Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saltwood Boxing Day Run 2013

The end-of-year return home wouldn't be complete without a trip to the village of Saltwood for a romp across the British countryside in the annual Saltwood Boxing Day Run, now in its 39th year. The weather for our trip home has been absolutely diabolical, but one would expect no less. After all, a British man never leaves home without his umbrella - or so my Chinese students used to tell me way back when. Wait, what? But, yeah, it's rained every day since we've been here and, much like last winter, rivers are bursting their banks and half the country is under water.

I lived through this misery for the first 20 years of my life, but now the annual return to the UK makes me thankful for every single one of those 300 days of sunshine we are reputed to get on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. That said, nothing quite beats the British countryside on a glorious summer day, no mater how few and far between they are. But I digress. All you need to know is that the route for the 39th running of the Boxing Day Run was bloody muddy.

The race, nay run, is an approximately three mile loop through farmers' fields, past a gate or two, over a stile, through the woods, up and down a couple of hills and back to the finish line on the village green. A true cross country race in a quintessentially British setting. This would be my sixth running of the race in the last seven years.

There looked to be a good turnout milling around as we got ready for the off, runners no doubt encouraged by the brief window of sunshine we were enjoying following the previous two days of torrential rains and gale force winds. After a few pleasantries on the start line with a couple of the Saltwood regulars it was down to business. The start was hectic and I came close to taking an early digger with ankles being clipped left and right by overanxious youngsters getting out at a sprint. By the first turn I finally had room to run and found myself sitting somewhere around tenth with a couple of lads off the front that I knew wouldn't be coming back.

The lead up to the first kissing gate, coming up from the first river crossing.
Across the playing field, I passed a couple of the early pacesetters before easing past a few more on the slick descent to the first footbridge. Up the steps to the 'kissing gate' I was sixth in line, a position I held up the first hill and over the stile. Across the grazing field - no sheep this year - I moved into fourth, with third 10-15 meters ahead and first and second off to the races. A mile down and it was a race for third.

I had my brother's cross country spikes on this year and they made a huge difference versus regular trail runners, which are simply no match for the bogs of the Saltwood course. On the slick boggy paths under the wooded canopy, I went to work on bridging the gap to third making a bit of a dent by the time we popped back out into the fields.

I was close enough now that I could hear some pretty labored breathing and was feeling strong enough that I was able to keep firmly on the gas up through the rolling paths, a number of which were more brook than trail. With a half mile to go on the final footpath leading back down into the village I began closing quickly and ultimately went by without a fight, finishing back on the green in a surprising four second PR and third place overall. Five-time winner Michael Coleman was finally dethroned by a young lad, Maximilian Nicholls, who has been running the race for years, coming of age this year with an impressive slog through the mud.

Happy to get on the podium again.
After getting a few layers on, I headed back out to watch Alistair finish up what he fittingly refers to as the Mud Run. Just the two Clarks on the start line this year, but hopefully we'll have a full contingent next year for the 40th running of this great running tradition.

Geeked to get going.
Finishing it up and putting the hurt on Skeleton Man.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Week Ending December 22

Mon - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Final Horsetooth summit of the year, and number 152 total. I can't remember how many I did last year, but I'm pretty sure it was less. Hopefully I'll have the fitness, desire and consistency to register a few more next year.

Tues - 8.5 miles intervals. 5 x mile, w/first steady, second through fourth fartlek, and last steady (CCW (.98 mile), CW (1.02), CCW, CW, CCW). Showed up for this one not really sure how much I wanted to put into it, so opened up running the first one at a reasonably casual effort with Leora, Ryan and Andy: 5:41. The next three were fartlek and I decided to push the hard segments a little harder than usual and float the medium ones a little easier: 5:34, 5:20, 5:34. Finished with a final steady mile, pushing the last quarter hard: 5:15. Felt some fitness there this morning. Promising.

Wed - 5.5 miles. Jogged some easy miles on the mean streets of Canterbury after the long flight from Denver. To the West Station to pick up a birthday present for my mom, then up the Crab and Winkle to Blean, and back via Rough Common.

Thurs - 10 miles (1,000) easy. Blean Woods outer loop. Trails were totally waterlogged, but it's always good to be back home enjoying the refreshingly moist air, at least for the first couple of days. Then the rain starts getting pretty old. Not sure how I put up with it for 20 years, but I guess I didn't know any better.

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

Sat - 5.5 miles w/5k Parkrun race. I always enjoy running the Whitstable 5k Parkrun races when I'm back home. It's a similar concept to the Tortoise and Hare races I put for the Fort Collins Running Club in Colorado, in that the races are designed to offer a means of promoting fitness for newer runners or a fun workout for more seasoned runners in an inclusive, affordable environment. If you ever find yourself in the UK on a Saturday and fancy a workout, then check out the Parkrun website and see if there's one being put on in a town near you.

Originally I was going to run the six or so miles up to Whitstable, but I didn't much like the look of the weather and with lingering jet lag I decided an extra few minutes in bed was the wiser option, driving out instead with Alistair and my Dad. Alistair and I got in a nice mile jog on the seafront to warm-up, noting a strong tailwind outbound and stronger headwind coming back, then after meeting up with my brother and his two young running proteges, it was off to the start line and time to get going. The goal was to run a hard workout more than it was to race, so I eased into things and followed the lead guy off the front. He put a few meters on me through the first couple of kms, but once we hit the sloppy mud on the kilometer long lollipop section of the out and back I quickly regained the ground and then muscled past him as we made our way back along the seafront into the wind. I forgot to bring my watch so didn't get splits, but I'd guess my first and third miles were probably right on 5:30 and the middle mile through the mud and strongest headwind at about 5:45-50. Finished in 17:25, which felt about right for the effort, then ran back out to run the last km again with Alistair who registered a course PR at just under 28 minutes. Always a fun morning on the Whitstable seafront.

Headed out in the afternoon to Canterbury Rugby Club to watch the first team play a top of the table clash against Cambridge in cataclysmically terrible weather. Brought back fond (I think) memories of playing through similar conditions on more than a few occasions during my youth.

Sun 18 miles (1,000') easy. Ran at a very easy effort out to Whitstable and along the seafront for a bit, then turned and retraced my steps. My legs were a little creaky for this one and not much enjoying the hard surface underfoot so it was generally a bit of an effort. Wet again.

Total: 60 miles (3,700')    

It's always a tough grind crossing the Atlantic in the easterly direction, especially with kids in tow, so the running has been a little labored and my sleep not great since arriving in the UK. But I'm getting into the swing of things now, just in time for a run of three races in the span of four days between Christmas and Saturday. Fun times.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week Ending December 15

Mon - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth jog.

Tues - AM: 9 miles intervals. This one was kind of a bust with choppy snow on the cemetery loop and single digit temperatures, so just got around. Workout was mile, 2 x 800, mile, 2 x 800, 1.5 mile lamppost fartlek. Jogged the first mile with the group to check out the conditions, then ran the rest at between 5:30 and 5:50 pace.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') easy. Kind of a creaky jog up Horsetooth to catch the sun heading down behind Longs Peak. Finally warming up a bit and just a glorious afternoon to be on a peak. Pikes was visible in glorious technicolor 100 miles to the south.

Weds - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth #148. Sun was out and felt awesome after a solid week of frigidity. Down to two layers. Not a whole lot of energy, but it was still great to be out.

Horsetooth from the south on Audra Culver.
Palisade and Round Mountains at the base of Thompson Canyon, with Twin Sisters and Longs above Estes.
South, Middle, North.
Thurs - AM: 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. Jogged out super easy on Centennial with Slush, Katie and Marie, catching up on the local goings on, then came back solo at a reasonably controlled effort. Now that I don't have Mike to race on these return trips, I'm hoping I can keep things truly within the desired effort range, i.e., not too hard and somewhere between LT and HM. Legs felt a little wooden this morning. Splits coming back: 7:34, 6:26, 6:36, 5:30, 5:15 = 31:22
PM: 6.5 miles easy. Jogged a few easy miles with the FCTR crew around Pineridge. Been a while since I've been to the Thursday social, but felt good to shake out the morning workout.

Fri - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Nice easy cruise up Horsetooth under the warm Colorado sun. The thaw was in full effect and people were out.

Sat - 19 miles (5,000') steady. Out for the classic two summit tour of the parks, with Horsetooth #150 on the year registered along the way. A bit of slipping and sliding and 95% ice or snow, but way, way better than the conditions last weekend and probably 40 degrees milder. Two miles fewer than last weekend at Chubby, but 2 hours 20 minutes quicker. Yup. Out with Malmberg, Burch and recent FoCo (well, Masonville) transplant/Boulder escapee Dane Mitchell. Fun morning.

Couple of Quad Rock course record holders, a Towers FKT holder ... and Clark on top of FoCo.
Summit #150 for 2013. The view of Her Majesty and her Glacier Gorge minions never gets old. 
Sun: 9.5 miles (2,200') easy. Shorts and a T for this one. Bagged another Horsetooth, then eased around on Westridge for the always fun Spring Creek descent.

Total: 82 miles (15,000') 

Haven't seen 80+ miles on the odometer in quite some time. It feels good to be running a little more consistently, but I need to grab a few more Larimer peaks before things start getting serious for 2014. That won't happen until the new year though as we take off for the UK on Tuesday.

Pete and I were hoping to put on a Towers 10k race in April 2014. It would have been a stiff 5k to the top and an electrifying 5k back down to the finish, and surely a whole bunch of fun, but it got nixed by the authorities. Ah well, the biweekly time trials will always be there. Permits for our other three races - Quad Rock, Black Squirrel Half and Bluesky Marathon - have all been given the green light, so we're happy to have those boxes checked. QR reg opened Dec 1, and early pricing is available until Dec 31.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fortnight Ending December 8

Week Ending December 1 

Mon - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth summit jog.

Tues - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. No morning workout to rest up a bit for the T-Day 4 miler, so just jogged a lap on Horsetooth.

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Another jog to the top of Fort Collins.

Thurs - 10 miles w/ 4 mile race. Jogged a lap of the Fort Collins 4 mile Turkey Day course with Slusher, then raced some of the best road talent on the Front Range (of which there is no shortage). Averaged a 5:37 pace, which was probably about right given my current state of fitness, for 49th overall. Two very easy miles to cool down.

Fri - AM: 4 miles (1,200') baggery. Set out early and with a slight hangover to go get the two remaining Rist Canyon peaks on my Larimer County punch card. These are two that I've been dreading due to significant access issues. I felt like I had a decent plan to get them undetected though, parking at a small pull-off on Rist Canyon Road to the northwest of 8,037', the first planned peak of the morning. I hopped onto a lightly used ranch road heading southeast from Rist, noting that there'd been one, maybe two vehicles through since the snows came a few days before. It was a nice easy jog up to a slight saddle where there was a small storage facility and what looked like a little-used private camping area. From there it was an easy jog through a grazing field to the base of 8,037, which sits to the northwest of the Davis Ranch community and looks to have burned hard during the High Park fire. The slopes were heavily mulched to prevent erosion and the hoof to the summit was a quick one. The summit was full of burned out project vehicles and had a rough road coming up from the terminal of the main Davis Ranch Road. I could see 7,420' - my next target - from the top, but cringed at the number of properties that lay in my way. To cut a long story short, I gave it a go, but just didn't have the appetite for it after about a half mile of trying to sneak my line. Tail between my legs, I retraced and headed home. To get 8,037, I think my best course of action will be a very early morning attempt under cover of darkness, coming in from the Redstone Canyon side.
AM (2) 5 miles (1,500') easy. Still with some time left before I was due home, I grabbed a conciliatory Horsetooth summit on the way back.  

Sat - AM: 1.5 miles (1,300') baggery. I set out this morning to finish up the 25-peak Poudre Park quad, with a tag of 6,712' - a pesky hill with access issues and some pretty rough terrain to negotiate. I parked up at a very prominent bend in the river, just west of a small neighborhood on the flats to the north of the river. Not wanting to deal with private property issues, I chose not to use the bridge that services those houses, and instead waded the very cold Poudre up to about waist deep from a public parking area with picnic tables. From there, it was a really steep hoof up a brush-infested gully. This got tiresome quickly, so I gave up on the gully and headed directly for the peak up its steep and rugged west slopes. For a low-lying peak, this one is a pretty tough get, but the views from the open top were large and well worth it. Rather than battle the scrub coming back down, I chose to come down the fairly open southern ridgeline, cutting west back into the gully before hitting private property. From there, it was back across the river, in the car and home.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Got out in fading light for a quick trip up Horsetooth.

Sun - 13 miles (3,500') baggery. Hooked up with Burch for a go at some of the peaks in the Laramie Mountains off Deadman Road, west of Red Feather Lakes. This one turned into a mini-epic and netted zero ranked peaks, but did include a summit of Middle Bald, which tops out at just over 11,000 feet. We parked up at a small turnaround to the east of a seasonal gate that was scheduled for a December 1 closure. The gate was open, but given that it was December 1, we didn't want to drive the extra mile and a half to the Killpecker trailhead and then come back to find the gate closed on us. After running up the road and finding the TH, we started on our way for what we hopped would net us the Laramie Mountains High Point, South Bald and 10,884'. However, the northern aspect of the slope in addition to the heavy tree cover meant that we were instantly dealing with deep snow, but for the first mile or so it was fine as there had been traffic along the trail before us. For the next mile after that, we were following just one set of prints but soon lost those as they headed off trail in the direction of North Bald. And so the trudging began, getting deeper and deeper the higher we got to the point where we were consistently knee to waist deep and making really slow progress, producing little body heat and generally getting cold. On a slight saddle at about 10,500' we were able to make out a craggy summit through the trees, so decided to go for that and then call it a day. We had no clue which summit it was as they are tightly packed on the ridgeline, but it was easily the most aesthetically pleasing of the four that we could see once we gained its summit. I suspected it was unranked Middle Bald from its craggy nature, but with strong winds cutting into our wet clothing we had zero appetite to trudge on and get the nearby ranked boys. From the summit, we darted back into the trees to get out of the wind and then followed our tracks all the way back down the mountain, getting back to the car 4 hours after we started. I 'm already looking forward to a summer return to this lightly visited area, as it looks like an absolute gem with super runnable trails and lots of accessible peak action.

Total: 56.5 miles (13,900')

Week Ending December 8

Mon - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth summit jog.

Tues - AM: 8 miles intervals. Workout was: mile, broken 1.5 (3x800, with 20 meter jog between each), broken 1.5, mile. Kinda going through the motions with Tuesday mornings right now and treating them more as tempo efforts. Splits were: 5:40, 2:51, 2:51, 2:54, 2:54, 2:50, 2:51, 5:37.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Snagged a late Horsetooth summit just as the snows were starting and the temps beginning to plummet.

Weds: 5 miles (1,500') slogging. Got out in the afternoon and put first tracks up on the summit. Cold one out there, but always fun to hit Horsetooth in the snow. Hung a few Chub flags along the way.

Thurs: 10 miles (1,400') easy. Met up with Marie, Katie, Lee, Andy and Sarah for a 6:00 AM start on Centennial in -10 degrees. Perhaps the coldest air temps I've ever run in, but with no wind and good layering it wasn't too bad. I've run in zero degrees with wind and been way more uncomfortable. Ran easy for the full 10 miles, rather than try and force things coming back the last five miles.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') easy. Managed to talk another six folks into running up Towers in slightly warmer conditions (-5, maybe), as I had to hang a few course markings for El Chubbo at the top of Towers. Again no wind, so pretty comfortable the whole time.

Fri - 6 miles (1,400') easy on lower Horsetooth trails hanging more flags and breaking tracks. Frigid again.

Sat - 21 miles (5,500) slogging. Ran the JV version of Chubby Cheeks, starting out with the 9:00 AM group of about 10 hardy souls. Temps were forecast to be a little better, but the sun never really got out, so it was freaking cold again, topping out somewhere in the low single digits. Slogged through snow the whole way, but had the benefit of 25 runners having gone before me, so it really wasn't that bad. Still took close to five hours to cover the ground. Ran much of it with Ryan from Boulder and then picked up Sam Malmberg for the last stretch on Towers - Westridge - Wathan - home. A couple of ugly looking toes among the list of finishers when it was all said and done, but no lasting damage. Just three runners completed the full course. Kudos. Results, pics and more from the day in an upcoming post. Horsetooth summit #145 on the year along the way.

Sun - AM: 2 miles setting up Spring Creek 6k T&H course. Cold as all get out again.

5 degrees at the start of the T&H, maybe. Pic: Felix Wong
Total: 69 miles (14,500')

Things are starting to warm up a touch here on the Front Range, but it was legitimately cold there for a few days this week. Had about 30 runners show up for the Chubster on Saturday, which was more than I was expecting given the conditions, but only three managed the full 50k. Fun times hanging out after the run as always. Cheeks and "Cojones Grandes" gets a mention in the local rag.

I still consider myself to be very much in the off season right now, but I am ramping the mileage just a touch so that I have some kind of fitness for the Coastal Challenge Stage Race out in Costa Rica in early February. Additionally, I'd like to have a decent run at the Boxing Day classic back in the UK in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to the mild British weather and some fun outings in the green hills of home over the Xmas period.
Coming Off Horsetooth during the early stages of the Chub. Pic: Erskine 
The sun tried, but never really made it. This and other two pics: Hinterberg 
The 'warm' waters of the Rez produced a nice set of low puffy clouds.
Not too many people made it to the top of Arthurs. John and Rocque  (pictured), along with Hinetrberg were the only 50k finishers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 4 Miler

Despite having run this race each of the six previous years that I've lived in Fort Collins, I was on the fence about running this year, right until the day before Thanksgiving. All fitness indications were pointing to a poor performance relative to previous years and, quite honestly, I'd been enjoying the tranquility of the off season. But tradition is tradition, and it's kind of weak to not run a race for fear of running a disappointing time. Besides, my good friend and long-time training partner Mike Hinterberg would be toeing the line, and recent workouts suggested he had a good shot at putting the hurt on me, something he'd yet to do in the many times we'd shared a starting line. I took that as a challenge and good enough reason in and of itself to run.

Despite Mike's superior fitness, could I - the wily old veteran - find a way to overcome the odds and break the tape ahead of him?

That was the challenge. And I had a plan. You see Mike has a long and consistent history of taking things out way too hard and paying dearly as a result. All I had to do was run a smart, patient race and wait for the mid-race Hinterberg implosion. I figured it would happen somewhere around the three-mile mark. If I was going to have any chance of holding off Mike's superior kick, I'd need to put a few seconds on him before the final turn onto College Avenue, 200 meters from the finish. The action, I figured, would need to unfold between mile 2.5 and mile 3.5 on Mountain Avenue. 

The race, as always, was waist deep in talent. A secondary goal at this race for me is to try and beat the lead ladies - many of international calibre - so I lined up alongside Mike and a bunch of very fit-looking women a couple of runners deep from the start line. 

The gun went off and it was off to the races. I always ... always ... go out too hard through the first half mile of this race. I wanted a comfortable 5:30 to get the ball rolling, figuring this would leave me a good 10 seconds behind Mike at the first mile marker. I kept to the plan and felt good and comfortable doing so, tracking the lead pack of ladies while watching the men's talent gallop off into the distance. To my great surprise, however, it took Mike until about the half mile point to pass me, a clear indication that he too was planning on running a smart race and looking to beat me in the process.

The first mile with the chase pack of ladies popped at 5:33, right where I wanted it. Mike had maybe five meters on me and he looked to be working on reeling in the lead lady a few steps ahead of him. Grinding up Mulberry towards the Bryan Ave turn into City Park, I had to dig just a touch to keep Mike's gap at five meters. Despite ratcheting the effort a touch, a couple of the ladies starting pulling away from me; clearly they were just getting warmed up, and any response from me would have been suicidal. Rounding Bryan and heading into the park, the second mile split at 5:29. The effort still seemed sustainable, so my thoughts started shifting to time goals. The day before, I decided I'd be happy with anything under 23 minutes, but now I was thinking 22 flat might be within the realms of possibility, even with the always tricky third mile to get through.

Turning the corner onto Mountain Ave, with Mike still five meters ahead, I decided it was time to put the pre-race plan into action and I worked on bridging the gap. Somewhere around mile three, just as I'd drawn it up the night before, the bridge was gapped and I found myself listening to some very heavy breathing. I sacrificed a bit of oxygen as I made my move to make it sound like I was out for a Thursday morning jog, knowing full well that Mike - a guy who'll race you through the last 50 meters of any training interval - wouldn't let me go without a fight. 

Mile three popped at a thoroughly disappointing 5:47, a number that confused me until I saw how far ahead the ladies I had previously been running with were. The planned-on, and famed, Hinterberg fade was in full effect; the only problem being that I was fading with him just when I was supposed to be muscling my gap. With the race still on, and Mike's heavy breathing still audible off my right shoulder, I started thinking through my long list of excuses. 

It's been a long summer. I'm getting old. I've been half ass'ing my recent workouts. I'm coming off a long period of rest. My mileage has been pitiful. Yada, yada, yada. As the weakness started to enter my mind a half mile from the finish, Mike made his retaliatory move. I held on to him until about Laurel Avenue, two traffic lights from the turn onto the final straightaway and then I couldn't hold on any longer and I did what I always do towards the end of these sprint races, I threw in the towel. I knew I had no kick in me and reminded myself for the nth time why I race 100 milers and not 100 meters. Runners flooded by me as I turned onto College as I ground out the final few seconds of the race. 

The 5:38 last mile was at least a little quicker than the pitiful third mile split, but it wasn't good enough. Not even close. Mike beat me by a convincing six seconds. Nonetheless, my watch showed a 22:29 finish time, which works out to a roughly 5:37 average. It's a good bit faster than I thought was realistic for my current lack of fitness, but still a good minute off my best from two years ago. I finished fourth or fifth in the women's race, 40 seconds off the winner and something like three and a half minutes off the lead men's pace. 

Feeling my age, I ran back through the field to find my son who was full of excitement in finishing his first Thanksgiving Day 4 miler.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

El Chubbo - 4th Annual - this Saturday

It's just about time for that cheeky little event we've been putting on up here in the northern extremes of Colorado's Front Range the last four years. The course is part-way marked, the banner is up, and the parks have a nice fresh coat of snow. As always, the festivities start and end at my house, a short half mile from the Horsetooth trailhead. The forecast for Saturday is cold, but warmer than today, warmer than tomorrow and just about right for early December. Bring a couple of layers and you'll be just fine.

To keep things simple, we've changed nothing. It's the same deal as the last three years, with staggered start times of 7:00, 8:00 & 9:00 and multi-distance options that include the Junior Varsity (20 miles ~ 5,500'), the Marathon (25.5 miles ~ 6,500') and El Chubbo Grande (31.5 miles ~ 7,500'), but people have been known to go longer and shorter.

The idea is that you pick a start time and distance that will get you back to race HQ between the hours of 2:00 and 3:00 for beers, nibbles and banter. Previous results are here ('10), here ('11) and here ('12)

Route info is here. We'll have most of the intersections marked, but strongly suggest you print out a copy of the course map if you're not familiar with the trails. Ms. Ashley Waddell has kindly offered to (wo)man an informal aid station at the Arthur's TH, which depending on your route choice will be mile 12.5, 16 or 22.

Feel free to bring some adult beverages and something to eat for after the run.


No whining
No bitching
No blaming the RD if you get lost.


JV Men: Justin Mock (3:25)
JV Women: Victoria Funk (5:16)

Marathon Men: Nick Clark (4:31)
Marathon Women: Darcy Africa (5:10)

Chubster Men: Johannes Rudolph (5:40)
Chubster Women: Sarah Hansen (6:45)

Fourth annual.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week Ending November 24

Monday - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth. Nice casual jog up to the rock.

Tuesday - AM: 8 miles intervals. City Park workout with Jane's group. We were working the lake this morning with 2 x 1,200, 2 x 1,000 and a mile to finish. All fartleks except the mile: 4:03, 4:01, 3:19, 3:21, 5:24
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth. Shakeout jog up the mountain.

Weds - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth. Just racking another summit.

Thurs 10 miles (1,400') hill tempo. Back on Centennial this week for 5 easy followed by 5 coming home hard on hilly asphalt bordering the east side of the reservoir. Fittingly, it was a cold one this morning with a good iced-over inch of crunch on the ground. Came back on the tempo side with Mike, who charitably waited for me to catch up a mile in. Mike moves south to Golden this weekend, and while this is only an hour or so down the road it nonetheless represents the loss of one of my more reliable training partners. We'll continue to seek out fun times in the great Colorado outdoors together, I am sure, but I'll certainly miss the week-to-week reliability of having a solid and similarly paced workout partner. We push each other frequently on the shorter stuff and we've ended up racing a few reps or tempo runs on more than one occasion, so it was nice to run and finish this one in lockstep. Sneaked in just under 33 minutes on a steady effort.

Fri - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth. Got snagged a bit on my usual north-gap climbing route. The rock was all iced over, so I somewhat unceremoniously had to backtrack from the last couple of moves and retreat to the standard route.

Sat - Off. Failed to capitalize on the window for the day, so ended up with a goose egg.

Sun - 13 miles (4,300') peakbaggery. A little more action in the Poudre Park quad this morning, picking up peaks #21-24 out of the massive 25 that sit in the roughly 8 x 12 mile area surrounding Poudre Park. I'm pretty sure this is the the tightest concentration of peaks in Larimer County, made especially troublesome by the dotting of private land. Thankfully this wasy not an issue this morning. Anyway, on tap were four peaks north of the river and just west of Hewlett Gulch: 7,501', 7,432', 7,420', & 7,231'. Starting from the Hewlett trailhead, I ran downriver for a mile or so before starting up steeply for the summit of 7,231. As with many of the scrubber peaks in the foothills here, the hillside was littered with cactus and as hard as you try it is almost impossible to avoid some kind of impaling; needles still being pulled out days later. From the top of 7,231, a nice peak with good views north to Mummies/Med Bow, it was some pretty heavy bushwhacking into and out of a couple of drainages before I got on the east ridge of 7,420' where I conveniently found an old forest road to follow with fresh 4 x 4 tracks through the snow no less. I was on the summit in no time once out of the drainages, and from there I had a good view of the two remaining peaks, both relatively close. For 7,432, it was a 400 foot drop to the saddle with 7,420 and a reasonably simple hoof back up. Again the views up canyon to the snow-capped Divide were stellar. The one peak left on the morning was again straightforward, and while there were a couple of properties in the area, I was able to stay entirely on public land. Getting back to the Hewlett Trail took a good bit of creek bashing. At one creek confluence, I found the leftovers of a coyote or mountain lion kill, with some interesting prints in the snow to examine. There was definitely more than one type of animal getting nourishment from the deer, but I was disappointed not to see obvious cat prints. A couple hundred meters down creek, I eventually found the Hewlett trail and enjoyed a nice cruise back to the car. Fun morning.

Total: 55.5 miles (12,300')

Managed to get a couple of workouts in this week. Again, feeling like I'm missing a step at the moment, but really not too concerned as I'm just not trying that hard right now. Going through the motions to an extent, but as I enjoy the workouts I'd hesitate to use that language. Anyway, all exciting stuff I'm sure.

Quad Rock registration goes live December 1. Pete and I have things ready for that and are working hard to get sponsors lined up so we can make it another great race right here on the Front Range. The parks gave us a cap increase to 350, which is as big as we think we can reasonably grow the race without impacting negatively on the experience. If you want to test run parts of the course, then come out Dec 7 and run Chubby Cheeks. If you need a start address, then email me via the 'about me' link or find someone who's run it before. All welcome.

I got an invite from the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) to come run a bunch of the races that make up this new tour. Apparently, I am ranked 15th in the world over the 100 mile distance, but if you take into account my miserable shorter distance performances in Europe over the last few years, then my 'general' ranking drops to 47th. I probably won't finish in the top 50 at the local Turkey Trot on Thursday.

Anyway, the invite promises exotic racing experiences in far flung places like Japan and Reunion Island off the southeast coast of Africa, with the potential for free travel and accommodation. I put in for a free entry to Western States. I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week Ending Nov 17

Mon - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horseooth north summit. Easy jog.

Tues - 8.5 miles intervals. 4 x mile (City Park) w/first three as fartleks, final one steady. Foggy morning. We do these miles in alternate directions with clockwise a little long plus one extra hill (1.02), and anti a little short (.98). Felt a little ragged on these, especially trying to push the 'hard' segments of the fartleks, but managed to keep things decently consistent at an average pace just over 5:30: 5:42, 5:26, 5:37, 5:26. Hinterberg is destroying me on these right now: must work harder.

Weds - 6.5 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth north. Just another light jog up the rock. Shorts and a T. Glorious Front Range autumn day.

Thurs - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north. Postponed plans to get out on Centennial for the reintroduction of some tempo work in favor of a gentle morning jog up Horsetooth for the weekly sunrise. Ziggy notched his first true Horsetooth summit with aplomb! Also: Mike, Lee, Mary, Scott, Celeste.

No better way to start the day, says Ziggy. Pic: Hinterberg.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') steady. Towers effort in the dark. Felt decent enough, but worked harder than I would have liked for a fairly mediocre 32 high on the watch. Basically followed Brian's pace, 5 - 10 meters in arrears the whole way up.

Fri - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north. Felt sluggish from the Towers effort last night, so kept this one super light. Strong wind from the south, but nice and sunny out.

Sat - 11.5 miles (6,300') peakbaggery. On tap for this morning was a loop taking in five of the ranked peaks circling Youngs Gulch to the east, west and south: 7,623, 7,875, 7,802', 7,697', 7,980'. Jason and I started out from a pull-off on Hwy 14 adjacent to the Young's Gulch trailhead, which is currently closed. If I had to guess, I'd say the Young's Gulch trail will remain closed indefinitely given what we saw of it today. Heading up trail from the parking lot, it was clear that a huge volume of water came through the Young's Gulch canyon during the September floods, basically wiping out the whole trail. We tried to follow it for a while, but soon gave up and started hoofing steeply uphill in a southeasterly direction for 7,623', which sits high above the confluence of the Young Gulch creek and the Poudre River. The going was largely decent, with minimal brush to contend with and some fun rocks to negotiate. The summit is a nice rocky outcrop with fine views north to Greyrock and surrounding peaks. The ridge here seems to have been something of a firebreak during the High Park fire last summer, with most everything to the east decimated and to the west down into Young's Gulch largely intact - at least in this northern section of the gulch. We followed the ridgeline south from here, picking up a forest road along the way, until we were a couple hundred feet under 7,875, a fairly trivial peak sitting above Rist Canyon's Stratton Park neighborhood to the south. From here things got a little spicy as the route to 7,802 required some stealth private property maneuvering. Heading southeast from the summit, we picked up a quiet neighborhood dirt road, cut across a small gully and were soon negotiating the peak's northwest ridge easily staying out of sight of all residences. The peak is littered with refuse, clearly a dumping ground for whoever owns the land, but also sports decent views of surrounding peaks including the monarch of Rist Canyon: Mount Ethel, which pokes proudly above all the surrounding hills.

The run from 7,802 to 7,697 was one I was not much looking forward to. I had told Jason previously that our morning's route would involve a stretch of 'light trespassing,' and once on the ground it was clear that there was absolutely no getting around it in piecing the two peaks together. Coming off the summit we almost immediately had to negotiate a property with a lot of earth-moving equipment on it - no doubt the same guy littering the adjacent peak. Out of view of the main structure, we made a mad dash across an open pasture for a nearby hillside. With adrenaline pumping I was in full-on LoJ madness mode, getting snarled on a barbed fence just as the dogs started barking. Once over the fence though, things soon calmed down and we sidehilled our way under another property, while keeping an eye on the Stratton Park homes in the valley below. Soon enough we were on the road servicing these properties, and decided just to run it down the valley a bit to a point where we could cut across to 7,697'. We did this at about the 7,400' contour, after 360'ing at the sight of a bloke in his front yard coiling up a hose. We followed a creek under another property and then sidehilled above yet another on our way down to Young's Gulch Creek and Young's Gulch Road. We quickly crossed the creek and made our way across the road, starting up the wooded east slopes of 7,697 just as a truck went cruising by. I'm not quite sure what the driver would have made of two skinny dudes darting off into the woods if (s)he'd seen us, but I don't think we were spotted, so a moot point I guess. From there it was a straightforward march up the hill for the summit, which again offered expansive views to the top of Rist Canyon and Buckhorn Mountain in addition to the mighty Ethel. We also had a view north to the final peak of the morning, 7,980, which looked a good ways off. The original plan was to drop into Youngs Gulch and follow the trail north a couple of miles to the base of 7,980 before hoofing up. However, the scene on the ground once we negotiated our way down to the creek made it clear that we wouldn't be following any kind of trail. The flood erosion up here was worse than it was at end of the canyon where we'd started the morning and the going was painfully slow. Changing plans, we decided to just hoof up and down a couple of feeder drainages to get out of the canyon and onto 7,980'. Predictably enough this took a while, but eventually we got onto 7,980 from whence we could start hoofing in earnest. The summit was a rounded disappointment, given the work it had taken to get up there, but the views north were commanding and almost worth it. From here, all we had left was a 2,000' drop back down to Youngs Gluch and the trailhead. Of course, we left the worst for last and found ourselves negotiating a tight, thicket-infested gully that splits the east slopes of the mountain right up the middle. Once in, there was no getting out so we made our way slowly down the dry creek bed, finally popping out at Youngs Gulch for the short run out back to the car.

A fun morning with just about all the elements that make up a classic LoJ morning: steep climbs, multiple peaks, great views, detection avoidance, and miserable bushwhacking. Jason swears he's never coming out for more, but he said that after last week's escapade too.

Sun - AM: 3 miles (1,800') baggery. Had plans of picking up a couple of peaks this morning, but ended up getting just the one peak, 7,309, in the Greyrock area that I had failed to get last weekend for fear of missing a deadline to be home. Rather than run the Greyrock trail to the drainage 500 feet below the summit and grunt from there, I decided to hoof directly from the Poudre up the steep cactus-infested south slopes. There was a light covering of snow on the ground in combination with strong winds, which made things a little spicier, especially when negotiating the big rock band halfway up, but other than that this one was reasonably straightforward. Lost my hat to a huge wind gust on top, before cruising down through burned-out forest to the drainage heading west off the saddle with UR7,284'. Given the heavy winds, I was a little nervous running through a stand of dead trees, so ran pretty recklessly to get on the trail that services Greyrock. From there it was an easy jog back to the car. I was going to get the peak above Hewlettt Gulch next, but the trailhead was closed due to flood-related resource damage, so I decided to call it a morning and headed home.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Alistair hadn't been up Horsetooth in a while, so we decided it was high time for a run at his PR. Prior to today's outing his best was 49 high, a number he had proudly told Ranger Steve about a few months back. Impressed, Steve had told him that Alistair's time was just a few minutes shy of the ranger record of 45 minutes. With a pretty focused effort, Alistair came away with a new PR and a match of Steve's time at 45:30. Won't be too long until he's beating his old man, but I won't give it up easy. These things need to be earned. Bench: 8:00; top stairs: 25:00.

Total: 58 miles (17,700') 

Bailed on the Thursday hill tempo workout in favor of another Horsetooth sunrise, but I think we'll be back at it this week. Still in no real hurry to push the fitness, and happy to just be out getting moderate mileage in with the occasional workout mixed in.

Couple of races on the calendar for 2014. Taking the family out to Costa Rica in February where I'll be running the Coastal Challenge stage race, while Dana and the kids enjoy the beach. Salida Marathon in March as always, followed by the Lake Sonoma 50 in April. I still haven't accepted my invite to run Western States, but barring catastrophe between now and Dec 1, I'm sure I will. In August, I'm excited to head out to British Columbia to run the Squamish 50 miler, which looks like a rugged beast of a course, and then hopefully in September I'll be lining up for the Steamboat 100. Without giving it a whole lot of thought, the race calendar is about as full as I want it to get for 2014, so with the exception of a few local races that'll pretty much do it I guess.

Of course, before all of that we've got the highly anticipated Fort Collins 50k Championship Trail Race on December 7. Pretty sure I won the marathon version last year, so I'll be looking to defend there.     

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week Ending November 10

Mon - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth north summit. In a sign that things are finally starting to get serious, I actually ran the 3/4 of a mile to the trailhead this afternoon. I know, I know, totally shameful that I've been driving there. Felt a really good spring in my stride that I haven't felt in probably three months. I do believe the switch has been flicked.

Tues - AM: 8.5 miles intervals. Ah yes, Tuesday morning workouts are back. I've been feeling so 'off' lately that I really had no idea what to expect from this morning's workout. On the drive down, part of me was saying that 6:00 pace would be just fine for the first go around. Ease in, don't tweak anything, check the ego at the door. The usual stuff. But then you get going and all of a sudden things don't seem so bad. Workout was mile, 2 x 800, mile, 2 x 800 all with 3-4 mins of stationary rest. For the opening mile, I kept to the plan of trying to keep things under control, to ease into things, figuring that a 5:45 split would be about right, so I was pleasantly surprised to register 5:30 on what felt like a pretty controlled effort. The first 800 after that got out a little harder, feeling like a legitimate workout effort, and then it was a fairly consistent groove from there: 5:29, 2:35, 2:37, 5:25, 2:37, 2:36. The miles are just 10-15 seconds off what I can usually expect on the cemetery track after a month or so of working it, so all in all this was a pleasantly surprising morning, and it would appear that my fitness has not deteriorated as much as feared. 3 mile warm up, 1.5 mile cool down. Feels good to be back.
Noon: 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Creaky after the morning workout, but too nice of a day to pass up the daily summit. Windy, but beautifully clear up top. Crystal clear view of Pikes Peak 100 miles to the south.

Weds: 5 miles (1,500') moderate. Horsetooth north summit. Felt good so barreled up just in time to catch the sun disappear behind the Continental Divide to the west. Super clear day again with even more crystalline views of Pikes than yesterday. Love, love, love this time of year.

Thurs: 6 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Out with the Thurs AM gang to catch the sun coming up in the east after watching it go down in the west the night before. Much brighter when it comes up in the morning, as it turns out. Big group for this one, the last in the fall Horsetooth series: Mike, Lee, Andy, Slush, Celeste, Mary, Marie, Katie and The Zig. Next week we move to Centennial for the winter hill tempo series, which is pretty much a guarantee that the weather will start turning to crap. Picture perfect this morning.

Katie, Marie, Clark, Mary, Mike, Lee, Andy. Looking southwest off the top of H'tooth. 
Looking north, northeast to Wyoming and the plains (and Mary).
Looking southwest from the top.
Fri - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth north summit (127).

Sat - 11 miles (5,000') peakbaggery. 6,740', 7,180', Aguille du Greyrock, North Greyrock6,945', Got out early with Jason O for a tour of the Greyrock area. I believe this route, and variations thereof, have been referred to as the Greyrock Slam, Tour Du Greyrock, etc in the past - not to be confused of course with the infamous Greyrock six pack (45 miles w/15,000'). Basically, it's a circumnav of the prominent north Fort Collins peak, with five sub-peaks to take in on the way. It's definitely a worthy route and probably a whole lot easier these days than in the pre-Hewlett Gulch and High Park Fire days. Yup, two fires through there last year. On the west side of the mountain just about everything is burned to a crisp - no prisoners, even the rocks were torched. On the east side of the mountain, things are patchy, but largely intact - at least in the drainage that holds the more direct Greyrock trail.

Anyway, we started out in a clockwise direction from the trailhead, running a mile or so on the Greyrock Meadow trail and then cutting southwest up the hill as the trail turns north up a gully toward Greyrock. With the burnout, this north-facing slope was a straightforward head-down hoof. Views from the top were nothing to get too excited about, although most of the morning's route to the north was clearly visible, beginning with 7,180 for which it was just a short bop down the saddle, a sidehill around the saddle bump, and then straight up the south slopes with some criss-crossing of the Meadow trail along the way. Got on a few false summit rock piles before tagging the correct one, and then continued our march north in the direction of the impressive-looking Aguille du Greyrock. Again, it was easy work getting between the two, but a little more challenging finding the summit. To start with, we climbed up a jutting thumb of rock on the south side of the mountain only to find we were on the wrong 'aguille,' then once on the summit aguillle, we started on a sketchy line on the south side of the rock. It looked like it would go from halfway up, but it definitely wasn't the class-4 route I had heard about. Rather than push our luck, we backtracked to the base of the rock and tried again from the north side, where the going was a lot less exposed and a quite straightforward scramble. Commanding views from the top.

A shot of the Aguille. Pilfered from the Summit Post page.
Continuing on, we charted a line directly for nearby North Greyrock. The burn through here looked like it had been particularly intense with absolutely nothing spared, in addition to heavily charred rock. As with the other peaks in the area, North Greyrock has a lot of rock to work through, offering up some fun scrambling. From afar, it looked like the middle rock of the three ridge bumps was the high point but from on top, it was clear that the more northerly one was. Just another false summit on a day of falsies. From the true summit, it took a little while to locate 6,945' as our next target peak among all the hills in the region, but once we were confident of it, we took off and charted a line through the meadows and patches of live forest. In the valley to the north of Greyrock, we picked up an old two track road for a half mile, then cut directly up 6,945'. It's a fairly unimpressive summit to look at, but has large views of the Mummies between North Greyrock and 7,180' to the west, which are nicely punctuated by the profile of the Aguille in the middle of the gap.

Supposedly, an old trail wraps around the east side of Greyrock, but we never found it and instead bushwhacked our way up the creek (perhaps the wrong drainage for the trail, but we should have been on the trail before hitting the drainage, so I just think it has totally grown over) to finally reconnect with the east side Greyrock trail. The schwackin' slowed us down a good bit which unfortunately meant that we'd have to forgo the final planned peak of the morning, 7,309' - the only ranked peak on the immediate east side of Greyrock - as I had to get back by noon. No biggie as this one is easily accessible from the trail, so I can come back and clean it up any time I'm in the area with a bit of time on my hands.

This was a fun outing. With a full day, this tour could easily be a 12 bag with two additional peaks to the north of 6,945', Greyrock itself, and the two peaks west of Hewlett Gulch.

Sun - 6 miles (3,000') peakbaggery. Decided to head back to the Poudre Park quad and pick up three peaks that looked like they could be combined easily on the south side of the river from Greyrock: 7,334', 7,341' & 7005'. For 7,334 I parked a couple of bends upriver from the Greyrock parking area at a large pull-off at the base of the northwest ridge, which I planned to follow all the way to the top. There was a convenient gap between the rock to get on the ridge from the road and then it was a really fun hoof on open terrain all the way up. The stats for this one are 1,750 feet in a little under a mile at a really consistent grade. Given the open nature of the terrain, this is a stupendous marching route with potential as a great pow-hike trainer should my number get called for Hardrock (or similar race) in the coming years. An extra 1,000 feet of relief would be nice, but I can definitely see myself doing repeats on this one. The summit rock offered nice views down the Poudre Canyon with an equally impressive look across the canyon at yesterday's route in the Greyrock area. From 7,334' there is a nice broad summit ridge heading south towards 7,341', followed by a 300-400' drop to the dividing creek and then a 500' hoof up to 7,341 again through open, burned-out terrain. Connecting 7,005' involved some navigation and some fairly heavy bushwhacking along the still-vegetated creek to the south of 7,341. Once I hit the small creek confluence coming in from the southeast, I started hoofing northwest up the southeast ridge of 7,005' which I dispatched in short order. From the top of 7,005, looking east there is nice view across Watha Gulch to the broad ridgeline I had run earlier to connect the first two peaks of the morning. Again, this hillside was absolutely ravaged  by the High Park fire with no sign that any single tree made it through. To get off 7,005 and back to the Poudre, I essentially sidehilled the steep east slopes of the mountain heading diagonally northeast and down to the creek below, connecting just a bit south of Poudre Park. The going was decent enough along the creek and I soon popped back out at Hwy 14 for the short run downriver back to the car. Fun morning.

Total: 55.5 miles (16,100')

This was a good week. I felt kinda creaky and old after Saturday's outing, but miraculously felt fantastic on Sunday. Getting back into a training rhythm is never easy, but as there is absolutely no hurry to get fit right now, I'm staying cautious with the mileage and just focusing on reintroducing some workouts.

In other news, I finally turned the corner on the Larimer County ranked peak project. I now have 131 of the buggers, which means I'm over halfway to bagging all 255. Yay me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fortnight Ending November 3

Week Ending October 27 

Mon - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Tues - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Thurs - 6 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth north summit with the Thursday AM crowd: Lee, Marie, Celeste, Ziggy and Mike. Changed up my routine dramatically by coming down Wathen with Lee and Marie. Meanwhile, Mike was off sneaking a second workout on Centennial.

Fri - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit (117).

Sat - 3 miles (1,000') peakbaggery. Short window this morning, so got out and cleaned up a couple of pesky local peaks. First one was 'Weaver Peak' (6,250'), which sits off 287 to the east at the northeast end of what would be 'Glade Reservoir,' should that ever come to pass.

Anyway, for my purposes, I parked off Owl Canyon Road (County Road 72) by a gate that blocked passage to a road owned by the Colorado Gun Club. This is not the first time I've had to circumvent a shooting range to get on a peak in this quest for Larimer County peakbagging glory - oh no - but this was definitely a dodgy peak that, ranked-peak madness aside, I would otherwise have zero interest in bagging. It is in clear view of 287, with a half mile of meadow to run through before any reasonable cover is available. Nonetheless, I made it up with little issue, tagged a couple of high point candidates on the flat, cliffy summit, then made tracks through the brush to get back to the car. I took a rock squarely to the knee coming down before noting a pick-up truck lingering at the gun club gate, right by my car. Prancing back across the field, I was sure the driver had seen me, so I continued past my car all the way to 287 and waited for the truck to leave. It eventually did, entering gun club property, and I immediately darted back to the car and sped off. Up and down in 30 mins.

Dam Hippies. Photo: Pilfered.
Proposed location of Glade Reservoir, with Weaver Peak the hogback in far right of pic (highest point on that line of hogbacks).  6,622' is due west of Weaver in the hills to the left of the hogbacks bordering 287. Photo pilfered from the interwebs.
The second peak, 6,622' in the Bonner Springs Ranch neighborhood, was one that I tried to get last weekend with Alistair and Stella, but failed to due to an Alistair refusal to hop a fence (wise kid). Parked in the same spot as last time, off North Grey Rock Rd and then hot-footed it to the base of the peak and hoofed quickly up through some rocky and prickly terrain. Big views to the north and west from the rocky summit. Again, up and down in not much more than 30 mins. Home in time for breakfast.

Sunday - 17 miles (4,800') slogging/peakbaggery. I had ambitious plans for this morning and a big window to get it done. Unfortunately, we were stymied by adverse snow conditions. Starting from the Old Flowers trailhead on the edge of the Comanche Wilderness, we (me, Abby, Kircher & Hinterberg) made our way directly southwest and cross country for the top of 9,740, aka Wandering Abby Peak. With very little downfall and reasonably young growth, the going was nice and open most of the way up. Nonetheless, we managed to lose Abby three-quarters of the way to the top only to find her a quarter of an hour later wandering around on a sub peak to the west. With summit tagged and group reconvened, we headed due north - thinking we were heading northwest - off the summit in search of the Old Flowers trail which we intersected in a somewhat confusing spot. We knew we needed to hang a left, but it should have been a downhill left as opposed to the uphill section of trail we were looking at. Some hemming and hawing, a bit of back and forth and we realized that we'd veered too far right coming off the summit hitting the trail to the east of, and under, the saddle. Once figured out, we cruised the short stretch of trail down to 'Beaver Park' where we got a nice view of Crown Benchmark before beginning upwards for Crown Point by way of Daad Gulch trail through increasingly trudgy terrain and growing snowdrifts. Fortunately there was signage on trees indicating the course of the trail, so we were able to stay on route for the most part, with Kircher finding a random $20 along the way for his troubles. However, the going was slow. Above timberline, the wind was blowing hard and the postholing was knee to thigh deep in places. 

Crown Point (11,463') is a distinct and unique summit with unparalleled views of the Never Summers and Medicine Bow ranges to the north/northwest, in addition to stellar close-ups of the north side of the Mummies. Due to the heavy winds, wet feet and general discomfort, we didn't linger to enjoy the views and headed across tundra into a pretty fierce crosswind for nearby Crown Benchmark, which boasts equally huge views. Again, we didn't linger. The plan from here was to grab 11,002' before heading back down to the TH, but time had gotten the better of us and I was in danger of missing a pain-of-death deadline to be home, so we picked up the alpine Old Flowers trail and headed downhill back to Beaver Park on fun snowed-in trails. The other four planned peaks off Pingree Park Rd will have to wait for another time. Back home right on time.
Top 'Wandering Abby Peak'. All pics: Hinterberg.
Ken Nolan and other LoJ celebs working the low-lying Mummies.  Crown Benchmark.
About my speed these days.
Abby, Kircher, Nick above Beaver Park on Old Flowers. Crown Benchmark in the distance.
Total: 46 miles (13,500')

Week Ending Nov 3

Mon - Off.

Tues - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth North Summit. 

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth North Summit.

Thurs - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth North Summit with the AM gang: Celeste, Mary, Mike, Lee, Justin & Ziggy.
Just about got the pre-dawn. Back to sunrises this week. Pic: Shinterberg
Fri - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth North Summit. Felt a rare spring in my stride, so upped the tempo just a notch from my current Horsetooth amble pace. 

Sat - Off. Two birthday parties and two soccer games = no running. Super fun beer tasting 40th birthday party in the evening at a neighbor's house. There are some really odd beers out there, and people apparently are prepared to pay big bucks for 'em. $7.99 a six pack of good ale is more my speed, but it was fun to try some sours and other weird stuff. 

Sun - 7 miles (1,700') easy. Horsetooth North summit on just a gorgeous fall day. Park was absolutely packed. 

Total: 27 miles (7,700') 

This post Grand Slam vacation from training is getting close to turning into a full-on habit. I'm really not sure I want to start adding any structure back to my running just yet, but I've committed mentally to at least giving it a go starting this week. As has often been the case with my running over the last four years, the incomparable Jane Welzel is providing the spark with the resumption of the Tuesday Morning Cemetery workouts. These will run all the way through to the far side of spring 2014. In combination with Thursday morning hill tempo work, these sessions have yet to fail me in getting ready for spring training and summer racing. The force is perhaps not quite as strong as it once was, but I'm prepared to give it a go - at least for one more year. See you at the City Park Fire Station at 7:15.

Been getting a few notes and inquiries about Chubby Cheeks 2013 - the fourth running. Date has been set for Dec 7, which also happens to be lottery day for Western States and, I think, Hardrock. So come on out and celebrate the 2013 season - while looking forward to 2014 - with miles, beers, friends, and (hopefully) some luck. Same deal as always for the run: 3 start times, 3 distances, lots of miles, lots of hills & probably more than one person getting a little lost. Bring food, beer and a good attitude. More here

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fortnight Ending October 20

Week Ending October 13 

Mon - Off 

Tues - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Starting to feel some flow come back.

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Just a very casual jog, with just a touch of turnover coming back down.

Thurs - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit (109) for the Thursday morning sunrise: Mike, Scott, Celeste and Ziggy.

Fri - Off 
Saturday - AM: 12 miles
, with 10.5 mile Silent Trails race. Personal worst after four years of doing this race, but had a great time nonetheless.
PM: 5 miles (1,800') peakbaggery. Grabbed some peaks with Mike and neighbor Josh on the way back from Wyoming. Had four in the northeast corner of Larimer County planned, but had to bail on the last one due to a lack of time.

The mesa-like foothills of northern Colorado. All pics: Hinterberg.
Surveying from top Bobcat Mtn.
Campbell Mtn from the car. 
Started out with Campbell Mountain, which was easily accessible from the gate at the end of a short road off CO Rd 80. This one did require a gate hop, but there are no signs of human life for miles around, so a pretty stress-free act of encroachment. I was feeling pretty beat up in the leg department from Silent Trails, so just humped my way up while Mike pranced his way to the top way off ahead (apparently he should have been working a little harder at the AM race). The summit of this one is kinda mesa like, with multiple candidates for high point. Tagged 'em all. Up and down in ~40 mins. A good bit of brush to whack through on the hillside.

Hopped back in the car and then drove around Park Creek Reservoir to the south, north on CR 19, left on CR21. Parked up directly to the east of 6,380' (which we dubbed the 'Triple Nipple' due to three very prominent cairn stacks) on CR 21, ran quickly across an open meadow (dropping to the ground as a couple of trucks went by), crossed a creek then humped up the southeast ridge following an old use road to near the top. Commanding views of the reservoir and surrounding peaks from the top. Definitely a worthy peak. Back the way we came. Up and down in 35 mins.

Josh manhandling the summit nip.
Crossing the creek on the way back from the 'Triple Nipple' (6,380' - background)
From the top of 6,380', we contemplated descending to the north and running out to Bobcat Mountain, but the descent looked pretty thick with brush and then the run across the large meadow out to Campbell would have been totally exposed to the road, so we returned to the car, drove a half mile up CR21, parked by a gate and ran full speed for the cover of cottonwood trees by the creek. Humped up from there through mainly grassy terrain, thick with a ton of cactus. Tagged two tops that laid equal claim to the high point, turned around and made our way back quickly, with a final burst of pace to get back across the exposed meadow. Up and down in 30 mins.

Sunday - 2 miles setting up the Rolland Moore 4k T&H course.

Total: 34 miles (6,300')


Week Ending October 20

Mon - Off 

Tues - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit

Weds - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit.

Thurs - 5 miles (1,500') easy. Horsetooth north summit. Too early for the sunrise today, but always good to be on a summit early with friends: Lee, Mike, Celeste, Mary B, Marie, Ziggy.
PM: 7 miles (1,700') hill tempo. Mustered just enough energy and motivation for an evening run up Towers. Started at an easy effort and then ratcheted a bit on the second half. Worked harder than I would have liked for a 33.5 min summit, but that's just the state of play right now with my fitness.

Fri - Off

Sat - 2 miles (500') hiking/baggery. Dana was out of town for the weekend, so the kids got to go hiking with their Old Man. Had three peaks lined up for this morning, but a bridge was out by the Poudre water filtration plant for the intended route up 6,823', so we moved onto the next. Bonner Peak is a prominent bump in the northern foothills and has commanding views of Grey Rock among other nearby peaks from the top. Bonner Springs Rd is signed as private, but it gives access to public lands. Not quite sure what the status of Bonner Peak itself is, but we didn't have to jump any fences or pretend not to see any posted signs. From our little pull-off, there was a trail essentially all the way to the rocky summit. Super easy to get and a great little peak. Back in the car down Bonner Springs Rd to Grey Rock Rd. Took that left until we were just northeast of 6,622'. Parked up and then scampered across a meadow to a barbed fence. Alistair point blank refused to go over the fence ... and our day was done. One out of three ain't bad with a 2.75 year old and 7 year old in tow.

Sun - 2 miles (600') hiking/baggery. I had heard that Stove Prairie Rd had re-opened, so we headed out that way to try and get 7,515', which lies just north of the impressive and dominating Ethel Mountain and Stove Prairie Landing. I was wrong on Stove Prairie Rd, which has a huge washout that hasn't yet been repaired just south of the Buckhorn Narrows. Turned around and drove the long drive out to Rist Canyon to try our luck there. Rist Canyon Rd is in decent shape and passable all the way up to Stove Prairie Landing. Headed north from there to the benchmark before the drop into the Poudre (road is closed soon thereafter, BTW). Hoofed through High Park burn terrain and got the summit with relative ease, just as big flakes started coming down. Alistair wanted nothing to do with 7,697', so we called it good after admiring Ethel Mountain for a while. Mike and I got Ethel two winters ago by traveling through fairly dense forest. Unfortunately that was all consumed in the High Park Fire, but somehow the rocky pinnacle looks even more impressive now that it is fully exposed. Lots of mitigation work has been done up here with acres of mulch laid down.

Total: 26 miles (7,300')

Just trundling along here. Really not at all ready to get back into anything remotely structured at this point. I feel like I still need down time to recover from the summer (and indeed the past four years), so that'll be the agenda for at least the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Silent Trails 2013

All pics: Mike Hinterberg
The Silent Trails 10 mile race up in the Happy Jack area east of Laramie Wyoming is a race worth doing. Fitness be damned.

This year's race marked the 12th year since a crash on Hwy 287 between Laramie and Fort Collins resulted in the death of eight talented guys, basically the entire University of Wyoming cross country team, at the hands of a drunk driver. Laramie is a small, close-knit college town and the accident had a profound effect on nearly everyone in the community. The Silent Trails race commemorates the eight who died that day, while also serving as a reminder to be thankful for the health and ability that we have as runners to be out enjoying a run in a beautiful place at a beautiful time of year.

For 2013 the entry fee had been dropped to $5 and the focus kept squarely on enjoying, running and reflecting. Per Dan Rodesevich, the new RD:
Hereafter, most aspects of the race will remain the same: We'll always gather on the morning of the second Saturday in October to run the course that Cowboys and Cowgirls became so familiar with while running for Wyoming. Given that the only reward that Wyoming runners expected to receive after completing the circuit in training was a drink of lukewarm water and words of encouragement from Coach Sanchez, I want to keep to a minimum the trappings of tokenism that have crept into most other races. I intend to offer few awards, few prizes, few souvenirs, and a rock-bottom entry fee. On the other hand, camaraderie and mirth we'll continue to have in abundance.

Despite the fine fall weather being enjoyed in the tropical climbs of Fort Collins and Laramie, somehow the Happy Jack area had managed to hold onto the 8-12 inches of snow that had come down two days prior. This provided once again for the expected, nay, demanded adverse running conditions so associated with the Silent Trails race.
Hinterberg enjoying a hot beverage post race.
UW XC alum and Horsecow jog a few to warm up.
At the early morning carpool rendez-vous at Vern's it was great to see such a big turnout from the Fort Collins trail running community, with close to 30 of us ready to convoy north on the hour-long trip to Laramie. True to form, the weather turned to crap as soon as we crossed the Wyoming border. Not the usual howling winds, but we did manage to go from a nice sunny fall morning in Fort Collins to a complete sock-in on the High Plains. Nonetheless, 30 minutes later at 7,000 feet in Laramie things looked good again: no snow on the ground, no winds, and wait was that a ray of sunshine? At 8,000 feet by the Lincoln Memorial, however, the story was once again reversed: proper snow on the ground and more dense fog.

The fog would clear, but the snow would be a pain in the arse.

As always, there were a bunch of former UW cross country runners there ready to race - Dirty Dawgs, I believe they call themselves - among other talented runners who perhaps don't take things quite as seriously these days. From the off, I was surprised to find the pace in the lead pack quite manageable so actually gave thought to racing this thing with a proper effort, but I knew I was horrendously out of shape, so stuck to the plan of getting out and enjoying a hard run without totally grinding myself into the Wyoming dirt, err, snow. By the creek crossing at mile three, I was sitting in fourth in a chase pack of four or five guys behind a lead pack of three who were now 10 meters off the front.

On the run up to the staging point for 'Death Crotch Hill' I geared it down and let everyone in the pack get ahead of me, keeping the effort levels firmly in check. We bunched again going up Death Crotch, with Horsecow Lonac setting a particularly shameful pace off the front, and then split apart going over the top and into the energy-sapping snow drifts. Nik Deininger, who I'd beaten handily last time I raced him at the Pilot Hill 25k back in June when I was fit and ready to get started on my summer of Grand Slam racing, took off not to be seen again. Horsecow fell off the back, while Ragan was hanging tough a few meters behind me, and another guy I didn't recognize was a few meters off the front but still in view.

Ragan and I worked together to bring back fifth-place guy, and then with a mile or two left to race, after jogging as a pack of three for 10 minutes or so, I caught a glimpse of Scott Foley through the trees. Now Scott is a talented former Boise State XC runner. I beat him last year at Pilot Hill after his monumental blow up on the sand flats coming home, before being properly smoked by him at a local 5k road race a month or two later. True to form today, he was completely blowing up through the latter stages of the 10 mile distance, again reminding me that the definition of a long-distance race is entirely subjective. For me, 10 miles is a sprint, for other much more talented guys it might be the longest race of their season. Either way, Scott was clearly done racing, so I took the small rush of seeing a runner come back late in the race as an opportunity to break up my little pack of three to avoid what was looking like it would either be a three-way hand holding finish or some kind of horrendous sprint to the line. I was keen to avoid both scenarios.

The injection of pace was enough to get around Scott, enough to drop the former fifth place guy, but not enough to drop Ragan. Having never been beaten by Ragan - in our many encounters - I was motivated for a bit to try and hold him off, but I simply didn't have anything left in the tank on this day. Ragan dropped me with consummate ease, and so I geared down to a pace that would be sufficient to maintain fifth and cruised into the finish for yet another satisfying romp around the woods of the Medicine Bow National Forest on the second Saturday of October.

Mary Boyts and Cat Speights - inspirations both - getting it done in Wyoming. 
I ended up running seven minutes slower than last year. Some of that was definitely the snow on the ground - versus race-day snowfall and no accumulation last year - but most of it was a singular lack of fitness. I have not been this unfit in quite some time. But that's okay. It's the off season, I need the rest, and I'll get back into it when I feel ready. And that ain't now. In the meantime, I'll continue to be thankful for the gift of running and in particular the gift of running through the woods on snowy fall days.

Thanks as always to Perry, Dan and all of the High Plains Harriers who, quite simply, understand the fundamentals of what running is all about: camaraderie and mirth. I hope to share in the Wyoming mirth and camaraderie for many more years to come.

Mike mixing it up with the top ladies.