Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pueblo Rez

Back in my previous life, I spent a fair amount of time on the saddle.  Wintertime can be tough for a Front Range fat tire guy, so a trick we used to have was the "go to Pueblo" trick.  When trails were snowed in for the season in the Springs, Colorado's banana belt remained rideable.

Given the news that the Mesa Trail double crossing wasn't going to happen due to crappy trail, I decided to pull that old biking trick out of the hat again.  I was still wrecked from Wednesday's Incline fiasco but knew it was time to put in some mileage, so flat and warm sounded great.  20ish miles, 3 hours.

MUDDY sections here and there

An odd sight for Colorado.

Lots of cliffy, bluffy terrain here.

"Voodoo Loop" part of the trail
Hitting these trails definitely brought back a hankering to do some single speed riding this summer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WORLD'S STUPIDEST MARATHON (yes, all caps necessary)

When one Googles World's Toughest Marathon, the search results produce a pretty short list. The Pikes Peak, Everest, Inca Trail, Antarctica, and Sahara marathons are usually are mentioned in the same breath.  One glance at all of them and any astute observer can pick out the common denominator - WTFish terrain or conditions.  (the 4 non-American marathons could all be classified as destination marathons that could be a lot tougher than they are.  i.e. Everest starts at base camp and descends to 11,000'.  Antarctica isn't even in the dead of winter)

I will make this bold statement - The Inclinathon will be the most difficult marathon in the world.  That is, of course, if someone actually completes it.

Brandon has set a date and has welcomed any and all brave souls to participate in this event:  13 trips up and down the Manitou Springs Incline.  Total elevation gain of ~26,000'.  Total loss of ~26,000'.

I made the mistake of agreeing to participate in part of his attempt.  Hell, if he's gonna make 13 trips, what's 6 or 7, right?  Last night, I thought it would be prudent to give a try at just a few laps, maybe 3 or so.  You know, just to get an idea of what to expect.

I now expect carnage.

36:15:  While the very vertical nature of the incline makes it nearly impossible to "go easy", I did my best to throttle down.  The incline is kind of like your old college bar.  It's strangely familiar when you go back, and you're guaranteed to run into the "regulars."  Sure enough, the two people I expected to see were coming down on my first trip up.
Lets do this

55:33 (19:18):  I remember when one trip down these stairs would wreck me for a week.  My quads held up pretty well this time.
All good so far...

1:29:44 (34:11):  Some random dude got behind me at the bottom and wouldn't pass.  This was the easiest trip up for some reason.

1:50:23 (20:39):  The novelty had worn off.  I just wanted to get to the bottom so I could finish up my last lap.  Quads started to do some serious work.
Two fingers to signify two trips, right?

2:23:53 (33:30):  The desire to just be done with this had finally taken over.  Darkness had set in, but the lights of El Paso County gave me all the visibility I needed.  I pushed the last few minutes pretty hard.  Relieved to be done with the "hard" part, I then began my last descent.

2:52:13 (28:20):  One step into the last trip down, I discovered just why 13 trips will be insane.  My legs turned to absolute jelly.  Managing to stay upright became the #1 goal.  Whereas I could take some jogging steps down the first two trips, I was reduced to crawling over obstacles on my last descent.
...and most importantly, the last trip

I can wrap my head around 13 ascents in a day.  I definitely felt another couple of climbs in me.  The way back down, though...that is the killer.  It shows clearly in my splits - each time up got faster, but each trip back down got progressively slower.  Yuck.  Maybe one can become specifically trained for this.  Still.  I'd like to think that I'm somewhat adapted to handle the rigors of steep descents, and three rounds killed me.  Maybe, maaaaaybe, I could pull off four or five trips down without ruining an entire season. 

I will say this:  If Brandon - or ANYONE - completes 13 round-trips of the Incline, I think he can legitimately lay claim to completing the toughest marathon in the world.  I hereby declare a theoretical winning time of 18 hours.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Good end to a good week

Long runs.  They effect everyone differently.  I, for one, have difficulty sleeping well the night after a hard effort.  My solution:  write until I sleep.

Cale got on a plane for Florida yesterday, leaving me empty-nested for the week.  I usually plan some sort of big event for the day after he leaves just to keep myself occupied, so today I thought I'd go for a few loops through beautiful Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  Knowing I was in for a long day, I called up Brandon on a whim and convinced him to join me for a loop.

CMSP is kind of an odd duck in the COS trail network.  Unlike all the other trails in town, CMSP is entirely self-contained.  You can't really run or ride there; it requires a drive.  Another bummer is the parking fee of $7.00 required to enter.  Of course, with budget cuts and all, they haven't been able to afford a ranger at the gate for a while now, but I go down there infrequently enough to cough up the dough anyway.

Love CMSP's trail markers!
However, the singletrack is fabulous and well-maintained.  The signage is everywhere and easy to follow, and the terrain is quite varied.  Mud, rocks, roots, pine needles, snow, open spaces...the park has all of this contained in a compact  area.  It's no surprise that three separate races call the park home:  Winter Series I, the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Run 25/50k, and the Xterra Marathon of Trail Races.

 I'm working on the shift from intensity to volume.  As such, this run was all about time on feet.  During our first loop, I prepped my mindset for the second loop with some typical inner dialog:  "Eh, you're a little tired about now, aren't you?  Yeah, I am.  Man, imagine what it will feel like next time around!  Maybe there won't be a next time?  WHAT?  F-dat.  Get it in your head NOW, you will be coming back up for another loop...imagine how you'll feel.  OK, I guess I'll, tired?  Yeah, I'll be tired, but I'll get it done.  OK, fine.  Maybe I won't be that tired.  Maybe it'll be sunny and I'll be enjoying myself.  It is only a couple of climbs.  Yeah, when I'm here next loop, I'll be almost done!  I can't wait for the next loop!"  I'm sure I'm not alone when it comes to playing those subtle mind games with oneself.

Brandon topping out on Talon
Trail conditions were pretty good - as the day wore on, the icy patches turned into some nasty mud, but a majority of the trail was free of some of the ugliness that is to be found further north these days.  Running short-sleeved in February is still a treat that never gets old for this Minnesota boy.

About the mind games.  Setting myself up to enjoy the second loop was definitely one of them, but it paid off.  Brandon peeled off after 25k.  I plugged in the headphones and retreated into my own world for the next few hours.  The two major climbs, while not walks in the park, didn't wreck me the second time around.  In fact, the second loop took just a couple minutes longer than the first.  Five and a half hours later, I had finished logging my third marathon-plus run of the calendar year.

The mountain behind me is hollow!
The consistency in my training is beginning to show, not just in how I feel, but in my 2012-to-2011 comparison.  It's pretty motivating.  YTD I'm at 406 miles/50,000'.  Last year YTD:  349 miles/21,000'.  This was my 7th consecutive week between 50 and 75.  Furthermore, I've enjoyed the past few months immensely.  I haven't felt sore or tired or burned out or anything of that sort.

M:  Second tunnel.  8mi/1,300'
T:  1000's on the CMHS track.  5 @ 3:50, 400 easy in between.  8 mi/700'
W: Cheyenne Canyon.  7mi/1200'
H:  4 miles tempo, 6:30 avg.  10mi/200'
F:  First tunnel to Spring Creek with CMHS team.  8mi/1,700'
S:  off
S:  Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  31mi/4,200'

Total:  72mi/9,300'

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What do you think?

I thought a lot this morning.  Coming down the W's at sunrise, I was nearing the end of a pretty special run.  At that moment, I thought about what I had been thinking.  Here, I think about what I thought.  What do you think?

I thought about my next footstep.  There are moments on the trail where every other thought, every external event, the past, the future...they all fade to the background and the only thing that matters is to be here now. Those moments are gold.  The trails allow me to go there.

Wish I had a camera for this one.
I thought about my place in the world.  I couldn't help but think how fortunate I am to be able to witness the winter sun rise from a wooded mountainside the morning after a fresh snowfall.  Barr Trail was truly at its best this morning.  Trees, bushes, and the trail itself clung to a white dusting of powder.  A slight breeze created the illusion of a sun-drenched blizzard.  Clouds blanketed most of the city, and I was given the feeling that I was hovering above it.  The view was reserved only for those who were willing to put in the work to experience it.  How many people were still hours away from rolling out of bed, simply to curse the cold, curse the inevitble passing of the weekend, and wonder what chores and errands they needed to fulfill before nightfall?  How many people allowed ten-degree windchill to keep them holed up for the day?  How many people didn't think twice about how much better it is to be alive than dead, too consumed with TPS reports, candle parties, and treadmill sessions?

I then thought, "Sean, you are one smug bastard, aren't you?"  Guilty at times...aren't we all?

I thought about what people do for fun.  My brain understands fully the saying, "Different strokes for different folks", but I simply cannot fathom any feeling better than what I experienced up on Barr.  For example - skiing at a resort.  I kinda like taking some turns in the snow.  Powder days are like an extended recess for me, as I'm sure they are for most folks.  But I don't get the endorphin kick.  Honestly, I don't think there is a drug out there that could give me a stronger high than what I felt this morning.  That high remains with me now, hours later, in the form of satisfaction of a job well done.  Add in so many other factors...running is essentially free.  I am bettering myself at something I enjoy.  I am warding off disease.  I am not spending any money - not on lift tickets or food or gas or lodging.  I am leaving a scant environmental footprint.  Elitist attitude?  Hell yes it is.  But I can't help it - it just feels so damned good to run.  Plain and simple.
I thought about my training.  I'm fortunate to have had a long string of good health.  Without trying to bit off more than I can chew, I'm on pace for a much bigger base than I was last year...considering 2011 went better than any previous campaign, that's saying a lot.  On Feb. 12th last year, I had 322 miles and 19k under me.  While I'm only 335 miles in this year, I've already put in about 41k of climbing...just under 1k a day and I haven't even hit climbing season yet.  Good stuff.

I thought about my family, friends, relationships.  As I hit the pavement by the cog railway, I figured the kid and gf had probably just rolled out of bed.  I looked forward to spending the day with them.  My folks had been down to visit earlier in the week.  The thought hit home yet again - not everyone gets to see their parents as much as I do...I'm finally at the age (and maybe moreso, THEY are at the age) where I appreciate every chance I get to see them.  I had just run across one of my best old friends while heading up the incline - how many people run into those who they care about during the course of their daily routine?
I thought about LEADVILLE and my journey ahead.  I daydreamed (daydremt?) of the fun adventures that lay on the horizon before me.  I visualized success in these as many different forms as possible.  Painting the picture of a positive outcome always seems to makes goals easier to accomplish.  I do hope that this time around will be no different.

I thought about shoes.  I wore my freebie pair of La Sportiva Crosslites this morning...while I no longer abhor them, I'm still not convinced.  The tread grippiness was apprecated, but the traditional postive heel-to-toe angle and extreme stiffness of the rig kept my feet from being as blissful as the rest of me.  I realized just how infrequently I blister when descending in any of the Inov-8 models...I wonder if the neutral angle has anything to do with it.  Seems to keep the foot from wanting to slide forward into the toebox.  I had no such respite today...but I hear blisters are good, as they form callouses, which will prevent further blisters.  Or something like that.

I thought about the narcissim of sharing all this crap with what could amount to the rest of the world.  Obviously it didn't stop me.  I think now of how I may be judged for who knows what...and then I realize that is why I do it.  To bare my thoughts to the world, to say "here I am, for better or worse" is a liberating...thought.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Body & Soul

Visited Neal up at Barr Camp this AM.  While COS was decimated by the February blizzard of '12, 10,200' actually got about a foot of the white stuff.  The wind hadn't picked up when I went up, so most of the trees still held some snow.  Super cool.  The new snow actually improved trail conditions, as the shaded parts had turned to ice over the past few weeks.

Yesterday's 18 on the Santa Fe worked my body pretty good; today's run was good for the soul.  Sore legs + snow = a very slow day...that was fine today, as it gave me more time to enjoy the scenery.  You'd think that this backdrop would eventually get old.  Nope.

Went to a HS track/xc clinic on Friday/Saturday and had the chance to talk for a bit with Jim Ryun.  He let me peruse his training log from 1968.  No Garmin uploads for him I guess.

I'm still in awe over the results down in Texas yesterday.  Brooks sub-15:00.  Marc, Dan, and Andy getting it done.  W-O-W.  I was hoping to run the 50 down there until my back gave me fits in November/December.  Figured I wouldn't be in shape for anything by then.

Another 60ish-mile week in the books.  I wanna race.  Soon!