Thursday, January 30, 2014

Week Ending January 27

Mon - 10 miles (2,500') easy. South Horsetooth summit via Slush's Slit and then around on Westridge - Spring Creek. Another beautiful day in The Fort.

Tues - AM: 7 miles intervals. Not much in the tank for this morning's work. Ran with Chris, but the effort/split relationship was not a good one for me. Worked way too hard for these. Maybe some lingering cold stuff going on, if I really want to reach for an excuse. Or just getting old. Workout was 3 (1,200, 1,000) around City Park Lake, with the kilos as fartleks: 4:08, 3:25, 4:04, 3:23, 4:00, 3:20.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. An easy jog up Horsetooth to shake out the morning workout.

Weds - 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Casual Horsetooth summit on icy trails.

Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. It was cold this morning and the roads on Centennial were an icy/snowy mess, which made for challenging running trying to maintain an effort coming back. Out easy to the turn, then back with Jason in approximately 33 mins.
PM: 4.5 miles (1,500') kinda hard. Retained my title on the VBM. Undefeated in all four renditions, as it happens.

Fri - 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Grabbed a morning ascent of Horsetooth with Danny in the new snow. A little slippery, but I knew where all the icy spots were hidden. Back down the hill with neighbor Mike and his big plott hound.

Sat - 12.5 miles (3,400') easy. Double Horsetooth summit (21 & 22): Southridge - Audra - Rock - Wathan - Spring Creek - Soderberg - Rock - Audra - Southridge. Super casual double up and down via the cheat three-way route.

Sun - 15.5 (1,500') 5k/10k Frost Giant double. We stayed up in Estes Saturday night with Danny and his family at a cabin that one of Danny's colleagues had graciously opened up to us. Elk burgers were on the menu, which is fitting while in Estes, a town that is overrun by Elk. We were in town for the 35th running of the Frost Giant races, the fourth year in a row for me. The morning starts out with a 5k at 11:00 and a 10k at noon. Both races are a mix of hilly road and tough cross country, all at 7,500 - 8,000 feet.

There was a good group up from The Fort and surrounding areas, so we got out for a jog of the 5k course to assess conditions, which aside from the wind - always a factor in Estes - were pretty good. Getting ready, I bumped into Joe G who'd indicated the day before that he might be coming up, doubling down on the double with a 30k snowshoe race the day before.

The race got out with me, Mike - who'd beaten me the last time we raced on Thanksgiving - and Joe off the front in a small pack. The pace felt a lot more reasonable than it has in past years. Half a mile in on a slight downhill, Mike put in a little surge and it was just me and him at mile 1 heading up into McGregor Ranch. I kept on the gas all the way up the hill to the high point in McGregor Ranch and then let it go on the downhill across the pasture. This was enough to establish a comfortable gap on Mike, such that I could cruise the final mile back to the finish reasonably comfortably for 18:44. This was a few seconds off of last year, but 50 seconds off my best from 2011.

We jogged a bit between races to stay limber, then got things underway for the 10k, which starts with a steep climb up into some neighborhood roads. It looked like it was just me and Joe off the front for this one. We ran together for the first mile, and then I got a gap heading up to McGregor Ranch. The gap on Joe stayed essentially the same for the remainder of the race and I was content just to get around. The underfoot conditions were especially challenging on the 10k part of the course, with the usual off-camber grassy hillsides in addition to some really awkward sections of ice on the low point of the field to pick through. It felt like hard work. I popped back out on the road in 34:35, which meant I needed to run under 5:30 through the last mile to register something under 40 mins. I gave it a go, but came up a few seconds short (40:08), running another personal worst unfortunately. This one two minutes slower than last year and four minutes off my best. Maybe the course was longer? The cross country section seems to change a bit every year. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Longs money shot from the Estes Trail Gazette
Post the 10k. Podium in various orders for both races.
Total: 79.5 miles (15,500')

So, another base-building week of fairly easy, but hilly mileage in the books.

I've been up in the 100s for weekly mileage at this time in years past. Not this year. I think I can time a better peak for Western States if I stay conservative on the mileage through the end of February; save the heavy lifting for March, April, May. I think I've been fitter in May than June the last couple of go arounds.

Off to Costa Rica early tomorrow for a 10-day run vacation with the family. I'll be competing in the Coastal Challenge stage race, but should be done each day by 10:00 or so, which will mean lots of quality time on the beach with the kids. Six days of camping for three-year-old Stella should be interesting, but hopefully fun.

This is the 10th running of the 6-day, 230km race, so the race organizers have been busy putting together a field of international runners that I'm looking forward to running with and competing against. Ian Corless has the details on that. Having never run a stage race, I'm not really sure what to expect in terms of recovery and getting after it for six straight days, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. Fun times.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Week Ending January 19

Monday - 5 miles (1,500') jog/hike. Horsetooth north. Drove down to the trailhead and attempted a summit of Horsetooth, but was reduced to a hike/jog, due to continued sickness and super icy conditions underfoot.

Tuesday - 4 miles jogging. Went down to City Park for Jane's workout, but ended up jogging the intervals as I was still feeling crappy. Gave up once the snow started coming down.

Wednesday - 7.5 miles (1,800'). Horsetooth north. The trails were still an icy mess, but I finally felt some strength returning to my body, although still hacking up a lung.

Thursday - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. Out a little quicker than normal, but still relatively easy, then back with Jason at tempo effort. Still a bit under the weather, the hills were tough, but I was able to at least get some kind of turnover going. Back in 31:25 - 7:36, 6:35, 6:42, 5:24, 5:06.
PM: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Gorgeously sunny out, so cruised up and got a nice easy Horsetooth summit.

Friday - AM: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Another beautiful morning. Up the hill easy with Danny.
PM: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Jogged out another summit with the last rays of the day.

Sat - 12.5 miles (4,400') peaks. Met up with Jason, Burch, Lewis, Dane and Sam for a loop on Greyrock. The trails were better than I thought they would be, but I kept it at one loop before heading down the canyon to Gateway Natural Area with Jason to bag ranked 6,823' to the east of Seaman Reservoir. For this one, we ran the mile to the private property line on the southeast corner of Seaman Reservoir. Once the property there came into sight, we hoofed steeply uphill following a ridge with good goat trails all the way to the summit. This one was fairly open, so it went quickly. Up and back in just a little over an hour. Nice views of Seaman Reservoir, Greyrock and other peaks up the canyon from the top.

Sun - 21.5 miles (4,000') steady. Horsetooth/Redstone/Horsetooth yo-yo. 3:30. Started out with an easy jog up Horsetooth, then ran the road down to Redstone Canyon where I did a steady out and back to the three-mile marker, holding 7:10s up the hill and 6:45s down. After that I was back up the hill for another easy summit of Horsetooth (16) before heading for home. It took a while to force myself out the door for this one, as the motivation to run long just hasn't been there of late. This may have been my longest run since Wasatch, so I was pleased to feel decently strong the whole way around.

Total: 83 miles (18,500')

The start of this week was pretty much a bust due to lingering flu-like symptoms. That started abating by the middle of the week, so I was able to finish things out on a strong note - finally getting a legitimate long run under my belt on Sunday. It's been a while.

Looking forward to some Frost Giant action up in Estes Park on Sunday - always a fun time. This will be my first trip up the Big Thompson Canyon since the floods, so I'm interested to see how things look there. Hoping to also find some time to bag West Crosier on the way back, the last ranked peak in the Big Thompson area that I need. Speaking of which, I picked up Larimer County ranked peak number 150 on Saturday, which leaves just 105 more to get until I have the full collection! Probably be another couple of years.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Week Ending Jan 12

Mon - 7 miles (1,800') easy. Nice easy jog up Horsetooth in well-packed snow on the main trail.

Tues - AM: 7.5 miles intervals. Underfoot conditions on the cemetery loop were not good, so pretty much ran to effort and disregarded the watch this morning. Workout was mile, 800, 800, broken mile (800, 800), 1.5 mile lamppost fartlek.
PM: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy Horsetooth summit. Gorgeous day out with still great packed snow on the main trail.

Weds - Noon: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Snuck a quick summit of Horsetooth before running the kids around for the afternoon.

Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. Out on Centennial with the Thursday morning group: Mary, Celeste, Ziggy, Scott, Becca, Lee, Marie and Katie. Nice easy run out as usual, then back at a controlled half marathon - 10 mile effort. Net uphill for the first three miles, then down for the last two: 7:32, 6:40, 6:35, 5:20, 5:15 = 31:22.
Noon: 7 miles (1,800') uber easy with Stefanovic who was back on break (and grossly out of shape) from his studies in Boston. Snuck a north gap ascent in as the rock was largely ice free. Beautiful view of blue fog sitting over the valley east of Boulder. Out towards the plains smoggy/dusty air was trapped low and looking nasty.

Fri - 7 miles (1,800') easy. After watching the wind howl from my office all morning, I finally summoned the courage to get outside and tag the peak. Went up the main trail to stay out of the wind and then struggled mightily to stay on my feet once on top of the rock (9). Everything has iced over thanks to the sun and wind, so it was very careful going on the descent.

Sat - 8 miles (2,000') peakbaggery. Woke with a burning throat and pretty much feeling like death, but decided to go ahead and meet Andy as planned for a morning tagging peaks up in the Red Feather Lakes area. We started from the Mount Margaret Trailhead with the winds whipping around pretty fiercely. There wasn't a huge amount of snow on the ground, but enough windblown accumulation to make things annoying. On the north side of the Red Feather Lakes Road, there are three ranked peaks semi-circling Windy Gap Lake, with two more on the south side of the road. Those were the goal peaks for the morning. First up was 8,522', a nice rocky lump composed of the solid, weathered and uber-featured Sherman Granite familiar to the area north of Fort Collins and the high plains of Laramie. To get on the peak, we followed a National Forest fence north to its northeast corner, before heading east and up to get the fun, rocky summit. The land out here is nice and open, so the views from each of our morning's summits were stellar.

8,522' on a different day. Photo: Joe Grim (from LoJ site)
From the top of 8,522' we checked out the lay of the land for the next two peaks, noting a steep snowy descent to the saddle with 8,356', which from our vantage point had a particularly aesthetic appeal to it, and then a good bit of cross country around Windy Gap Lake to get to 8,388'. The descent off 8,522' offered a little spice to our morning due to the steep, slabby and snow-covered nature of the terrain, but we picked and slipped our way through comfortably enough. By contrast, the southwest facing rock of 8,356' was dry, featured and fun to climb. It went quickly. The route off was again largely dry and we were soon making our way around the frozen Windy Gap Lake and heading up some pretty torturous terrain to get on 8,388'. Deadfall, heavy brush and the deepest snow of the day all made for a tedious - even if short - ascent. The summit rock had a nice hand crack to the top, which Andy geeked on for a while and then we headed southwest off the rock through heavy brush for Lone Pine Creek and the road. By the time we hit the asphalt, I was really beat down from the crud invading my body, so we called it there and ran the mile and half back up to the car into a nice steady headwind. Got home and was essentially dead to the world for the rest of the weekend.

8,356' from slopes of 8,522'.
Sick and wanting off the windy 8,522' summit. Windy Gap Lake to the right. 
Sun - 1.5 miles (400') hiking. Woke up feeling absolutely terrible. Aches, temperature, cough, burning respiratory system. There was no hope of a run today, so I nixed plans for a longer one and tried to convince Alistair to hike with me. The winds were howling again, so it was a tough sell, but I did at least get him to the trailhead. We didn't get far though, both of us not really enjoying being out, so we headed back down and into town to watch grown men collide into each other at full speed while chasing after an oddly shaped ball. I used to do that for fun too. How odd.

Total: 63 miles (12,800')

Picked up the nasty flu-like cold that's been doing the rounds this winter towards the end of this week and it put me on my back for much of the weekend and the first part of this week, but I'm finally feeling like I've kicked it to the curb some five days later. Good riddance, I haven't been sick like that in a while.

The sickness put to bed any plans of a longer run this past weekend, something I need to start getting on top of these next couple of weeks if I want to have any chance of competing in Costa Rica at the Coastal Challenge early next month. I've been tooling around with runs in the 7-10 mile range forever, it seems, and basically avoiding longer efforts. Time to start getting a little more serious.

Successful racing or not, we're really looking forward to the trip out to CR. Dana's mom is going to come out and join us, which should hopefully give Dana some good time to herself on the beach or in the jungle while I'm out running in the mornings. The 90+ degree temps are going to be a pretty rude slap in the face, but it'll be the same for most everyone I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week Ending Jan 5

Mon - 10 miles (800') easy. Ran out to Clowes Wood between Canterbury and Whitstable in more rain and heavy winds. Last run of the UK trip. Pretty fitting.

Tues - Off. Travel day back home for New Year's Eve. In bed by 9:00.

January: 345.5 miles (51,900)
February: 309 (47,900')
March: 438.5 (68,800')
April: 362.5 (68,700')
May: 423.5 (84,400')
June: 412.5 (72,500')
July: 238 (42,300')
August: 238 (40,700')
September: 181 (47,600')
October: 163.5 (38,600')
November: 215 (60,900')
December: 283.5 (48,200)

Total: 3,610.5 (672,500') 
Ave: 301 (56,041')

2012 Total: 4,118.5 (714,600')
2011 Total: 4,264 (729,400')
2010 Total: 4,100 (655,850')
2009 Total: 3,451 (486,600')


Weds - AM: 10 miles (2,500') easy. Made it up to the top of Horsetooth in the dark to catch the first sunrise of the year. Totally clouded over so didn't see much in the way of sun, but it felt great to be running uphill again. From Horsetooth, ran around Westridge for a Spring Creek descent. Tacked on the Grim Reaper hill in my neighborhood, which officially puts me in the 100-mile training season.

A bit of color poked through to the south on a cold and windy start to the 2014 Horsetooth bagging season.
PM: 7 miles (1,800') easy. Got out and nabbed another Horsetooth just before sunset.

Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo: Becca, Celeste, Ziggy and Lee for the Centennial out and back. Enjoyed a nice cruise out, then came back in a very comfortable 31:22. Keeping true to the goal of my Thursday morning tempo sessions this year, I kept this one where it was supposed to be and avoided the temptation to run as hard as possible. Ran the back five right on the digits from the last time I did this workout three weeks ago and it felt significantly more comfortable. Progress. 7:25, 6:30, 6:32, 5:36, 5:18.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') steady. First Towers session of the year. My quads felt sore from the morning workout and are clearly in need of serious seasoning before things start getting serious again. Ran with Sam Malmberg at an effort that was a little harder than I had planned. Legs were definitely tired, which made the 34 flat feel more like a 31.

Fri: 10 miles (2,500') easy w/Tony S. Horsetooth summit, then Westridge, Secret, Towers, Spring Creek, Soderberg. Beautiful day: shorts and a T. Sore quads still from yesterday's road workout.

Sat: 13 miles (3,500') peakbaggery. Headed north with Jason and Andy to the Eagle's Nest Open Space, a little used Larimer County natural area off Red Feather Lakes Road. There are a couple of ranked peaks out there, 6,975' and Livermore Mountain, that are accessible from Eagle's Nest, so the morning's mission was to bag those two and perhaps a couple of others further west if time allowed. Despite the six inches or so of snow that had fallen overnight in my neighborhood, west of Fort Collins, the conditions to the north were considerably better with the snow essentially tapering off by the time we reached the Red Feather turn-off. The four-mile run out to the base of 6,975' was of the rolling variety and involved a mix of Larimer, NFS and undetermined property on good double track. The steep, burned-out, north facing slope of 6,975' offered a fun, but slick 800' scramble to the socked-in top. We imagined the views south to the Poudre Canyon, before heading in a direction we thought appropriate to get on Livermore Mtn (7,504'). I had some cliff notes for directions and was glad to have them considering there was very limited visibility. The run/hike up Livermore was very straightforward as it turned out. From the top, we followed the gentle northeast ridge back down to the double track at the base of 6,975' and then enjoyed a nice run back to the trailhead. Total mileage on this one was approximately 12.5 with 3,000 feet of vertical gain. It would have been nice to check this area out with better visibility, so I might have to return one of these days to climb the aesthetic but unranked Eagle's Nest Rock - which we passed up in favor of heading west to take in ranked Manhead Mountain (7,980') before time was up on the morning.

For Manhead, we entered the Glacier View neighborhood via 'Gate 10' and took that all the way south to the base of the rock, which actually lies on a small parcel of National Forest land, despite being surrounded by private property. Out here, there had been a good bit of snow which made the short climb up Manhead a little more interesting. This one was only 400 feet or so of ascent, but required a climbing move or two on the route Andy charted up a couple of chimneys. Again we had to imagine the views from the top before descending on slick slabby rock back to the car. Fun morning.

Manhead from the north on a different day. Photo: Joe Grim
Sun - AM: 1 mile easy setting up the Edora Park 8k course. Frigid again.

Some of the 28 who showed up for a second single digit T&H in a row.  
Trying to stay warm waiting for runners to finish. Not quite an NFL sideline heater, but that thing pumps out some warmth. 
PM: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Grabbed a nice snowy Horsetooth summit (4) with Danny B on a cold but sunny early afternoon. There had been lots of traffic before us in the day and a half since the most recent snowfall, so there was a decently packed track to follow all the way to the summit. Crisp and clear from the top and good to see a couple of familiar faces on the way back down.

Total: 75.5 miles (16,000')

Good week on balance. Flicked the switch proper January 1 and now consider myself to be back in full-on training mode. I feel decently rested from the summer and I'm looking forward to another fun year out and about in the hills.

Ended up with 152 Horsetooth summits on the year, in addition to a now 146 other Larimer County ranked peaks, which leaves me with just 109 left to get. Of course, I've bagged most of the low-hanging fruit within easy striking distance of home, so the remainder may take a little longer to snag.

The Horsetooth haul was good, but not as good The Erskine who tagged the top 164 times in 2013. He wins a six pack from yours truly. That will not be repeated in 2014.

Quad Rock registrations are off to a strong start and it's looking like we'll fill sometime in February. We have an increased cap this year and will register 400 runners, but such is the demand these days for long outings on the trails that we'll still likely fill at record pace.

What else? Hmm, not a great deal really. Mileage this year was down on years past, due in most part to running the Grand Slam. Yes, you race lots of miles, but you also end up spending tons of time on your tush trying to recover. July to November this year were all under 250 miles, which I consider to be low mileage months. And so it goes. Won't do that again anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Week Ending December 29

Mon - 5.5 miles easy. Tyler Hill/Uni loop.

Tues - 3 miles easy. A quick and easy loop up and around the university.

Weds - 6 miles w/5k race. Headed out to Whitstable with Dana and the kids for an early race to start off our Christmas Day. Alistair and I raced, while Dana and Stella enjoyed some time by the sea. I wanted to keep this one firmly under control to save myself for the main event the next day at the Saltwood Boxing Day Run. Got out with two others off the front at a pace that felt a whole lot quicker than I wanted it to. Unfortunately, I have a competitive instinct that can be very hard to quell so I tucked in and ran with it. Went through the first kilo in 3:18 (5:18 mile pace) and shook my head, but stuck with the other two anyway as things seemed to be easing off. This was reflected pretty clearly over the next two kms that came in at 3:40, 41 (5:54, 55), after which I decided to pick things up a touch. Final two kms clocked at 3:24 and 3:35 (5:28, 44), so yeah the splits were all over the place.

Thurs - 4.5 miles w/3 mile xc race. Saltwood Boxing Day Run. Felt really strong for this one and was really pleased at how hard I was able to stay on the gas the whole way around. Third overall in a surprising 4 second course PR despite majorly muddy conditions.

Fri - 5.5 miles easy. Jogged an easy Tyler Hill/University loop.

Sat - 6 miles w/5k race. Back out to Whitstable for another Parkrun 5k. Despite this being my third race in four days, I wanted to push this one a bit to see if I could sneak under 17 minutes to finish out the year. For me, anything under 17 minutes means I'm starting to round into decent fitness. Not particularly fast by any stretch of the imagination, but a good marker for me. I would run this one solo in second with a guy close enough off the front to act as a decent pull. Through the first kilo I worked on holding a pace that would allow my race-weary legs to ease into things but keep me in the general 3:24/km ballpark. I was a little disappointed to come in a couple of seconds over at 3:26 for the first km, about 10 seconds back on the lead guy, so ratcheted things immediately after the km marker, focusing on not losing any more distance to the lead. The second km came in at 3:14, which put me back in the hunt. Unfortunately the middle km of the Whitstable 'lollipop' loop was a mix of slippery mud, significant headwind and flooded concrete path. I did what I could, and was okay with the 3:42 for this one. Immediately on getting back on the promenade for the return to the finish, I pushed hard, with the lead guy still just 10-15 seconds in front. The fourth km was an alleged 3:05 (4:5x mile pace), but I have to think it was a touch short. From there I just needed to run a final 3:32 kilo to sneak in under 17. I felt like I was still able to push through that last km, but must have been slowing a touch. The final .1 up the hill into the finish stiffened the task, and I ended up crossing in 17:03, 25 seconds or so off the lead. Nonetheless, I was happy with the run given that I'm still in the off-season, and it has me encouraged to chase the speed a bit over the next couple of months to see if I can't run something in the 16:30 range before really beginning to load the miles and vertical this spring in preparation for Western States.

Sun - 6 miles easy. Jogged out an easy Tyler Hill/Uni loop with a tack on at the end to run down the St Thomas Hill footpath.

Total: 36.5 miles

A light week on the mileage front but necessarily so, as I put in a couple of hard effort races in addition to a race as a workout on Christmas day. Both the Boxing Day Run and the Saturday 5k have me decently encouraged that my fitness is starting to come around, and I'm really looking forward to working hard on my higher end speed the next couple of months to see if I can't register an altitude PR at the 5k distance and breach the 16:30 threshold as a prelude to the meat and potatoes of 100 mile training: volume and vertical.

Speed is undoubtedly my biggest weakness when it comes to running ultra-distance events, my stomach being a close second, so it's really a no-brainer for me to want to get after it in a serious and focused manner if I truly want to get the best out of myself in the summer racing season. I need to figure out my stomach too, so I'll be experimenting with that as well as the next five months unfold. No point being in the best shape of your life if you let it all unravel at the hands of a sour stomach.