Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

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stack of booksNot sure I feel comfortable writing about my running this week, since I didn’t run.  Squeezed in 10 miles yesterday, but went Monday through Friday without getting in any miles period.  I like my job.  Being a product manager is always interesting, and cyber security is just plain cool.  But 13 hour days all week is bullshit.  I have hobbies to feed.  Hope this week was an anomaly.

I went twenty years without any hobbies.  Raising kids and chasing a career.  I suspect I’m similar to others my age.  Daughter number one has graduated college and daughter number two is pretty self reliant.  I’ve got some time back.  I’ve been reacquainting myself with living a life since I got back into running.  I picked up blogging about the same time.  These are my new hobbies.  Reading is something I’ve always maintained.

To take my writing diversion to the next level, I started to write a novel in March.  I expect to finish the story in another month or two.  At least a draft.  Considering I was up this morning at 5:30 am writing, end of summer is a realistic expectation.  There will be editing.  I oftentimes spend an order of magnitude more time editing my blog than writing it, so hard to say how long editing 300 pages will take.  I have this notion that I’ll simply enlist my friends and neighbors to edit it for me.  They all read and I doubt they have much else going on this summer.

In lieu of enlisting free editors, I signed up for a writing conference with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in Denver.  The three day conference is chock full of sessions on both writing techniques and how to publish.  I could use help with character development, so I’ve signed up for that.  I didn’t sign up for the sessions where you present the first ten pages of your novel to agents to critique.  I’d be embarrassed to let an agent see my first draft.  I’m hoping to leverage the courses to make a better second draft.  But I’ll talk to agents while I’m there, and learn the process.  I’m not interested in self publishing, that’s what my blog is.  I don’t expect to write a best seller, okay maybe I fantasize about it, but I just want to publish a book.  That will be plenty satisfying.

Colorado River Headwaters

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Berthoud Pass

This weekend’s fifty-four mile backpacking hike along the Continental Divide begins at Berthoud Pass at 6am.  The early start required a 3:30am wakeup from our stellar Shadow Mountain Lake beachside camp site in Grand Lake, where we leave one of our cars because that’s where this trek will end.

berthoud pass weather station

1100 feet of elevation gain later, Rob stands atop Mines Peak, the first of so many peaks that I lose count.  I didn’t capture stats with a Garmin, but traversing the Continental Divide Trail above the headwaters of the Colorado River likely included well over 10,000 feet of vertical on just the first of our three days.

mt Eva 1.jpg

My legs are so spent by the end of day one, I’m near tears when Rob tells me we have to scale yet another giant boulder field to avoid having to glacade down a scary snow cornice that covers the trail over Devil’s Thumb Pass.  We need to get around this snow to camp on the east side of the pass.

avalanche

We end day one having trekked twenty miles in thirteen hours.  Not a strong pace but considering 30 pound backpacks and terrain, we’re impressed with ourselves.  Thousand foot climbs followed immediately by thousand foot descents.  Boulder field after scree field after boulder field.  For this final scramble, I use my bare hands to steady myself against the cold, abrasive granite on each step.  I no longer trust my fatigued legs to land without buckling.

ridge

This photo of Rob above shows the typical tundra we walk across from Mines Peak to Devil’s Thumb Pass.  No trail for much of it, just a route for us to keep between the edges of East and West.  The Cairn at the top of this hill leads the way.

alpine flowers

The tundra isn’t all moonscape, alpine flowers are lush from this season’s strong snowfall.  I’ve never seen so many alpine daisies.

alpine daisies

Camping over the pass near Devil’s Thumb Lake offers us not just water to resupply, but the softest high mountain meadow grass to pitch our tents.  I go to sleep fearful I won’t wake with the strength needed to climb back up that pass to continue on the trail.  I credit the meadow with my recovery.  We wake to see Elk streaming across the mountainsides, crossing fields of melting snow.  I climb back up that 1000 foot pile of rocks, and for the most part, the rest of the hike is downhill.

squeaks

We meet Squeaks as we descend the High Lonesome Trail from Devil’s Thumb.  She looks to be about 65 years old.  She’s a south-bound (SoBo) through-hiker backpacking from the Wyoming border to New Mexico.  We’ve met other NoBo through-hikers, Charge, and later Cloud Buster.  She tells us about the rough blow-down we’ll face on Knights Ridge Trail.  Blow down are dead trees, some Aspen but mostly Lodgepole Pine, that fall from strong winds and block the trail.  Squeaks also tells us about the three or four family members who have joined her for sections of her hike.  I figure her pack weighs forty pounds.  I mean, look at it.  No idea how she can do this.

Monarch Lake 1

Day two takes us below tree line, where we remain the rest of our hike.  The downhill direction and the oxygen that comes with each downward step help us to complete over twenty miles in twelve hours.  Cooling off at Monarch Lake helped as well.

Monarch Lake 2

Shortly after Monarch Lake, we stumble across the world’s smallest bar, the Red Dog Saloon.  The bartender Lee, qualifies his boast of the world’s smallest bar by excluding Malaysia, where he says they have smaller bars.  Rob and I polish off a six pack of ice-cold Ranger IPA, a Colorado brewed 6.5 ABV thirst-quencher.

Ranger IPA

Rob considers renting a teepee for the night, but I convince him there’s yet more hiking before night fall.

teepee

We end the night at the southern tip of Lake Grandby, on a sandy beach.  This is the view from my tent.

Lake Grandby

We start out day three earlier than the others, at 5:30, and hike the final stretch alongside Lake Grandby, the Colorado River, and Shadow Mountain Lake.  Much of this is down near the water, some miles are up in high mountain meadows.  On our first climb, we watch a moose take a bath in a marshy pond.  He shakes the water off like a dog, sending shock waves across the meadow from the force of his hooves.  The prettiest flowers in these meadows above the Colorado River are these Columbine.

Columbine

The headwaters to the Colorado River are dammed up to form a sizable lake, although the northern end flows like a river.  I refill my LifeStraw water bottle, given to me last Christmas by my sister-in-law Susan, at a point where we need to cross a creek streaming into the river.  This water bottle filters untreated water so that it is safe to drink.  Worked awesome for me.  At another creek crossing, either the water is too high or the bridge is washed away, so we cross over the top of a beaver dam.  One of our more dicey creek crossings.

East Shore TH

We complete the twelve remaining miles on day three at the East Shore Trailhead after six hours.  A total of 54 miles, 20 above tree line, and 31 hours spent on the trail.  We celebrate this truly epic hike at the Peak Brewpub in Winter Park.

Peak Brewpub

Ellie’s Run

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Karen and I were empty nesters for a week.  We know now how it feels. What to expect.  Now that Ellie is back, I know what to expect on our joint training plan too.  Three miles was too much for the first day.  Ellie was able to run two miles, running the first mile non-stop.  This will be a game of inches.

team shirts

Ellie’s camp counselor Emily, pinged photos to me every day that she was away at Coeur d’Alene.  That’s where this pic above comes from.  This pic below is what Ellie posted to her Instagram.  It says everything to me on what she found beautiful in the forests of Idaho.

lake at dawn

Unfortunately I have to travel on the 4th and 5th for work, so we won’t run again until Wednesday.  Ellie has dance practice though during that time so she’ll get in a bit of a workout.  Summer training has officially started.

She Could Be a Dancer

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dancer shoesEllie told me she intends to run Cross Country her freshman year at NHS.  Okay then.  I recall Brit telling me something similar ten years ago.  Long story short, Brit started out the season.  She ran some races.  Then she dropped out to perform in the school play.  The rest is history.  But I recall getting a shot at training Brit in preparation for joining a competitive team.  These high schools around Boulder County invented cross country.  I feel obligated to prepare Ellie this summer to avoid having her embarrass the family name in Colorado running circles.  Because really, this is all about me.

Ironically, I wasn’t in shape myself when I started to take Brit out on runs.  But even in my fattest of days, I could beat Brittany.  She would try out-kicking me at the end of long runs to say she beat me, after I just pushed her to complete 8 miles.  I got her up to 13 miles out on East Boulder Trail.  That water tower hill used to kick her ass.

I plan to start Ellie out with three milers.  We’ll stick to that and work our way up to five or six miles on daily runs.  Hopefully longer on weekends.  I’ll introduce her to the trails NHS will likely run on around Niwot.  I’ll prepare her as best I can.  I might lose a little conditioning myself if I shorten my runs, but I can afford to reduce the miles.  Or I can continue running after she’s done.  We won’t start until next weekend though since Ellie is off all week at Church Camp in Idaho.

I know the chances for Ellie to become a distance runner are as slim as Brit’s two stints in high school cross country.  Ellie started dance this year and has really taken to it.  Her first actual sport that she shows interest in.  Karen is of course happy because Karen was a dancer in both high school and college.  Technically, Karen is a still a dancer, teaching regular aerobics classes.  I’m going to take what this summer gives me though and try to make Ellie a runner.  She doesn’t have a distance runner’s body, but then neither do I.  My bone structure is too big and my legs aren’t very long.  I have decent sized calves, but that doesn’t necessarily contribute to distance running.  Few of us have perfect runner’s bodies, it comes down to what you like to do.  Where your interests lie.  Ellie is going to either be a dancer, or become a runner.  Maybe she’ll do it all.

I finally went for a massage to treat my lower back pain.  It’s been a problem since February.  I expected it to heal but it’s getting worse.  My massage therapist is Shannon Dunlap.  She’s as knowledgeable as any PT.  She confirmed my back is messed up, all wound up like a twisted pine.  As a result, my left leg is shorter than my right.  It’s always been the other way around.  Not that either leg is a different length, but these anomolies are caused by misaligned hips.  Pretty odd that they could reverse in terms of which is longer.  She helped alleviate the pain immensely, but it’s temporary.  Ultimately, I need to see a chiropractor.  That’s next on my list.  Felt really good today on a 12 mile run over the LoBo Trail.  Friday’s massage no doubt contributed.  Not sure what I’ll do Sunday.

Mt. Bierstadt

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silver valleyBrit and Ellie drove up with me Saturday evening to Silver Plume.  We spent the night in the A-Basin Room of this modest B&B, the Silver Valley Bed & Breakfast.  Surprisingly nice place on Clear Creek, a few miles past Georgetown.  Above is a photo of their backyard, from a wooden porch swing.

creek crossing

The first mile of  our 3.5 mile climb included this creek crossing.  Brit demonstrates here how not to cross the fast flowing snow melt.  She said her feet were numb the rest of the hike.

alpine seating

We took our time hiking up, stopping here about half way, to smell the alpine flowers and eat some grapes.

sisters

We summit the peak in about 3 hours.  Ellie’s first 14er at age 14.  Pretty special.  That’s Grays and Torreys to the right of Brit.

Brit yoga

What is it with girls and yoga poses?  Pretty funny, after our deliberate pace up to the ridge, Ellie nearly sprinted up the final pile of rocks to the peak.

Ellie yoga

I’m not sure which view I like most from Mt. Bierstadt, east or west.  It’s an awesome view of Mt. Evans to the east.  Actually, you can continue on across a knife-edge ridge to Mt. Evans.  I’d like to do that some day.

Bierstadt photo

You can see Mt Evans in the upper left of this photo above.  There are some lakes below, that add to the view.

Ellie above lake

You can see one of the lakes here, although Ellie thought the most picturesque was this frozen lake just above her knee in this photo.

fathers day

The western views contain the most snowcapped peaks.  Brit and Ellie enjoyed sliding down a long snowpack on our descent.  I was impressed by their bravery, they simply thought it was fun.  The link takes you to the video on YouTube.  Overall, I had an awesome Father’s Day.  Got my long run in on Saturday.  Even installed a garbage disposal without having to make additional trips to Lowes.  Great weekend.

 

I Just Want to Run

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race photo mile 2c

All I want to do for Father’s Day is go for a nice long run.  Doubt though my new InSinkErator garbage disposal will install itself in the kitchen sink.  And Ellie wants me to take her camping.  Why is Father’s Day rarely about Dad?  This photo is two miles into the 2016 Bolder Boulder – Memorial Day where I had an hour in the morning to myself to run a storied 10K.  I recall having to return quickly from the race to grill burgers for Brit’s band, who was performing in the neighborhood.  How much you want to bet, I’ll grill dinner for Father’s Day too?

Bierstadt

I think my plan will be this.  Install the garbage disposal Saturday morning.  Celebrate that victory with a run in the afternoon.  Then travel up to a B&B in Silver Plume for the evening to position us for an early morning climb up Mt. Bierstadt.  I tried to reserve camping spots but they are either taken or not yet open.  I could risk camping at first-come, first served camping spots, but if I’ve learned anything as a father, you don’t take such risks with kids.  So the B&B is booked for a sure thing.

This entire hike is above tree line from the trail head.  It’s 3 miles up to the peak, with the first mile through a wet marsh.  Should be frozen in the morning.  The next two miles are steep.  This will be Ellie’s first 14er.  Brit is going too.  Wish us luck.

From the Depths of Hell

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girl on the mountaintopRan ten miles in 86° Saturday.  I think the humidity is up because it felt like 100°.  Carried a camelbak for the first time this year.  My pace slowed down to a crawl the final four miles.  I was happy to see the irrigation ditch flowing strong again, allowing me to dip my hat in the cold mountain snowmelt.  A refreshing respite after running through Hell’s kitchen.

snowFrom the depths of hell Saturday, Ellie and I climbed 11,400 foot Twin Sisters on Sunday.  As the photo shows above, the trail is still covered with snow at higher elevations.  Glad we took trekking poles.  This is Ellie’s first real mountain peak hike, if you don’t count the Flat Irons overlooking Boulder.  This is a seven mile roundtrip hike and a real accomplishment.  Our plans this summer are to work ourselves up to a 14er, likely Grays and Torreys.

MudsildeThis photo shows where the trail crosses the massive mudslide from the Great Flood of 2013.  Karen and I hiked up to this point two years ago, and turned around.  Ellie and Brit went further, but the trail was in disrepair and they didn’t make it to the summit.  The trail is still an extremely steep alternate route, but safe and manageable.

charlies angels 2Ellie’s friend, Esme hiked up with us today.  The cool mountain air made for a perfect hike.  You can see the Diamond Face east cliff wall of Longs Peak over Ellie’s head in this photo.  The views were awesome of Mount Meeker and the Mummy Range.  We could see Estes Park and Longmont as well.

yogaIf anyone wants their kids to get in some hiking this summer, let me know.  I’m scouting 12,000 and 13,000 peaks next.  A 14er by end of summer.

Dry Sweat

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race photo kick 3

I only run because it gives me a prop to play toward acting lazy around the house.  I can easily back up my laziness, due to some pain, or because I’m too tired after running that marathon this morning.  Like an old friend, I always have that story to tell when I don’t get to something on my list.

I thought I acclimated well to the heat last week, but that was 70° weather.  The 90°s are like an order of magnitude hotter.  I know my Texas friends will laugh, but holy smokes, running in this heat is tough.  This Tuesday, I discovered sweat on my brow.  We sweat in Colorado of course, but normally it’s a dry sweat.

Not that sweating is bad.  Here typically, the sweat forms up on our brow as a dry, white powder.  We can brush it off after we run, into a shaker.

If you’re driving through Colorado on I-25 and you stop at that gas station slash diner slash convenience store thing on the SW corner of exit 235, that’s where you can buy a shaker of Boulder Salt.  Look for it there.  Another interesting thing about driving through Colorado is that you’re not a real town in this state if you don’t have a good story to tell on cannibalism.

I took some days off after Snowmass, then ran 11 miles Tuesday.  I was able to recover by running 8 miles Wednesday in a warm rain.  I could only pound out 7 miles today in 90°.  I lost 4 pounds of sweat in that one hour.  Might take Friday off to regain some weight.

This Bolder Boulder photo is from inside Folsom Field with less than 50 meters remaining.  I forgot to wear my customary racing cap, but escaped without sunburn given the early start.  Summer has arrived.

The Red Loop

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race photo Pearl Street

The Snowmass Ragnar Relay is an endless stream of runners, racing around trail loops through the hills above Snowmass Village.  Starting Friday evening, I run four loops, green at 6:30 pm, yellow at 10:00 pm, green again at 5:30 am and the red loop for my finale at 12:46 pm.  There are 200 other runners out somewhere along the 15 miles that make up these three loops.  Math suggests there are over 10 runners per mile.  Given the sparse distribution this late in the event, it’s rare that I find myself racing neck and neck against another runner.  There are four runners running in the space of 100 yards in front of me as I start out the red loop.  I pass three of them within the first mile, running on the bike path alongside Brush Creek Road, and just catch the fourth runner before turning onto Sinclair Road.  I fail to pass him though.

We run side by side for the entire second mile, still on the street.  We introduce ourselves, both happy for someone to push us up this steep street.  Dave looks about my age, which I mostly judge based on his conservative dress.  Us older guys show less skin than the couple of kids we passed in the first mile.  Dave is relentless on this climb.  I would not run this fast pace the first two miles of this seven mile loop, were I running by myself.  My plan was to go up slow and try to race down fast.  Half the runners we pass are walking, which is fairly typical of all runners on their third loops.  We’re both breathing loudly, but I make the bigger grunts by far.  I sense Dave is better at altitude than me.

The street ends just after two miles and we turn right onto the Rim Trail North.  Dave sprints ahead of me to take the lead on the single track.  I described the course elevation profile to him, having run this last year, while running up Sinclair.  It helps to know the top of the climb is marked by a park bench at 3.5 miles.  Dave is willing to let me pass him at one point during our ascent, because I’m breathing down his neck.  I tell him that not only can I not pass him, but that I’ve been power walking for the last quarter mile.  When you can walk as fast as someone else can run, you should walk.  It’s an interesting phenomenon actually on steep mountain trails.  It lowers the heart rate but maintains the same speed.  No doubt, this just pissed Dave off.

Dave screams downhill as soon as we begin our descent.  I try to follow his pace but he forms a sizable gap.  Another much younger runner that Dave has passed runs between us for about a mile.  Once I pass that kid, I close the gap with Dave.  This is past where the red loop joins the yellow, after 5 miles.  I finally pass Dave crossing the first wooden foot bridge.  I suspect the 3.5 mile descent was too long for his wicked pace and shredded his legs.  Running downhill provides you with unlimited oxygen, but your legs turn to jello.  It gets a little scary when you lose confidence in your ability to brake around curves.  My slower start to our descent left me with some strength at the end.

These 24 hour relays are all about self preservation.  It takes discipline to maintain the strength to finish three or more runs on seriously steep mountain trails.  I would have loved being able to race each loop with equal intensity, but I couldn’t recover well enough from my first run, and I wouldn’t have had anything left to run so hard on my final loop.  Really happy I chose to run the middle loops slow and easy.  My thighs are still sore the next day, which tells me that running the downhills took more out of my legs than the uphills.  Running uphill makes an impression on your heart and lungs, but it’s the downhills that thrash your muscles.

This photo is from last week’s Bolder Boulder, just before the 6th mile, turning off Folsom.  I like how it shows another mature runner directly behind me.  Several of my teammates commented on how this year’s Snowmass Relay seems younger and more competitive than last year.  I think us old runners hung in there though.

Here Kitty, Kitty

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Version 2

Our relay team name references an exchange among team members a few years ago about what to say when you see a mountain lion on the trail.  I wasn’t there, but it captures the zaniness of these runners well.  This photo is of Ken running the first leg of the Ragnar Snowmass Mountain Trail Relay this weekend.  Ken runs the green loop which is the easiest of the three trail loops for the relay.  It’s four miles in length and has an elevation gain of over 600 feet.  Most of the climb is in the first two miles while the return is back down hill.  This is my first loop as well and I ran my fastest pace of the event.  I raced it hard knowing my legs wouldn’t recover well enough to run the other loops as hard.  And maybe because I was a little excited for my first run.

Carolyn

Carolyn is next out of the gate and runs the yellow loop, considered tougher than the green because of the more intense elevation gain, although it’s nearly the same distance, going up the first half and returning back down.  Carolyn was a ballet dancer before getting into running.  You can almost tell by her running shorts that look more like a girlie, party dress.  Carolyn is a trail dancer.

Eve

Eve, pictured here, runs our third and final loop – the red loop – the toughest both in terms of distance, 7 miles, and elevation gain, 1,250 feet.  The rest of us repeat the same three loops.  I run my loops in this order, but run an additional green loop for another teammate who couldn’t make the trip.  I ran the yellow loop at night, under the stars.  My red loop pace is a minute per mile slower than my green loop, but involved a great race against another runner named Dave.  This course rises for 3.5 miles before dropping back down for the second half.  Dave remained a step ahead of me the entire climb, then widened his lead over me for the descent.  He ran out of steam though the final mile.

Harry

Beth, Keith and Brian complete our team.  I don’t have pictures of everyone running, but have to show this photo of Henry, Kristin’s 13 year old son.  He ran two of her loops with her.  This second run, where he is pictured here about two minutes from the finish, is the 7 mile, 1250 foot, ball-buster, red loop.  Henry’s mom, Kristin, establishes a lead on him after a mile, and never looks back.  Understand, some of the runners I passed on this course were walking, but several others were standing to the side, bent over in some cases, negotiating terms with God for oxygen.  Kids don’t run up mountains like this for fun, because there’s nothing fun about it.  But Henry couldn’t turn around because his mom was running up the hill in front of him.  How can a boy turn from such a challenge?  He finished a full mile behind his mother, but he finished strong.  And that’s my idea of parenting.

Team Photo

I raced two of the loops hard.  My first run over the green loop, and my fourth run on the red loop.  I preserved my leg strength on the middle two runs with a slower pace, when it became clear during the second loop that surviving to my final run was paramount.  Racing three miles downhill on a mountain trail is about as fun as it gets.  It’s also exhausting, as was this entire weekend.  These relays are as much about sleep deprivation as running.  Beth ran it with the expectation the incessant running would be good prep for her TransRockies Run later this summer, where she’ll have to maintain over 20 miles per day, for six days, running from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek.  We completed this relay after 23 hours of non-stop running.  I might take today off.

Bolder Boulder 2016

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starting wave AB

6 a.m. and I hand a volunteer my $20 parking permit to scan for entry into a CU parking lot on Regent Ave.  This positions me 1.5 miles from the 6:57 a.m. wave AB start of the 2016 Bolder Boulder, and very close to the Folsom Field finish line to facilitate a quick exit.  Always have an exit strategy.  I generally stick around to join my neighbors in the stands and watch the complete race and Memorial Day events, but I want to return home to catch Brittany perform with her band, False Summit, at a concert in the park at noon.  I jog to the start for an initial warmup and join the dawn of what will soon be a moving street party.

race start

My wave feels a bit intimidating, chock full of high school cross country teams.  This photo is from my starting wave.  We launch at 6:57 am and I feel like my pace is good.  Faster than what I’m used to but doable.  I surge per plan as I round the corner from Valmont to 28th Street.  Visually, the street looks flat, but it drops 5 feet or so over a quarter mile.  That counts at altitude.  I don’t hold my surge as long as I hoped to, not quite to the corner of Pine.  It helps me though to record a 6:54 first mile.  Climbing Folsom on the second mile is brutal.  I use the small dip part way up to recover my breathing, about where the Elvis impersonator is singing.  I run mile two in 7:13, 19 seconds slower.  A handful of the speedier runners from the wave after mine pass by me here, apparently running a half minute faster per mile.

Because of how the waves consolidate along the course, their starts separated by one minute, the crowd never thins out running through the neighborhoods west of Folsom.  I do my best to hold my pace, waiting for my next planned surge after cresting Vista Hill.  The down slope is noticeable after turning onto 19th Street and I’m able to gain some momentum.  I start passing other runners, good feedback that I’m running faster myself.  Hard to tell sometimes when I’m so out of breath.  Like my first surge though in mile one, I can’t hold it as long as I’d like.  Man this is a tough course.  I’m not used to running beyond my lactate threshold.  I run the third mile in 7:22.  Not surprising for the third mile to be my slowest, but a bit disappointing that I’ve added another 9 seconds onto my pace.

The next mile is a rollercoaster with two 25 foot hills, the first up Cedar Avenue, the second up 13th Street.  I do my best to surge on the short downhills to improve my pace, and I tap it back down to a 7:15 for mile four.  I know I need to push myself for this fifth mile, it’s either time to race or time to coast.  I actually start to feel stronger running through the s-curve around Pearl Street through downtown Boulder.  The positive effects of some downhill running, no doubt.  The clock supports my senses wth a 7:05 for mile five.  I endeavor to hold my stride to Folsom, then to Canyon, then Arapaho.  I’m trying to run mile six strong, but I can only take it one block at a time.  I run out of gas on the hill  leading into Folsom Field.  Did they make it longer somehow with the recent construction?

post race

I complete mile six in 7:17, I think I was running much better than that but the last quarter mile uphill stopped me in my tracks.  I’m able to unwind my legs a bit inside the stadium but don’t kick very hard.  I’ve had enough racing for one day.  I finish in 44:44 for a 7:12 pace and 4th in my age division.  This is funny considering I finished 6th last year after running 90 seconds faster.  I look at last year’s results and consider correlating them with the obituaries to see how many of the men who beat me last year have since passed.  I didn’t do that but do note that only one guy (Thomas Lund) who beat me last year, did again with a very similar time.  And the two men who took 7th (Jim Moy) and 8th (Chris Muzny) last year, behind my 6th place, took 3rd and 2nd respectively this year.  I’ll have to watch for them next year.  Today’s race was hard but I’m happy with that finish time.  I sip my post race beer sitting next to Ralphie.

False Summit

I rush home afterward because today isn’t really about me and my little morning runs.  Brit performs at noon with her band False Summit in the park at our neighborhood Memorial Day party.  I’m committed to grill burgers for the band before they play.  They end up sounding great.  Brit’s voice student, Anya Chavez sings a couple of songs too.  You would never guess Anya is only 12 years old after watching this music video of her singing Riptide.  Our neighbor Bella sings later in the day, around 4 pm.  She sings mostly original songs and performs great as well.  Many of our friends come out to watch the local girls sing, which is super nice.  Long day of racing, music and IPAs.  Next weekend I’ll be running a trail relay with friends in Snowmass.

My Surge Strategy

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I talk a good deal about racing.  Honestly though, my idea of racing is nowhere close to what a real, or at least younger, athlete does.  I’m not referencing speed because that is obvious, but the willingness to push oneself beyond reasonable limits.  As we age, most of us become comfortable.  We add weight.  I’m 10 pounds over the medical range for my height.  Older athletes like myself still enjoy races, but we rarely push ourselves beyond our lactate threshold.  We stay within our limits.  We might even chat while racing, I do.  Maybe we put on a good kick, knowing the end is near.  I rarely even do that, afraid of pulling one of my delicate muscles.  More often than not, I tend to cool down the last half mile, I slow down, to ensure I live to run another day.  I maintain that’s what wise old runners should do.  Although this isn’t my plan Monday morning for the 2016 Bolder Boulder.

course map

While I’m not in race shape necessarily, I believe I’m in good enough condition to race sections of this course hard.  Because I’m in decent overall aerobic shape, I should be able to surge for short sections and then recover, sort of like running a fartlek workout.  I’ll take the first mile easy, because starting out in oxygen debt will ruin this entire plan.  Although, I plan to start my first surge just before the one mile marker, and carry the surge around the corner down Pine Street to Folsom.  It’s a short section, likely under a quarter mile.  I’ll run steady up Folsom, there’s a small dip mid way into the second mile where I’ll try to  surge again if I’ve fully recovered.  Otherwise my next surge won’t be until Vista Hill, a little over half way into mile three.  This is where the racing truly starts for the elites, Vista Hill is strategic.  It’s followed by two more rolling hills, ending at Casey Hill just past the fourth mile, all three hills marking the top of the course elevation profile.  I’ll attempt short quarter mile surges on the downhill sections here, and recover on the uphills.  From here is a mile and a half downhill run through downtown Boulder, around Pearl Street.  This is the fastest section of the course.  Anyone racing runs their fastest pace in the fifth mile.  The real trick is to hold this fast pace past the fifth mile onto Folsom.  I couldn’t do that last year.  I’ll try harder this time.

elevation profile

No point in saving anything for the final half mile after the bridge over Boulder Creek.  It’s the steepest climb of the course and very few of the runners that I might have passed on Folsom will be able to pass me back here.  Everyone slows down for the hill that enters the stadium.  I’ll race for 5.75 miles with my surge tactics and cool down the final half mile.  If I can recover at all atop the final hill, I won’t so much as kick to the finish line, but I’ll try to surge again with a strong enough stride that looks good for the cameras.  Chances are though, I’ll just pretend that final hill isn’t there.  I’ll block it from memory, even while running it.  There is no spoon.  It’s nice to finish in Folsom Stadium, but not at the cost of climbing that hill.

The risk in this plan is that I won’t be able to recover sufficiently after a surge and my overall time will be much slower than if I were to run an even pace.  In fact, if I were in racing shape, I would of course run an even pace, because that’s what you do.  So in a sense, this is a wildly stupid plan, but it will be brilliant if it helps me to break 45 minutes. Odds are, I won’t break 50 minutes and will be running in oxygen debt the entire second half of the course.  But it might provide me some ephemeral moments of racing glory.

Signaling today that I’m going to run hard Monday certainly sets myself up for failure, but I like forecasting because it gives me that extra push.  Running is like golf in the sense you are really just competing with yourself.  Sort of like how betting on sports makes the game more interesting, there’s nothing like putting a little pressure on yourself with a pre-race prediction.  See you at the finish line.

Fast Eddie

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CO Marathon 10Kb

I prefer photos with my eyes open, but at least I’m smiling.  At the end of a six mile race no less.  This race was three weeks ago, and I really did enjoy running through the snowfall.  I’ve noticed over the last several weeks, as the days warm up, my best runs are on the cooler days with temps in the 40°s and 50°s, and I slow down considerably on the warmer days.  I’ve yet to acclimate to the heat.  There are two types of Bolder Boulder 10Ks.  Cold, wet ones, and hot ones where I end up sunburned.  Hoping for a colder morning Memorial Day weekend.  I’m not expecting my best performance this year, but I get excited for this race anyway.

Despite my hamstring injuries, I’m still in decent running shape this year.  I just haven’t been running fast.  I hoped to be better positioned for a fast race next weekend but things are what they are.  The reason I strive for fast runs in the Bolder Boulder is that it’s the same race, the same distance, and the same month, on the same course, every year.  So it’s a great yard stick to measure progress.  Weather is the biggest variable.  I expect to run about 20 or 30 seconds slower per mile than last year, but that’s still within a range that I’ll enjoy it as a race.

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I even made the same starting wave as last year.  This will have me starting before 7am, so I can expect a cooler temperature being early morning.  Hoping to avoid running slower than three weeks ago in Fort Collins which I ran in 45:01.  The BB10K is a much tougher course, but then it also has more runners and fans, which will motivate me to run hard.  It’s funny that even though my expectations are diminished, I’m still so excited about this race.  It’s such a celebration of running, a 6 mile long street party.  Below are all my BB10K times:

1990  41:11                    2011  48:17
1991  48:00                   2012  51:32
1995  1:04:43                2013  44:22
2001  1:59:36                2014  1:50:17
2010  49:52                   2015  43:09

 

You can see where I essentially stopped running for 20 years.  The two runs close to 2 hours were actually walks.  My goal is to get back down to that 41 minute run from when I was 28 years old.  It’s within reach.  This is my 7th BB10K in a row.  I see a pattern in these times, starting with my return to running in 2010, of two steps forward and one step back.  But that’s really just a speed statement.  Health-wise, I’ve been steadily improving.  I’ve lost 30 pounds over this time period.  I don’t mind saying that I look like a runner again.  I think I’ll always be happy running any 10K under 45 minutes.  That’s racing speed for me.  I like seeing progress each year too, but I’m patient.  Faster times will come.

I ran the hills of East Boulder Trail this morning.  I barely noticed them.  I remember a time when my legs burned running up some of those hills.  This is just more good feedback letting me know I’m in good aerobic shape.  The bridge is still out over Boulder Creek on this trail.  Anyone have an ETA of when they intend to rebuild it?

Sunshine in my Pocket

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My girls produced a music video this week and it left me with some sunshine in my pocket into the weekend.  Clicking on the photo will link you to their video on YouTube.  I can’t sing any more than I can dance, the talent comes from their mother.

I ran six miles with Keith this morning in the mountain mist above Lyons on the Bitterbrush Trail through Hall Ranch.  We parked at the Antelope Trailhead, taking one of the last spots.  There are only eight parking spots there, but it’s the best approach if you can snag one.  The clouds were thick and visibility near zero once we reached the Nelson Loop.  Classic Colorado mountain trail running weather.  Despite the gloom, I was so pleased to be back out on the trail, I felt like I was running with sunshine in my pocket.  I think I know what the phrase means now, it’s in the girls’ song.  I was running happy.  The photo below is from my finish at the Colorado Marathon 10K two weeks ago.

CO Marathon 10Ka

 

Of Basements and Back Pain

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back-pain

I can’t really explain this, but having a sports injury leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.  Just ask yourself, when’s the last time you had a sports injury?  Unlike falling off a ladder while changing a lightbulb, this is something I can talk about, unabashedly, at The Well, or at Wibbys, quaffing brews with the guys.  And I have a pretty good story to tell.

I was racing the Boulder High School Boys Cross Country Team up a 2.5 mile, 1000 foot mountain climb in Jamestown.  Those boys were rated 16th in the nation.  And I beat one of them.  I’d have out run two but one of the short little shirtless shits sprinted past me after we crested the hill, with only 10 yards to the finish.  This is good brewpub talk.

The next day, I discovered that I’d strained my hamstrings in both legs.  Further analysis suggested my flat training runs on the LoBo Trail were poor preparation for a hill climb.  And that I’ve been running more on muscle memory than muscle mass.  I’m working on addressing my shortcomings.  That’s what injuries are good for, suggesting future workouts for improvement.

An injury I’ve yet to blog about is my lower back.  I’ve been suffering lower back pain for a month now.  I think I can trace it back to sprinting some strides after a long run.  So yet another sports injury, which makes it okay to talk about.  It’s not like I have a sore back because I’m old or anything like that.  I don’t think this is affecting my running too much. It slows me down at the start, which might be hard to imagine.  I start out so slow already on my runs that I risk toppling over.  But once I warm up, after a mile or two, I’m good.  Hurts again afterward, but that’s what beer and ibuprofen are for.

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I should perhaps be writing a few nice things about Mother’s Day.  Karen has been mothering these girls for nearly half her life.

I got in a good eleven miles today in the rain.  I won’t be running Sunday.  Instead, I’ll be cleaning out the basement, this is what Karen wants for Mother’s Day.  She’s not concerned about my lower back pain.  My friends and family in Texas don’t have this problem, you don’t have basements.  You do have scorpions however.  If you’re having trouble picturing a basement, think of a 1000 square foot closet.  A place to put things you don’t want to look at.  Which, if true, doesn’t explain ever needing to clean it out.  But I don’t make the decisions around here.  I just do what I’m told on Mother’s Day.

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