Monday, April 30, 2012

Collegiate Peaks 50

start/finish and turn around with Mt. Princeton in the background
Shadow and I went out for an easy 2 mile run at the park on Friday morning before the kids and I packed up the car and headed for Buena Vista.  We stopped at DIA on our way through Denver to pick up my mom who had flown out from California for the weekend.  We checked in at Mount Princeton Hot Springs in the early afternoon and Maddie and I immediately put on our swim suits and made our way down to the hot pools.  The relaxation pool was a nice 103 degrees and knew I shouldn't sit in there for too long on the night before a big race, but it felt soooo good.  Before getting completely cooked, I moved over to the cooler (94 degree) pool and played with Maddie for awhile.  Our soak and playing time in the hot springs left me feeling much more relaxed than I had felt ealrier in the day which helped me feel a little better about running 50 miles the next day.  We headed back to Buena Vista to pick up my race packet and get some dinner.  We had veggie pizza and salad at Buana Vista Pizza Works, a perfect prerace meal and then headed back to the lodge for an early bed time.
My mom drove me down to the community center the next morning for the 6:30am start.  We ran in to Ashley who was getting ready to run the 25 mile race as a warm-up for the Quad Rock 50 in two weeks.  Out on the start line, I met up with Kyle and then without a gun shot or horn blast someone said go and we started running.  The first 3 miles were mostly flat and partly paved and Kyle I ran along at a very casual 9 minute pace and talked with other runners.  The course then took a turn on to a dirt road across the Arkansas River and then up on to the trails.  The next several miles rolled along on a mix of dirt roads and trails with some moderate climbs and decents.  I was feeling pretty good and trying to run very conservativley, keeping the pace in the 9-10 minute range.  Kyle and I ran together off and on for the remainder of the 1st lap.  The biggest climb in the first lap was from mile 15-18 and climbed about 1000 feet.  I ran this section and felt pretty good and then started heading down for the final 7 miles of lap 1.  My goal going in to the race was to run 4:15 for the first lap and 4:45 for the second to secure a 9 hour finish.  A little mental caluculation showed that I was right on pace to get this done.  The miles back down to the river went well and I counted about 25 guys ahead of me that were heading back up for lap 2.  I was feeling good about the opportunity for a top 30 finish and I felt like I might be able to catch a few guys on the second lap.  I came in to the turn around with 4 hours and 10 minutes on the clock and Mom, Micah and Maddie (the 3 Ms) were there to help me refill by bottle and grab me some food.  I took a pretty leisurly stop that lasted about 4 minutes. 

heading out for lap 2
Kyle and I headed out for lap 2 together about 4 hours and 14 minutes in.  Right on pace.  The second lap goes in the opposite direction of the first which meant that we needed to climb back up the seven miles we had just decended.  I kept a pretty solid pace until the final mile of the climb where I decided to walk a bit before reaching the aid station at mile 32.  A quick assessment at the top of the hill told me I was doing pretty well and I realized here that after the next 4 miles of downhill to the next aid station, I'd only have 14 miles to go to finish this race.  My legs were getting tired, but overall I still felt great.  I took the downhills conservatively not wanting to blow out my legs completely and cruised the rolling sections through the next two aid stations. At the last aid station at mile 44, one of the volunteers looked at his runner list and told me I had moved up quite a bit since the turnaround (I had passed 7 runners).  I told him I was having a good day.  They told me all the rest of the runners ahead of me had a pretty good lead and the winner had finished in 6:35 (a new course record).  I knew that I had a sub 9 hour finish in the bag and it sounded like I wasn't going to catch any more runners, but I was feeling too good to just cruise it in so I decided to push for a sub 8:50 which I could do as long as I kept the pace close to 9 minutes for the remaining, mostly downhill, miles.  Within a mile after leaving the aid station, I saw another runner ahead and I passed him notching 8 passes on lap 2.  I kept pushing through the final couple miles of trail and then saw two more guys running ahead of me as we dropped back down on to the road.  I picked up the pace to make a definitive pass with less than 3 miles to go.  The final three miles were my fastest of the day (8:18, 8:38, 7:53).  I passed one more guy in the last half mile and sprinted in to the finish still feeling good.  My finish time: 8:47:39.  This was more than an hour faster than my previous 50 mile best.  This was without a doubt the best race I ever ran.  I never hit a wall or fell apart.  No death march, no pitifully slow miles.  I ran smart, stayed well fueled and exceeded all my goals.  My only concern is that maybe I ran too conservatively.  Could I have pushed it more and finished in the 8:30s?  My finish put me at 14th place male and 17th place overall.


GPS data

Me and the 3 Ms at the finish line

Kyle finished soon after me in 9:03 with an even bigger PR than mine.  He looked really strong and is in great shape for the Bighorn 100 eight weeks away where I get to pace him through the night from mile 48-82.
Kyle comes in for a strong finish

big 50 mile PRs for both of us
The 3 Ms and I with Kyle and his siblings went from the finishline to Eddyline Brewpub for dinner and well deserved beverages and then off to the Hot Springs for a long hot soak.  It was a great day of running and playing in the mountains with my family and good friends.  Racing season is here and it is off to an amazing start.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Horsetooth Half, my favorite road race

photo by Eddie Metro
With the Collegiate Peaks 50 just 6 days away and all the hard running that I've been doing, I knew I shouldn't run the Horsetooth Half today, but it is my favorite local road race and I just didn't want to miss it.  It is always a perfect spring day (thanks Steve) and everybody is out to run, cheer and enjoy the day outside.  This was my 6th running.  I tried to convince myself that I could keep it relaxed and not do anything that would hurt my run in Buena Vista next weekend, but when the gun went off, I felt like running hard.  I felt good right from the start and went through the first two miles of climbing pretty smoothly (7:26, 7:40) without beating myself up too much.  All the down hill miles after that felt easy.  I just tried to relax, lean forward and let go.  I went through mile 3 in 6:18 feeling good and kept up sub 7 minute pace the rest of the way.  I was starting to feel a little tired when I hit Bingham Hill at mile 7, but pushed it to the top where I knew it would be all down hill to the finish.  Looking at my mile splits, I knew that if I could keep running 6:30-6:40 pace I could finish under 1:30.  My previous fastest time on this course was in 2010 when I ran 1:32:57.  I was still trying to keep the effort under control, but a 1:29:xx finish sounded really good. The final 4 miles on the bike path were tough.  Nick ran a short section with me at mile 10.5 and gave me a parting chant of "one twenty-nine, one twenty-nine, one twenty-nine"  When I got to the 12 mile marker with over eight minutes to go before the clock hit an hour and half, I knew I had the sub 1:30 in the bag.  I cruised the final section of the bike path and hit the final 100 meters on Linden at a sprint.  I crossed the line in 1:29:11 (a nearly 4 minute course PR) and proudly accepted my finishers medal and pint glass which I immediately took to the water station to get a drink and then took it to the beer garden for some more to drink.  The finish area and beer garden quickly filled with friends who had run the race or were out supporting racers.  The music started, the sun shone brightly and there was still a pleasant morning cool in the air.  I left before the awards, but found out later that I took 3rd in my age group behind Steve Folkerts and Pete Stevenson, pretty good company.  Another great day of running in Fort Collins.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Horsetooth Rock

I've been to the top of Horsetooth Rock more times than I can count, but I've only run it as a time trial 4 or 5 times.  All of these times were around 33-34 minutes with my best time being 33:02.  In a break from the usual everyother Thursday run up Towers, we ran a time trial to the top of the rock last night.  This is a shorter climb totaling only 2.4-2.6 miles depending on the chosen route.  There are several different options to get to the top and each runner has the freedom to choose their own route.  I felt pretty confident that I was up for a PR after my good run up Towers two weeks ago, but my legs were pretty tired after the weekend and a tough track workout on Tuesday and an anger at mountain bikers induced tempo run in Pineridge on Wednesday.  I headed up the hiking trail with Brian29 at 6:10 hoping to go under 33 minutes and maybe hit a time in the low 32s.  I took the shorter, but more technical Horsetooth Rock Trail and tried to maintain a steady pace over the rocks and up the steps. At the junction with the South Ridge, I took the service road up past Wathen and on to the final approach up the rock.  I was feeling the fatigue in my legs pretty hard by this point and I walked several of the steeper rocky sections arriving at the final scramble up to the summit in just over 28 minutes.  I usually take the climbing section slowly and carefully, but I knew that I was close to a sub 30 minute ascent which at the start of the run I wouldn't have thought possible.  Thanks the the sticky flat sole of my NB 101s and a new found fearlessness, I scrambled to the top and hit my watch at 29:42 for a 3 minute 21 second PR.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

CO Marathon/Quad Rock Preview Double

Saturday I ran the first 21 miles of the Colorado Marathon course starting with Pete, Cat, Celeste, Brian and Gabby at 6:30 in morning way up the canyon.  Celeste's goal in training to run sub 3:30 at the marathon three weeks from today was to run the first 5 miles easy (around 9 min/mile) the next 10 miles at goal race pace (8:00 min/mile) and the final 6 miles easy.  My job was to help pace her to this goal.  As it is so easy to do on this course, we started out too fast clocking the first couple miles well under 9 minutes, but we did settle in to a solid 7:45-8:00 minute pace for miles 6-16.  We backed off the pace slightly for miles 17-19 and then pushed on mile 20 for a very strong 7:36, then jogged the final mile back to the school where we had left the cars.  Total time for 21 miles: 2:50.  Average pace: 8:07 with a total of 12 miles under 8 minutes and 7 miles under 7:50.  It was a beautiful, cool, sunny morning in the canyon and a great day to be running.  Celeste is definitely fit, trained and ready for a marathon PR of sub 3:30 or better.

This morning was the official Quad Rock 25/50 preview run hosted by the race director himself Pete Stevenson.  The other race director was off messing around in California. It was windy and cold at 8:00 am in the Soldier Canyon lot at Lory State Park, but the skies were mostly clear despite the predictions for rain and snow throughout the morning.  More than 25 runners were present from all around the Front Range to test their strength on this course that is already being talked about as one of the tougher 50 milers around.

We started together heading south out of Lory on the East Valley trail running in a seemingly endless line of trail runners sporting the full spectrum of running apparel, hydration packs and trail shoes. Just over 3 miles in, the first climb begins as we headed west up Sawmill to Stout to the infamous Towers Road. On Towers, I met up with Brian and Tonks who had started from the Soderberg trail head. We ran together and talked for a while and then I was on my own for much of the first big decent down Spring Creek towards Horsetooth Falls. Near the falls, I met up with Victoria and a small group of other runners. We ran together to the upper Horsetooth lot at about mile 10 where a full aid station will be on race day. 
Celeste and Cat power up Sawmill
Scott and Sam were taking a quick break here to eat and fill water.  I headed out with them a couple minutes later to begin the second big climb of the day up Southridge towards the Rock.  The climb went smoothly and we hit the Wathen/Westridge junction feeling a bit tired and glad to be more than half way done.  After Westridge and a short stretch down Towers, we started the big drop down Mill Creek which is steep and somewhat technical and has always been a challenge for me to run well. Today, I felt great and ran this trail better than I ever had.
Scott and Sam looking epic as always at mile 18.
We took a break towards the bottom of Mill Creek before dropping down to the Arthur's Rock Trailhead where 25 milers (like me) will see their last aid station on race day.  From the Arthur's trailhead, we started our last and probably toughest climb of the day up the Howard Trail towards the base of Arthur's Rock.  This climb was hard.  Rocky switch back after rocky switch back take you relentlessly over 1000 feet up from the valley floor.  We were glad to reach the top and took a relaxing sit down break at the top before setting out for the final 4+ miles down the Timber Trail to the finish.  The weather had been strange all day starting with an unexplainable snow shower under a cloudless sunny sky while I was running down Spring Creek (I thought it was big flakes of pollen until I noticed they were melting on my skin) to blasts of icy wind while we sat near Arthur's Rock to sun baked warmth while climbing towers.  As we came out of the trees on Timber in the last two miles of the run, we got hit in the face with a full force snow/hail storm.  I had to hold my hand over my face as I ran to prevent my face being torn off by the blast.  A few minutes later the snow cleared and we hit the trail head and the cars and we were done.  Our total time on the trail was 5:06 for nearly 26 miles and over a mile of vertical according to my watch.  I am pretty confident that a 4:30 will be possible on race day.

photo by Sam

GPS Data

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Round Up

A view of the summit                                                           Photo by Eric Lee
13 FCTRs showed up for a dark, cold and windy 5:30 am start at the Round Mounting Trailhead this morning.  Many more joined as the day went on and by mid morning the sun was out, the wind had quieted down, the birds were singing, flowers were blooming and it was an all around perfect day to be on the mountain running trails.  I ran 30 minutes faster than last year and felt about a thousand times better.  The climbing was still tough of course and the final push to the summit on lap 5 was a beast, but I never felt completely wasted.  I ran strong and steady on the descents and with the help of Mike and Shannon, I pushed negative splits on the final miles to make my sub 7:30 goal by 4 seconds.

It really was an all around great day running with so many good friends.  I am so thankful to have a group of amazing people to talk, laugh, play and suffer with on and off the trails.

After the breakthrough on Towers on Thursday and feeling so good on such a tough run today I am glad to say that my running finally seems to be going in the right direction.  Collegiate Peaks 50 is three weeks from today.  These last few days have given me a lot of confidence about what I can do.  Another big PR would be awesome. 
Coming back down from the 3 mile mark                          Photo by Eddie Metro

The Summit                                                                           Photo by Eric Lee
5 progressively longer climbs that add up to 9200' of vertical in 29 miles

GPS data

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Big PR on the Hill tonight.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I ran a total of 327 miles with 32,550 feet of vertical gain in March.  Not a huge month, but not bad either.  The best thing is, I feel great.  My training lately has included plenty of easy runs and only a few really big hard efforts.  I am hoping that this approach will work better for me than last year's attempt to put in lots of long tough runs with 80-100 mile weeks one after another.  I only ran three races in March and none of them were serious goal races with all out efforts.  I think this was a good month of building base fitness without getting burned out.  I will spend the next two weeks putting in some bigger mileage and some quality speed and hill runs, then taper back a bit to be ready for Collegiate Peaks on April 28 which I consider my first serious race of the year.  I'd like to run a 50 mile PR and run somewhere close to 9:30.  We'll see how things go.
Start of the Tortoise and Hare 5K this morning.  I was the Hare and ran 19:50.