Southside Half-ass

This is why you run Gosshawk Ridge counter-clockwise.

This is why you run Gosshawk Ridge counter-clockwise.

For the fifth year in a row, Boulder-area ultrarunners ushered in the new year with the informal Southside Fatass 50k race.  And for the fifth year in a row, my conditioning would not be nearly the level to run a 50k in the first days of the January.  Yes, I’ve been running pretty hard lately, but my longest run in the last four months was only 13 miles.  I’m definitely not in injury-free ultra shape quite yet.  However, thanks to the geometry of the course, it was pretty feasible to hit the more interesting, western half of the large loop and skip the boring eastern half at the beginning and end.  So I decided to join in the fun anyway with a 33k “half-ass”.

[For those of you keeping score at home: Marshall Mesa, Community Ditch, Dowdy Draw, Springbrook, Gosshawk, Fowler, the steep climb up Rattlesnake Gulch, then back down hitting the other half of the loops before finishing Dowdy and the long Flatirons Vista trail and back to Marshall via Greenbelt Plateau.] Continue reading

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2014 Year in Review (Another 1000-mile Year)

Dowdy Draw, December 27, mile 1034

Dowdy Draw, December 27, mile 1039

Somehow, without really meaning to, I’ve thrown down a pretty big year.  In the middle of December I logged my thousandth mile for only the second time ever.  Heck, in the middle of November, I logged my 900th mile for only the second time ever!  The first time this happened (2008) was after a huge year with two ultras and the major training load that went into them.  This year… I’ve had some fun in the mountains, but haven’t had any concrete goals.  Yet here I am with my biggest-mileage year ever.

Looking back, I see that it’s been a year of pretty consistent, modest mileage all year long.  Registering for my first 100-mile ultra (next June!) in October kept the motivation level high for sure, but running has become more of a lifestyle for me than it has in years past.  Certainly I’ve been extremely busy all year with teaching, family, and everything else.  Running has become my social life, my therapy, and my personal time.  That’s not so bad as lifestyle choices go.

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The tag end of summer

Looking wintery up there, but still mostly dry trails.

Looking wintery up there, but still mostly dry trails.

Some might call it a mid-life crisis, others would call it some winter training motivation and both groups would be right.  In any case, gentle reader, I bit the bullet last month and signed up for my first hundred mile race.  Time to officially join the big buckle club or die trying.  The summer of 2014 was a reasonably good one and I’m pretty pleased with my conditioning.  If I can keep that shape through the winter, I might, maybe, be able to finish 100 miles under my own power.  In any case, the motivation factor of spending good money on such a far-off, nervous-poo-inducing endeavor is enough to keep me in the shoes and breathing hard.

Devil's Thumb and the lake of the same name.  Farewell high country for this season!

Devil’s Thumb and the lake of the same name. Farewell high country for this season!

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Once More Into the Wind

IMG_0848I’m becoming a creature of habit.  Every season I have some big goal toward the end of the summer and then spend a while blissfully relaxing and enjoying my sense of accomplishment.  Then, every season, I get antsy for some more mountain time “before summer really ends”.  And most years, that last summer trip is an eye-opener and preview of winter to come.  This year would prove to be par for the course.

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All Downhill From Here, Mostly.

Cycling is definitely not my primary hobby, but I do enjoy a good long road ride.  Part 2 of my big goals for Summer 2014 was to do a big road ride in the mountains, something I’ve never done before.  The plan was to ride the Copper Triangle with friends on the first weekend in September.  However, my August mileage was simply not that great (what with all the running) and I didn’t feel prepared for a committing, 80 mile ride at high altitude with several thousand meters of climbing.  Instead, I opted for something a little more mellow.

At the Nederland bus stop

At the Nederland bus stop

Anyway, long story short: Seth, Kevin, and I met up in Boulder on a beautiful morning and took the bus up to Nederland with our bikes.  Speaking for myself, I felt about 30% guilty for not manning up and riding the 18 miles and 2500′ of vertical up Boulder Canyon, but if I’d been in shape for that, I’d have been out riding around Leadville instead.  No matter, we had lots of company in the form of at least half a dozen mountain bikers who were similarly cheating to get lots of sweet downhill back to the valley.

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Consolation Prize

Mile 2: 5am at 11,000'.  A harbinger of things to come?

Mile 2: 5am at 11,000′. A harbinger of things to come?

Back when I was a budding trail-runner, races were the main goal and highlight of each season.  I ran my first race, my first marathon, my first ultra, and my first 50 miler with obsessive anticipation.  The shininess has worn off a bit since.  Racing is fun, but  the thrill and jitters from “gosh, can I actually run for N miles?!” is largely gone.  With a few exceptions, my favorite runs in each of the last four or five years were the ambitious, exploratory, mountain link-ups I did in preparation for the main event; sometimes solo, sometimes with a like-minded group of people.  By the time the race came, it was a little anticlimactic.

Ribbon Falls.

Ribbon Falls.

The rules surrounding federal wilderness lands and National Parks generally don’t allow organized races, so the races are squeezed in amongst the peripheral public (and sometimes private) land.  There are a lot of beautiful places out there, but the top-shelf spectacular areas are usually gobbled as part of one Park or Wilderness or another and thus off-limits for organized trail races.

Put another way, it’s getting harder and harder for me to find a really compelling race.  I know I can run 30-50 miles with sufficient training and the idea of shelling out significant cash for the race and logistics to run a long distance in something which isn’t the most spectacular of areas is less and less appealing to me.  The support and camaraderie of a race is, of course, wonderful, but oftentimes what really sets my heart aflutter is devising a Big Stupid Mountain Run with my friends.  Unlike a race, the date is also flexible to get optimal weather.

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Exploring Buchanan Pass

Paiute and upper Coney Lake.

Paiute and Upper Coney Lake.

I’m working on a theory involving Coney Lakes.  At this point, I have visited a statistically significant* number of Coney Lakes and they have all shared the following properties:
1) beautiful setting
2) little-used, hard to follow trail
3) no other people (see item 2)
4) heinous talus climbs on unstable slopes to escape from
5) no evidence of actual conies

Okay, actually it’s only two sets of Coney Lakes and both within 10 miles of each other in the Front Range, but they were both great, adventurous days.  The first was a great, strenuous expedition into the southernmost valley in Wild Basin.  This was a similarly great expedition to about the third-most-northerly drainage in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
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