31 March 2011

24 Hours of Utah / Moab - The Fun

A few of the tents in our compound, and coffee brewing on the stove.

My family and I spent Wednesday through Friday camping before pulling into the parking lot / base camp area at about 5:30 Friday.  After 3 days in the wind and chilly weather there were some calls for visiting the Big Horn Lodge instead of camping, but a compromise was struck in setting up the tent then going into the Brewery for some grub.  We returned to our campsite around 9:30 pm, just as Alex, his kids, and Mindy showed up.  After helping a bit with setup I turned in to a cold night's sleep, knowing the 6:15 wake up was going to come quick.  As my alarm went off I put on a few extra layers and ventured outside to see the rest of the team, listen to pre-race annoucements, and then cheer for Alex as he headed off on our first leg of the race.
Start of the race, Alex is there somewhere

Sunrise a few minutes after the race started

The excitement at basecamp was high.  I don't know if we left the start/finish area the entire 43 minutes Alex was running.  The race started just before sunrise so we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and stunning views of the mammoth red rocks that surrounded the area.  Before we knew it Anita Ortiz was coming back in, the first runner to complete a lap.  A couple minutes later Alex came in and we then went and made some coffee.  The rest of the day seemed to fly by.  I was out running my first leg, then my second leg in a seeming blink of an eye.  In between legs we sat around, drank coffee, rehydrated, ate, talked some friendly smack with Cat, Celeste, and Lindsey, and each other, and generally had a great time.

My fourth lap was my only full on dark lap and it was the most fun, even though it was my slowest.  I left basecamp at 12:30 pm and had a blast out on the trails in the dark.  It was snowing lightly as I traipsed through the stream bed, that may be the highlight of all all my runs, it was beautiful.  It was at times difficult to follow the trail on the slickrock but the peacefullness of the night and the sillouttes of the rocks and views of glowsticks and other headlamps in the distance were all somehow calming.  I think the night running is where a lap course wins out over a point to point course, seeing so many others out there rather than potentially being all alone was nice.

Some of the other Fort Collins runners there I have run hundreds of miles with, while others hardly any.  Without exception I enjoyed the company of all seven other runners there and their respective families and pets.  I came away from the weekend feeling I know all of them better than before regardles of how well I knew them before.  It was fun to see how we came together into our teams and how seemlessly we all transitioned from casual hang around camp time to serious run time and back (repeat, repeat, repeat).  There was no whining involved, no matter how tired or how cold we were, and everyone was ready to run their next lap on time every time it was our turn.  The interplay of fun and serious was like the running version of salty and sweet. 

My favorite moment of the trip came while I was resting in my tent at about 3 AM.  Alex (the math teacher) had just finished his 5th lap and Mindy were in the pop up shelter right outside and were discussing how many laps we were on track for.  Over 20 minutes they did the math 5 different ways and came up with 5 different answers.  I could only laugh about it because I was doing the same math in my head in the tent and I kept getting different answers too.  We've all done math in our head late in runs, but this was like that squared.  Running a lot and sleep deprivation is evidently something you shouldn't do before a math test.

Would I do this again?  In a minute I would.  I would plan my eating and drinking and rest a little better as I had a mini-crash between 5-8 pm, but that's about the only thing I'd change for myself.  I've gone back and forth wondering if running 1 lap at a time vs maybe 2 at a stretch would matter.  We did the one lap thing, Cat's team did multiples, and we finished only minutes apart over 24 hours and 129 miles so I've decided that probably doesn't matter. 

Gemini Adventures put on a good show and I would go back to another of their races.  I'm contemplating the six hour fun run at 24 Hours of Laramie, run in the Happy Jack area at the end of June since I had so much fun running at night.  The fun run goes from 6 pm to Midnight.  With multiple race and early registration discounts it's only $35, seems hard to beat that.  We'll ignore it being 7 days after the Big Horn 50 for now.

Alex returning from our first lap

Cat came in soon after

Joselyne heading out

Lindsey and Wiley - that dog loves to run

Rob had spring in his step early in the day
Returning from my first night lap

Celeste checking in before heading out for her third consecutive lap.

Mindy making Mr. Australia look bad

28 March 2011

24 Hours of Utah/Moab - The Statistics

Rob, Mindy, Joselyne, Cat, Brian, Celeste, Alex, Lindsey

Fort Collins took two teams to the 24 Hours of Utah race.  I was on a team of 5 with Alex, Joselyne, Rob, and Mindy while Cat, Celeste, and Lindsey took on the challenge as a trio.  After some friendly competition for a few laps I made Celeste mad and they never looked back.  That's not really true, but they did pull out to about a one lap lead on us throughout most of the day, they are all strong runners.  As nightfall came we slowly chipped away at the lead, likely due to fresher legs, and finished only about five minutes behind them as the race came to a close.  Both teams ran 24 laps for a total of 128.88 miles each.  Not a bad days work, eh?  8 people and 257.8 miles (and that doesn't even count the extra laps people snuck in, probably another 6 laps or so).  They edged us out for third place as the tie-breaker was the time you finished your last lap. 

Up this canyon lies the stream bed, fun to run through!
The big rock we ran around and around at daybreak

Another picture of the route with more daylight

The majestic La Salle mountain range.  I never got sick of this view.
The 5.37 mile, 600 ft vertical gain course was run on the Monitor and Merrimac Trail which is a a mixture of dirt road, single track sandy trails, a totally awesome half mile stream section, lots of slickrock, and great views of towering red rock buttes and mesas.  It ran up and around the Mill-Courthouse Mesa.  I know this now because I looked it up, but during the race I thought the mesa we were running around was the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes.  They lie to the south of the trail it turns out, but the trail offers good views of them -- if you knew to look.  I likely did, there was a lot of beauty to look at.  Even though my four laps were on the same trail, the race alternated directions with each lap so I had one lap each way in the daylight, one clockwise at dusk, and one counter-clockwise in the middle of the night.  All four laps were thus different enough that I did not get bored.  In addition to breaking the monotony,the washing machine loops also allowed you to see a lot more people on the trail than you would have if everyone was traveling the same direction.

That's the boring stuff though.  I'm still working on getting the good stuff, the people stuff, written up.  I'll post that along with some pictures later.

21 March 2011

March Madness, Spring, Friends

  I had a great weekend, 2 days with some fun times running, good friends, fun family time and beautiful weather.  It seems there's always a weekend like this, around this time of year, where everything just seems perfect.  This is one of my favorite times of the year.

 My FCTR buds for the March Madness run

  Saturday was the March Madness collection of Horsetooth circumnavigational routes hosted by Alex.  I intended to do 25-26 that day, but ended up doing 30, bagging Horsetooth Rock, the Towers, and Arthur's Rock in a nice scenic route that had a little over 5000 ft of vertical gain in it.  There were thoughts of trimming something from the route to reduce mileage but in the end I didn't want to trim any of the peaks out.  It's great to have the fitness to be able to add on to your mileage like that and great to have a group of friends to push you a little bit further than you had planned on pushing yourself.  Between the beautiful, sunny, not too hot, no wind day and the companionship and camaraderie of my fellow Fort Collins Trail Runners it was one of my best days on the trails in recent months.  It only got better coming down the street to the cheers of 30 fellow runners and families for beer, food on the grill, a table full of potluck food.  Sitting around the deck listening to tales of others' runs, exchanging training tips, and picking the brains of more experienced ultrarunners was a great end to the day.

  The Fort Collins Trail Runners really are an awesome group of runners, supportive, welcoming, sometimes enabling ;-) and fun!  I have had so many experiences with this group where more experienced, stronger, and faster runners have been willing to share a run with me, share advice with me, and show sincere interest in how my training and races have been going.  Never have I felt looked down upon or left out as a slower and newer runner in this community.  A friend of mine expressed in his blog how the company and the camaraderie that this wonderful running community fosters and attracts, the shared community experience, makes all the pain/work/effort of long distance running worthwhile.  To me that is so true.  Some think running is a solo sport, I think they might not be doing it right.

 Ross and I with the fast guys on top of Horsetooth Rock

  On Sunday, continuing the more experienced runner theme, I ran up Towers Trail with a fast runner I work with.  He's never been up the route and wanted to see the lay of the land.  I showed him the trail, he gave me some pointers, and we overall enjoyed a bit over an hour of good conversation and great weather.

  Sunday afternoon I enjoyed a day at the zoo with my wife and our girls.  The weather again was near perfect, the girls (and my wife) loved all the animals, and it was just a fun afternoon.  Even the animals themselves seemed to be enjoying the spring weather as it seemed many were out and active.

  The end of my weekend had me taking Stella out on her first trail run.  She had been asking me to take her running but it was always phrased in a "some day when ..." form so I wasn't sure how serious she was.  This morning I left my hat (a hat my wife knit for me for Christmas) stashed along the trail as I forgot to pick it up on my way back down the hill, so needed to go look for it after going to the zoo.  I asked Stella if she wanted to go and she was quite enthusiastic.  My hat was off of Towers a little over a mile from the Soderberg trailhead.  Stella walked 3-4 times on the way up to the hat (it was there, yeah!) and then she asked to keep going up!  We went maybe 0.1 miles further up, and then turned around.  She ran the entire 1.1 miles or so back to the car without stopping once, just chatting away.  I'm not sure who was grinning more when we were done.

  And to really top it off, I logged my first 60+ mile week this week with 63.0 miles counting the trip with Stella.  At 3 months to Big Horn I am feeling pretty confident about the 50 right now.  Confident in finishing upright, that is, no idea what my time will be.

  I hope spring is treating you as well as it is me, instead of playing favorites.

16 March 2011

Horsetooth Rock

Horestooth Rock is a monolithic geological formation that can be seen from nearly everywhere in Fort Collins.  To think I lived in Fort Collins for 17 years before I ever set foot on top of it seems crazy now.  I wasn't always a trail runner though (or even a road lover for that matter) but I was somewhat active and liked to hike when I first moved to Colorado in 1992.  
 Horsetooth rock on a winter day from Towers Trail and Herrington.

I first ventured to the top of "the rock" a year and a half ago.  Up until last summer I still went there infrequently, mostly because there was a large ΔElevation between the trailhead and the rock.  Well there still is, but I've come to think differently about hills.  They make me a better runner, even if they sometimes suck on the way up.  Really, once I accepted that I may have to slow if not walk a bit (and not count that a failure) the satisfaction from sitting atop a peak and soaking in the panoramic views softens all the work that goes into getting up.  Plus running downhill is a lot of fun.

Last Sunday I ran up to the top of Horsetooth Rock, choosing it over more miles on flatter trails to fill the window I had to run in.  As I left the parking lot at Horsetooth Mountain Park it was overcast and there was fog and low hanging clouds everywhere.  As I headed up the trails the higher I got the more often I'd see brief windows of sunshine to the west, though clouds and running through fog were the norm.  When I reached the plateau at the base of the rock I got a view to the west and my jaw dropped.  It was mostly sunny to the west with small clouds of fog dotted here and there throughout the valley.  These fog banks were literally disappearing before my eyes.  I climbed the rock and sat and watched for 10 or 15 minutes, watching cloud after cloud wisp away up the thermal updrafts along the sides of the valleys.  It was one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time.  It's Wednesday night and I'm still thinking about it, it was that cool.  I wish I had some pictures to share, but I left my camera in the car figuring the overcast day would not be conducive to good pictures. Sometimes the mind holds better pictures than the camera anyway --  though they are tougher to share without 1000 words!

I'm looking forward to being back atop Horsetooth Rock this coming Saturday as I run in Alex's March Madness Run.

10 March 2011

Towers Day!

So I've been jazzed all day. Why? Because it's Tower's time trial day! What is Towers Rd? It's a 3.45 mile primitive road with 1700 feet of vertical gain. Once a fortnight Nick rounds up the masses and somehow convinces us it would be fun to run up this hill as hard as we can, hoping to earn that elusive and rewarding metallic taste in your mouth that comes with a worthy effort. With a staggered/handicapped start everyone (not sandbagging) has the same chance at being King or Queen of the hill, the first one up. It's the highlight of my week. Of my two weeks actually. Seriously.

Yeah, that probably leaves me a few standard deviations outside the population norm. But in my "pain community" I'm a normal guy. Pain community is a term I discovered in a Runner's World article, linked above, that discusses why we push ourselves to further and further limits, why we endure and in fact embrace the suffering involved in doing something like running hard up a big hill. I'm glad to have the Fort Collins Trail Runners as my pain community, they've certainly helped me improve as a trail runner and inspired me to undertakes things I never would have dreamed possible.

Thur night update: 33 runners tackled the hill today. The spring weather not only had us in jovial moods, but brought out the crowd too. I had a good effort, a minute off 2 weeks ago, all lost in the first mile after the turn. Early I had tight Achilles slowing me down. They settled down after to my attempts to stretch them while walking the steeps or maybe I just out-stubborned them.

07 March 2011

Number Nine ... Number Nine ... Number Nine ...

So I'm seeing a trend in recent short race results. 8:25 is a popular pace. That's what I ran for the Tortoise & Hare 12K last weekend. It's what I ran for the Tortoise & Hare 8K on Superbowl Sunday. And I ran 8:23 paces the previous 2 races, a 4M and a 10K. The other handful of short races I ran in 2010 (all the way back to an 8:31 pace in the Resolution Run in Dec 2009) have all been in a tight window of about 10 seconds a mile. I suppose there are several ways to interpret this. Not getting any better ... Not getting any worse ... Pace not dropping off with distance ... best I can hope for doing so little speedwork ... But I've decided to interpret it as 8:25 is just my road pace. I'd be pretty happy with a 6.5 minute PB at the Horsetooth Half. ;-)

06 March 2011


So two of my fellow Fort Collins Trail Runners have mentioned noticing my blog, both kindly left out noticing it hasn't been updated since last May. I think of things to write here often but often I either forget them by the time I get to the computer or take the simple quick hitter approach and get the gist of the thought out in a one line facebook post instead. For archival purposes, especially since I am never good at keeping written running log, I should post more here.

I've had a productive winter training for last month's Moab Red Hot 55K. It is scheduled at a perfect time to avoid winter slacking and has left me with a base necessary to ramp up to my first 50M race at Big Horn in June. Maybe there will be more posts to come. Or maybe I should just post links to the pages of my trail running buddies who blog more consistently than I ... ;-)