"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Iron Springs to Grant-Swamp Pass on the Hardrock Course

I started at Iron Springs/Swamp Canyon road yesterday with a goal of sneaking a peak at Island Lake, just over Grant-Swamp Pass. Wow. I had no idea this was one of the more challenging passes on the course - especially tough this year as the counter-clockwise direction puts us there at mile 85! I met 7 time Hardrock finisher Joe Prusatis and his wife Joyce at the top of the pass. While we enjoyed the view of Island Lake Joe gave me some sage advice... "watch out, this race can be addicting."

I took a ton of video. Here are a few of my favorites...

For those interested in seeing more of this section of the Hardrock Course:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ouray to Virginius on the Hardrock Course

I made the big climb (~5000ft) from Ouray to Virginius Mine and back yesterday in a little under 5 hrs. Basically 10 miles up, 10 miles down mainly on gravel, forest roads. A spectacular section! I stopped to take a bunch of video along the way. Here are a few videos showing what the conditions were like coming into Governor Basin...

The snow is receding from the road and it is easily passed up through the turnoff to Sydney Basin. With all the runoff, it's pretty wet right now, but after crossing Governor Basin Stream (calf high waters yesterday) your feet are going to be wet anyway...

A little further on there were a few snowfields that covered the road completely.

Then a steep snowfield where the course description indicates that we take a "short cut to meet the Virginius Mine road again after it has made a long switchback" and "climb steeply up the slope". (My first glissade experience down this on the way back... that was hilariously fun, but next time I'd like to keep the snow out of my shorts, thank you.)

And finally, standing on the Virginius Mine dump, a 360 degree view starting and ending with what I *think* should be virginius Pass. Great views of Mendota peak, St Sophia Ridge, Governor Basin, Stony Mtn...

And of course, you can see the dark clouds moving in because it is June in the San Juan's and I'm over 12k ft. I'm now 3 for 3 and this week's forecast calls for isolated or scattered T-storms every day! At least there was no lightening this time and the rain was actually pretty nice on the long run back to Ouray.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Telluride to Mendota Peak Excursion

Toaday was my first day setting foot on the Hardrock course! Of course I took pictures, videos, and collected a few momentos... I've been building this race up in my mind for 10 years now and it's just a dream to actually be here in the San Juan's. Every time I look out at the mountains I pinch myself and am reminded of the good fortune to have the means to be here and the support from my family to live out this life dream. Okay, enough with the mushy...

Started out in Telluride yesterday under partly cloudy skies with a plan to head up to the Governor Basin area. This is
the reverse direction the course takes this year and following the course description backwards (at altitude) kinda hurt my head, especially toward the top. Having skipped boyscouts as a kid, it was not until last weekend at San Juan Solstice that I learned the real virtues of being PREPARED! For this excursion I packed a day pack with rain pants, gloves, rain coat, rain hat, an extra layer and lots of fluids. The pack was a little heavier than I like to travel, but good training if nothing else! On the way up to Mendota I had the thought of putting some more rocks in my pack for a real workout, but the thought quickly passed. Day 4 at altitude and I'm still feeling it on the climbs!

I spent a lot more time looking at the map and the course description than I thought I would. I picked my way through what seemed like a few back yards in Telluride and then quickly got up to Tomboy Rd. At the Jud Wiebe trail intersection I was not sure whether to continue on the forest road or head off on some singletrack, but guessed right and stayed on the road. There was another split in the forest road higher up that was a little more of a puzzler, but again I guessed right, finally working my way up beneath Mendota Peak and Sophia Ridge. At this point I noticed some very dark clouds heading my way so I smugly changed from shorts and t-shirt into my rain gear and then took a couple short videos...

First video is 360 degrees of Mendota Peak, Sophia Ridger, Greenback Mountain, etc.

The next video is looking South back toward Telluride and the oncoming rain.

I holed up during the heavy rains in this old mine entrance. At least, I think that's what it is... from the map it looks like this was Smuggler's Mine, but not 100% sure. It was a nice hideout! After about 20 minutes the heavy rains and lightening passed by and I made my descent back into Telluride through light rains.

That's 2/3 excursions in the San Juans where I've encountered unexpected weather. I've either got to get better at tuning into the weather forecasting in this area or get used to the idea of running with a day pack.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

San Juan Solstice

I got a serious wake up call during my first adventure into the San Juan Mountains yesterday - The San Juan Solstice 50 Miler. This is one of the most scenic, challenging, and best directed races I've ever participated in. Five stars. I'm happy to have completed just 40 miles of it this year as part of my Hardrock 100 training and hope to be back some day to race it.

The day started out well, running with fellow Trailhead David "Balto" Dirito who just completed his first 100 Miler last month at Massanutten.

Then around mile 23 after being joined by another Trailhead, Adam "Dorph" Byerly, it started to snow as we passed through 12,000'.

A couple miles later around 13,000' it became dangerous. Here's some video I captured when the snow slowed for a few minutes...

We were exposed out on a 9 mile section of the Continental Divide with sideways snow that was coming down so hard sometimes it was difficult to see. Footprints from the runners ahead of us disappeared in the snow along with the trail itself. At times we had to navigate marker to marker being watchful of the sheer cliffs. Dorph and I were waaaay under dressed for the conditions and hypothermia and frost nip began to take hold. Unlike many portions of the course, there was no vehicle access here. Stopping for even a minute or two was followed by a scary drop in core temperature.

Godfather of Trailheads ultrarunning, Geoff "Ringo" Scott, wisely turned back on this section when, running alone, snow conditions got so bad he couldn't see. In hindsight, this would have been a smart choice for our party as well, but we crept on at a snails pace.

When we reached the aid station at mile 31 Dorph and I darted into a heated Yurt to warm up. Shaking uncontrollably at this point I had no intention on going any further. There were about 9 other like minded runners there huddled around a wood stove. Warm in his full body length garbage bag (drum liner), Balto quickly checked on us in the Yurt and then headed back out, eventually finishing in 13:39.

After about 1.5 hrs in the Yurt the snow stopped and I felt good enough to continue. Dorph was not so sure that was a good idea, so I headed out alone, picking up a garbage bag and borrowing gloves. The next 9 mile section was great and I made it into mile 40 well under the cut off time, but mentally I was done. Legs felt great, but I had seen enough for one day and need to keep focused on Hardrock. Better to be fresh and hungry for a deep challenge there.

I later learned that Dorph reconsidered dropping at mile 31 and set out behind me only 10 or 15 minutes after I left! He eventually finished up in 15:21!

Huge congratulations to Dorph for gutting it out and finishing. This was one of the most impressive rallies I've ever seen. And congrats to Balto on a strong showing so soon after his first 100M at Massanutten last month! And to Ringo for making a very difficult, but wise decision to "Do Nothing Fatal"!

Thanks to all the race organizers and volunteers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Training Log: Week 5 for Hardrock

Desktop background of the week. Note to self: Stay on trail.
  • Mon: 15 miles (am: 9.5, pm: 5.5)
    Easy miles in the morning followed by stairs and weights in the afternoon.
  • Tues: 15 miles (am: 12, pm: 3)
    2 hrs of singletrack in the morning that felt effortless. Short run in the heat later in the day.
  • Wed: 8 miles (pm: 8)
    Hot mid-day singletrack.
  • Thurs: 14 miles (8.5 am, pm 5.5)
    Singletrack at good pace in the am followed by weights and stairs in the afternoon.
  • Fri: 8 miles (am: 8)
    a couple faster pace miles followed by moderate pace singletrack
  • Sat: 26 (am: 26)
    3:30 am start for 4.5 hrs total including a few stops for food/drink/conversation.
  • Sun: 9 (am: 4, pm: 5)
    Easy singletrack in the morning and a few more easy miles after dark. Multiple coyote encounters reported Sunday including one about 1hr before I started.
Total: 95 miles

Solid week. Stepping up the weights and keeping the mileage up. A little left knee soreness after Saturday's run, but nothing serious.
Next up... driving to CO today to start getting my mountain legs and lungs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Training Log: Week 4 for Hardrock

This week my desktop background picture was sent to me by a Hardrock veteran and one of the top waitlisters for this year, Will Vaughan. It was taken from the mouth of Green Valley looking south across Cunningham Gulch. The upper right (way upper right) is the trail connecting Dives Basin and Little Giant Basin. The trail switchbacks its way down the mountainside just to the right of the “stream” in the photo. If you look closely you can make out parts of the trail. This will be the first downhill for this year's race, bleeding off 2500 ft or so. It looks rather intimidating. Having said that someone will probably send me a picture of the 5,200+ ft descent into Ouray.

I learned a new training technique this week called the "stepback week". I didn't pick up any of this great stuff as a swimmer. My recollection is that we pretty much went hard at it all year except for December when we went *really* hard and August when we surfed the whole month. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and this week necessitated a little rest. I forced myself to sit out a couple days, caught up on sleep and cut my overall mileage ~35%. Probably could have cut a little more than that.

Here's how it broke down...
  • Mon: 10 miles (pm: 10)
    2 sets of stairs for 40 mins each. Weights - lower body.
  • Tue: 8 miles (pm: 8)
    Stairs and weights again - more upper body.
  • Wed: 18 miles (am: 18)
    First 13 felt okay but ran out of gas the last 5. Fell twice in the last mile and called it quits.
  • Thurs: 6.5 miles (am: 6.5)
    Stairs and lower body weights again.
  • Fri: REST!
  • Sat: 21 miles (am: 21 mi)
  • Sun: REST!
Total: 64 miles

Good to get some rest. This week - continued focus on stairs, weights, and higher mileage.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Training Log: Week 3 for Hardrock

Week 3 of a 9 week training cycle for Hardrock 100.

This week's Hardrock picture was comfort food. There appears to be some runnable trail in the pictures I've seen, but I don't know where they sneak it in given the elevation profile.

  • Mon: 8 miles (am: 8 mi)
    Running with Caleb and just having fun. Thought I'd get back out later for another run, but memorial day festivities caught up with me.
  • Tue: 12 miles (pm: 12)
    Drive to DC early, conference all day, then run around town... Capitol building, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol building, Lincoln Memorial, rinse & repeat...
  • Wed: 0 miles
    Great googly moogly. Work, conference, drive, work... blech.
  • Thurs: 20 miles (am: 5, pm1: 9.5mi, pm2: 5.5mi)
    Quick 5 before work, then 9.5 miles of stairs at lunch and another short run after work. Getting mileage with lots of runs... kinda like getting lots of little cards in blackjack.
  • Fri: 20 miles (am: 11mi, pm 9mi)
    11 miles before work with a group of 13 Trailheads who are training for Highland Sky, San Juan Solstice, or other events. 9 miles of stairs in the afternoon.
  • Sat: 21 miles (am: 21)
  • Sun: 10 miles (am: 3.5, pm: 6.5)
    4:30 am start hoping to get some miles before Elena's 6:30 run, but left knee was talking to me. Decided to practice walking form instead. Saw a fox. Came back after dark and felt much better.

Total: 91M

Decent mileage. A few miles short of my weekly goal and too many little runs, but really a solid week.

Next up: Focus on climbing strength - more stairs, weights. Longer long runs. More sleep...