Operation Gravel Grinder

Behind bars for life!

Behind bars for life!

I was at a vulnerable point in my life — a little bored with the status quo of running and searching for something new to work on this summer.  Knowing I was in this impressionable state, Levi swooped in and convinced me that the Gold Rush Bike Rally would be a really good idea.  It’s 35 miles (and 3500′ of gain) through the foothills of Boulder on pavement, dirt roads, some old rutted jeep roads, and a bit of single track. Raising money for a worthy cause, beer sponsor at the finish line, etc. Sure, why not?

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Fourth Time’s the Charm on Pagoda

Reflecting on Pagoda Mountain.

Reflecting on Pagoda Mountain.

My luck with Pagoda Mountain has been unusually bad. It’s not that Pagoda is anything unusually difficult or extraordinary; it’s a high peak in RMNP sandwiched between the much higher Longs Peak and Chiefshead. I’ve attempted Pagoda three different times by three different routes, and been turned back for three different reasons. Ever since, it’s been mocking me up there, smugly secure.

My first attempt was a climb of the north buttress with Jared; a technical climb from Glacier Gorge. I was turned around that time by an uncharacteristic bout of altitude sickness. The second time was during my Radical Slam adventure with Priddy. We’s made short work of Meeker and Longs and were all set to traverse over to Pagoda, but verglass on the western slabs made the traverse to Pagoda imprudent in running shoes. I came back for a third try via the Keyhole route on Longs, but was turned back by atrocious weather. I was running out of approach lines and failure modes in rapid order. My luck had to turn eventually.

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Closing the Circle at Bighorn

 

bh16_57The Bighorn 100 last year was certainly one of the highlights of my life. It was a huge challenge accepted and achieved, a new emotional and physical range, bragging rights galore, and basically one hell of a life experience. While I still have no desire to race it again, it was clear from very shortly afterward that I was far from done with Bighorn.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!

For one thing, I was so laser-focused on the race that I didn’t spend much time appreciating the area as a whole.  For another, my support network was so amazing an integral to my success that I was looking for a way to pay it forward for this year’s crop of kindred spirits, thus cancel any karmic debts incurred last year. I’ve never paced someone in a race nor crewed except in the general aid-station staff sense, so that would be a new and giving experience. Plan A was to pace Brian and help him redeem his DNF last year and I spent half a year looking forward to running with him again. At the last minute, LIFE stepped in and Brian had to bow out of his repeat at Bighorn. Fortunately, I’d already convinced Ben that this level of suffering sounded like a good idea, so I switched to Team Ben instead. Continue reading

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Spring Training, ’16

June 1: Jason's farewell night run started with a beautiful sunset and lots of good friends.

June 1: Jason’s farewell night run started with a beautiful sunset and lots of good friends.

The problem with spending a year training for a hundred-mile ultra is that, the next year, you feel like a complete slob for not training at that same level.  In fact, my 2016 numbers so far have been pretty big even compared to other big years (like 2014).  But I’m only 60% of where I was this time last year!  It’s hard not to feel slothful in comparison.

Still, I am training.  I’ll be going back to Bighorn in about 10 days to pace Ben in his first hundred-miler.  He’s in pretty good shape; probably better than I was at the time and I think he’ll do just fine.  I hope to be helpful, but from a purely selfish point of view, it will be nice to get back up there and see Bighorn from the other side of the race.

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Cultivating Insomnia

Some people suffer from insomnia.  I’m cultivating it to a high art.

Typical night running scene.

Typical night running scene.

Last year, in preparation for Big Horn, I decided that running all night in training might be a good idea before I ran all night in a race.  This turned out to be the most valuable piece of preparation I did! The importance of staying warm, staying moving, and staying awake can’t be underestimated and I saw a lot of people at Bighorn laid pretty low in the wee hours.  All-night runs are also, perversely, kind of fun, especially in retrospect. Even other runners who “get” the enduro thing will give you strange looks. That’s hard to do in a place like Boulder.

IMG_3019This year I decided to merge the all-night run idea Brian and I did last year with the Boulder-to-Nederland run idea Nate and I did into one, big training suffer-fest.  Jason and Ben required surprisingly little cajoling to join me in my guaranteed-to-be-stupid escapade.  The moon was full and the weather pleasantly warm under a high cirrus layer.  This would be the theme of the night; while last year’s run was very cold and really really dark, this year was more temperate (lows in the 40s) and never entirely dark thanks to the moonlight.  Also, having run through the night twice before, I knew something of the mental and physical challenges ahead. Continue reading

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Quad Jock

Runners coming in from the West Ridge at mile 14.

Runners coming in from the West Ridge at mile 14.

Quadrock is a cool race put on by a couple friends of mine up in Fort Collins.  It winds through some beautiful, brutal terrain in Horsetooth Mountain Park and Lory State Park in a 25 or 50 mile jaunt.  I’ve still never actually run it officially (despite my best efforts), but I’ve been involved a few times.  This year I again joined Eric and his merry crew up at the Towers Road Aid Station.  The course is roughly a figure-8 which the 25-milers complete once while the 50-milers complete twice.  Towers is right at the junction of the “8”, so it’s a good place to see everyone two or four times over the course of the day.  Towers is at miles 7, 14, 37, and 43 on the course, but it’s at the top of a big climb no matter which way the runners are coming (and they come in once from each of the four directions).

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The family that skis together…

IMG_4662Given that I didn’t once don skis even once during the 2014-15 ski season, this season couldn’t possibly have been any worse! Last winter was all about obsessive run training. This year I was determined to get back on the snow in something other than running shoes. It was great!

We had four days at Keystone with the kids bracketed by a resoundingly meh backcountry trip in November and a glorious ski date in April. We enjoyed four days with the kids at Keystone quite a bit; it’s bigger than the resorts we are more familiar with (Loveland, Eldora) with lots to explore (which is my big driver). There are lot of kid-friendly aspects to keep everyone happy as well. One of the main lodges and the bunny slopes are up at the top of the mountain so everyone starts out with a gondola ride and spends the day at 11k with spectacular views. There are other non-skiing things like a giant snow fort (with internal slides) and a traversing gondola. Continue reading

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