21 March 2012

5K with Stella

It was just a year ago that Stella started expressing an interest in running with me more.  For her first run we went out to Soderberg and ran up Towers to Stout where I had forgotten a hat along side the trail earlier that morning.  She ran the entire mile back to the Soderberg lot without stopping that day, her first day out.  Since then there are days she runs more and days she takes more walk breaks.  I think I've done a good job not pushing too hard while trying to get her out at least 1-2 times a week.   Last summer and fall she didn't go out a lot but this winter we have more, targeting the Sharin' O' The Green 5K as her first 5K.
Stella knows fashion

I was unsure what to expect for a time.  Most of our recent runs have had running portions of less than 1/4 mile before we break for a walk.  A 35:00 2.1 mile run wasn't uncommon.  I know she can run a mile without stopping though so who knows.  She could have been around 37-38 minutes and could have finished at 50 minutes and neither would have surprised me.

She was unhappy about waking up at 7:15 Saturday morning and a little chilly, but excited, as race time neared.  The 2800 person crowd made for a crazy start but we were far enough back that we ran slowly until the crowds thinned.  I think this helped Stella's pacing a lot.  We ran until 1/2 mile where I offered up a walk break.  Nah, let's keep going.  At 1.25 miles she took me up on the walk but we were running again by mile 1.5 and ran until a bit after the mile 2 sign.  This walk break was shorter and soon we were running again.  Stella was chatting the whole way and having a blast.  We took one last short walk break at the 4K point (34:00, 51 seconds ahead of her 4K time last spring) and then headed out for the final half mile.  As we got close Stella wanted to kick it in but I reigned her back, thinking she might blow up if she kicked too early as she had already run more than I expected.  I should have let her go.  When my watched beeped at 3 miles I told her to go and for a second I had trouble keeping up.  She ran the entire last stretch at an average 8:07 pace.  40:28 for a finish time and she ran progressively faster all race long.

About 1/2 mile in

Stella has fantastic theories and observations on all things in life.  Her 2 observations from the race were A) she ran so fast at the end because her legs were numb and they were just flopping around and going fast was the only way to not fall down and B) she was amazed at how she improved as the race went on.  B) doesn't seem too strange until I finally realized she wasn't amazed at running negative splits, she was amazed that her muscles were adapting and getting stronger during the race, thus the faster paces as the race went on.

At the finish, I'm not sure who is prouder
I had a blast running with her and she did too.  She was a little mad that she couldn't go run up Towers with me and Tonks later that afternoon.  I think this race re-kindled her love of running so I hope to keep it going through the spring and summer. 

Tonks got her turn later that afternoon

20 March 2012

Spring again

  Last Sunday Ean and Alex hosted the second FCTR March Madness Horsetooth circumnavigation series.  Like the year prior the weather was nice, spring was definitely in the air.  Fun was had both running and back at the Mays' afterward grilling, eating, drinking beer, walking the slackline, telling tall tales, and of course giving The Nick Clark shit. Also like the year prior I shared in a running first with Stella, this year it was her first 5K at the Sharin' O' the Green 5K on St. Patrick's Day (last year her first trail run, up Towers to Stout and back). 

The 8:00 Gang

  For March Madness I started with the 8:00 crew.  I planned on at least the 23 mile route with them but hoped to summit either Arthur's or Horsetooth along the way.  As we took off things stratified rather quickly and by the top of the first climb, about a mile or two down the road, I was running with Marie and Ean and we spend the rest of the day together.  We ran around the south end of the reservoir and through Soderberg to the Arthur's trailhead where it was decision time.  I was willing to forgo Arthur's to stick together as though I enjoy Arthur's I enjoy company even more.   Marie, of course, was all for going up and it it didn't take much to convince Ean to do the same.  The views from the top were great as always.  We hung up top a bit, ate some food, chatted, and rested from the 1200 ft climb before we started down Timber.  All reports from a week prior were that Timber was an awful mess but we were treated to mostly dry trail with a bit of slush here and there, but not much.  The run down Timber was a blast, easily my favorite part of the day.  Rather than take the swing to the west at the bottom of Timber we cut down the Wells Gulch trail where we saw our first wildflowers of the spring.  

Marie on the way out of Soderberg
  As we hit the north end of Lory we opted again for a course detour and took the trail from Satanka Cove to the boat landing by the north damn.  Trail is a generous word in some spots.  Some was trail, some a faint game trail, and some was just plain bushwhacking or scrambling up rocks.  We made our way across though, more successful than some of our other trail running buddies were at finding the route.  The run/climb/bushwack is about a mile shorter, but probably takes longer.  It was surely more fun though, and it earned us some bragging rights.

Ean coming down from the top of Arthur's
  Marie and I ran MM together last year too, and we both commented on how we felt much better leaving Lory this year than we did last.  We turned south for the last 7-8 miles and turned straight into a wind that for most of the day was light or non-existent for most of the day.  It wasn't my first choice, but what can you do.  I've done versions of this run a half dozen times, ranging from 23-30 miles, and I always have a tough time at some point along the Foothills trail, sometimes barely out of Lory, sometimes not until we're approaching the top of Centennial, but always before Maxwell.  Maxwell and Pineridge then turn into a slog back to the Mays', complete with some 14 minute miles on what really is some easy trail.  To my surprise that didn't happen this time.  Though I didn't have the same pop in my step as I did leaving the driveway that morning I did manage to keep up a reasonable pace all the way back as we pulled back into the driveway at just about 25 miles.  I was tired but not really pushing the wall like I typically am.  We did take it slower on the climbs in the park and spent a good amount of time on Arthur's and lost time in our adventure from Satanka to the boat landing, so maybe that was it.  Maybe it was conditioning, maybe it was hitting the food and drink and electrolytes just right.  Maybe it was my new batch of energy bars.  Or the PB&J on Irish Soda bread - my newest trail food of the gods.  Maybe it was just the good company.  Rating how you feel at the end of a 25+ mile run from 1-10 this was a solid 8, hard to complain about that.

Spoiling the best view of Fort Collins you can find

So back as we left Lory I commented that we were going to finish right around 25 miles and knowing Marie she would egg us on to do a bit more to get a marathon in.  As we neared the finish we all said we were OK with just 25 though.  And then 5 minutes after stopping Marie and Ean told me they were going after the last bit.  So off we went.

I went back and read my post about the 2011 MM run because I remembered it also being a lot of fun.  Everything I said then still applies, the FCTRs are still a great group of runners and friends and they more than anything are the reason I train.  I train so I can be in good enough shape to run and have fun with them. 

12 March 2012

T&H 12K, the track, Colorado Marathon

  A week ago last Sunday I ran the Tortoise & Hare 12K race put on by FCRC.  These handicap start races are fun as they give us all, but especially those improving in speed, a chance at a top finish.  I've finished in the points (top 10, but remember the handicap start) the last 2 races and hoped to do so again as I felt confident I could significantly beat Nick's predicted time of nearly 1:08.  Nick's predictions are at a disadvantage by having to include my slow 5K (including a missed turn) last November.  I felt a 1:03-ish time was in reach.  I ran 1:03:56 last year.  Of course when I made that 1:03ish prediction I wasn't factoring in having ran the Trudge the day before.

  I was a tad late getting to the park due to a road closure and detour so I didn't have a long time to warm up, but did manage to get in about 8 minutes of strides and such to loosen the legs a bit.  I would have preferred more, but you take what you can get.  For race strategy I took a page from Pete and I went out with the dash and crash mentality, knowing, and ignoring, that the out was net downhill and the back was thus net uphill.  I felt good from the gun and ran 7:57, 8:11, 8:15, and 8:20 pace (.75 miles) for a total of 30:38 on the way out.  The uphill back portion I ran in 8:24, 8:30, 8:41, and 8:38 pace (.75 miles) for 32:37 back, 1:03:15 overall.  Most of what kept me going on the back was knowing that Ean wasn't far behind me.  I passed her on the out and feared that a too fast early pace would bite me in the end of the race.  Though I slowed nearly every mile along the way I think overall I'm happy with that performance.  I was tiring but never blew up.  I was surprised to find I finished 5th overall, netting some points and putting myself solidly in the middle of a tight group vying for 2nd through about 7th place in the T&H series.  Top 5 win money.  Knowing this I'm getting excited for the 5K next month.  Nick should have me predicted at about 25:45, I know I can beat that.

This 12K and the 8K from last month have me right on the edge of what would predict a sub-4 marathon, which side of the edge depends on which prediction formulas you use.  I've also had some encouraging track workouts, doing 3x1600 the week before the 12K all around 7:30 pace and did 7x800 (Yasso lite) in times that ranged from 3:42 to 3:57 last week.  Those times put me in the realm of the 4 hour marathon.  It seems I have more confidence when running the short stuff, running out on the roads for longer runs that 9:07 pace seems awful fast.  I think I'm going to do some marathon pace work down the canyon with Marie and hope that it will build confidence.  If I can do that, bang out a 7:20 PDM in a couple weeks and shave a couple minutes off my current Towers time I think I'll be ready.

11 March 2012

Twin Mountain Trudge

From a field of 65 down to 23 nuts

The Twin Mountain Trudge is a race put on by Alec Muthig of Journeymen Adventure Enterprises.  He bills it as an adventure footrace, not a trail race, through a lot of snow up near the Happy Jack rec area in Wyoming.  The trudge around Twin Mountain seems to represent the only foot traffic of the winter in this area and completing one 11 mile loop of the course often requires anywhere from 2 to 5+ hours.  Conditions can vary from year to year, best illustrated by Alex's times which in 4 years have ranged from 2:18 to 4:09.  There are big snow years and there are years that Nick Clark is willing to show up.  2011, my first year was a non-Nick year.  Other than 1/4 mile at the start and finish the snow was knee deep or higher.  That Trudge consisted of moving your feet from foot hole to foot hole left by the racers in front of me.  I finished in 4:20, besting my marathon PB by 8 minutes.  The 2012 race approached without the ominous snow warnings that Alec sent out in 2011 so at first I thought it might be a faster course this year.  Over the 2 weeks before the race though we were informed otherwise.
Best marked course you'll ever find, if you run in back at least. 
In 2011 I was prepared for wind, as Wyoming is the word for wind in some language I am sure.  2011 spared us from a lot of wind, though there was some at the end for us one loopers, and a lot for the 2nd loop of the two loopers.  2012 had winds howling from the get go. So much so that the race was actually postponed 1 week due to 70 MPH winds (not gusts) forecast the original date.  30-40 MPH greeted us as we got out of the truck at the starting line, sitting exposed on top of a hill.  With the wind it was chilly, and I briefly wondered just what I was getting in to.  Once we starting running I warmed up quickly though and the first turn had the wind mostly at our backs.  By mile 1.5 I had stopped to shed my thicker coat in favor of my light wind shell.  It's not so bad I thought, as there was already way more of the course that was runnable than in 2011 due to windswept trails without a ton of snow on them.  Eventually it dawned on me that wind at my back now meant I would pay for it at the end of the race, but I buried that thought and enjoyed things while I could.  Mile 1 was my fastest of the day at about 14:30, and mile 2 was a 16:something.  There was a crust on top the snow and it was hard enough to hold you up much of the time so far in the race.  The toughest conditions so far, I thought, was the sugary snow that was shallow enough you thought you should run through.  This snow flowed and was slippery so every step your foot would slide what seemed like feet (but probably was just 4-6 inches).  Regardless it made for hard work.

Mile 3 things started to get deep and there was some climbing too.  We were in the trees though so the wind wasn't bad.  Mostly the snow was knee deep but a few of the waist high drifts Alec warned us of were there.  Though the moving was slow it was a bright sunny day out and the scenery was wonderful.  There are a lot of really cool rocks up that way.  I hit the site where the aid station is in years that it's accessible for the aid crew, about mile 4.5, in 1:50.  I was making good time and having fun.  I made the fence line climb and pushed towards the Devil's Loop, meeting up with course photographer Wendy (who was snowshoeing the course backwards to take pictures of us) just before heading down into it.  Here there were lots more thigh and waist deep snow patches and a lot more breaking through the crust.

This year an 8 mile course would have been about perfect.  I hit 8 miles in 3.5 hours and while tired was doing OK overall.  Here climbing and becoming more exposed to the now headwinds with every step the going got tough.  Wind in your face, waist high drifts you occasionally had to crawl out of, and very slippery sugary snow when you could run.  The last 3 miles took me 100 minutes to complete including an 18 minute mile "sprint" straight into the wind for the final 1/4 mile.  I swear I was running with track interval intensity and barely moving into that wind.  Half way through I made the mistake of telling Wendy I thought it was easier this year than last.  I paid for that braggadocio for all of the last few miles. Over the second half of the race my devolving goals went from sub-4:00 finish to beat last year's 4:20 to beat my first ever marathon time of 4:58.  I crossed the line in 4:56, which was why I was putting so much energy into that "sprint".

I crossed the finish line, stopped running, and was handed a shot of Scotch.  Things seemed better.  Though I wondered what I was doing a few times during the last couple miles I never got to the point where I thought about not coming back in 2013.  I'll be back, and I'll enjoy it, mostly.  I like things like this, a challenge mentally and physically, success not 100% dependent on how fast you are, something that most people would not do.

Halfway through, having fun

2 miles left, just want to be done

Moab Red Hot 55K

It's been 3 weeks since the Moab Red Hot 55K.  I suppose if I'm going to maintain a blog I should write about it.  I haven't though, because I was (still kind of am) disappointed in my performance in the race.  I have run another couple races since then and was going to post about them but it seems the right thing to do to tie up the Red Hot loose ends first.  I did set a course PB, beating my 2011 time by about 5 minutes.  One of my rules is that nobody is allowed to complain about a PB.  I should probably listen to myself, as I am a pretty smart guy.

I had a great time in Moab overall, it's fun seeing all the other FCTR folks there.  I know I see some of them every week, but somehow it's different all being together out of town (and state) for a race.  FCTR represented 27 of 200 finishers in the 55K race and another 16 of 138 finishers in the 33K race. Throw in some Boulder folks I recognize and there was someone I knew around every bend it seemed.  My family came along as well, they enjoy Moab too.  We had a nice stop at the Ice Castles at Silverthorne on the way over and also picked up some info on the Grand Mesa State Park to plan a summer camping trip.  We didn't do much exploring of Moab  together on Sunday as the weather wasn't that great -- the reverse of last year where the race was met with ugly weather but Sunday was nice.  My wife and kids did go to Dead Horse Point state park on Saturday while I raced and enjoyed that.

The weather this year was beautiful.  Race day started with me in shorts and a short sleeve shirt under a long sleeve.  I had on a hat and gloves by took them off a couple miles in.  The long sleeve shirt was gone by mile 13 but should have been gone sooner, I just didn't want to stop and take my hydration pack off.  It was sunny all day long and temperatures were easily in the 50s.  This was a big contrast to 2011.

Beautiful blue sky day

Also in contrast to 2011 was my mental state during the race.  In 2011 I let my mind go negative and really didn't have a great time over the second half of the race.  I felt like I was the last runner on the course, though I wasn't and was beating myself up mentally for running slow.  I am not often like this and the depth to which I went that day surprised me.  In 2012 I kept a good mental outlook all day long, even when things slowed at the end.  I've commented before that my picture quantity during a run or race is proportional to how much fun I'm having and I took a lot of pictures this year, only 2 in 2011.

I think my disappointing performance in 2012 was mostly due to 2 things.  First I am just not good at running on slanty slick rock.  Much of the last 11 miles of the course is generally downhill but on side to side slanted slick rock.  I find this surface really difficult to run on, it beats me up and I never feel comfortable enough to let go and fly.  Second, I went out way too fast and ran a stupid race.  It was so easy to get caught up in the excitement early.  Miles 2-4 are all gently downhill and I ran them in 25:20.  I ran a 5K on New Year's Day in 25:19.  That's probably all that needs to be said there.  In my defense, I was talking the whole time so it wasn't 5K effort, but it was still too fast to be running with another 47K left to go.  I'd do it again though, I really did have a good time chatting with Kemp and Mindy and Lindsey as we cruised down that hill. 

Mindy and I when were still rocking the course

I reached the top of the first part of the course, mile 10, about 10 minutes faster than I did in 2011 but I felt 10x better this year.  I ran up most of this section with Mindy and Marie, chasing Lindsey.  Feeling good I took off down down the nearly 7 miles of downhill running to the 3rd aid station.  I was bounding from rock to rock, had great footwork on the technical spots and felt strong.  Mindy and I hit mile 15 at 2:50, faster than I've run 15 miles on trails in a long time.  I hit the mile 17 aid station 15 minutes faster than in 2011 and still felt pretty good.  Over the next couple miles of steeper downhill I started to feel it in my hips though.  Pounding downhill does that to me.  I got through it though and hit the cutoff point at mile 19 again 15 minutes ahead of 2011. 
Red rocks against the LaSal range, a cool juxtaposition.

I hoped the climb from mile 19 to 22 would let my hips rest and leave me strong for the overall downhill last 11 miles.  The climb seemed harder this year than last, though I did it in about the same time as I was again 15 minutes ahead of 2011 pace when I hit mile 22 at 4:35.  I think the climb seemed harder because I was along doing it this year.  In 2011 I happened up this hill in a crowd of others and the chatter kept my mind occupied I believe.  At mile 22 I was tired, but not wiped out I thought and running an average 12.5 minute pace.  My realistic goal for the day was a 7:00 finish, which is a 12:40 pace so I was still slightly ahead of that with 2/3 of the race and the biggest climbs done.  My legs were tired but did not feel as trashed as they did in 2011.  In 2011 I remember not being able to hop down off even the smallest edges, instead needing to ease myself over.  I remember being very jealous of those who were just hopping down, barely missing a stride.  So after a few bites to eat and some Coke I forged on.  11 miles, 2:20 to run it in, no problem, right?  It seemed very possible.

It didn't take long (well distance-wise) to suspect I was wrong.  My watch beeps as it takes auto-split times every mile.  I heard a beep awhile after leaving the aid station and thought wow, 2 miles down already.  Then I looked and realized it was only 1 mile.  1 19-ish minute mile, going kind of downhill, all on difficult to run on slick rock.  I had stopped to re-tie my shoes once, but still, 19 minutes?  I am just not cut out of running on this slick rock stuff it seems.  (It is slightly reassuring to hear everyone complaining about this section of the course, even the fast runners.)  As I plodded along over the 6 miles to the last aid station I watched my chances at 7:00 slip slowly away with every mile split beep from my watch.  I did stay positive mentally though, accepting what was happening as just that and enjoying the beautiful views of the course, and come mile 15 or so, the wonderful company of Ean whose bubbly voice I heard yell out "Brian!" as she came up over a hill behind me.  Ean graciously ran with me for 6 or 7 miles before pulling away to the finish.  I'm sure she could have run that stretch faster but I did appreciate the company and conversation, it makes the miles go by so much faster when you're chatting with someone. 

Just.  Need.  To.  Get.  To.  That.  River.  Down.  There.

Anyway, this dissertation on a pedestrian race is getting way too long.  The long and short of the last 11 miles was that it took me 3:15, over 17 minute miles.  I really did try and push things a few times, especially in the last 4-5 miles on the jeep roads, but I really had trouble sustaining even a 12 or 13 minute pace for long.  Did I not eat and drink enough?   Was I under trained?  Was it all due to going out too fast?  Was it the damn slick rock?  I guess that's one of the reasons we keep doing these, to try and figure out those answers.  I do know I'd like to run that 6 mile section from aid station 4 to aid station 5 without 22 miles in my legs as that stretch has been my biggest downfall both years.

So, a 5 minute PB, I should be happy.  I'm getting there, some days.

I'm still upright, I guess that is success.  Photo courtesy of Chris Hinds.