Post Race Analysis

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finisher photo with EllieFinishing a marathon is hard.  Harder yet is committing to run it and training for it.  So I felt like a winner before even lining up in the corral.  But inevitably, one thinks about the experience differently once it’s over.  For the first time ever after a marathon, I ran the following day.  Just three miles to loosen up, but I ran.  This fall weather is too perfect not to run.  I ran though because I could.  My muscles have sufficiently recovered.  Getting a post-race pedicure helped.  That melted the strain from my feet and calves.  A few times I’ve been able to walk the day following a marathon to work out the kinks.  I’m mildly surprised though I was able to actually run.  Typically, my only post marathon goal is to navigate the stairs.

mile 16 in City ParkI’ve spent the last week analyzing my race.  I’ve been racking my brain trying to determine where I could have run a minute faster to break 3:30.  Not sure I could have run any faster.  In fact, had I not changed my goal to try for 3:30, I’m certain I would have run a more enjoyable 5 to 10 minutes slower.  I modified my strategy at the half way point to try for an 8 minute pace.  I averaged a 7:50 up until then.  Actually, I held a 7:50 through 17 miles.  Then the wheels began to fall off.  I ran mile 18, a downhill mile, slower than my previous uphill miles.

I slowed down on mile 18 running down 17th Street after exhausting myself running three fast miles through City Park.  I was seriously chasing down runners through the park trying to push myself.  My pre-race plan was to make up time sprinting downhill on 17th Street.  Hard to say what the smarter plan is now.  I suspect pushing myself for 3 miles is better than running hard for 1 mile.  I might have netted a half minute from that.

mile 9 near Coors FieldIf there is anywhere I could have run smarter, I probably should have run a bit slower on miles 8, 9, and 10.  I planned to run these hard but really this is too early in a marathon.  Next time, I’m going to run the first half as close to pace as possible.  Then try for a negative split.  Such plans will depend on the course elevation.  I planned my Denver tactics on the elevation chart, but could have run the first half one or two minutes slower.

I’m certain I could not have run faster the final 10K, because I tried.  Mentally, I was motivated and gave it everything I had.  There was a point on Speer, in mile 20 or 21, where I tried to run faster.  My heart rate shot up though, giving me a queasy feeling.  After that, my legs were unresponsive.  Similar to my three miles through City Park, I pushed myself through the two miles within Washington Park.  Just like my slow downhill mile 18, mile 24 was downhill, but slower than the previous two.

parkI think I gave it all I had.  If I feel like breaking 3:30 is important, I’ll sign up for a race at sea level.  And I take back what I wrote earlier about running 5 to 10 minutes slower being more enjoyable.  I did enjoy a couple of miles in City Park where I pushed my pace.  Not only was I passing other runners, but I found myself in a race with a couple of ladies, whom I passed for good.  And another guy who took me two full miles to pass – at mile 17.  He later passed me back for good at mile 22.  That was less enjoyable because I was pushing myself then too.  Ever been in a dream when you’re running, but in slow motion?  It’s like your legs are asleep.  That’s not unlike what it feels like after 20 miles.  You’re not winded – because you’re running so slow –  yet you can’t seem to get a response out of your legs.  It’s fairly frustrating.

mile 12Still, I met all my pre-race goals.  Even though I could no longer accelerate after 20 miles, I felt comfortable and never actually bonked.  And I didn’t cramp.  Having the energy to maintain a relatively stable pace in the 4th quarter, and not cramping, are somewhat similar goals.  I consider them separate though.  One goal is about managing fuel, the other is more specific on electrolytes.  I maybe should have consumed more Skratch in the final 6 miles.  I only drank a total 20 ounces over the three and a half hour run.  That seems light.  But really, it didn’t warm up until Washington Park.

Overall, I did most things right.  As good as I’ve ever run a marathon.  First time I ever ran parts of a marathon with a buddy, that was fun.  This is me running alongside Chris at mile 12.  And technically, I did break 3:30 for 26.2 miles – by about 30 seconds.  Problem is, actual distances are farther in a real race.  I ran a total of 26.42 miles.  Moving on, I should probably consider another run soon while I’m still in shape.  Maybe the Longmont Turkey Trot in November?

The Marathon

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finishI rise at 4:30.  AM.  Per my nutrition plan, I forgo coffee.  Discipline.  I’m serious about this run.  Not in a stressful way.  I’m going to have fun today.  This run is going to feel awesome.  My goal is to run an even, steady pace.  Maintaining my pace in the 4th quarter of a marathon requires a slower start and not prematurely boosting my metabolism before the event with coffee or breakfast.  I don’t really know if this will work.  My experience running suggests I’ll benefit from the slower start.  As for delaying my metabolism, well, I read the Internet.

Chris picks me up at 5:15.  We drive down together to the VIP parking spot close to the race start.  We are there an hour before start, but I almost feel rushed.  Time goes by fast.  I do take a sip of coffee before the race, but this is within 30 minutes of start time.  At least I think so at the time.  The 7:15 start is delayed by nearly ten minutes waiting for street closures.  I take some potassium supplements too before the start.  Trying to avoid muscle cramps in the 4th quarter is the focus of my nutrition plan.

This year’s course has some key changes.  We still run down 14th Street, past the Pepsi Center.  Instead of crossing Speer, we turn west on it and run up and around Sloan Lake.  The lake neighborhood is pretty once we reach it.  This is a much hillier course.  This doesn’t bother me since it’s early in the run.  I pace with Chris the first two miles as he starts out with controlled 9 minute miles before accelerating to a 7:30 pace.  My Garmin records 8:58 the first mile, and 8:32 for mile two.  This is the last I see of Chris for awhile as he quickly surges away on an uphill segment.  The road conditions are a bit disappointing with significant construction debris.  I later meet a woman who fell and was injured from this.

My goal pace for today is 8:30 but I speed up after these initial hills.  I complete mile 3 in 8:00.  The course around Sloan Lake flattens out for miles 4 and 5.  I run these in 7:53 and 7:27.  I’m speeding up but it’s early.  I feel very comfortable with this pace though and feel like I can maintain it without much effort.  Mile 6 is another uphill.  I run mile 6 in 7:28.  This completes the first 10K – at a faster clip than I planned.  Sloan Lake fades from view but we continue through some picturesque neighborhoods painted yellow, red and orange in the fall colors.

Mile 7 continues the incline.  I begin chatting with a runner who is complaining about the hills.  I tell him I’m pleased with the course change up.  Hills aren’t bad when they are early in a race.  I maintain a decent pace with a 7:41.  Mile 8 begins the drop back into downtown Denver and my pace drops a half minute to 7:19.  My pre-race plan, from studying the elevation profile, is to leverage this descent and run miles 8 and 9 with some speed.  I run mile 9 in 6:53.  I’m not concerned about running too fast here because it’s part of my plan to bank some minutes under pace before the half.

I suspect I’ll be able to maintain this momentum through downtown.  Well, on paper the night before in my planning.  Partly because the streets should be flat and because the crowds should be thick and motivational.  This turns out to be the case and I find myself catching back up to Chris.  He stops at a port-a-potty before I can call out to him.  This puts me ahead of him.  My evil side considers speeding up to put some distance between us.  I know though it’s too early for moves like that.  I run mile 10 in 7:34.

While I know Chris will eventually catch me, I’m surprised he closes the gap so quickly.  He calls out to me in the warehouse district north of Coors Field – just before mile 11.  I record 7:24 and Chris pulls even with me heading into mile 12.  Chris’ wife Renee and daughter are here and take some photos.  We run mile 12 together, chatting along about how we feel.  We are both starting to feel some fatigue at this point.  At nearly halfway, that’s to be expected.  We run mile 12 in 7:44.  I want to hang with Chris until we reach 17th street, where I expect to slow down from the hill that begins past Broadway.  Chris surges though to return to his race pace plans and I lose him again.

I’m a little bummed that I slow down on mile 13 to an 8:04, but it’s not unexpected.  This is a real hill.  And it’s still well under my 8:30 pace plan.  In fact, I complete the first half with a 7:50 overall average pace at 1:41 for 13 miles.  I’m happy with this.  Mile 14 is similar in 8:02, also uphill.  I’m starting to consider I might be able to maintain an 8 minute pace and begin to reset my pre-race goal of 8:30.  For this, I want to drop back down under 8 minutes per mile and I do.  The course flattens out through colorful City Park.  I run mile 15 in 7:39, mile 16 in 7:45 and mile 17 in 7:58.

Again, my pre-race strategy included the hope I could pick up some momentum on the return downtown via 17th Street, because it’s a downhill mile.  Instead, I post 8:08 for mile 18.  My surge through City Park costs me.  This is also a critical point in the marathon, where many runners hit the wall.  Fatigue is to be expected here.  I’m stoked that I’m still running around an 8 minute pace.  I begin though taking it mile by mile.  No more grand expectations.  I set my objective each mile for 8 minutes.  Mile 19 comes in at 7:55.  This will be my last mile under 8 minutes.  I pass Chris again here on Lincoln Street as he slows down for water at the aid station.  He passes me back almost immediately, but slows again on Speer.  Chris is hitting the wall.

I’m feeling it too.   Speer might appear flat to drivers.  I can tell you though, 20 miles into a marathon, Speer has a definite incline.  The slightest inclines become monster hills this deep into a marathon.  I slow down to 8:03 for mile 20 and 8:43 for mile 21.  This worries me that the wheels are starting to fall off but the course flattens out as we head into Washington Park.  This helps me to post an 8:29 for mile 22 and 8:24 for mile 23.  My total time here is 3 hours and 2 minutes.  It’s amazingly difficult to perform simple math when you’re this physically exhausted, but I begin to think I might have a chance at finishing in 3:30.  That would qualify me for Boston.

This excites me and I try to speed up.  I’m too tired by now though and despite some down slope, I slow down to an 8:39.  Bummer, but this is what happens near the end of a marathon.  The legs stop responding.  Mile 25 is mostly along Speer again and has a good downward slope too.  I run this in 8:18.  I’m pushing for that 3:30 but my updated calculations suggest it’s out of reach.  The hill up Lincoln on mile 26 doesn’t help.  My final mile is in 8:34 and I cross the finish line in 3:31.  7th place in my age division.

warehouse disctrictI’m disappointed to be so close to qualifying for Boston, but elated overall that this run went so well.  My overall pace is 7:59 because I actually run two tenths of a mile further than a marathon.  That oddity is from weaving side-to-side along the course, elongating the official distance.  I never cramp, even after the race.  I feel great and that was my goal for today.  My time is a PR by over 5 minutes.  I meet up with Chris and his family later in the day at Shoes and Brews in Longmont for a couple of beers.  From there, I get a pedicure at Main Street Nails.  Their location isn’t on Main Street in case you try driving there.  I’m currently ensconced on the couch watching Manning school the 49ers and set some passing records.  Great day.

 

Wild Basin

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Wild Basin TrailheadMy marathon eve workout today consisted of hiking with my in-laws in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.  We hiked along the Ouzel Falls Trail, which Karen and I first explored back in July.  The weather was ideal – crisp air and full sun.  The Aspen leaves have all fallen at 8500 feet, but the scenery was still stunning.

ellieWe made it as far as Calypso Falls.  Ellie was bouncing all over Upper Calypso Falls snapping photos.  The trail overall is fairly pedestrian.  Barbara surprised me with her spry gait, jumping across creeks and rocks.  My in-laws felt comfortable with both the terrain and elevation. It’s a great family hike.  We lunched afterward at Oscar Blues in Lyons.

BarbaraLater this afternoon, I drove into Denver to pick up my race packet at the Convention Center.  Race expos are big events.  Since I got back into road races 5 years ago, the expo has apparently become an integral component of the Race business model.  I wish I knew the percentage of sales generated from the expo vs registration fees and other merchandise ordered as part of the event sign up.  I just spent a few minutes querying online but didn’t find much.  The Rock & Roll race series, like many others, requires packet pickup at the expo.  I didn’t buy anything but did spend $12 parking.

I’m looking forward to a great day tomorrow.  I expect to run an 8:30 pace.  I’d like to run a bit faster but my primary goal is to run well the final six miles by holding my pace.  I plan to wear a camelbak in order to hydrate with my own electrolyte cocktail – Skratch.  I’ve been training with it.  I like the taste and my stomach does well with it.  I also expect to start out running the first couple of miles with my buddy Chris Price.  He maintains a very disciplined approach and runs the first two miles at a 9 minute pace.  He then speeds up to around 7:30.  His goal is to break 3:20 to qualify for Boston.  I’ll let him go and should finish 20 to 30 minutes behind him.

Taper Weekend

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finisher photoThis is taper weekend.  Maybe not for you.  Runners spend months building up their endurance with ever longer distances.  As the date of the marathon nears, runners begin to reduce the distance.  There are a number of fairly specialized programs runners can follow.  Many are free, just a few clicks away.  Runners can purchase others with just one click.

Tapering is a subset of the training program speaking to the last few weeks of the complete regimen.  A quick google will enumerate a number of tapering ideas.  I didn’t taper with three and two weeks left.  That appears to be the prescription.  I began this final week.  I do subscribe to the notion that tapering improves race day performance.  I’m going with it.

I generally set my running goals for the year.  I don’t look to a single race to totally achieve that goal.  I judge the year at the end.  I believe we are near the end of the year.  By my count, I’ve only had three events so far and they were all last winter.  First January, then February, and another in March.  Karen and I were out on snowshoes more than that.  Plus, I don’t have any runs planned after the Denver Marathon.  That does makes this the end of the year.  I’m going to heed the advice of magazine stories and taper this final week.  I’m not targeting a specific time but I want to run strong and feel good doing it.  I’ll be taking measure of my nutrition plan for success in this.  I expect to run an 8:30 pace, which would be fast for me.  At 165, I feel like I’m in racing shape.

Denver Marathon 2012I ran 12 miles today on the LoBo Trail, rather than my typical 18 to 20 miles for a Saturday.  And I won’t exceed 6 miles for any one run over the next week, as opposed to my standard 8 mile run.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I expect to taper down to 4 and 3 miles as I approach next Friday.  I’ll run 3 miles Saturday too because I believe in working out the day before a big race.  Too late to condition of course but it primes the pump.  No one workout will be critical the final week and it won’t hurt to miss a day, but I feel good having a light run the day before.

Nutrition is one of my marathon goals.   The sort of goal that spans several years.    My concern is more around storing sodium, potassium and magnesium.  And hydration.  From what I’ve read, runners don’t necessarily want to load up on sodium, but I still want to consume it in sufficient quantities.  The only vitamin I take is D3, at the advice of my doctor.  I’m eating bananas for breakfast to load up on potassium and magnesium.  This will address my proclivity for muscle cramps.  I’m eating a ton of Kale from my garden.  I don’t have a sodium supplement.  Do they make one?  Is it called salt?  I don’t salt my food much after cooking – if I cook – but I’m a big fan of that substance.  I’ve never latched on to taking supplements, other than my D3.  I find them complicated.  I would not have fared well on Lance’s bike team.  I also plan to hydrate.  I started today.  Just after the beer my haircut lady gave me.

Denver Marathon Finish LineI enjoyed the shorter run today and having more time and energy for other weekend activities.  Idle feet are the devil’s workshop.  I got my hair cut.  I downloaded Ken Follett’s trilogy completion.  I stripped peeling paint off the carriage house.  I’ll paint it tomorrow, first with primer.   Fixed Ellie’s broken iPhone screen for $139 (tax incl.).  An ounce of prevention, but seriously – my parents didn’t have unplanned smart phone expenses when I was a kid.  Add that to the car.

This will be my 4th Denver Marathon.  The full res photos from top to bottom are all Denver Marathons:  2013, then 2012 and to the left is 2010.

Sluggish Week

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knife edgeI like this photo.  Mostly because it has me in it.  But also because George captures in this pic the absolutely fantastic backdrop I have all day Saturday as I backpack at 13,000 feet along the Continental Divide.  Wish I was still out there.  Instead I’m back to running the LoBo trail.  It’s a nice trail but it’s not the same thing.  I will tell you though that this morning, while still early fall, the peaks of the Front Range are buried under spectacularly, shimmering white snow.  What a gorgeous fall day in Colorado!

Despite the cool seasonal weather this week, my legs have been heavy and sluggish.  I expected a little speed with the dropping temps but not this week.  I went long this morning and started off okay, but my pace slowed down after ten miles.  I went for twenty but walked in the last two.  When your pace slows to essentially walking, you might as well walk.

I don’t think my sluggish week is related to recovery from my three days backpacking the Continental Divide.  I blame work.  My boss has been out on medical so I’m covering for her.  That woman has quite the schedule.  Been working 6am to 10pm almost every day.  Part of what she does is report status on the projects I’m supposed to be driving.  So I tried to do my day job as well in order to have some status to report.  Tried to do it all and probably sucked at everything.  It didn’t leave much time for running but I tried to do that too since my marathon is right around the corner.  I suspect I was drained mentally rather than physically.

I don’t let this stuff get to me.  I know I’m in shape.  I had a super three  mile race with La Plata from the Bakerville exit to the Grays Trailhead on Sunday.  I imagine that included a 1500 foot climb in elevation.  We totally smoked it.  That felt good.  Two more weeks until the Denver Marathon.  Time to taper anyway.  Jen is prodding me to run eight with the gang tomorrow.  Her style, usually effective, is to call me a pussy if I don’t go.  Planning on sleeping in tomorrow though.

Silver Plume

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SignSeemingly everything in this gulch, if it isn’t named silver this or silver that, is named argentine something.  That doesn’t refer to the South American country, which one could easily think considering the creek on the other side of Argentine Pass is named Peru.  Argentine is Latin for silver.  The element Ag in your chemistry class.  So there you go.  This is where silver was discovered in Colorado over 100 years ago.

George on aspen trailWe’re up early this morning for trailhead coffee but skip the regular oatmeal.  We’re hoping to find something open in Silver Plume.  We drop down from Pavilion Point along three miles of the most perfect, picturesque running trail imaginable.  The sides are lined with golden yellow and burning orange Aspen.  The trail is buried in fallen leaves.  The dirt is soft and the grade smooth because 100 years earlier it provided footing for a silver mine train.  After the mines closed, the train carried tourists to McClellan Mountain.  So many of the trails today in Colorado were once the routes to work for miners.

aspen trailThis morning’s hike feels anti-climatic.  This is our third official day on the trail but we’re coming down from the Continental Divide.  Could be I find these Aspen trees so spectacular because I’ve been above treeline for the last two days.  Yesterday’s scrambling across a knife edge continues to thrill my memories.  I tell La Plata I want to complete that ridge with him when he returns.

Silver Plume Tea HouseThe trail bottoms out in Silver Plume at exit 226.  That suggests we have a five mile walk to Bakerville.  That’s fine, it will be easy hiking at relatively low altitude.  We enter the sleepy town looking for anything open.  La Plata queries a garage mechanic for water while I encounter a hotel proprietor and engage her in a conversation.  This pleasant lady owns the Windsor Hotel B&B and instructs me to turn right on Main Street in search of the best bakery ever.  George and I recover La Plata from the garage and we walk down Main Street.  We don’t find the bakery (maybe she said turn left) but discover the Silver Plume Tea Room instead.  They are closed for a party but forgot to lock the door and we wander in.  They graciously feed us thinking we might be gone before their brunch party begins.  Their food is incredible.  I have waffles with walnuts and drink copious amounts of flavorful coffee.  We take turns resupplying our camelbaks with water from their restroom, and leave after having pie for desert.

Breck Brew PubWe hike the service road to the Bakerville exit, leaving just three miles to our truck parked up a steep jeep road at the Gray’s Trailhead.  La Plata and I leave our backpacks with George at the overflow parking lot to make a quick run up to our truck.  We estimate we can manage a 2 mph pace if we don’t stop.  That will get us there in 90 minutes.  Instead, we get competitive and race up in 44 minutes.  A 4 mph pace.  A totally satisfying way to end our three days on the trail.  Next, we pick up La Plata’s truck and quaff some beers and lunch at the Breckenridge Brewery.  After, I drop George off at DIA and head home to finish the weekend with family.

Backpacking might not be the most logical weekend training regimen to prepare for the Denver Marathon.  I sort of think it is.  My legs are exhausted.  I’ll know for sure in a few weeks.

Argentine Pass

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Argentine PassLa Plata calls us to trailhead coffee at 5:30am and we’re back on the trail by 6:30.  Another group of hikers launch even earlier from the Argentine Pass Trailhead and pass us on the ascent with their much lighter backpacks.  One of the gentlemen is 72 years old.  We chat with them on the pass and discover we are trekking backwards on the CDT.  Turns out we should have taken the trail on the left coming off Grays Peak.  The high point behind La Plata and me in this photo standing atop Argentine Pass is Grays Peak.  Rather than bushwhack our way into the valley, the CDT continues along the ridge to the right in this picture.  We are correct in that this pass is part of the CDT, but we should be going the other direction.  Hmm.

above treelineWe do the math on turning around and determine it will be highly unlikely we will reach Georgia Pass in time for George to make his flight home Sunday evening.  We determine our best course of action is to complete the loop by crossing the ridge we missed and return to our original starting point via Grays Peak.  This might allow us to go into town for a nice dinner.  We can find a suitable hike for Sunday.  We’re flexible.  I’m quite excited about the prospect of real food for dinner.  While La Plata actually has an agenda to complete the entire CDT from Mexico to Canada – eventually – I’m happy doing whatever.  I just like to get out from my basement office and breathe some fresh air.  George agrees and we head back toward Grays Peak in a loop.

Horseshoe BasinMuch of the trail resembles the photo above with La Plata and George walking seemingly aimlessly among the rocks and tundra above treeline.  Apparently this section of the CDT entertains few hikers because there is no discernible trail.  The path is essentially a ridge though, connecting Argentine Peak to Argentine Pass to Mount Edwards to Grays Peak.  We try to follow the cairns, or in narrower sections, simply stay between the edges.  The ridge varies in width from 50 yards to maybe 10 yards.  The view is incredible.  This photo looks down into Horseshoe Basin, where we camped the previous night.  That’s Ruby Mountain behind me.

narrowing ridgeGeorge and I are both a little disappointed that we aren’t now hiking down slope.  Argentine Pass is the highest pass on the CDT.  Climbing it for breakfast was no small effort.  This ridge is a series of hills undulating up and down, with Mount Edwards as the high point until reaching Grays Peak.  We don’t reach Grays Peak though.  As you can see in this photo of La Plata descending Mount Edwards towards Grays Peak, the ridge begins to narrow.  The section beyond is referred to as a knife edge.

hold on to somethingIn this photo, La Plata demonstrates the need to begin holding on to the top of the ridge for balance.  This isn’t nearly as thin as the ridge eventually becomes, but I’m not comfortable taking pictures on the more exposed sections.  I need both hands.  We traverse some extremely exposed trail, above 2000 foot slopes.  I’m surprised with myself that I am comfortable with it.  We don’t reach the even scarier parts though.

2000 feet downWith this view looking down 2000 feet as motivation, we make the decision to turn around.  None of us feel uncomfortable with the exposure.  But we figure it will take us four hours to cross this series of increasingly more exposed ridges to Grays Peak.  Carrying 35 pound backpacks is the reason for our slow pace.  It also will lead to balance issues.  We know that we will be highly fatigued after two hours of this unnerving trek and that we will begin to lose confidence in our footing.  Having to take another step, totally bonked, with no room for error, is not something any of us care to experience.  We also expect the chance of rain, with the corresponding lightening, while out on the knife edge.  We make the tough call to turn around.

back from the knife edgeI say tough call because we really have no good plan at this point for getting home in time.  Our first thought is to hike out of Horseshoe Basin below.  We don’t have a map so we don’t know the distance, but suspect we could find our way to Keystone.  And we could do so by end of day Sunday assuming we can hitch a ride along the way.  We discuss options as we hike back over the ridge.

GeorgeNone of us are overly concerned.  We made the right call for safety.  We are now faced with the possibility of walking until Monday afternoon plus likely needing to hitchhike to reach our car.  I learn a little something about La Plata and George.  Like me, this is just another part of the trail.  We almost enjoy it.  We take it in stride and work the problem.  We encounter a half dozen jeeps and another six quads upon our return to Argentine Pass.  We’ve fully considered the route out Horseshoe Basin and ask them about what’s on the other side.  Jeeps can’t drive over the pass but can only come up on the eastern side.  We figure from Georgetown.

Really?  40 minutes?It’s exceptional really just how ignorant most of these tourist are of where they came from.  I say this knowing full well that I’m essentially lost myself.  One guy tells us it was just a forty minute drive on his Quad from Georgetown.  That equates to an easy hike for us but I know if that were true, I would be able to see the town from here.  No one can actually tell us anything meaningful.  It’s like even the drivers weren’t paying attention.  One does consult his GPS, after I prompt him too.  That tells us it is 17 miles to Guanella Pass Road, and another 3 miles to Georgetown.  We determine that is doable and more deterministic than hiking toward Keystone.  We have a new plan.

MooseWe save time on the descent by bushwhacking straight down, cutting across all the jeep road switchbacks.  We nearly beat some of the jeeps down.  The bottom begins a comfortable trail that follows an old mining railroad.  The gradual grade helps our legs recover after the brutal plummet off the pass.  And we are rewarded for our efforts by sighting this moose.  Not something one sees when roaring by in a loud vehicle.  To see the moose, you might have to click to enlarge the photo.

Leavenworth Creek RdWe have to hike for several hours along this jeep road, but it turns quite picturesque with Aspen trees.  We encounter a mountain biker who informs us we don’t need to hike to Georgetown.  There’s a trail that splits off the road that leads to Silver Plume.  At that point, it’s only a 3 mile hike into town.  It takes us until nearly nightfall to reach this point and we setup camp.

tentOur camp site is across from a large chimney that apparently used to have a house attached to it.  We learn later this is Pavilion Point.  If you click on this photo of my tent, you’ll notice a line of car lights in the distance.  Three miles downhill is I-70.  We are so close to Silver Plume, we can taste breakfast.  We suspect the walk from there to our trailhead might be 6 miles, give or take.  We should be fine.

Grays & Torreys

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GeorgeI take a half day Thursday, which at IBM somehow adds up to 5.5 hours.  I rent a high clearance 4WD vehicle and pick up George from DIA.  George is La Plata’s ole UT college buddy.  He lives in Austin with his French wife Nathalie and two sons.  On our drive up to Summit County, I discover George, while soft-spoken, is an ex-Marine.  He’ll be fine over the next few days.  He’s prepped well with hikes in the Guadalupe Mountains.  And George writes a great blog.  Not sure how to describe the content.  Mostly athletic oriented, but he’s a horizontal thinker who can mix up genres.

Grays TrailheadWe meet up with La Plata at Empire Burgers in Breck.  Afterward, we drive to the Georgia Pass trailhead to camp for the night.  This trailhead is located on the Middle Fork of Tiger Road.  We seem to forget this and drive up the South Fork of Tiger Road.  We spend a good hour searching for the trailhead in the dark, on a wicked 4WD jeep road.  We finally determine to try the other trailhead we are familiar with.  It would add three miles to our hike.  Fortunately, this turns out to be the TH we were looking for to begin with.  Issue is there are three forks to Tiger Road.  North, Middle and South.  The two THs to Georgia Pass on the Colorado Trail are on the North and Middle Forks, not the South Fork.  Great camping spots on the Middle Fork.

Grays THLa Plata wakes us up before sunrise with trailhead coffee.  We leave behind his truck and take mine into Frisco for breakfast.  I forget the name of the place, but I have huevos rancheros and La Plata picks up the tab.  Then George generously pays for my gas on the way out of town.  We drive back toward Denver, through the tunnel, and take the Bakerville exit 221, just a few miles east of Loveland Pass.  There’s a large parking area here.  I imagine it’s for the Grays Trailhead for people without 4WD, but could be overflow parking for the Loveland Pass Ski Area.  There is a paved bike path from this lot all the way to Loveland Pass.  I plan to bring my friends up here sometime to run it.

Torreys PeakWe drive the dirt road up through Stevens Gulch to the trailhead.  There are two popular 14ers accessible from this trailhead – Grays and Torreys.  We snag the last available parking spot.  Breakfast slowed us down and we don’t launch until nearly 9am.  Unlike many trails, this one begins at treeline with a gentle grade.  I imagine George appreciates the easy warmup as we intend to climb both 14ers – first Torreys, then Grays.  And that’s what we do.  The trail leads up a few miles to a Y junction where the left leads to Grays and the right to Torreys.  We hike toward Torreys because Grays is on the path we expect to continue on for the Continental Divide Trail.  Both peaks are named for botanists colleagues of the botanist who first climbed these mountains in the late 1800s.  In the photo above with us three standing at the trailhead sign, Grays is on the left and Torreys on the right.

Grays PeakOur branch of the trail reaches a massive cairn on the ridge between the two peaks.  There is another option to turn toward a different approach up Grays.  We smartly drop our 35 pound backpacks at the cairn before the half mile climb up Torreys.  We expect a long day and need to conserve energy.  I find the views interesting atop the peak because I am so familiar with Summit County.  The peak actually forms the border between Summit and Clear Creek counties.  In the second photo above of the three of us, the Keystone ski slopes are to the left, behind my right shoulder.  Lake Dillon and Frisco are further back.  You can’t see it in this pic but we can also see the Breckenridge ski slopes back behind Keystone.  Click to enlarge any of the photos.  The photo here of George is on Grays Peak and looks back upon Torreys.

ScoutWith the close proximity to Denver, there are countless other hikers.  The slope spreads them out well enough so it doesn’t feel crowded, but we enjoy some lively conversation.  One girl carries a Captain America shield over her backpack.  Another girl wants us to know where to meet her later for pizza and beer in Idaho Springs.  She doesn’t guess from our bulging backpacks that we plan to stay out on the trail for a few days.

scree plungeLa Plata scouts our descent down the eastern slope of Grays Peak while George and I rest.  There are three routes and we aren’t exactly certain because we didn’t bring a map.  I do have an app of the CDT on my iPhone but it’s difficult to make sense of it without the GPS showing our location.  I have it in airplane mode to conserve power.  I only use it as a camera.  We elect to take the trail that appears to be the most direct route down to Peru Creek where we expect to camp for our first night.  We can see the trail across Horseshoe Basin climb up to Argentine Pass, and we know that pass is on our route, so we feel confident.

Mount RubyTo call our descent steep would be an understatement.  We plunge down a wicked slope of rocks and scree.  Some of the most treacherous scree I’ve ever encountered.  We take care to ensure we don’t send an avalanche down on each other’s heads.  And we debate the senselessness of the phrase, “head’s up”.  We’re certain though we prefer this route over the trail option to the right.  It would trek across some jagged crags to Ruby Mountain.  That option is pictured here with the small lake at the bottom.  We later meet a hiker who traversed it.  He rates it a class 4 which means scrambling with your hands and massive exposure.  Our route is only class 2, but as difficult as any hiking I’ve ever done.  I follow Nathalie’s ski advice to George, “turn inside”.  The comparison to downhill skiing is fair.  We all agree we wouldn’t want to return up this trail.

Mount Edwards RouteThis photo depicts the trail option to the left that we could have taken from the top of Gray’s Peak.  It doesn’t look easy either.  And we don’t exactly see a trail on it.  We find out later, this is in fact the route we should have taken.  Instead, we bushwhack our way to the bottom.  We ultimately find the trailhead for a trail to Argentine Pass.  We’re fairly certain we are back on track now and begin searching for a spot to camp.

campfireThere are no good flat spots but we find a site that is good enough.  It’s close to a flowing creek.  Having water is more critical than a flat site to sleep.  We pitch our tents as the sun sets an alpenglow on the side of Mount Argentine.  I scratch my forehead on a tree branch while pitching my tent.  I don’t pay it much attention as I inhale my freeze-dried Mountain House dinner.  La Plata sparks up an exceptional fire and we retire shortly after dark with plans to start early again tomorrow.

Berthoud Pass

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sunriseI receive the email Friday afternoon informing me that the October 5th Boulder Marathon is cancelled.  I have made such a big deal out of this race that I’m stunned.  But only momentarily.  I quickly recover and register for the Denver Marathon October 19th before it’s full.  I’m fast to move on.

A few hours later, I drive up via I-70 to Idaho Springs.  I meet La Plata at the Tommyknocker brew pub at 6:30.  We break bread and share grape.  More specifically, we have jalapeno poppers and mac-n-cheese with red chili.  This is similar to Cincinnati chili, but with mac rather than spaghetti.  Very satisfying and highly recommended.  After dinner, we shuffle my van to the massive parking lot on top of Berthoud Pass and camp down at the Herman Gulch Trailhead off I-70 at exit 218.

Herman LakeThis site is less than ideal with incessant engine noise reverberating along the canyon walls throughout the night.  I don’t sleep well, but at least it’s warm.  We breakfast on oatmeal and trailhead coffee.  At 6:30am, we hit the trail.  We gain 3000 feet in elevation over the first six miles.  By this time, we also shed our cold weather gear and are down to running shorts and a T.  I wear my Pearl Izumi 2and1 ultra trail running shorts.  The long seam brief works well to protect against chaffing.  These shorts are great but could use additional pockets.  I’d like to see what I call a “shark knife pocket” stitched on the brief alongside the outside thigh.  It would be underneath the shorts so it would not be visible.  I’m thinking of two or three times the size of the gel pockets along the back sides.

saddleDespite the steep grade, we get in a little running each mile.  I can’t begin to describe how perfect this supple trail is for running.  You can see it well here if you click to enlarge this photo.  The ground feels raw with fresh dirt.  We’re quickly above treeline and mostly stay above 12,000 feet.  Our highest point is 13,200.  Not surprisingly for a trail following the Continental Divide, it runs mostly along the very top of the ridge with unbelievable views in every direction.  At one point, we are running a thin ridge lined with craggy rocks.  I feel like I’m running across Godzilla’s spine.

ridgeThe sun is out strong and creates interesting light between glare and shade along the ridge.  You can see how the trail undulates along the ridge in this photo with La Plata.  You can even see some snow to the right.  The cool air countered the full sun and kept us comfortable all day.  We both forget to wear hats but apply liberal amounts of sunscreen continuously.  Still, the backs of my legs are now sunburned.

beaver creek coupleThe muscles in the backs of my legs are hurting too.  The 6000 feet of total elevation gain is a tremendous workout for my calves, hamstrings and glutes.  This twenty-plus mile run along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is perfect marathon training.  Rather than the three hour, twenty mile workouts I’ve been running on the weekends, this run will take eight hours.  We planned for eight and we finish with twelve minutes to spare.  Clearly, it’s mostly hiking, but at an aggressive pace.  Averaging over 12,000 feet, we are often winded as if we are running.  It feels great to be up here with light packs.  The weight in my pack is mostly from the 70 ounces of water in my camelback reservoir.  I also carry warmer gear should the weather turn bad – which it never does.  For nutrition, I carry Epic Bars and Hammer Gels.  I have Skratch mixed in my water.  The idea is to practice consuming what I will rely upon for my marathon to ensure my stomach can handle it and that it keeps my muscles from cramping.  Everything works out great.

rocksMy new trails shoes also do well.  These New Balance Leadville 1210s have a rock plate in the front of the sole.  I don’t feel it in there, these shoes are so pliable, but I never feel any rocks either so it does the job.  These would have been fine shoes to race the Boulder Marathon in, on that course’s dirt roads.  Their tread proves capable on this extreme trail by gripping loose dirt with confidence during steep descents.  My ankles are quite fatigued now, hiking boots would have provided better support.  But I love being able to run a trail with light shoes and pack.  I’m thinking though about buying new shoes for the Denver Marathon as that run is entirely on paved streets.  I’ve been thinking about buying a pair of Hokas.  I know they are a bit gimmicky, but everyone I’ve talked to, like Gadget Girl, absolutely loves them.  I would need to train in them of course first, but I have time for that.

jones passAnother new item I intend to pick up for the Denver Marathon is a gel-like snack La Plata gave me – GoGo Squeez.  It’s 30 calories less than my 90 calorie Hammer Gel, although 3 times the volume at 3.2 ounces.  Still, the real fruit content is yummy.  Not often you can say that about these sports foods.  Plus the twist cap is convenient and overall the pack is less sticky than gels.  There is nothing better than real food.  Fruit performs well in terms of supplying quick energy.  All these products do well on my stomach while running.  And fortunately, I didn’t have issues with the poppers from the night before.

berthoud passI expect to see more people out on this trail, being so close to Denver.  I can’t imagine a better day to be out here.  We do see a couple wearing Beaver Creek caps.  Several other hikers and one trail runner.  And a few bikers.  They really impress me with the technical nature of this trail.  Good for them though, riding on top of the world.

jennysSaturday’s 20.6 mile trail run was so much better than I could have imagined.  Perfect in every way.  From the weather, to our pace, to my conditioning that made itself evident.  Despite the altitude, my breathing felt strong.  And the workout my legs received will help me in the Denver Marathon.  We lunch at Jenny’s, a small cafe in Empire.  We both eat the half pound buffalo burger.  Very tasty.  We will meet up again next weekend for a forty mile backpacking hike along the CDT that extends from near Breckenridge to the Grays and Torreys Peaks.  We’ll be joined on this outing by La Plata’s college buddy, George Schools.  George is an extremely fit athlete from Austin.  This could turn out to be a three-day race under the load of 35 pound backpacks.  Can’t wait.

Muddy Trails

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muddy trailsWe’ve had some rain and snow the last couple of days.  That doesn’t help the trail conditions but the cool weather is a decent trade off.  This morning’s twenty mile run began in a crisp 43°.  It finished less than three hours later still under 60°.  The cool clime contributed to an 8:33 pace.  Twenty seconds per mile faster than last Saturday.

This is my final tough workout before the Boulder Marathon on October 5th.  Hoping for similar weather then.  I only drank one liter of Scratch and consumed the same quantity of Hammer Gels as last week – three for a total of 240 calories.  I plan to double that during the marathon.  I burned about 3000 calories and lost five pounds in two hours and fifty-four minutes.  An hour later, I feel great.  I’m ready.

To let you know, the race starts from the Boulder Res at 7:15am.  The course loops through the res again at the half.  Chris Price should be coming through the res on his first half at 8:45am.  I expect to pass through at about 9:00am.  Come out to support us and take pics.  Chris is pushing to break 3:20.  I hope to finish in 3:45.

Shoes & Brews

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Leadville 1210The day after last Saturday’s nightmarish trail run, I went to Shoes & Brews to buy this new pair of trail running shoes.  The New Balance Leadville 1210s.  This is how you recover from a bad run; you buy a new pair of shoes.  Running’s not complicated.

This was my first visit since they opened.  How brilliant is this?  They sell running shoes and related gear.  And they sell a unique selection of tap beer in an attached pub.  I still wasn’t feeling up to par Sunday, so I can’t critique the brews.  But I just like having the option.  They organize group runs along the Longmont Greenbelt on Saturday mornings and supply Scratch sports drink along the route.  Check them out.

I got some good runs in during the work week, although my legs felt heavy most days.  Felt so much better this morning though.  I went out early on the LoBo Trail for 21 miles.  The temperature started out well below 60°.  It was only 64° three hours later when I finished.  Rain clouds hung low, nearly kissing the ground.  I love Colorado clouds.

The cool weather supported a fast pace.  My goal wasn’t speed of course, simply the miles.  I suspect I started out fast to stay warm.  I ran a consistent 8:30 pace the first 12 miles.  I ran into Chris Price after 6 miles.  He ran 15 miles at a 7:30 pace.  Wow.  By 15 miles, I slowed down to a 9 minute clip.  My overall average came out at 8:50 per mile.  Makes me think, with similar conditions, I can expect to run a 9 minute pace for the Boulder Marathon in October.  Hope so.  Chris will be running as well and I suspect I might hang with him for his first two miles.  He starts out slow at around a 9 minute pace.  He’ll speed up to a 7 or so minute pace.  I imagine I’ll speed up to 8 minutes and then settle down to 8:30.  Then 9 minutes.

I started to feel fatigue today at 12 miles.  My arm started to hurt after 15 miles.  That’s not unusual in a marathon, that muscles you would not normally associate with running begin to hurt.  In addition to breaking in my new shoes, I experimented with two new nutritional supplies.  I loaded up on 70 ounces of Skratch in my Camelbak.  With the cool weather, I only drank about 30 ounces.  Scratch is brewed in Boulder.  It’s highly valued by runners and analysts for its even digestion on long runs and bike rides.  I also ate three Hammer Gels, one at 6, then 10 and again at 12 miles.  I was quite pleased with these gels because normally they make me want to puke.  These were so flavor neutral that I didn’t even need to rinse out my mouth after eating them.  I didn’t experience any gastrointestinal distress today so I think both these products will work out nicely for the marathon.  I’m considering wearing my camelbak so I can drink something more nutritional than the free Gatorade at the aid stations.

Runner Down

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running injuryI initially planned to run an easy 20 miles today on the LoBo Trail.  I say easy because that trail is so pedestrian and flat.  I changed my plans last night though to instead run a real trail at Heil Valley Ranch.  Running from the Wapiti Trailhead on the south end to the Picture Rock Trailhead on the north end, and back, is 18 miles and considerably more challenging.  It will be nice to run a real trail again.  I couldn’t wait to wake up and go Saturday morning.

I start a bit before 10am.  I don’t expect it to get overly hot and I am fairly well acclimated.  I carry two liters of HEED sports drink in my Camelbak.  I feel heavy starting out, but then I haven’t been running hills.  This begins with 3 miles of moderate elevation gain.  Nearly 1000 feet in 2.74 miles.  I note as I struggle uphill that my legs don’t feel recovered from Friday’s run.  This is odd because I only ran an easy 4 miler yesterday afternoon.  My legs were sore last night too and I thought it odd at the time because generally I can run up to 8 miles and still feel fresh afterward.

Still, it feels great to be running on this trail.  I notice that while there are tons of mountain bikers, there are no runners.  Everyone is likely training on the Boulder Backroads for the upcoming marathon.  Whereas those roads are hilly, this is a mountain.  They zig, I zag.  I take it slow though, which is my plan considering my 18 mile target.  I maintain a slow pace as the trail begins its six mile descent down to the Picture Rock Trailhead.  Not slow enough apparently as I trip at mile 5.25 and crash into the ground.  Runner down!  Falling forward with 6 miles per hour of downhill momentum is a bad scenario.  I’m drinking from my camelbak at the time, which is likely why I lost focus.  I’m just barely able to thrust my hands forward into a large but flat surfaced rock to break my fall.  The rock angles upward so my hands slide forward and I rest on my forearms – in sort of a pushup position with my torso never hitting the ground.  Until I rest on the ground of course for five or ten seconds.

The sliding motion likely spared my wrists or arm from breaking, but my palms leave behind measurable DNA on the rock.  And they really hurt.  I continue running, but more slowly.  Either my trail legs are out of practice, or I’m super fatigued.  I recount the fall and consider how lucky I am I didn’t break my wrists.  I can run the Boulder Marathon in five weeks with broken wrists.  Broken ribs would have ended my running season.  I reconsider the wisdom of training on the safer Boulder Backroads.

I’m wearing my Garmin but never look at it.  I find out after uploading the results later that I’m running over a 10 minute pace – even downhill.  That’s unusually slow for me, but perhaps understandable given my near death experience.  Despite my deliberate pace, I continue to stumble fairly often.  This hurts my toes and I shout out with screams that echo off the mountains.  I finally encounter another runner, a girl perhaps in her 30s, running in the other direction within a mile of the trailhead.  I wonder how far she is going and when we will cross paths again.

I reach Picture Rock Trailhead in a little over nine miles and turn around.  This begins a six mile climb.  I feel weak but pass several bikers on the ascent.  I begin to wonder after only a mile into this climb if I can continue without walking.  My strength is seriously fading.  I begin walking after two miles.  I figure I will start back up once I catch my breadth.  I never catch my breadth.  To be fair, I’m walking well under a 15 minute pace uphill, but this is strange.  I figure worse case, I’ll walk the entire climb and run again on the nearly 3 miles of downhill into the trailhead on the other side.

I note that my head and face feel cold and clammy.  I try to run occasionally but can never maintain it for more than 50 yards.  I don’t believe it is overly hot and also think I’ve been disciplined in drinking my HEED.  My rate of stumbling becomes worse and I even begin to feel dizzy.  My shouts of pain that accompany each stumble are now joined by raging expletives.  I’m in a foul mood.  At 15 miles, nearly to the top of the hill, I begin vomiting.  This makes me feel a bit better, although my legs and arms shake involuntarily for several minutes after I continue walking.  My symptoms do resemble heat exhaustion and dehydration.  I suspect I’m sick though.  I feel sick.

I try running again on the downhill but can’t.  In fact, my pace slows down even more, despite the easier grade.  Fortunately there is a bathroom at the trailhead because diarrhea hits me at the end of my run/walk.  I rest for about 15 minutes before driving home because my legs are cramping.  Despite laying down on a picnic table, I never catch my breadth.  Not until I vomit again does my breathing settle down.

I’m still in bed hours later.  Karen thinks I over did it.  I think I’m sick.  Runner down!

Boulder Backroads

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CU XC Womens TeamAfter running 18 miles Saturday, I almost skipped running 10 miles with my friends this morning in lieu of sleeping in.  My legs were so heavy, dragging myself out of bed took real effort.  So glad I joined everyone though.  The Boulder backroads make for a gorgeous run.  And the morning air is starting to cool down with the approaching fall.

Six of us started out running together this morning from the Left Hand Trailhead on Neva Road.  Several cars and vans carrying the CU Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Teams pulled up just as we started.  A couple of the women quickly passed us on Oxford Road.  We estimated they were running at about a 7 minute per mile pace.  I talked to them later back at the trailhead and they said they were running under a 7 minute clip.  Imagine running that fast for even one mile.  These girls can maintain that for ten.  This picture shows some of their team smiling afterward.

We took a different route, turning onto Ouray Drive to run north up to Nelson Road.  Otherwise more of the CU Team would have passed us.  They kept to Oxford, which is also a pretty road.  I think Ouray Drive might have a bigger set of hills.  The girls in my group turned around after 4 miles for an 8 mile run.  Nelson Road is about 5.25 miles so us guys got in over ten.

My legs were weak on the hills.  Recovering from an 18 miler isn’t easy for a 52 year old.  I did have a massage yesterday though which helped.  I normally focus massages on my legs but I think my back benefited the most yesterday.  The increased distance lately has left it somewhat compressed.  I know visiting a physical therapist is all the rage nowadays but I’m a fan of massage.  I’ll take the more relaxed atmosphere over clinical any day.

My marathon training remains on schedule.  I’m confident already at this point I’ll be able to complete the Boulder Marathon in October.  It’s just a matter of how fast – or how slow.  I ran a 9 minute pace for my 18 miler yesterday.  I think it’s a fair estimate to say I’ll be able to run that pace for a full marathon.  I’d like to run an 8.5 minute pace but will totally be happy with 9 minutes.  Six more weeks of training.

Momentum and Miles

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ALSToday’s run was a hot one.  Hit 90° later in the afternoon.  I suspect the temperature during the three hours I was out there was in the upper 80s.  I drank 32 ounces of water.  That’s a large amount for me.  I might take some electrolytes along for tomorrow’s run.  I had to stop after 15 miles today because my legs were ready to cramp.  I was targeting 17 miles.  Wasn’t the day for it.  Great day though to take the ALS ice bucket challenge after the run.  It almost felt self-serving to cool off.  It doesn’t bother me that I had to walk in the final two miles.  I learned young to set goals high.  You might not reach them.  It’s better though to come close, even if that brings disappointment, than to reach shallower goals.  It was during my walk home I determined I would take the ALS ice bucket challenge.

I ran slow today too, the entire distance.  I felt a bit sluggish starting off but figured a little LSD wouldn’t hurt for today.  That’s running lingo for long, slow, distance.  There are benefits to putting in the miles regardless of pace.  Sometimes I’m even in the mood to run slow, and was today.  I generally prefer a fast run though.  I had a super fast eight miler on Thursday.  I hit the LoBo Trail right after a hard rain shower.  The cool air felt great.  I didn’t wear a watch but I knew I was running fast.  Felt awesome.  I even ran a half mile fartlek at an accelerated pace.  I did this after 4.5 miles when my legs were well warmed up.  I’d like to be able to get in a fast run like this once or twice a week.  Muscles have memory and mine remember running fast.  My workouts are on pace for the Boulder Marathon in October.  I’m gaining momentum as I log the miles.

Marathon Man

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Dallas White Rock Marathon 1978Lest you begin to think this is a hiking blog, I ran this weekend.  Two massive 15 and 12 mile runs on the LoBo Trail, Saturday and Sunday respectively.  I was confident on the distance because I ran this course a couple of months ago.  I was a little less certain on my ability to recover for a repeat attempt Sunday, but I felt fine.  No choice really.  The Boulder Marathon launches from the Res in less than two months.  Time to get into racing shape.

I’m pretty excited for this.  It will be my first race in seven months.  Missing the spring and summer racing season has been a disappointment.  Fortunately I ran Austin and Moab this winter.  I entered this year in great running shape.  It will be interesting to see if I can pick up where I left off.  I focused last weekend on strength training.  I followed it up this weekend with distance.  Hoping to maintain consistent eight mile runs from here on out with a bit of weights to avoid injury.  Long runs on weekends.

I know that first running a half marathon or 10K is a sensible approach for a post-surgery recovery.  That’s not how I think though.  I know I can run a half marathon.  I just did.  I could run a 10K with that catheter still tethered to my bladder.  A full marathon though is never certain.  I want my return to racing to be a celebration of sorts.  It needs to be a real challenge.

finishThe photo up top is of my first marathon.  I was 16 years old in my Junior year of high school.  I ran alongside my buddy Mike O’Neill – whom I recently went on a week-long backpacking trip with across the Continental Divide.  My first marathon is still one of the most difficult athletic feats I have ever accomplished.  This last photo is of my most recent marathon in Austin this winter.  My feet are off the ground in both pics!  Otherwise, there’s a good thirty-five pounds difference between the two photos.  I’ve run eight marathons in my lifetime.  Two as a teenager and six since.  Looking forward to number nine on October 5th.

jackOn a sad note, our beloved German Shepard passed away Tuesday.  Jack was a great dog, and a super companion to Brittany.  He was ferociously loyal but also a sweetheart.  Jack was never threatening to humans, although he looked the part sitting on the front porch.  He absolutely loved other dogs.  He wouldn’t fight them unless necessary.  When little dogs would bite at him, Jack would either ignore them or slap their head with his big paw.  Only twice did I see him attacked by large dogs and he defended himself well in those situations.  We are comforted knowing he lived a happy life, and well past the normal 10 to 11 years for a Shepard.  Jack, I know you are forever running in fields of mountain wildflowers at that big doggie ranch in the sky.

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