Thursday, April 28, 2011

Muscials, ultras, and what impresses me

Training.  Adaptation to increasing levels of stress.  Right?  Whether you're training for a 5k, ultramarathon, century, Ironman, long swim, bodybuilding competition...even an exam or musical...the concept behind the preparation for all is the same.  The basic tenant is to get to a point so that just before the event, you feel ready - ALMOST ready - to do your best at said event.

Last night, I got to/had to (I lean more towards the got to camp) watch the three sixth grade classes at my school perform a musical.  Now, my childhood memories of these things aren't so fond.  "Let's get a bunch of kids who can't sing or dance and have them make fools of themselves in front of their parents!  Afterward, all the coward parents will clap and cheer and talk about how great everyone was.  Please."  My opinion, however, has changed drastically in the past two years.  Our music teacher's #1 teaching priority seems to be preparing the sixth grade for their spring performance.  It shows.

Behind the scenes, the amount of preparation that went into the musical would stagger most.
  • Performance selection - she was aware that this particular class had more boys and less girls who were strong actors than a normal class.  She also knew that acting-wise, there were a few more talented ones than usual, yet they were not super strong singers.  She chose an appropriate piece - one with many leading roles perfect for boys, one that was much heavier with acting than singing - than a "normal" show.
  • Casting - each of the major parts was played by a kid who seemed born for said spot.
  • Rehearsal - this is where lessons were learned.  Here is where the true lessons were learned.  First of all, the music teacher worked with the other specials teachers to alter the entire school's schedule for one month.  This allowed her an hour and half with the sixth grade every day, as opposed to the normal forty minutes every third day.  She had laid the groundwork throughout the school year, working on a few of the songs with the individual classes.  They had this background to draw on when all three classes got together.  All of the individual scenes were worked on separately until they could be performed near perfection.  It wasn't until the week before the performance that she even attempted to run through the whole thing, as she knew that it would be mentally psychologically taxing on the kids.  She knew the kids only had a finite amount of energy, concentration, etc, and that these days had to be carefully chosen.  Furthermore, she only ran through the entire show every other day during this time, in order to give the kids the chance to 'recover' on the days in between. 
   When the curtain closed last night, everyone in the audience was quite impressed.  While it was no broadway show, the fact that SIXTH GRADERS were able to actually entertain people for almost ninety minutes was quite impressive.  Everyone, including many of the sixies, walked away thinking, "Wow!  I can't believe we did that!"  You could feel their pride as they basked in their collective accomplishment.

Why did I just spend all that ink talking about an elementary school musical?  Well, to me it's pretty clear.  In nine days, I will be running my first ultramarathon.  I put a lot of thought into deciding when to do my first one, which one it should be, and what type of goal I could reasonably shoot for.  My #1 goal for 2011 is to do well on Pike's in August.  Training for two mountain races on back-to-back days looks quite different than training for many consecutive 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00 miles.   Therefore, I had to keep a few things in mind.  Time between the ultra and Pikes weekend was essential.  Completing training that was specific enough for an ultra, yet not harmful to Pikes training - also essential.  Having this secondary, closer goal NOT conflict with the big picture - the most essential piece.  (the Cripple Creek run being an exception to that rule, oops)

In December, completing a 20-miler was a big deal.  I now do those with such regularity, and with much uptempo build into them, that it's just another day.  I could step out the door and run 26 miles any day of the week and still have a decent run the next day.  Couldn't say that months ago.  50?  Still an unknown quantity.  Can I complete 50 miles now?  Absolutely.  Not a concern.  Can I do so quickly enough to be happy with the result?  Dunno yet.  But I can now wrap my head around it.  I have positioned myself to go for my goal next Saturday without feeling suicidal about it.  By taking a huge task and breaking it down to it's essentials, I now believe I can be successful.

The goals are myriad, but the process is the same.  Life is full of these opportunities.  This guy touches on it.  Nothing is special, it's all relative, and there's always more out there.  I'm not impressed with my accomplishments in an external sense, but I get off on it internally.  In other words, if some stranger tells me, "Wow, Sean, I'm so in awe of what you did Saturday, you must be so proud," I only can somewhat agree.  I'm satisfied with the fact that I've pushed my own envelope somewhat.  Everyone is capable of pushing his own envelope.  Any time someone succeeds at this, I am equally impressed.

This song is like crack in my head right now - I could listen to it for an hour straight and still want more.  Sick.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bushwhack and Captain Jack's

I've lived in the Springs for eight years now.  I'd like to think I hit trails more than the average bear.  What I find so damn cool about this town is that I'm STILL finding new routes.

Today was meant to just be time on my feet, a good hour and a half or so.  At first, I figured I'd drop down into Bear Creek Park, maybe go up Gold Camp Rd and see how I felt from there.  As I began the gradual climb of Gold Camp, I couldn't help but notice a faint trail that I'd passed many times before.  This time, I decided to see where it went.

Up.  It went straight up.

Of course, I was too stubborn to turn around as it led me further and further away from the road.  The trail, already weak, petered out to nothing.  By this time, though, I had almost made the ridge of whatever incline I was ascending.  I naturally had to see what was on top.  So I continued over bushes, through yuccas, and around deadfall, collecting a fair share of battle marks while at it.  My run had long since slowed to a trudge, but that's not to say I wasn't working.  Finally, I gained a vantage on the ridge.

From the top of the ridge, I actually connected with a deer trail as it led me south.  I called upon the GPS between my shoulders and realized Captain Jack's must be somewhere over....well, over THAT way a bit.  I just had to get there.  What surprised me was the depth of the valley that sat between me and my destination!  And of course, no trail.  Good times - a drop and a rise and a few wrong turns later found me somewhere on the middle of Jack's!  With all the moisture we've gotten lately, the singletrack was tacky as hell. 

Today's run was hardly of epic proportions, but it was fun to finally figure out where that trail goes.  10 miles, 2,100'.  That's actually about the same gain as the race Saturday.

If you're feeling emo...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week of April 18 - 24

M - Top of Chutes, 8 mi. 1,000'
T - Rampart Range Rd / Williams / Waldo / Longs Ranch Rd / Bobs Rd / Barr Trail. 21 mi, 5,100'
W - Santa Fe and Sondermann Park, 6 mi, 500'
H - off
F - Santa Fe, 5 mi, 200'
S - Cheyenne Mountain 25k, 19 mi, 2300'
S - Trails in Castle Rock, 5 mi, 400'

Total for week - 64 miles, 9,500'
Total for April -  188 miles, 18,000'
Total for year - 900 miles, 78,000'

Finally back to 100%, just in time to taper!  As long as I'm healthy when training for the big hill begins in earnest.

Random thoughts.
  • Loving the rain.  Maybe the trails will get a bit tackier.  They have been in late-summer condition as of late.  Doesn't affect the trail runners as much, but sucks when you want to take the bike out for a spin.
  • Talking to solarweasel on Saturday and a few of the guys down here today - would love to make it up to BoCo and Fort Fun to check out some of their fun runs.  I've got a whole summer, so why not?
  • Looking to take a shot at Crestone Peak on Saturday.  Spring conditions...the red couloir isn't so red these days.
  • All this talk of R2R2R...I'm sold.  Is late November a good season for it?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cheyenne Mountain 25k Race Report

This whole running thing is fun.  Races like today's definitely help remind me of this.
Cheyenne Mountain 25k Trail Race
16.8 miles, 2,146' gain/loss
3rd place, 1:59:08

When I first heard of this new race at CMSP, my initial reaction was one of skepiticism.  After all, two other races (Xterra Marathon and Fall Series) just sprung up in the park within the past two years.  The amount of trails in the park are limited, so there was nothing new here as far as I was concerned.  However, the timing of the race was good - Collegiate Peaks falls two weeks later - so I signed up for the 25k a couple of months ago.
Cheyenne Mtn 25k (looking south)
It was during a reconnaissance mission of the course five weeks ago that I originally aggravated my hip, and only in the past week have I finally seemed to have gotten back to full strength.  Needless to say, my last memory of CMSP was not an amiable one.  I did, however, get a good feel for the layout of the course that day - numerous tight, twisty turns.  Steady yet gradual climbs and descents.  Long stretches of groomed trail interspersed with rocky, technical sections.  I normally welcome technical courses, but nursing my injury had me worried that this would be too much too soon.  Turns out it was fine.

My plan was based on the desire to build patience, test my fitness, yet leave me fresh for CP50 and minimize the risk of re-injuring my hip:
  • Easy up the initial climbs (miles 1-4 or so)
  • Move into a better position on the north loop's descent (miles 5-8)
  • Crank up Talon on the south loop (miles 9-12)
  • See where I stood at the top of Talon.  Shut it down a little if possible (miles 13 - finish)
Things unfolded according to plan.  This video, courtesy of Pikes Peak Sports, shows I was comfortably in 7th place at the half mile.  Early in races, I will pay close attention to the breathing patterns of those around me.  A goal I usually have is to "sound better" than anyone else.  It helps me relax during the critical first few minutes, where a race can't be won, but can surely be lost.  I knew that Peter Maksimow and Tommy Manning wouldn't be coming back to me - they've both qualified for the U.S. mountain team before - but the other guys were all unknown quantities.  I just followed my plan and ran my race for the first half.

As we topped out on the north loop, I had caught sight of Paul Mann, who was the last person between me and the two leaders.  I estimate I had given him a good 25-30 second spot by the one mile mark.  One thing I love to do in trail races such as this is try and figure out others' strength's and weaknesses.  I noticed that I didn't seem to be gaining much on him during the uphills and open spaces, but the downs and rocky spots were where I would reel in substantial distance.  Once I made contact with him at mile 5, I tucked in behind him, chatted with him for a little bit, and passed him on a longer downhill stretch.  I suspected the rest of the race would be lonely.  I was only somewhat right.

As the miles clicked by, I just focused on form and steady effort.  I expected to be a good three or four minutes behind Peter and Tommy, but then I started to get conflicting messages.  One person said they were much closer, another said maybe more like five or six.  I was hoping that at the very least, I could keep the gap from growing any larger as I turned up the north loop at mile 8.5.  By now, I was passing many 50k runners, who had started a half hour before us.  Only one girl with an iPod in didn't try moving over for me; everyone else was extremely cool about it.  I took a peek ahead at one vantage point and saw what looked like Peter and Tommy, and they were MUCH closer than three minutes.  I took a glance at my watch, and looked again when I got to where they had been and the gap was only ninety seconds.  I was thoroughly confused - had I cut the course?  Were they just screwing around?  Was I actually running THAT well?  I dismissed option #3, but found myself with a little extra motivation to keep cranking up this stretch to see if I could make contact with them.  In fact, at the last switchback before the top of the south loop, I looked up to see that they were only about 10 seconds up on me.  I yelled at them to get their asses in gear as they had no business dogging it like that, and that's exactly what they did - BOOM.

Once I hit the long downhill from the top of Talon all the way to the finish, I couldn't see them anymore.  I knew I was sitting on a very large lead over 4th.  And frankly, I had worked my tail off to get up the hill.  So, I just shut it down into a doable gear and coasted home.  I was able to catch a peek of Peter and Tommy one last time just before the finish, and they had re-opened about a 90 second lead on me again.  The last few miles were relaxed and comfortable, and I began looking ahead to the looming 50-miler.  A nice touch was finishing in just sounds so much better than 2:00.  The 25k ended up being a good 16.78 miles on my watch.  Luckily, I was familiar enough with CMSP to know well before the finish that it was running quite long.

At the finish, I got world's longest massage.  It must have been 45 minutes long.  I got to catch up with a bunch of friends - Peter, Tommy, Amanda, Christoph, and 50k runners Brendan Trimboli and Brandon Stepanowich to name a few.  The post-race food was top-notch: catered chicken/pasta/salad from Carrabba's.  We hung around long enough for awards and to see the top 50k'ers finish.  Definitely a well-run inaugural event.  Low-key, yet with many nice little touches such as well-stocked aid stations.  It's hard to have fun when it's 35 degrees and blustery out, but I did just that this morning!  Can't wait to try my legs at 50 miles in two weeks! 


Mile splits:  7:52, 7:16, 7:13, 7:45, 7:38, 6:19, 6:34, 6:23, 7:07, 7:10, 8:07, 8:05, 6:37, 6:45, 6:45, 6:59, 6:02

I'll leave this entry on a light note.  Let the good times roll say the twenty year olds.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rampart Range Rd / Williams / Waldo / Long's Ranch Rd / Bob's Rd / Barr Trail

Got in my last long run before Collegiate Peaks tonight.

21+ miles, 5100' gain.  3h45m.

Counter-clockwise:  RRR, Williams, Waldo, LRR, Barr
This was essentially the guts of January's Ponderous Posterior run - minus the snow on Long's Ranch Rd.  Christoph joined me for a majority of it.  Virtually no one was out there today - I didn't see another soul on Barr Trail.  Not many times can you say that in April.

Not much to else to say; definitely felt good throughout.  I've got a ton of little aches and pains, but the major one in my hip isn't so bad anymore.  Right ITB is a little tight, right Achilles heel, shoulder, etc, etc, etc.  Part of getting old I guess.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week of April 11 - 17

M - off - snowshoe 4ish miles, 2,000' up Nokhu Crags in the Never Summer Range.
T - 13 on the Santa Fe from school.  2 x 5 at Marathon + 10.
W - 6 easy on the Santa Fe.
H - 10 on the Santa Fe.  5 at Marathon + 20.
F - off.
S - 20 on the Santa Fe. last half at Marathon + 15.
S - 7 easy through Sondermann Park.

Total - 60 miles, 4,000'.

  • At this juncture, 60 seems to be my sweet spot.  I can maintain that level indefinitely without breaking down, missing family obligations, or losing strength.
  • I started running in the AM this week.  The thought is that if I can finish my runs before Cale wakes up, I get more time with him.  It just takes a little more discipline.
  • Lots of tempo miles in the past few weeks - 25 this week alone.  Some of it is intentional, but factors such as my hip gimpyness have contributed as well.  I'll try a few hillier easy days this upcoming week.  A real test will be next Saturday - 15.5 miles with a fair amount of ups and downs.
  • Climbing/scrambling actually seemed to help loosen up my hip as opposed to aggravate it.  Counter-intuitive.
  • I'm getting sick of the Santa Fe.  Ugh.
Thanks to Brooks for getting me into these guys.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Cancer.  a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis.

Or just a scary-ass word that invokes the words, "Oh, fuck" from even the most pious monk.

Talked to my mom on Monday and found out that each of my parents found out this past week that they both have cancer.  Prostate is my dad's flavor, while my mom has the pleasure of breast cancer.

That's the bad news.

Good news, which has been trickling in throughout the week, suggests that neither of them are about to drop dead or have to undergo nasty, years-long battles with this enigmatic cellular deviant.  Doc told my pops that he'll likely die WITH prostate cancer, but not OF prostate cancer.  Mom has to undergo a mastectomy, but it looks like she gets to avoid the twin horrors of radiation and chemo.  She'd been good about getting annual checkups.  Here's to early detection!

When the headhamster starts spinning, I think adventure.  Newest idea - I'm not sure how well it will fit into my training, but I'd love to run the four pass loop this summer.  Looks more and more like I need to spend a good week up around Aspen...I hafta find a passable route between Snowmass and Capitol as well.

As I've frequently alluded to in the past, I run as much to process the crap that life throws my way as I do to keep from getting fat, feed my ego, and get rid of excess energy.  So it's always a bit strange to sit here and write down how far or fast I went on any particular day, as if the numbers define that event or something.  Nonetheless. 

20 flat miles in the dark this AM.  10 out easy (8:15's) on the Santa Fe, and 10 back averaging 6:30's.  I was curious to see what was under the hood after 18, so I brought home the last trail mile in 5:40.  Iced and stretched afterward.  In no point of my training has a twenty ever felt so inconsequential - I felt I could have easily tacked on a ton more, and would have done so if daddy obligations didn't begin around sunrise.

The Santa Fe is a mixed bag.  I love being able to translate mile splits into fitness and such, but I'm sick of the same damn thing every day.  Today's run only included 600ish feet of elevation gain.  I can find that in 2 miles outside the front door of my school.  Speaking of which, Cheyenne Mtn is a week away, and it's not exactly flat.  This week has seen me return to near-normal mileage (53 miles after 6 days) and intensity.  The only thing left to add back in to my full regimen is hill work.

And maybe this week can bring a little less news.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


2 x 5 miles @ Mary + 15 on the Santa Fe today.  Averaged out to 6:25's, HR kept creeping up throughout the workout.  I felt great, though.  I noticed the hip on my last two uphill miles, but it wasn't painful.  I think another week of running full mileage/intensity on the flats and I'll be 100%.  Hopefully, that happens before Cheyenne Mtn, but I'll pull the plug on that one if I have to.

I've been gone for a bit.  I was hoping to stall on this entry until I had all the pictures from my latest little adventure, but most of the pictures will have to wait.

Nokhu Crags in the summer
Nokhu Crags in winter :)

I've had a lot of fun climbing Colorado's mountains over the past years - it has definitely grown from one of many hobbies to a pastime right up there with running.  I've had the opportunity to climb some pretty cool peaks in the summer, and have been itching for more winter opportunities over the last year or so.  While I've climbed a few peaks in spring conditions, I thought it best to take an actual winter mountaineering class.  Combining formal instruction with appropriate experiences is the best preparation one can take.

atop Lake Agnes
My buddy Michael is climbing Denali in June, so he put this whole thing together through his Army post in Ft. Carson.  Four of us and two instructors drove up near Mt. Richthofen, the highest point in the Never Summer Range north of RMNP.  There, we practiced rope skills, self-arrest, rudimentary avalanche awareness and rescue for two full days.  On the third day, we climbed up to about 12,000' on Nokhu Crags via a pretty nifty coulior.  It averaged about 45' on the upper reaches, but what made it so much fun was that it kept twisting and turning.  We couldn't figure out where it would end!  There was one class 3+ mixed move just shy of our turnaround point.  Otherwise, it was simply an opportunity to work as a rope team in a true alpine environment.  Our instructors, Trevor and Carleton, were top-notch instructors and great guys to boot.  If you're looking to learn more about winter mountaineering, this is the way to go!

where I ran Sunday
I was able to sneak in a run on Sunday - beautiful outing on a freshly powdered timber road near Cameron Pass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Finally got a real-feeling workout in again.  Went 2 x 4 miles @ 6:35's on the Santa Fe yesterday.  Well...anyone that has run on the Santa Fe gets it - the northbound miles were in 6:40-6:50, while the southbound miles clicked off around 6:20-6:25.  Totaled 10 1/2 miles.  This is nothing to write home about - my original workout called for 12 miles with a little more intensity.  Given the battle I've been staging with the hip, though, I was pretty happy to finally put in a day that made me feel I wasn't losing ground.

The next "milestone", if you will, happens when I no longer have to modify workouts to accommodate for it.  Each day for the past week, I've had to gauge about how far and how fast I can go without pushing it over the edge.  For instance, I'd normally put in around 75 easy minutes today, but I'll probably tone it down to something in the 45 minute range instead.  I can still tell there is some inflammation, but it's trending downward.

Damn.  Talking about how I'm a gimp sucks.

Little Bear - Blanca ridge in July
Woke up in a cold sweat yesterday morning.  In my dream, I was attempting the LB-Blanca double traverse in winter conditions.  (I gave it a whirl this past July, but we aborted due to crazy wind)  That in itself isn't exactly brilliant.  When I realized the stupidity of my attempt, I took a look back to see that a couple dozen others had decided to follow me and didn't want to turn around.  Not sure about the moral of that story.

I have been daydreaming about mountains a LOT lately.  Combination of being gimpy and having too much time on my hands while proctoring CSAP tests - I just walk back and forth in silence for a couple hours a day.  I suppose all the daydreaming will eventually spawn some new stupid activity.  Actually, I KNOW it will.  Tentatively looking at a seven-summit run in the Sawatch on June 17th-18th.  23 miles, 18k of gain.  I'm guessing 18ish hours.  (Huron/Missouri/Belford/Oxford/Harvard/Columbia/Yale)  Lemme know if you're interested.

Birthdays are OK.  If for no other reason, people will rally for you.  Had a nice little crowd join me for $.75 tacos last night.  I got to hear a bit about Brooks's "W" in Kansas.

These guys need to put out some new stuff.  Can you figure out what town they speak of?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Walking a tightrope

5 and change on the Santa Fe trail today.  My mileage for the week stands at a whopping 15.  Good news:  hip felt OK this afternoon.  I knew it was there, but no pain.  It seems I can do flat surfaces at low intensity for now.

So what HAVE I been doing this week?
  • 800mg of Ibuprofen 5x a day.
  • Icing 2x a day.
  • Stretching 2x a day.
  • Weights.
  • Praying to various gods, deities, idols.
This is a scary time.  On one hand, I may be back to a normal workload within days.  In that case...I can't believe I lost any sleep over this.  However, there's always the risk of making things worse.  Tracking it down, I now think the intensity of my pickup 2 weeks ago in Cheyenne Mtn State Park may have been the immediate cause.  Running hills (albeit slowly) for the next three days probably aggravated it - but it wasn't until that stretch that anything felt wrong.

Five weeks till CP.

Forty school days left till playtime.  I'm already conjuring up a few adventures.  My short list:
  • Find a class 4 route between Snowmass and Capitol Peak.  I wonder if Cave Dog would tell me his route...
  • Trinity Traverse.  (Arrow, Vestal, West Trinity, Trinity, East Trinity)
  • Huron/Missouri/Belford/Oxford/Harvard/Columbia/Yale in one shot.
  • Blanca's Gash Ridge, possibly linked up with the Blanca/Little Bear traverse.
Any takers?