). Horsetooth/Audra easy.
PM: 7 miles easy on the bike paths.


Jan: 252 (33,700')
Feb: 189 (33,500')
March: 488 (70,000')
April: 482.5 miles (72,700')

2010: 1,411 (209,900')


Sat - AM: 14 miles (2,000'). 2:02. Bobcat Ridge with Eric. Full loop plus out and back on the Eden Valley spur. Moderate effort with some good cruising up on the ridge. Beautiful morning.

Sun - AM: 16 miles (1,500'). 3 mile warm up, then 6.5 race, followed by 6.5 cool down.

Total: 129 miles (14,700').

This week was a grind. Legs are simply heavy and not liking life too much these days, most noticeably when I'm not running. Once warmed up, they seem to function well, but otherwise I have just been feeling lazy and beaten up. Quite obviously I need to back off the miles through the first half of this week to hopefully be ready to put in a pair of strong long runs next weekend.

On an entirely different note, the first Front Range mountain time trial is set for the week after next, most likely on Friday. The idea of a cross-country-style team event was first hatched between GZ and I last year in Manitou Springs the night before the Pikes Peak Ascent, so it's great that we're finally getting our act together and making it happen. No telling how many will show up, but the basic idea is that runners will not only represent themselves but also the Front Range community they reside in, with the top three (as yet unconfirmed) scoring. Lowest scoring team takes home bragging rights and the fruits of any side bets that may or may not be placed.

Somewhat fittingly, I guess, the first TT in the series will be held on Green, the mountain that Tony K has been burning grooves into all winter. While there is still time to cast a vote for your preferred day of action, it's looking like Friday the 14th will be the day.

No telling how many will be coming down from the Fort, but I already have a car full of runners committed, and once we have a date set in stone, I'll put out the call to the rest of the trail runners in town and I'm sure we'll get at least another car full, hopefully with enough to constitute a women's team too.

All in good fun of course, except if we win, and then it's deadly serious.


Course Records Tumble at Crazy Legs 10k

For a local trail race capped at 80 runners, there was certainly some talent on hand at the Crazy Legs 10k+ today. Local speedster and recent 2:32-marathoner Steve Folkerts was favorite in the men's field, while Seattle Marathon winner (2:38) and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Michelle Suszek, was the hot favorite in the women's field.

Before lining up for today's race, I was yet to be 'chicked' on the year, but the chances were looking reasonable that I might take an ego blow today, despite being the defending champ and course record holder.

The 10k race (6.5 miles) starts and ends at the Devil's Backbone trailhead, just west of Loveland. The first mile and a half is up and down a short hill on buffed-out singletrack, which is followed by a short and very sharp climb to a set of rollers, leading to approximately three miles of very technical rock running with continued rollers up and down from a ridgeline that overlooks the Blue Sky valley. Once through this section, there is a screaming descent to the last mile of fast, rolling singletrack.

Dropping down to the halfway point. Photo: Chad Johnson.

It's a tough course with some good climbing that rewards those prepared to put their ankles on the line through the rocks, while also allowing faster runners to pick up a head of steam in the opening and closing miles.

With 140 miles on my legs from the seven days prior I was hoping for a slow start to the race so I could keep contact with Steve and hopefully gain an advantage through the technical stuff on the middle section of the course. This didn't happen. Steve bolted from the gun, and after running with him for a quarter mile or so, I soon realized that my legs were in no shape to perform the task that was being asked of them. Steve led from start to finish, while I sat in second from start to finish. Certainly not as exciting as last year when I won by a second.

At the half, directing planes (or something). Photo: Chad Johnson

Heading back on the Laughing Horse Loop. Photo: Chad Johnson

Steve ran a very strong 40:18 for a new course record, while I was incredibly surprised to cross the line in the same time as last year (42:08), when I was in full race mode and pressing the whole way. Given the lead in my legs and the lack of any challenge from behind, I'm taking that as a very positive sign, even as I grow tired of the unwanted weight that I've been carrying in my legs these past few weeks.

Michelle smoked the course in 44:xx, finishing third overall and crushing the previous record by over six minutes, while my neighbor Amy took second in 49:xx, a time that would have been good for the win any other year.

Great to see Steve running so well this early in the season, especially as I have him (and other ringers) lined up for a little Green Mountain Time Trial action (see comments) up in Boulder in two weeks. Boulder, Denver and any other city being represented in the TT series, be warned: Fort Collins means business and we're bringing our 'A' game/team.