Thursday, January 16, 2014

Branching out in 2014

Like many people I don't "resolve" to do anything at the new year, but I do tend to set goals.  The last two years I've set a goal of reading 12 books in the given year.  I'm 0-2.  Who knows though, I'm off to a decent start again, so hopefully I can keep it up.

Many of my friends are also chasing the elusive 365 beers of 2014 and while I don't intend on reaching that lofty goal, you just never know.  I've begun tracking the different beers here on the right and I'm on pace through 16 days...  Early leader in the clubhouse is Gigantic's The Future Is Now which is a truly fantastic take on an IPA and not something I've tasted despite my pension for them.  Almost like a cross between Gubna and Alaskan Amber, sticky and malty.  Good stuff.

I don't have an arbitrary number I'm shooting for, though I assume I'll be able to hit 100 different beers this year just out of habit.  The nice thing is that it forces me to branch out and try new beers. As with everything else though, I assume that it'll peter out in the summer when I tend to do little else outside my family fun and running.  The winter is when I get my beer/read on mostly, so I need to maximize my time here in the next few months.

Between drinking, reading, and running my main goal is to branch out and try new things.  I've been lifting twice a week this winter, reading across genres, and running odd routes around my neighborhood that I've neglected.  I tend to be a creature of habit and having the goal to try new things even at the simplest level (like running a slightly different way to the trail head) is gonna be a great way to shake things up and hopefully improve my improvisation.


My racing schedule looks to have taken shape pretty solidly, though changes may come due to some rearranging on the family schedule.  The most likely thing is that is out there is swapping EMR with the Dirty 30.  I might be solo around that time, and it'd make more sense for me to maximize that time by hitting some long days after the race in the high country if the weather permits.  If we have another late winter like last year, it's unlikely but if we get another 2012 spring, I should be good to hit some classics that I need to tick like Longs and Holy Cross/Halo Ridge.  Ideally I'd be able to tack on Elbert/Massive as well and make it a 4 day dirtbag odyssey.

I also plan to enter the Cascade Crest lottery with plans to continue on with Fat Dog if I don't get in.  Donnie got into UTMB so he'll be gallivanting around the alps instead of the Canadian Cascades.  Either way, I'll be stoked. Cascade Crest has been a bucket lister for me and I figure I might as well start with the lottery to see how it goes.

In any case, I look forward to chatting it up with yunz runner folks at the Fat Ass this Saturday.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Success and Failure

Success! I made the arbitrary goal of human powered summits of Green Mountain despite a bunch of sparse months through the middle of the year.  It's easiest to get in a groove in bad weather months because the direct route is mostly clear and runnable, but the dry weather brings out the fun stuff on the other parts of the hill.

Failure.  Poor job on the reading front, though as with running it took a back seat in the late summer and fall when life didn't permit it.  Off to a decent start in 2014, and I'll try to get all the way to 12 this year, just have to stay on top of it.  Enjoyed Semi Rad's new book.

The best book I read in 2013 was A Coffin for Dimitrios though I enjoyed the other Noir novels in the queue.  Franny and Zooey was a re-read, so I can't count that really, but it's Salinger goodness.  I've got a good lineup of Noir for 2014 (Xmas gifts from the wife) as well as Nick Offerman's book.  I also need to read a few classics that I'm embarrassed not to have read.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Stats

Spent my long days this fall and late summer on the bike, in fact, I didn't run longer than 10 miles between pacing Donnie at Leadville and the impromptu 28 miler down in Roxborough with Woody, Scott, and Patrick.  If I'd have run those days, I'd be close to about 3K for the year, and considering a couple of long breaks from training, that's a pretty solid daily number (9.8 miles per run, close to 14 miles per running day).

The obvious trend is towards vertical, as I racked up more than 100K more than 2012, including time on the bike.  I ride the same routes as I run and if I stay on Green Mountain, I'm about the same speed as a run due to my shitty bike skills.  However, I'm gonna keep some bike time through the summer, particularly on days after long runs.  Also, contrary to popular belief, biking is actually fun.


Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Mix Tape

The family had a lot of ups and downs in the last year, as did my running, and for the most part things are now in a better place than they were before.  I won't pretend to say that it was a "great" year, but it was an informative year for both my goals and desires for running as well as my priorities as a family man.  I've joked in the past that blogs (really the internet in general) are a place for people to bitch about nonsense and conversely make false proclamations of happiness.  An actual truism is that the rough parts of the past year certainly help to highlight the truly awesome parts of the year.

Xavier and I on our way to Mt. Sherman
In terms of running, I ran five races this year, and only ran well in one of them, Salida.  In that race I really struggled for the first 13 and last 3 miles, but it was still probably my best effort and certainly the best result of the lot.  I prepared, planned, and raced poorly for a majority of the year through Bighorn and had hopes of recharging and racing strong at the end of the year.  That didn't happen for a number of reasons, but life has its ways of throwing curves.  What the middle of summer actually brought was some much needed time in the alpine, my eldest's first 14er, pacing/crewing for Donnie's Leadman bid, and many beers with friends.

Pacing Donnie at Pb
Though it all I built some great friendships.  I can count Todd and Donnie, my two regular training partners, as great guys who help keep shit in perspective.  We went to the Grand Canyon together (along with Jeremiah and Greg) and Todd and I spent a couple of days chasing back-country routes this summer.  Those were by far the highlights of the running year; pure fun with a side of suffer.  I'm certainly looking forward to the new year's adventure running plans.  Often times the emails of route ideas ruin perfectly productive afternoons of work.

Todd acting appropriately
This past June also marked my wife's first 50 mile race.  A good weather day, smart training, and solid execution led to a great result.  The boys and I camped out on the course, and attempted to offer support along the way.  Really, we just made noise and likely slowed her down.  She was able to walk to the car afterwards, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for myself after my first 50.  Funny how things evolve, just a few years ago she was laughing at me for suggesting such an endeavor.  Now, she's another full blown convert to the ultra world.

The wifey, finishing strong.
Now, it's been 6 months since I posted anything here and mostly that was just due to a lack of motivation or desire to do anything here.  The fall was probably the most stressful time around the family for a multitude of reasons and we're still working out the kinks, but there have been some really cool moments mixed in.  Our oldest child, Xavier (now 5 years old), had been bugging us about being able to sign up for a "kid race", though he had little interest in a traditional 5K, insisting that it be a "mountain race".  We signed him up for the Rattlesnake Ramble, which was initially cancelled when the floods ripped through Eldorado Canyon.  However, after some recovery work, the race was rescheduled and Xavier got to run his race.

Doofus smile.  No idea where he gets that from...

One of the realizations I've had this year as a parent is that your kids will think whatever you do is normal.  My kids have no concept that ultramarathons are not mainstream.  While I certainly attempt to brainwash my boys (with great success, just ask them their favorite sports teams) I also try to encourage them to pursue whatever they find interesting.  For Xavier this means roughly every sport known to mankind.  For Oliver it means breaking shit.  Actually, that little one is a handful.  Attempts to steer his conniving genius have largely failed.

All together.
Now, where do I go from here?  I spent a good amount of time thinking about what my running priorities would be for 2014 after I missed out on the Hardrock lottery again (one of these years I might even make the wait-list).  I don't need a Hardrock qualifier for next year's lottery, and like most runners, I found myself racing just for the sake of racing a bit too much for my liking over the last two years.  So, I went through the list of available options and immediately ruled out anything I wasn't excited about.  I thought about the type of places I wanted to run.

Pretty much all the places I want to run look like this.
I also knew that I wanted to make extra room for an adventure.  No racing, just exploring with friends.  Some runners (mostly single people) can take these kinds of trips regularly, but those of us with families must balance the amount of travelling and time away from home.  Last year it was the Grand Canyon, a place I'd actively avoided until I could commit to doing it right.  Running R2R2R was the trip in 2013, and almost immediately on returning we'd pretty much decided that we'd try to find a way to do Zion in 2014.

Myself, Donnie, and Todd on the South Rim.  Photo by Jeremiah.
So, keeping that in mind, and working through the wife's racing/travel plans (she's planning a trip to the Methow Valley next summer) I decided on some races.

2014 Plans
March - Salida
May - Zion
June - Evergreen Mountain Run 
June - Lake City
July - Mt. Werner Classic (If accepted to CC100)
August - El Vaquero Loco (If not accepted to CC100)
August - Cascade Crest (lottery dependent)

Salida was an easy choice.  All things considered, it might be the most fun race in Colorado.  The town is awesome, the vibe is awesome, it's cheap, and it's beautiful.  At times technical, at times painfully fast, it's the perfect mix for a trail marathon.

Zion in May. Stoke factor is almost untenable.

Evergreen Parks and Rec put on great low key races for cheap.  I did this one back in 2009, time to return.

Lake City has been on my list for as long as I've been running ultras, and I had to forcibly decide to not race one of the Bighorn events this year so that I could make the trip to the San Juans.  I love Wyoming, and eventually I'll complete all the Bighorn runs (I just need the 30K and 50 miler), but it was time to do some more exploring and get after the solstice run.

Late July/Early August will be determined by the Cascade Crest Lottery.  I would love to run El Vaquero Loco, so if I don't get into CC I'm set on heading out to Afton for Ty Draney's annual sufferfest.  If I get in to CC, it's just a week too close, so I'll settle for my favorite race course in Steamboat at Mt. Werner.  This is a great race and would work perfectly in conjunction with CC.  The one race that missed out this year was the Standhope 60K.  I just don't think the travel aspect there works for me (this year).  Check out the course though, unreal.  Bucketlister.

Play in the mountains, it's good for the soul.
Obviously, if I get through the lottery, Cascade Crest will be the focus for my fall.  However, I'm not gonna let that derail any plans for alpine slogging.  Often the bummer for Pb runners is the desire to run the course for familiarity, and they miss out on the best season in Colorado.  I won't sacrifice that this year regardless, it's too good to pass up, and I've got some bucket list adventures close by that I'd like to tick off (RMNP traverse, Lost Creek, etc.).

If I don't get into CC, I might look into another late season option (The Bear/Volcanic 50 among the competitors), but I'll let that play out later.  For now, 'tis the season to prep for the fat ass down in the Springs by jaunting through the hills and drinking beer.  The wife and I got rec center passes too, so I'll be shooting hoops, climbing, and lifting a few weights through the winter months.

Lastly I'd like to thank the sponsors that willingly attach themselves to me.  I'm extremely grateful for the support from Drymax and Pearl Izumi.  I'm not a national class ultrarunner, and I don't get paid, but I can honestly say that the gear I've been using is gear that I would (and have) purchased with my own money.  I've worn Drymax socks for 4 years now and I've never been disappointed with them.  I've bought them for my dad, wife, and various other family members.  The company is small, and committed to runners. The ultrarunning community should be grateful for companies like Drymax that truly supply the sport with both great products as well as through sponsorship.  As well, I've been incredibly thankful for Pearl Izumi's support of my running, and their support of our fringe sport in general.  Long known as one of the finest cycling apparel producers in the world, their running gear has rapidly caught up in both function and simplicity.  Get your hands on the Ultra Short and you'll be glad you did.  I'm excited for all the miles I'll get to put on my trusty N2's this next year.

Now, I leave you in the capable hands of Oliver.

His winter plans? Sledding.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bighorn 100 2013

Wow, not sure where to start this one, but perhaps reminiscing on my DNF is a good way to start.  I was worried.  Going into the race I was 1 of 3 with 100's, ran one really well and had disastrous races in the other two.

From the start I felt dull, no energy and working too hard to keep it easy.  Eventually, I fell in line with Bryan and we hiked our way to the ridge.  For some reason I always seem to miss the turn into the brush, and again this year I missed it.  We were fortunate to be loud enough to catch Becky who was rockin' some tunes and on her way off course too.

Seemingly all the way into Dryfork my stomach started to turn and my legs began to ache.  I was pretty pissed off at this point as it seemed that my race from the year prior was reliving itself and I just felt like death.  Quickly I refueled and got on my way to Cow Camp.  To be completely honest, it was one of the lowest times I've had during a race, and coupled with the fact that it was so early in the race, I was fairly distraught.  The folks at Cow Camp were great, and served me some ice cold soda and tums.  While it didn't do much for my stomach, and I laid down on the side of the trail a handful of times between there and Bear Camp, I began to find at least a semblance of the fight I'd need to finish off the race if it took me 30 hours.

Descending the haul into Footbridge, I cranked the tunes and zoned out into one of the best rappers of all time: Nas.  Thankfully, Steve was down at the aid station crewing for Brendan and it was just great to see a friend.  By then I had fully embraced the suck and was content to grind out the best day I could.  I can't say my legs responded at all, but at least my mentality was gaining steam.  I had to really tough out the long drawn out climb to Elk Camp, but I did and I began seeing the leaders coming through, including Brendan, who looked great at the time.

Shortly after leaving, I needed to turn on my headlamp and negotiated the newer terrain to the slightly changed turn point at Jaws.  I didn't go into Jaws at all, knowing all too well the dangers of entering a hot tent on a cold night.  I sat my ass in a chair and changed out all of my gear, switching to pants, down jacket, beanie, gloves, and new shoes/socks.  That was probably the smartest thing I did all day, as the temps apparently dropped below even last year when I became hypothermic (low 20's).

My legs really had a hard time starting to go, and I began to really get that 100 mile ache after sitting for a bit.  However, a few miles after leaving Elk Camp, I was rolling, from here on in, I'd pass something like 15-20 people on the way home.  I ended up running all of the 17 miles into Footbridge where I'd lose the pants and switch sleeves and jackets because I had started to sweat pretty hard.  The climb up to Bear Camp was actually pretty fun, if grueling.

At this point, I was totally in a zone, and I'd listened to so much hip hop music that I'd just start rapping the nastiest lyrics out loud as a source of habit.  By the time I'd make it Cow Camp, I was just shocked to see Steve and Brendan wrapped up in a blanket next to the fire.  And, as it turned out, Becky was in a tent too, later being removed via ATV.  Bighorn is bitch that way, a tough as nails course that does not lend itself to quick recovery or coddling aid stations.  I guess it's definitely part of the allure for me, and it certainly adds to the challenge.

I kept moving steady all the way back to Dryfork where for the first time I realized that if I kept my shit together, there was a chance of going under 24, but it was going to be incredibly close if it happened.  So, I managed to make myself try to forget about it until I got to Upper Sheep Camp and then I knew that if I got to the ridge strongly, I could have a go and see if the legs could take the terrible downhill.  On the way down, I was able to run pretty well for about 2/3 of the way, but just after passing Gary Gellin and Nikki Kimball I fell apart a bit and was forced to hike for 5 minutes or so.  Moving though the lower aid stations, I knew that with 5 miles left, I had to run 39:59 to break 24.  The miles were excruciating, the packed dirt road with rocks blasted my right arch and I was really hurting.  I can't really explain the mental anguish in forcing myself to try to run hard 97 miles in, but my god.  Turning the river and into the park, I realized they moved the finish a few hundred yards back and I was out of time, missing a Rusty Spurs club medal by 40 seconds.  I collapsed at the finish, totally exhausted.

For the first hour after the race, I've never felt worse.  The combination of miles, fatigue, and then pushing so hard for the last hour, I felt like I was going to throw up all my insides.  I had a tough time getting back into the car, but surprisingly after a short nap at the hotel, I was feeling pretty OK.  By dinner time, I was doing great, and the next day, I was almost all the way human.  In fact, today, 2 weeks later, I feel completely fine. After Leadville, I didn't feel right again until January, so I'm happy that I'm in good condition to enjoy the high country season in Colorado.  

So, how to evaluate the race?  Well, I had a terrible 55 miles to start out, and a pretty damn solid 45 finishing miles.  I'm so happy to finish and get that monkey off my back.  Certainly part of being able to recover quickly was due to not running to my potential.  The opening issues I faced were partly due to a bad day, and partly due to some crappy planning on my part.  I feel that I raced and ran too many super long runs (3 45mi or longer runs in 4 weeks) in the build up.  I simply cannot recover after all of that.  I also ran too intensely too far out, causing my peak fitness to come early, and entering the race I had felt pretty crappy for about 4-5 weeks.  I'm certainly still learning, and perhaps a coach would help, but the realities of life don't lend itself to that.

For now, I'm gonna enjoy a few of these:

Wear this around:

And lastly, I'll be up in the high mountains for the rest of summer and fall... More to come on that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quad Rock 2013

Well, the last really long day before Bighorn is now behind me and I feel pretty good today.  While I had a mediocre finishing time (for me, I suppose), I had a great time out on the Quad Rock course.  The thing with a course like this is that if you don't have great legs, or you're tired, the amount of extra time you add on is exponential.  What I really wanted, after some internal realistic discussion, was a solid long day.  That was precisely what I got and in the end I'm happy with that.
Finishing up.  Photo: MH
Just one year ago, I had peaked and had a smashing day on the Jemez course.  The thing was, Jemez was not my goal race and while I had a good result, I put myself in a grave doing so which translated to may of the problems I had prior to DNF'ing at Bighorn just a few weeks later.  While there are many folks who can race hard multiple times in a short window, I am not one of those people.

Car! Photo: MH
So, onto the race.  Mike was kind enough to put me up the night before thanks to Clarkie's absurd starting time!  However, once we got going, I settled into the climb and ran with a mix of folks and found what appeared to be a comfortable effort.  Horsetooth came easily enough and I was feeling OK despite the seemingly normal lack of pop in the legs (a product of my training, perhaps more on that later).

Cool shot of the Grass/Burn dichotomy.  Photo: MH
I had enough sense to break the course up mentally and for once I managed to forget the miles and simply run.  On our way up Arthur's the first go around, I latched onto Tom from the Springs and we had a great chat about all sorts of things pretty much the whole climb and descent into the turn.  It's funny how company makes the time pass, and before long we were watching the leaders come back through us.

I must say, as an avid opponent of loop courses, this was surprisingly easy to negotiate (mentally) even though I knew what was coming (a long ass climb).  I plodded my way back through the Arthur's climb and back through the Arthur's aid station where I started my routine of slamming coke at every aid.  From here on out it was the same old story, moderate running downhill, and a mix of hiking/jogging uphill.  I can see that it would be fun to make a course like this your focus and just try to hammer the climbs and hang on through the downs.  But that was not this day, this day was about surviving...

And, after what seemed like an eternity, and a bit of hail, I popped out on the valley trails and meandered my way back to the finish line.  Now, I had prepared to kick Nick in the balls for starting so early, but he so graciously cooked up some Ultragen and I let it slide.  I must say that this race was seriously top notch.  The production, the aid, volunteers (good to see my friends out there on the course), and pretty well everything that goes on there was great.  This is not because I consider Nick a friend, but rather, this was a GREAT event.  Even though I was slow, I had a great time.  Beautiful trails, tough climbs, and fun descents.  The biggest praise I can give my sponsors is that my feet feel awesome today; no blisters and no sore feet!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gas Station Coffee*

Don't get me wrong, I love great coffee.  I appreciate the quest for it, the places you find it, how it smells as it is roasted, and the careful balance of flavors when prepared in delicate secultion.  I used to consider myself a connoisseur of great coffee, and looked down my nose at anything else.  There was only one problem:
I fucking love gas station coffee.  There, I said it.
You might ask, "why?" And, while there may be a simple answer, the truth lies a bit below the surface.
Finding locally sourced, gourmet, whatever the hell special coffee is easy in Denver, as it is in many places.  However, one is often limited to the local coffee house whose clientele aren’t often up and sipping cappuccinos at 4AM.  Certainly the coffee house crowd isn’t typically demanding a five star latte as they prep for a 12 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, and you can bet your ass that cute little shop isn’t on your way out of town.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, particularly if you already live in an outdoor paradise and City on a Hill is your local joint.  As for me, I’ve always found that gas stations are the best place to grab the cup of black gold before the sun comes up.
The thing is, gas station coffee is often the precursor to outdoor awesomeness.  You wake up, stumble out of bed, it's 4:30 in the morning.  By the grace of god you make it down the stairs without breaking an ankle, throw your pack in the back of your buddy's truck and hop in.  And that when it starts.
You stop, fill your cup with some concoction of "hazelnut/vanilla/odd shade" roast and grab a donut that was likely made in the attendant's basement about a month ago.  Now, chances are you've got to give it a minute in the car, because gas station coffee is usually served at about the same temperature that the core of our earth sits at.  But then, all possibilities are open.
I’ve taken off to all kinds of crazy places, driving 22 hours to run in my hometown coastal mountains, 12 hours into the desert, or 7 hours into the Rocky Mountain wilderness.  While the logistics may change, one constant remains, gas station coffee. The truth of it is this: if you wanna be awesome, you're gonna need some gas station coffee.  And some beer, don't forget the beer.

*I'm working on this a bit.  I told myself I'd write and submit a short for the Dirtbag Diaries, and this is the first idea I've written anything on.  So, this will likely expand and contract for a while.