After a month long break, Karen and I headed back up the hill to continue our snowshoe season. The drive up was icy and we only drove about 35 mph. The Peak-to-Peak Hwy 72 was in better shape and we decided on the fly to pass up our previous trailheads and launch from Rainbow Lakes. The entrance to this trailhead is almost exactly five miles south of the road to Brainard Lake. This is the south end of the Sourdough Trail, which we hiked in a northerly direction.
We expected cooler weather but we stepped out of the minivan into full sun and 30° with very little wind. Zero wind on the trail in the trees. I was surprised at how large the parking area is at the trailhead, which sits less than a half mile off the highway. I left my jacket in the car and Karen tied hers’ around her waist. A woman cross country skier headed out ahead of us and we saw two other couples on the trail. Otherwise I imagine everyone else was home today watching March Madness. Couch potatoes missed an awesome day to be in the mountains.
We slogged for one and a half miles, up hill the entire way, before turning around. We got in three miles in ninety minutes. The ascent made for a great workout. The trailhead sits at 9200 feet and we turned around at 9800 feet.
We decided to drive back through Nederland since it was closer than Lyons. We lunched at the Black Forest. I recalled eating their steak tartare once before so I ordered that again. So satisfying. Karen savored the fresh fish catch of the day – trout sautéed with parsley butter and lemon, potatoes and vegetables . Just another perfect snowshoe outing.
This is likely our last of the season. We’re thinking of spending next weekend in Denver with the kids to see a play and the Denver Art Museum. I have surgery after that and won’t be active for possibly three months. That might make this blog somewhat inactive. I’m blogging about my medical escapades on another site. There’s a link to the left in my blogroll if you’re interested and can handle graphic content.
After a super nice dinner last night at Jeffreys, I sleep well and wake up Saturday morning by 6am. Karen and I are staying in the Entrada room at Cliff Rose Flats. Nicely appointed room with a Moab theme; a couple of blocks from the park where I pick up the bus for the race start, and where the race ends. I’d consider staying here again.
I gear up and head over to the Red Rock Bakery for a couple of coffees. Karen is up too. I buy coffee here every year because it’s good and the Irish guy running the place is cool to talk to. Upon returning to Entrada, I eat some sheep’s milk yogurt, breakfast bar, and a Naked juice. I top my coffee off with some of Karen’s and head over to the buses at 7:30. I spill some of the coffee onto my fleece warmups on Hwy 128. It’s a bumpy ride in school buses.
It’s a long wait for the start. The half doesn’t launch until 10am. This event needs time for the logistics of busing 4000 runners up the canyon. I don’t find Keith until 9:30. I find him at the gear truck. We reluctantly strip down to the minimum race gear and toss our bags in the truck. Keith leaves on two ugly, long-sleeve t-shirts that he plans to leave on the side of the road before the gun fires. Smart way to stay warm. I have my share of ugly shirts. In fact, I have the same ones Keith has.
It’s only cold when the wind blows, which is randomly gusty. The temperature is in the upper 40s. The gun fires and we cross the starting line fairly quickly as we are lined up only about 30 yards back. Still, the first mile is crowded. This is one of the most crowded races ever. Hwy 128 is extremely narrow and without shoulders. One side is a mostly bordered by a 2000 foot cliff. The other by a drop into the Colorado River. I’m hoping to run faster than last year’s 8 minutes for the first mile. My Garmin captures a 7:20 at mile one. I probably didn’t need to run quite that fast. My goal is to average a 7:30 mile for this run.
I’m able to run faster as the crowd thins out and record a 6:56 for mile two. I don’t really want to break 7 minute miles so I try to run with a bit more discipline. I don’t feel winded though, although I’m breathing a bit heavy. Mile three comes in at 7:07 and mile four comes in at 6:58. A bit fast but steady. I see Abby at this time but she slows down at the water station and I don’t see her again. I finally smooth out my pace a bit in mile five which comes in at 7:23. Both miles six and seven are 7:33. Exactly what I want to run. I want to hold this pace. And I seem to be doing just that.
I see these times after uploading them to Garmin.com. I stop looking at my watch after mile two because I lost the GPS signal and don’t trust the results. I don’t feel like I need the Garmin either. At least not while running. I do like reviewing my splits online after the race. I know I’m running well because I’m breathing hard while my legs don’t feel heavy. So no oxygen debt. This is like walking a tight rope and I’m walking it without a net. Well actually I do have a net. If I hit oxygen debt, I’ll slow down.
I don’t know how long I’ll be able to hold this pace. Doubtful for the entire distance. I could slow down now to save energy. That’s a typical strategy when you’re racing a heat and simply need a certain time or place to qualify for the next heat. I’m not doing that. And because this could be my last race for a fairly long time, I’m just going for broke. I’m going to run hard until I can’t anymore. That happens soon enough.
I run mile eight in 7:31 and the ninth mile in 7:26. This feels great. I’ve been passing runners non-stop the entire course. The tenth mile leads uphill and is paired with a wicked wall of wind. My pace drops dramatically. I know about this hill and was prepared to accept slowing down for it. This massive wind was not anticipated and I didn’t expect to slow down quite this much. A few runners pass me and makes me question if it isn’t something else. They have the same wind and hill. I pull out a gel in case this is a nutritional thing. I finish it before reaching the top. My pre-race plans included the hope that I could fly down this hill. That doesn’t happen and I run mile ten in 8:03. A dramatic thirty second slow down.
The 1:40 pace sign catches me – I’d passed them somewhere in the first half. I resolve to run with them. Since I started a minute or two behind them, hanging with them will have me under 1:40 – which is exactly what I want. Then a freakish thing happens. My hat blows off and I have to turn around to chase it in the wind. This is probably good for a ten second hit to my pace, but I keep running hard. I finish mile eleven in 7:50. I don’t catch back up to the pace sign though.
Two more miles remain. I think I have it in me to run faster, but I’m content to hold my pace. I’m not sure if I’ll meet my goal of running a 7:30 pace. I don’t care too much now because I ran some really satisfying miles. Mile twelve comes in at 7:44 and the final mile in 7:49. A bit off the 7:30 pace I want but I ran enough well under. My Garmin and the official race results are oddly off more than usual. My Garmin captures my total time in 1:39:18 and a 7:29 pace. The race results show a 1:39:19 and a 7:34 pace. I imagine the pace from the race is correct and the Garmin was off from losing its GPS for a bit. Doesn’t matter much. I didn’t beat last year’s time but was only about 30 seconds off. You can never compare these races apples-to-apples, because of the wind. In my mind, I ran about like last year and met my pace objectives almost spot on.
Karen and I meet up for dinner tonight with the rest of Jabe’s Running Team at the Cali Cohitta where a number of them are staying. Half the runners in this pic live in my neighborhood. Shoot, many of them on the same street. We figure, if we add in Fred (not pictured), eight runners are from Tenacity Street in the ‘hood. Most everyone seemed to have a good run today. The wind did not spare anyone. Likely all will be back next year.
We drove out this afternoon for Moab and stopped for the night at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. We’ll leave for the final stretch to Utah in the morning. Nearly the entire drive on I-70 is alongside the Colorado River. This photo is what the race course will look like near the start Saturday. The first ten miles run through the Moab Canyonlands alongside the Colorado River. Simply spectacular. If you’re looking for something to motivate you to train through the winter, consider the Moab Half.
This is my fourth Moab Half in a row. For whatever reason, it’s a fairly competitive race. More so than the Boulder Half in May. I don’t expect to be competitive but I am hoping for a personal record. I hate to make commitments for such a long distance race, but right now I feel like running hard. Might be an issue that I’ve barely trained the last two weeks, but I’m going to consider it tapering. Karen and I are enjoying the Hotel Colorado tonight. It’s nice to cut the drive to Moab in half.
Got in a couple more miles in Austin today before flying home. Thirteen more to be exact. My flight isn’t until 8:30 tonight. Too late to make Steve’s poker game. Not too late to see Karen after my three weeks away. Ellie will be at a sleep-over. I imagine Karen will have already eaten dinner. Maybe she’ll want to stop off for a drink somewhere. Of course it’ll be after 10pm. We’ll think of something.
I had some good runs down here. I ran 26.2 miles across the streets of Central Austin – surprisingly fast (for me) in 3:45 and felt good doing it. I had a fantastic trail run at Pedernales Falls – a state park with special memories for me. I ate at my favorite restaurants and discovered some new ones – from sushi to steakhouses. Saw a movie at the new Alamo Drafthouse at Lakeline.
I hung out with family; eating multiple plates of sushi bombs followed by quail egg shooters at Tomo’s, ate the best Thai ever. My father-in-law plied me with a 2011 Round Pond cab sav and bought me one of the best ribeyes ever at Flemings in the Domain. I played several rounds of Cards Against Humanity – always a riot. I also saw some old friends. Visited Ray Johnson in San Antonio where I drank home brew better than I can buy in a store. I met up with Johnny Martinez in Austin. This was a complete surprise as my sister ran into him in the grocery store. We first synched up at a Starbucks but went out last night to Top Golf. If you haven’t been to a Top Golf locale, think bowling. No, think swanky outdoor club with fire pits and live music and dance floor. No, think pub food. It’s hard to describe but pretty fun.
My run today was in the quintessential Central Texas rain and mist. Actually great for running. I planned to run down on Town Lake for my last day but Mom wasn’t feeling well so I opted to stay close by. I ran 13 miles on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail. Fairly pedestrian but really nice with the creek, Live Oak and Texas Cedar. My knees don’t care for the pavement but a good half of it is softer trail. Next weekend is Moab. That will be my last run for awhile. Which is fine. I have a sore knee that could use the time off. I’d like to squeeze in another snowshoe or two with Karen. I’ll need something to blog about.
Busy week. I have a project with looming deadlines. I somehow found time to visit my buddy Ray in San Antonio Thursday night. He hosted me at his house to display his home brew. I sampled three or four (that night’s a bit fuzzy), and preferred his American Ale. In fact, I emptied the keg dry of that brew. Ray was flush with other beers though from German Kölsch to Hefeweizen. Ray took up the brewing hobby in early January and does everything but grow the seeds himself. He buys grain and yeast from Europe, and even hand grinds the grain. Completely buzzed, we dined later in the evening at Perry’s Steakhouse. Very nice.
It’s Saturday morning now and I find myself driving through a rainy mist to the Texas Hill Country. I was 22 years old during my last trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. My brother and I were floating down the spillway and I got carried over a 10 foot waterfall. I flipped over and landed on my back on a big flat rock protruding from the water. Steve had to carry me out of there. I limped around for a good month. Today marks my return. Hoping things go better this time around.
I take MoPac out of Round Rock. Traffic is light until the junction of Hwy 290 with Hwy 71 in Oak Hill. When are they going to do something about this? It’s been horrible for decades. Just as the mist clears to blue sky, FM 3232 sneaks up on me as there is no sign for the State Park. Odd considering I doubt anyone takes this road to Johnson City. Pedernales has to be the primary destination. The Park Ranger is located a few miles past the park entrance. I stop to pay the $6 use fee. I also pick up a green bandana that contains a print of the trail map. Brilliant. I’ve noticed many Texas runners wear bandanas to guard against gnats, which can be abundant along creeks and rivers. I think it’s fair to call the scarf a bandana rather than a kerchief, because it’s worn around the neck rather than to cover the head.
The trailhead starts just beyond the Park Ranger Station. The course design qualifies as a lollipop, although I don’t run it that way. I intended to by running the nearly 2 mile stick and then doing a couple of loops around the pop. Signage is poor though and I run more of an out and back route with a smaller loop at the end around Wolf Mountain. I also run up and back a couple of trail spurs to other unnamed trailheads. The lollipop route would be under ten miles. My meandering gets me over 12 miles.
Much of the trail is wide double track. Some cool single track presents itself deeper into the trail around the loop. I cross three different wet creeks, first Bee Creek, then Mescal Creek and Tobacco Creek. The water is low and I’m able to clear them without getting my shoes wet or muddy. I stop on my way back at Jones Spring. Not much water here either but enough to dip my bandana and hat. I’m fairly baked at this point and thank this watering hole for aiding my return to the trailhead without walking.
I’m happy with myself for making the 50 mile drive to Pedernales Falls. Sure, I got a bit lost at times but I love running new trails that I’m not familiar with. Honestly, a few wrong turns only add to my enjoyment. This is why I run trails. They require total attention. There’s no day dreaming. Time stands still as I live in the present. I don’t think about yesteray’s problems. I’m not planning my future. I’m fully engaged navigating turns in the trail while managing my footfalls. Some work days actually go like this. It might sound like how a stoner gets through mundane tasks, but I find it the perfect way to live. This was a great run.
I’m currently training in Austin for my next big event, the Moab Half Marathon on March 15th. My plan is to leverage the oxygen at low altitude for the next couple of weeks to train at a faster pace. Success will be demonstrated by a PR in the Half at Moab. I PR’d there last March with a 1:38. Considering I just ran the first half of the Austin Marathon in 1:42, I think I have a shot at it. I just need to teach my body how to run faster. For distance runners, speed is learned.
This picture captures my kick in the Austin Marathon last Sunday. Both feet off the pavement. That’s a little oxygen in my step. If I’m going to be running in Austin for three weeks, I’m going to run fast. I think I wrote of my 2014 plans in one of my end of year blogs that my goal would be to simply maintain. And it’s still true that I reached a level of fitness last year that I am more than pleased with. And that I obtained an equilibrium of sorts with my race pace. I was rarely competitive in terms of placing but I oftentimes felt like I was racing which is what it’s all about for me. I suggested I would be more than happy to simply enjoy a 2014 on par with my 2013. No need to improve.
Turns out, I expect to take some time off from running this spring. Maybe longer. Priorities. Moab might be my last race for awhile. Possibly all year. So I’m motivated to go out with a bang. Not sure what to expect as a target but breaking a 7:30 pace would be nice. Working against me will be 4000 feet of elevation. Austin will allow me to push my heart rate higher. Great opportunity for fartleks and tempo runs. But three weeks is also enough time to lose the benefits of altitude adaptation. It comes down to oxygen therapy. Real or hype? I got in a nice 13 mile run today in 73° on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail. Ran it slow though. Still working the kinks out from last Sunday.
I wake up at 4:30 central standard time. I make the coffee and my mom is up shortly after. I prep my race food by peeling two oranges and cutting up two small bananas. My brother will follow me around the second half of the course to keep me fed. He wakes up at 5:30 and we drive downtown. Having a race crew is very nice. Steve drops me off on 15th St., a couple of blocks east of the race start. I teach him how to take pictures with my iPhone and he drives off into the darkness for breakfast somewhere.
I have 45 minutes to get my mind into race mode for 26.2 miles. Naturally, I’m anxious over this marathon. I’m also a little bummed though that I won’t be snowshoeing with Karen. We went snowshoeing the last five weekends in a row. Maybe not how most runners train for a marathon. Karen and I will hook back up in the spring to snowshoe some new trails. For this race, I feel like I usually do. I simply can’t believe the people who typically suck my time are granting me four hours to go run. The weather is pleasant for standing around in shorts and my short-sleeve jersey. It’s 57° and is only expected to warm up another ten degrees. The Mayor of Austin, who sounds very much like Kris Kristofferson, says some words. A lady sings the National Anthem. Next thing I know, I’m running through the streets of downtown Austin.
I’m in the top half of the 18,000 runners. The crowd doesn’t begin to thin until we’re on South Congress after two or three miles. I’m okay that my first mile is in 7:55 but suspect I’m running too fast as my second mile comes in at 7:17. I consciously slow down. My third mile clocks in at 7:40. Still a bit fast. The Congress Avenue hill helps to govern my speed by the fourth mile which is 7:58. I hoped to average an 8:30 pace the first six miles. Mile 5 is in 7:39 and mile 6 is in 7:45.
The mile 6 aid station begins a downhill segment heading north on South First St., back toward downtown. I planned to maybe stretch out my legs on this downhill for a couple of fast miles but change my game plan and stay conservative given my fast start. I stop monitoring my Garmin with the intent of not looking at it again until the half way point. My Garmin upload though reports I run miles 7, 8 and 9 in 7:21, 7:31 and 7:34 respectively. I’m seriously surprised by this given my dearth of winter training but suspect it’s due to the low altitude. The half marathoners split off toward downtown half way into mile ten on Exposition. This section is fairly hilly and the 3:25 pace sign passes me – which is probably good. I run mile 10 in 8:01, mile 11 in 8:11 and mile 12 in 8:30. Finally on pace. I’m thankful I’m not hurting yet. I try eating one of my FRS fuel candies but it’s hard and difficult to eat. I start thinking about how old they are. Five years maybe. I switch to my Honey Stinger gummy bears and eat up the 200 calorie bag by the half way point, which the official clock shows me reaching in 1:42. This pace would have me qualify for Boston, but I’m beginning to slow down.
I encounter Steve around mile 16 at Allandale, captured in the first picture above. I eat some oranges and banana. Miles 13, 14, 15 and 16 come in at 8:36, 8:26, 8:22 and 8:39. This is the pace I want to run but begin to slow down even more. I feel good in terms of energy and breathing but my legs tighten up on the 16th mile. Miles 17, 18 and 19 come in at 9:01, 8:42 and 8:48. The second photo is at 19 miles. Mile 20 marks the turn south back toward downtown. I run this in 9:09, mile 21 in 9:01 and mile 22 in 9:23. Mile 23 is a bummer as my right hamstring cramps with very little notice. I hit the pavement to recover and only lose about a minute, running mile 23 in 10:48. I’m careful after this and purposely keep my pace slow in order to successfully finish.
I pass one of my favorite Austin eateries at mile 24 – the Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Karen and I lived nearby before moving to Colorado in 1989. I recall running down this stretch of Duval back then. It’s a downhill slope toward the UT campus. I typically ran loops around the Hancock Golf Course one block east of Duval on 38th St. Both Steve and my sister Nancy are here. Nan gives me two PowerIces that contain the electrolytes I badly need. I hand her my sunglasses that I haven’t needed. Thankfully the sun never breaks through the clouds today. Still, the humidity is high. I’m not used to running drenched in sweat. We perspire in Colorado too but it’s a dry sweat. I run mile 24 in 9:49.
I know I’m going to finish my ninth marathon as I pass the Posse East, my old UT watering hole, and begin running across campus. Confidence is always a good feeling. Endorphins alter my consciousness. Emotionally charged thoughts of my sister and brother waiting for me at the finish race through my mind. My throat tightens and my eyes moisten. If you’ve ever run a marathon or ultra, or done something similarly stupid, then maybe you’ve experienced this too near the end. I find myself in awe that I’m still alive and doing this. I “find religion” as they say. I fully appreciate God letting me know He’s there, although happy to know He’s simply passing through. Running this marathon is my way of letting Him know that when He comes for me for reals, He better send all four horsemen riding white, red, black and pale. I’m going down swinging. I run mile 25 in 9:43.
I regain composure as I spy the hill after 15th Street. I need all my faculties as this incline challenges my cardio. It’s like the blood flow reverses direction in my arteries and veins. My heart is rewinding. What sort of twisted race director designs the course up such a steep hill right before the finish? I’m finding his email address. Two seconds ago I was near hallucinogenic believing I was a couple of minutes away from finishing. Part way into this hill, that result suddenly becomes much less certain.
I look up to the top of the hill. Form. I pump my arms. I begin popping up my knees before my feet can fully hit the pavement. I could run up a waterfall with this form. I look at my Garmin to see I’m only running a 10:50 pace. Hmm. If only effort equaled speed. I crest the hill and turn right onto 11th St. I pass the 26 mile sign and let my legs unwind downhill toward Congress Ave. I think again of my sister and brother meeting me at the finish. Here’s their picture eating brunch later at Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Just as powerful as the tearful emotion earlier, euphoria washes over me strong enough to make heroine jealous. I’ve felt this way before near the end of a big run. I got a little emotional near the end of my first ultra. Same with finishing the 500 mile Colorado Trail. There is something about successfully completing an objective with such high odds of failure. Like Sandra Bullock taking her first steps on the beach after riding that Chinese rocket down to Earth in Gravity. This is why I run marathons.
I run the 26th mile in 9:44 but my Garmin has that completed right before the hill. My Garmin mile 27 is nearly a half mile long, although it should only be about 200 yards. Garmin has me running the final half mile in 4:19 – which captures the hill. My Garmin does agree with the final result though with a 3:45:50. About 15 minutes faster than I thought I could run with my limited winter training. 551st place overall. At this point in time I am giving credit to good execution on my nutrition plan. I think this because I finish feeling good. No post race cramps or vomiting. Not to say waking to the car isn’t a bear as swelling consumes my legs. I counter this with a Bloody Mary at the Hyde Park Bar & Grill. I’m fine now.
I run the Austin Marathon tomorrow morning. This picture is of me after finishing the 2011 Austin Marathon. It makes me appear seemingly fine. The race was a disaster. I started hurting after only ten miles. I’m still surprised I even finished. There was quite a bit of walking involved after 16 miles. My time was a disappointing 4:23, my slowest marathon ever. My only other race out of eight marathons where I couldn’t break 4 hours was Steamboat – another disaster – last spring. I completed Steamboat in 4:13. I hope to run right at 4 hours tomorrow. That will be a 9 minute per mile pace. I would like to do this feeling comfortable and avoiding muscle cramps. I expect to do this with smart in-race nutrition and hydration. I have a history of forgetting to eat and drink so wish me luck.
I arrived in Austin earlier today on a Southwest flight. Steve picked me up at Austin-Bergstrom Int’l and drove me directly to the Palmer Events Center to pick up my race packet. It was called Palmer Auditorium when I last lived here. Actually we stopped for lunch first at Threadgills across the street. It was convenient free parking. Service was a bit slow but the waitress was a sweetheart. Gave us drinks to go. Palmer was a party atmosphere. I discovered I won’t get the race shirt until – and if – I cross the finish line.
I like to wear the race shirts and now won’t be able too. Instead I’ll wear a recent newby – my ultra bright yellow, Colorado Club Championship Flatiron XC hi-tech t-shirt. I might be chilly standing around at the start in 57° but it’ll warm up to 70° by the time I finish. Short sleeves are the way to go. I’ll pair that with my black PEARL iZUMi ultra running shorts. They have awesome pockets for food and a built-in brief that wraps around the upper thigh like tights to mitigate chaffing. I’ll add blue with my Boulder Marathon running hat and blue CW-X ventilator compression socks. The German Olympic rainbow outfits will have some competition for color tomorrow.
For nutrition, I’ll carry a Cliff Shot Blocks at 200 calories. A bag of Honey Stinger Energy Chews (think gummy bears) for 160 calories. Six FRS healthy energy chews at 40 calories each for another 240 calories. And four Hammer Endurolytes to mitigate muscle cramps. I typically don’t eat half the crap I carry. That might be okay because my brother Steve intends to serve as my race crew. He’ll meet me at 3 points in the second half of the course with bananas, oranges and frozen PowerIce. I also expect Steve to take professional grade photos. Steve is currently attending two different parties in downtown Austin. I plan to wake him up before 5:30 am to drive me to the race. My bib# is 2401 for anyone who wants to track me with the race iPhone app. I launch at 7am CST.
We returned to Peaceful Valley this morning for our final winter snowshoe before I head to Austin for three weeks. This was our fifth weekend in a row. Karen wanted to return to Beaver Reservoir and I wanted to return to Brainard Lake. We opted for Peaceful Valley due to weather conditions. We would not have been able to traverse the 2 mile county roads to either of the other two spots. We couldn’t even drive onto the short road for Peaceful Valley. We parked on the shoulder of the highway with our van pointed downhill in case we needed to push it out of the snow.
Snowshoeing down the road to the trail is about a 200 yard jaunt. We only got about 50 yards before we had to stop and spend 15 minutes helping push a lady who got her Ford Explorer stuck in the snow. She made the critical mistake of driving over the crest and couldn’t get back up the hill. The new snow was too soft and deep. I was burning up after that and hiked with my jacket unzipped. We were in an odd weather inversion with the temperature warmer than 3000 feet lower in Longmont. It was over 32° with zero wind. I even took off my gloves. The warmth was ironic given the thick clouds and falling snow.
Peaceful Valley has a good three or four feet of base snow now. The most recent snow fall is super fluffy. Middle St. Vrain Creek Trail was postcard perfect in the falling snow. A few hikers in front of us laid the only tracks which helped ease our trek. We continued beyond where they turned around though and blazed our own tracks. The soft powder slowed us down considerably. We made it as far as the intersection with the Sourdough Trail and turned back for an hour long outing. I needed to dig out some snow in front of our tires with my snowshoes in order to get onto the road, but we made it home safely. We stopped again for lunch at Oscar Blues in Lyons and were back home by 12:30. It’s been a great winter snowshoe season. Next time we’re up n the mountains will be late March or April. I expect the snow to be even deeper then.
With below zero temps all week, I trained Monday through Thursday on that little elliptical machine to the right of this picture. Juxtapose this shot of me to that contraption as I just walked in from a twenty mile romp over snow packed trails in 32°. This is my last chance to prep myself for the Austin Marathon on February 16th.
The idea of running twenty miles today, and the eighteen I ran last weekend, is to establish confidence with the marathon distance. It’s too late to actually get in shape. In fact, a number of runners would be tapering these last two weeks. I just don’t have that luxury. I have a job and family commitments that don’t allow me to fully live up to my self-centered, narcissistic potential. And no way would I trade the weekend snowshoeing with Karen for a few more miles. We’re headed back up to Brainard Lake tomorrow to experience all this fresh snow.
While I felt super slow today, I actually ran thirty seconds faster per mile than on last weekend’s eighteen miler. I’m losing confidence that I’ll maintain a nine minute mile pace next week, but that’s not critical. Goal number one is to run comfortable. If that means a ten minute pace – fine. I do expect to start off with an eight and a half minute pace. Hard not to with the excitement of a big event. I’ll try to settle down as I cross Lady Byrd Lake on Congress Avenue at mile two. I’ve run this before so I know what to expect on hills. I’ll run easy up South Congress and unwind a little coming down South 1st. I’m confident I’ll run well and enjoy this event. I’m ready.
The mountain trails of the Front Range are gorgeous, but there’s not much need to drive up there to snowshoe when there’s a foot of fresh powder down here. And you know what a big day it is in Colorado with the Broncos playing this afternoon in the Super Bowl. So we decided to snowshoe today quite literally in our backyard. We started at the Niwot Loop Trailhead and headed south into Gunbarrel. We covered the segment between 79th and 71st Street.
I ran out here yesterday. Slogging through the snow was tough and I was the only runner. Everyone else yesterday was Nordic skiing. Today, at 18° but with full sun and zero wind, had mostly runners and a few cross country skiers. Yesterday’s skiers helped to pack the snow for running. Snowshoeing was great. You’d think 18° is cold but we quickly pocketed our gloves and Karen unzipped her jacket. The sun shining off the snow serves to warm things up.
The Cottonwood Trail is fairly flat, certainly relative to the mountain trails we snowshoed on in January. Plus it’s easier to breathe at half the altitude, so this was our fastest ever pace – well over 2 miles an hour for 3.5 miles. We brunched afterward at the Niwot Tavern. If the nearby IBM site has a company bar – this place is it. We’re home early prepping for the game. I made my shrimp ceviche mostly last night. I added avocado and cilantro now to avoid those from turning mushy overnight. After our 90 minute workout, we’re ready to party over at the Sebestas. Go Broncos!
That’s Fred, up front in a greenish yellow tank leading the pack. I’m three runners behind him in a green long-sleeve team jersey. Chris is another two or three runners behind me, wearing the same green team jersey. This is during the first of three loops, just shy of the one mile mark.
Some say we won the team event in last week’s Boulder Cross Country Race because there were no other men’s teams registered. I say we won due to the strong display of pack mentality illustrated in this pic. Click on it to enlarge the view. Pack mentality probably has some very specific meaning in psychology, but I’m using it here to suggest running as a team helps everyone to run faster. This was my experience on teams as a kid. Makes me want to consider training more with a team. Fred trains with the Revolution Running Club.
That race was last month. This month I have a marathon coming up. The Austin Marathon on February 16th. I’ve considered dropping out thinking I might not be ready. It’s hard to get in the miles during the winter. And I’ve been snowshoeing with Karen on the weekends when I should be maximizing my training miles. And then, I have a really sore knee. But I’ve been stretching and feel like my knee is responding well to that. And that snowshoeing is still a good two hour workout. Has to be good for something. I just want to run that marathon. I don’t need to run it fast. I just want to enjoy it.
My goal will be to run a 9 minute per mile pace. I have a tendency to start out well under 8 minutes per mile but I intend to run with discipline this time. My natural pace is about 8.5 minutes per mile, up to about 18 miles. I suspect I could hold that in Austin considering the lower elevation, but I would still struggle on the final 10K. I don’t want to do that. I want to enjoy this run. My goal will be a 4 hour marathon at a 9 minute pace. I ran 18 miles today. My first long run in several weeks. Only averaged 10.5 minutes per mile, but I was running through a foot of fresh powder in 18°. I don’t expect snow conditions in Austin.
I wake up this morning with the coffee machine at 6am. I read my weekend edition of Barrons while the sun comes up. I bake some Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls before waking up Ellie at 7. We have a cross country race this morning and need some glucose. Brit wakes up to the smell of those rolls too and decides to tag along. Chris, Keith and Tom walk over at 8:30 and we pile into the mini van for the 20 minute ride to South Boulder. Fred will meet us there. We all live within a three block radius and will be running as a team – Team Prospect. Ellie will run stag in the kids wave. This first picture captures the start with me running in the green long sleeve jersey one step behind Fred, running in a tank. This is as close as I will ever be to catching Fred today.
I hang with Fred for nearly a mile. He puts some distance on me before the hill. Chris then passes me running up the hill. This puts me in third position on our five guy team – where I remain. Chris typically starts out slow and then turns on the jets for a strong finish. In the 2012 neighborhood 5K, the three of us finished together in consecutive places, Chris, then Fred, then me. Today we finish separated by nearly two minutes. This is Chris’ first cross country race. He trains more for marathons and he feels the fast pace of this 4 miler. Cross country races are typically on grass.
I think this is Keith’s first XC race too. Keith commented more on the wind afterward than the grass. Grass will slow down a runner, but today’s wind is gusting well over 20 mph. He runs strong though today and finishes two positions behind me in our 51 year old age division. I finish 9th and Keith is 11th. The results are posted here. Keith didn’t start running until a few years ago. He typically runs the same events that I do. I ran his first marathon with him two years ago – the 2012 Denver Marathon.
Tom is even newer to running. He’s quite the sport though agreeing to join our team. This photo by the water shows Tom running strong with good arm motion. There’s a hill coming up shortly that requires a bit of momentum. Note Tom isn’t wearing a hat or gloves. Other than the wind, the weather is pretty nice – 50° and full sun. I wear shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. No need to layer. I consider tights but think they might slow me down once I warm up. Because the girls are with us, we are able to strip off our warm-up gear and drop it in a pile near the start. Very convenient.
For reasons I still don’t fully understand, Team Prospect finishes in first place today. Impressive considering we all live within three blocks of each other. There’s a rumor that no other teams are registered. I don’t go for rumors. Our win comes with $500, or $100 each. This makes us paid athletes. Hopefully IBM doesn’t dock me for moonlighting.
The kids division launches immediately after the men finish. Keith and I feel for them because the wind is clearly gusting more strongly and it feels like the temperature is dropping. Snow is expected tonight or tomorrow. Brit decides last minute to run with Ellie when they say parents can join the kids. I get a ton of good photos of the girls but this is my favorite. Brit applied the B&W effect. This hill is near the end of the 2K loop – the kids only run one loop – but it’s steep. It makes it hard to turn on a kick for the finish.
At Fred’s suggestion, we brunch at the nearby Southside Walnut Cafe. This place is hopping but we’re seated after ten minutes. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this place. Awesome menu and incredible food. I have huevos rancheros while Ellie orders a cheese burger. Brit orders something with soy cheese on it. She likes it. We both love the coffee. I find myself an hour later getting a pedicure with the girls. Running with girls isn’t so bad. They understand recovery. Tomorrow I’ll cash our check at the bank and distribute the winnings. Minus my management fee.
Another perfect day to be snowshoeing along the Peak-to-Peak Highway. This morning we drove to Beaver Reservoir which sits half way between Brainard Lake and Peaceful Valley. The trailhead lies two miles down County Road 96, which is marked on Hwy 72 by a sign for the Tahosa Boy Scout Camp. The trail crosses the road about a quarter mile before the reservoir. We simply parked on the side of the road.
We started out southbound on the Sourdough Trail. The trail was a bit hard to spot among new growth aspen and evergreen. We turned around on a ridge after nearly a half mile because the snow was fading and the trail just wasn’t very pretty. This was a good call as we discovered the northbound trail to be absolutely gorgeous. We might have known since there were no tracks southbound but several northbound.
We skipped the Millsite Inn this trip and lunched at Oscar Blues in Lyons. The weather was so nice we ate outside on the deck. This marks our third consecutive weekend to snowshoe. We hope to squeeze in a couple more jaunts through the woods and snow before I head to Austin. This really is ideal training for a marathon. Tomorrow I have a four mile cross country race in Boulder. Ellie plans to run it too.