Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Four Pass Loop And A Lot Of Other Fun Stuff For The Week

This has probably been the most fun week of the summer.  A lot of training but a lot of time and opportunity to do some fun stuff the past week and a half as well.

Snowmass Lake looking east from the second pass, Trail Rider Pass.
The big day was yesterday doing the Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.  This run has been on the docket for several months at least.  I had the idea to do it then when I was in the Springs, Paul D. brought it up at lunch one day that he and Shannon wanted to do it.  I hatched the plan to do it in late July when the passes were clear and hoped to get in as a long training day as well.  In the end there were four of us in the party, Shannon, Paul, my friend Jeff here in Aspen and myself.

The Four Pass Loop... all I can say really is that if you have not ever done it is well worth the effort.  It is hard.  My GPS showed 27.5 miles of travel with 9,286 feet in gain.  The average elevation of the day was 11,193 feet. 

It is remote wilderness so everything that you might need you will need to carry with you.  I had a full daypack with enough gear to stay out overnight if it came to it.  I just prefer to be prepared.  I had two handhelds (22 oz each) and a 100oz bladder all full when we started.  When we were done I was down to my last five sips out of the bladder.  Just enough.

As as I said it was difficult.  The climbs were steep, the descents seemed even more steep.  We did the loop counter-clockwise and doing the passes in order of Buckskin Pass, Trail Rider Pass, Frigid Air Pass, then lastly West Maroon Pass which is followed by a very long, very long, VERY LONG, seven to eight mile descent back down to Maroon Lake and the start.

All that I could think about all day was it felt like I was doing Hope Pass, over and over and over again.  Both sides.  All day.

The first pass, Buckskin was a steep climb and felt like the steepest one of the day.  The drop down into the next valley surprised me.  I failed to really grasp that portion of the elevation profiles that I had studied and was under the assumption that the trail stayed higher than it did on the way over to Trail Rider Pass.
The drop of the back side of Buckskin Pass.  Photo by Jeff Marshall.
The climb up Trail Rider pass did not seem that bad.  I think mostly because about halfway up the climb you are treated with just awe inspiring views of Snowmass lake.  It definitely took the sting out.
Shanon, Paul, and Jeff taking a break on top of Trail Rider Pass.  Snowmass lake is in the background.
The descent off of Trail Rider pass gave me the most fits.  Lots of loose rocks and very steep.  I don't know how many times I slipped on the way down and I even busted my ass once really good.

Approaching Frigid Air pass was forever long.  There was an awesome waterfall along the way but past that the trail ascended slowly through winding willow thickets no view of the pass to be seen which left me wondering just where in the hell we were going.  But once I saw the pass it was startling as it was a very steep climb with switchbacks up out of the valley.

An amazing waterfall on the approach to Frigid Air Pass.
Between Frigid Air and West Maroon Pass is the shortest segment of the day between passes.  It only took us 54 minutes to get from one to the other and it was probably the most runnable section of the day.  The final climb up West Maroon was very steep again.

Shannon, Paul and myself sitting up on West Maroon Pass before our final descent.  Photo by Jeff Marshall.
Lastly the final descent or home stretch back to Maroon Lake.  Being tired and the nature of the trail made it very slow going.  That section actually ate a lot more time than I was expecting but we just did it one mile at a time until we were done.

But leading up to Saturday we had a really fun week. Monday we went white water rafting on the Roaring Fork. It was my first time on the water in probably 12 years, and 15 years after my "accident" up on Clear Creek.  It was a lot of fun and although we were in a raft as opposed to a kayak, I was surprised to just how well I could read the river and how natural it felt.  The day left me wondering if I might want to start kayaking again.  The jury is still out on that as of yet.

Tuesday evening we went to a very nice birthday picnic at the East Maroon Portal.  Wednesday, Melissa and I took the Jeep up Express Creek out of Ashcroft up to Taylor Pass then made our way back to Aspen via Richmond Ridge Road.  We also got to see the newest Planet of the Apes movie this week and that was awesome!

The Jeep up on top of Taylor Pass.
Training wise it has been a good week.  Good runs and good rides both.  It is good to be home in Aspen and getting to ride and run trails that are not clear most of the year.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Slipping Into Vacation Mode

Melissa and I are off to go camping with friends for a couple days at a lake over by Grand Junction.  She just called and her flight from LAX is just getting ready to leave.   It's going to be a relaxing weekend not a lot of training.  Mostly just goofing off.  I haven't had a goof off weekend really since my late birthday party in Denver at the end of March.  It's been awhile.

It has been sort of a big week.  Monday after running with my friend Jeff who finished his first 50 miler the day before was a light and easy ride to loosen up. It sucked.  For starters I was tired and there was a lot of internal dialogue going on inside my head about the rest of the summer. Fortunately I was able to figure some things out and get myself back on course.

Tuesday was an awesome ride. I did a St. Kevins, Sugarloaf, Powerlines back to camp ride both outbound and inbound. St. Kevins is still hard and that ride over to Carter Summit just seems to take forever on the outbound.  On the inbound it is much easier but still seems to take some time.  I got caught in a hail storm on my second loop about 2/3rds the way up the Powerline side of Sugarloaf.  The great thing about that is that when it was done the traction the rest of the way up was phenomenal.  47 miles or so, over 8K in gain that day.

Wednesday I was feeling it though.  Rode a bit over an out, hill intervals. Not a lot of joy that day.  Once my ride was over I broke camp which took forever and headed back to Aspen.  I can not say just how happy I have been being home.  After camping in Leadville for nearly 30 days this summer I can appreciate all of the little modern conveniences of home a bit more.  I will probably pop back over to Leadville between now and the 100 bike two to three times to ride or run on specific sections of the course but for the most part I will be here in Aspen. 

Thursday it was back to running.  Jeff and I ran six miles over his lunch break and I then went and did another six.  I had work and class that night but when it was over I went and ran a few more miles in the dark and that was a blast.  Even tired and in the dark I was able to make my usuall split up Smuggler road.

The bike is now a project.  My friend Chris who works at Aspen Velo now has it and is coming up with a plan to drop some serious weight off of it.  In the end I hope to get my full suspension Trek as light or lighter than my hard tail.

But for now I am just looking forward to the weekend.  No real training focus, hang out with friends and get out of my own head some. 

We have a solid plan now pretty much for doing the Four Pass Loop next weekend.  That will be a fun day and I am super excited for that.  It is probably my last big running day before everything starts.  I can't get my brain around the fact yet that the 100 bike is only three weeks away. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

27 Seconds... 210.2 Miles To Go.


Melissa got a photo of me coming into the finish. 
The Silver Rush 50 MTB was a mixed bag of a day for me.  I went into it feeling much more rested and ready than I did before the Marathon four weeks ago so that was good.  But unfortunately I was expecting that I would show up with a 5.0 L engine but instead I only had a 3.8 L to work with for the day. I came in 27 seconds slower than last year.  Slower.

The first ten miles up Iowa Gulch were a grind. The effort was there and as far as I am concerned damned solid and consistent looking at the HR data.  The speed just wasn't.  I was several if not closer to ten minutes behind my split getting to the ten mile mark from last year.  I shrugged it off the best I could knowing that it was way too early in the race to get too concerned about things.  There was still lots of miles and hours ahead for things to play out.  The rest of the day was an extremely solid effort as well.  I never backed off. 

Honestly, even though I was slower I had a much better ride overall.  The time that I lost in the first ten miles I more than made up throughout the day.  And I am pretty sure from about mile 37 on that nobody passed me but I know I passed a TON of people.

In the end I am happy with the ride.  My bike got a little trashed and had to be fixed this morning. Basically I lost about half of my gears on the inbound.  It started with not being able to shift up to the big ring in the rear after leaving Stumptown and by the end of the race the top three to four rings were completely out of commission.  My shifter cable was hosed, and my rear derailleur was bent and a couple of other things that added up to $100 bucks to fix.

Again, I am happy with the ride.  I feel I am a much stronger rider than last year even though my times were damned near identical.  If I had to generalize the race, my climbing is not as strong as last year but everything else is WAY better... flat out pedaling, handling speed, and my technical riding skills. I got past that race which puts me into the LT100 MTB race in four weeks.  I also believe anytime you can get off of the 50 MTB course without any major problems or wrecks it is a good day.  And the best part of it is that I had fun riding on Saturday.

But really, the bike ride was not to be the high point of my weekend.  My friend Jeff from Aspen that I run with ran the Silver Rush 50 Run on Sunday and it was his first ultra ever.  Since I had to do a long run on Sunday I decided a week or so a go that I would meet him at Stumptown and then run into town with him.  I had a good training run and he had an awesome race coming in just under ten hours with a time of 9:52:02.   Sunday really made the weekend for me.

Leadman... 210.2 miles left in the series.  104 mile bike race, 10k (6.2 mile run), and of course the 100 mile run.  A lot can happen between now and then and anything can happen in those races.  But after a lot of reflection the past day I think that I need to recalibrate my expectations of myself for this series.  That is a downer considering all of the work that has gone into this year but it is evident that the results, times, output, speed, whatever just is not coming for both the running and the riding. At this point in the series I had hoped to be at least an hour ahead of my times from last year at the same time... as it stands I am a good 33 minutes in the hole.  Right now I am leaning towards doing my best of course, hope to finish at least on par with the rest of the races compared to last year, but also to just have fun too.  If I ride and run everything else equally and make up the 33 minutes and have my cumulative time be just slightly better than last year, I'll take it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Some Cool Stuff

Happy 4th of July everyone.  Let's try to not burn down the state this weekend, okay?

Got the front forks on the Trek serviced at Cycles of Life here in Leadville.  They kept it over night and when I went to get it this morning, Drew, they guy who worked on it, wheeled it out for me.  I was shocked!  He actually cleaned it too.  Just one of those little customer service touches that can make a person's day.  I told him that looked like bike that I would buy!  He joked that he would sell it to me... pretty funny. 

I don't remember the last time it was this clean if ever.  When he rolled it out I am sure my eyes lit up like kid on Christmas morning.
Of course it didn't stay clean for long... maybe, 30 minutes as I went up on the 50 MTB and rode for a bit, 31 miles. Wore my new riding shoes today which are the same as the old ones but new and I was shocked at the difference.  I would have never guessed that new cycling shoes can be as much of a treat as running in new running shoes can be.  The old shoes will be used for indoor trainer rides from now now on after I change the cleats.  They had 3600 miles on them.

Intervals on the bike between 11K and 12K are hard.

My June numbers are not as voluminous as I was anticipating and definitely don't compare to last year so much.  But I think the quality exceeds last year and the vertical definitely does for both running and riding.

27 Hours Biking
240 Miles on the Bike

31 Hours Running
159 Miles Running


Sunday, June 29, 2014

In Leadville

It's been a pretty good week this past week.  Lots of good training to be sure.  So many things have happened that I'd like to write about but I am pretty wiped and the creative/writing part of me is not too communicative right now. 

Thursday was awesome 47 mile ride over St. Kevins, up and over Sugarloaf and down the Power Lines, then turned around and went back the way I came.  That climb on St. Kevins did not get any easier over the past year. 

Saturday was a nice 26 mile run with my friend Jeff from Aspen.  He made the trek over to run something different.  It was nice to have the company.

Today was a 20 miler that sort of went to hell about mile 16 and stayed that way until the last mile.  I was able to make the last mile have some quality to it.  Damned glad when that run was over.

Acclimating to Leadville air seems to be more challenging than in the past.  But I have had two really good nights of sleep the past two nights so that tells me that things are starting to normalize.

I'll be here another week and will head back to Aspen next Sunday.  The Trek has an appointment at Velo Cycles next Monday to get tuned up and race ready for the 12th.

8:36 on the bike.  11:26 running.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. Leadville Trail Marathon

Photo by Brandon Fuller.  I look happy... it's a lie! 

My favorite quote from the movie A Knight's Tale.

That was pretty much the line repeating itself in my head on the drive home this evening.  Today was pretty much without a doubt one of the toughest races I have ever ran in my life, ever.  From the word go it was hard and it never got easier.  My finishing time was 5:38:53.  Not what I was shooting for today... not by a long shot.

The course was rerouted due to snow around Ball Mountain. It felt a lot tougher than in past years.  But to be honest I just checked the Garmin data and the vertical gain between the standard course and this years course is damned near identical. So what gives?  If I had to guess it is the nature of the gain instead of the gain itself.  A couple places I swear were 20% grade. Stupid steep!

Last years marathon was like a dream. Yes it was tough, the Leadville Marathon I believe is probably the toughest Marathon around.  I'd put it against Pikes any day but this is just my personal opinion.  But last  year it was fun in spots.  I know I definitely ran more (again the nature of the course) and I laughed and goofed off.  Yeah, there was none of that shit today.  Back to the nature of the course, it just felt more like a hiking course than a running course... even some of the downhills proved troublesome for me today.  I believe though that even given my rough day, if the course were on the standard course I probably would have run last years time.  That means something to me.

But I will not put it all on the course.  I can't do that.  Me... well, if I had to sum it up, I would say that I was prepared but I definitely was not ready.  That little switch never clicked this week where I was pumped and excited and raring to go.  I wouldn't say that I was "flat" at the start but the idea of the day was definitely daunting.  Any confidence, optimism, ambition, and positivity was all self-generated this week by me.  None of just came to me naturally through the rest/preparation phase of the past week. 

The low points or challenges of the day... My HR was maxed from the go and I had to go with it.  To slow down anymore would have reduced me to a crawl.  There was a nasty (for me descent) that was about 1.25 miles long starting at mile 5 which sort of slowed me down.  I am slow on downhills... Cautious.  I did laugh at folks bombing down it as I don't think they realized there were so many other drops to smoke their quads on later in the race.  I also knew that particular drop which would be a climb in the inbound would be a total bitch.  And it was. Mosquito Pass... it wasn't bad going up except I think they make it longer every year.  Coming down once in the really runnable parts it was super muddy and slippery.  More self-preservation skills kicked in here.  Overall, some days you have it and some days you don't.  That's the nature of racing pure and simple and I have to say today was a day I didn't have it.  I think the nature of the course lended itself a lot more to hiking than running for me today.

But there were cool things too.  Ken Chlouber was at the top of Mosquito Pass and he gave me props for being a Leadman and fist bumped me.  It does my heart good to see him out there knowing that he not only loves it but also cares for each and every athlete out there.  Paul Doyle was out there and getting to check in with him around miles 10 and 16 and getting my fresh fuel bottles from him helped a lot.  But I guess the greatest thing thing about me for the day is that as tough as it was, I ran smart and I never let up, ever.  God knows I wanted to so many times.  As I told JT at the top of  Mosquito Pass, "The tach has been pegged all morning." That never changed despite the output. I know I did my best and that is regardless of outcome.  And even though I may be disappointed, I can sleep well knowing that.  It was also cool to leave Leadville after dinner with Paul and be home in Aspen in just an hour and half.  That in and of itself, being home with Melissa and Asia is beyond priceless.

I got through today unscathed, unbloodied and intact.  Things could have been different.  Yet more reasons to celebrate.

Four weeks now until the 50 MTB race.  That will be my next focus and I will have to put today out of my mind, or just make peace with it and move on.  Leadman is nine weeks long this year.  It is a war of attrition. One race, hell, even two that don't go stellar are not show stoppers for someone like me who is mid-pack'ish.  I have a feeling that I can make up the time lost today, and then some, in four weeks if all goes well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fine Tuning

There only three days between now and my first race of the season for me and the first race of the Leadman series.  All of the work that could have been done is done so now it is time to rest, focus on smaller quality workouts, rest some more, and prepare to execute the plan come Saturday morning.

The past three to four weeks have been kind of bumpy.  I had a situation a few weeks ago where I just did way too much downhill running/pounding, too fast down Independence Pass on the pavement then another punishing run down Smuggler that got my knees pissed at me.  Basically running to fast and over striding leading to less stability when I would plant my foot which in turn just tweaked things a little.   That took a few days to remedy.

Then the last two weeks a lot of discomfort in both Achilles tendons.  I am not sure of the direct cause of this but it was accentuated by running up a lot of steep grades causing my calves to tighten up.  I could work through the discomfort on the runs until things loosened back up but post run my ankles and tendons would not feel all that great.

Fatigue has been an issue as well and it is still a bit present.  A symptom of that could be seen in my attitude and approach to yesterday's ride. It was to be just a short ride with some three minute max efforts thrown in but in my mind it felt like I was going out for a four to six hour grind.  But the ride went exceptionally well once I got going and even better is that the Trek is starting to feel more natural to me to ride now.  Again. I am getting used to the extra two pounds or so of bike weight and am able to climb better with it now.

So basically some structural issues due to training and then just the tiredness of training have been nagging at me.   The structural issues are gone so now just to unload fatigue and all will be fine.

The last issue and the subject of this entire writing though is weight.  I have been less than strict about diet this winter and spring but it was with a purpose.  I haven't gotten fat, or doughy, or soft so much but I have increased in weight with the addition of more lean mass.  But by eating a lot, more like a weight lifter than a skinny ass runner, I have also had more quality workouts, I recover more quickly and I don't have workouts where the tank is just empty and I have to suffer through them.  I knew what I was doing.

But the weight thing I am overly conscious of.  I have been told and teased that I am worse than most teenage girls when it comes to my weight and that is true.  A nice thing (I guess) about our apartment here in Aspen is that it is fully carpeted so I have gotten out of the habitual act of weighing myself every morning.  To get an accurate reading on the scale,  I need to go down to the garage and place it on a hard surface which doesn't exactly fit into the flow of most mornings. Because of that I don't always have day to day insight to what my weight is doing.  My clothes have been fitting right, and I haven't felt like I have gained a lot but I have.  I weighed in earlier last week and I was shocked at the numbers on the scale.  Shocked.  (I am heavier than Brooks is, again.)

So more fine tuning.   Diet.  Watch the calories diligently and more importantly be more aware of what I am eating rather than how much.  That always has more impact than just calories.  So for the past week or two, gone are all of the pleasurable and comfort foods that I like to indulge in.  I won't go over the list... I've written enough about it in the past.

And of course the weight is dropping just like it should.  So as in weight lifting or body building parlance, I have gone from a bulking cycle and am now in a cutting cycle.  It is one thing to know what to eat and not to eat for better results but a completely different thing to execute that plan. Now I am completely dedicated to the execution.  For the rest of the summer.

On Sunday I had the luxury of riding indoors.  I say luxury because when I get to ride indoors I can think as I have to do everything possible to keep my mind occupied as it doesn't have to focus on not getting killed so much.  It was then that I acknowledged that food does make me happy.  As I am sure it does for a lot people.  And not that I want to be miserable but I have definite goals for this summer and I have to be aware, daily, of what I want to get done.  Sure a milk shake today would be awesome, but I have to put that in context with, yeah, but, dropping X amount of time in X race will make me even happier.

So the fine tuning now is mental and in reprogramming my brain and body to what I consume on a daily basis.  Do I want a soda or do I want to be the very best version of myself than I can be this summer?  All I can say is that I am going to strive for the latter rather than the former.  Of course I plan to be reasonable and allow myself a treat every once in awhile.  I WILL have a Mountain Dew after the race on Saturday and hell, maybe even a Snickers bar but that will be the exception rather than the rule.

As of this morning I am happy to report that I weighed in less than I did for last years LT100 run so I am definitely moving the numbers in the right direction.  At 46 I might only have this one shot at a super summer of racing and I don't want to blow it.  I want to run and ride every race knowing that I have done my absolute best and not have any lingering questions after.  Just like last year.  The bar has been raised significantly by Lucho in my training this year and I have met that  head on.  Now it is time for me to raise the bar even more in regards to my daily routines and habits to be in alignment with the work I have done and the output I expect.  It's not a big deal... just some tweaking and fine tuning on my part.

Unrelated to running... Tomorrow is Annie's 20th Birthday and I will never be able to fully express the joy in having such a wonderful daughter who makes me so proud of her every day in so many ways.  If I was EVER blessed it was the day that she came into my life and in every day since watching her grow up into the beautiful person (inside and out) that she is today.

1997.  Annie is almost three and playing in my boat in the living room.  Ever the fearless kid who has taught me more than I have taught her I think at times.  Happy Birthday Pooh!