South Boulder Peak
Monday, May 11, 2015 – Green (S)
Finally, sunshine! Ditched work early and did a quick lap on Green Mountain. Planned to do two, but also planned to go climbing, so one it was. Did a rocket ascent/descent of Amphi-Saddle-Greenman in 1:04:31, taking another 5:01 off my previous PR. I wrote last week I had about 9 minutes I think I could shave off before hitting a plateau and this run proved that to me, since I had to stop going up to stretch my poor left leg, and did more stretching at the top. Given that, and the super wet trail conditions, my transition period towards peaking is working freakin’ great.
Had a total revelation when ascending today, and it had to do with my breathing. Usually, I take it for granted that my breathing on hard uphills is going to be fast, ragged and even uncomfortable – I just don’t really think about “breathing” in any way that’s not automatic. I’ve never really felt like I’ve had some sort of sensational lung capacity – if anything, I feel that my lungs are tight and constricted, especially if I haven’t warmed up proper and most especially if I’ve overdone it with the dairy, which is most days, thanks to my addiction to kefir. It just seemed like my raggedy breathing coincided with my tiny footsteps as I slowly ascended whatever ridiculous grade I was doing. I just finally made continual running something I expect to be able to do, which itself was a major milestone. Why change a good thing?
Today, for no real reason, I decided to control my breathing and make sure I breathed in deeply, and breathed out doubly so. In comparison to my uncontrolled automatic breathing, this method seemed comically slow and ridiculous, but it seemed to work to my advantage. I never felt like I was on the verge of being out of breath, as if my running pace would match what my lungs could support – which itself seemed to be a few percentage more.
Even when my breathing was out of step with my running, I didn’t feel I was at a disadvantage. Since trail running doesn’t really lend itself to have a controlled and deliberate gate: you’re going up steps of various sizes and the various obstacles in the way (roots, rocks, dogs, tourists, what have you), matching your breathing to this makes little sense. Rather, just simply keeping with a deliberate, almost slow (in comparison) and deep breathing technique seemed to me to work a whole lot better. I imagined my lungs were giant bellows attached to some sort of fantastical mechanical machine, fanning the coals, but only indirectly attached to the engine itself.
Afterwards, said hello to the Rocky Mountain Runners after they were about to set off on their group run. Sad I couldn’t have joined, I certainly was up for another lap.
Instead, I pedaled to the climbing gym to do some bouldering with Chrissy. Had a great session, nailing problems I have been having… problems with in the past, as well as trying out and sending a V5 (x3!):
So, good times.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – Mesa Trail N -> S, Sobo/Bear, Green (S)
Woke up a little sore from the short effort yesterday, but I spied a line from the South Mesa Trailhead to the top of South Boulder that I wanted to check out – around 3,000′ of vertical gain in 3.7 miles – a 15% grade. This includes Shadow Canyon, which is only .9 miles in length, but holds well over half of the elevation gain you’ll find in the whole route at a 33% grade.
The plan was to run an easy run from the N. Mesa trailhead to the S. Mesa trailhead and get the legs a bit warmed up. The trail was surely to be super muddy from the last week of chaos. Well laid plans… To my surprise, the pep in my legs came back, and I had a grand ol’ time working on my breathing technique, clocking in the undulating 6.4 miles in 59:07, PR’ing by 5:29. A little nuts, given the conditions. So much for taking it easy.
After a quick break, I marched again up Mesa, and literally marched into and up Shadow Canyon, topping out Sobo @ 1:02:09 – a stiff benchmark for sure. The trail conditions were again just bad: Towhee was super saturated, and Shadow started out as a raging creek/waterfall. Sobo was snow free, which helped matters.
Surprisingly, I PR’d the route from Bear to Green by around 8:00, after feel quite tired at that point. I guess I just kept on moving. By the time I summited Green, there was a full on thunderstorm above me, so after barely tagging the summit, I made a retreat down back to Chat. And then to Southern Sun for beer and a cheeseburger, since hey! That was a good day!
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – Climbing @Movement
Back to roped climbing! After doing multiple weeks of bouldering, we got back to some route climbing. Nothing too special about the day at the gym – got on another 5.12a, which we both finished up after a few falls, and we did some lead climbing, to get some of the cobwebs out.
Thursday, May 14, 2015 – Runners High Fun Run in Golden (S); Golden to Golden Gate Canyon State Park (S)
Chrissy and I joined the Fun Run at Runners High in part to support UD, as they are the main sponsor of the Dirty 30 race coming out and my ambassador-ship should have some sort of requisite compulsions upheld other than looking good in fancy gear they provide and telling you all to look at me! Look at me! As I do silly things.
The run was an easy outing along Clear Creek and back to the store. Then, free food, beer, giveaways and an, “elite” panel I may or may not have been expected to be on. I’m glad I wasn’t on it, as the theme of the questions were about the Dirty 30 and I (1. haven’t raced the race, and (2. haven’t race any sanctioned trail race ever, so my insights would be so out of the box as to be somewhat beyond the pale of the talk. I particularly enjoyed Andrew Skurka’s patient and insightful answers to the questions given to him – seemed like an interesting guy.
Oh the crazy, weird, wonderful tribe of ultra runners and running fanatics. I don’t normally try to polarize myself too closely with any particular group of enthusiasts, being much more comfortable on the perimeter, with the freedom to fill things in with whatever color of pattern I’d like and not to be too inflexible on the details. I feel the same way around climbers. In reality all these groups are artificially separated – the main vein is having fun outside, and with that I can wholeheartedly relate. This comes at the expense of always feeling a little bit out of place. With climbers, I feel like I have too-big legs to be of any use. With runners, it’s the opposite: I’m the guy with the overbuilt upper body.
Afterwards, I rode the bike up to Golden Gate Canyon State Park – 17 miles and 3k’ up the road, which was fairly pleasant. I bivy’d out in an undisclosed location near where the start of the Dirty 30 will be in two weeks, to wake up at some ridiculous time the next morning to pre-run the course.
Friday, May 14, 2015 – Dirty 30 Recon (S), Golden Gate Canyon State Park -> Golden (S)
<>The bivy went well-enough. I fell asleep almost instantly, after making a lightning-quick place to saw some wood. It rained about around 1:00 am or 2:00 am, but I was too tired to engineer a way to put up the tarp to make a proper shelter in the awkward place I decided to rest for the night. Instead, I just laid the tarp on top of my very minimal bivvy, and put my rain coat on top of my face, breathing through one the pit zips. Thankfully, the rain stayed light.
Started the run a little after 6:00am, feeling not too peppy, but telling myself that I should be holding back anyways. Became very much awake once I spied the enormous bear scurrying away out of my path about 20 minutes into the run and not too far from where I went to sleep for the night. A little larger than a the yearlings I usually cross paths with – yikes.
Goodness, where to start on this run. The run took 8 hours to do the full 50k, plus some bonus k’s, with all my route errors.
Although I knew going into the day that it was going to be a long one, I didn’t really come to terms on how much of a slog it would turn out to feel. I felt absolutely flat on the run and couldn’t believe how much I had to hike in total. This could be because of a multitude of factors: I didn’t really have dinner the night before, or any breakfast this morning. No coffee, either. Or maybe the last few runs – and the ride up a few hours before I started the run this morning took it out of me.
I felt I had accomplished exactly the opposite of what I set out to do on this run: instead of heightening my self-confidence with running this race with an OK time whilst simply recon’ing the route, I felt an impending doom of severely underperforming come race day. Seriously, I thought, did all the training I’ve been doing since January 1st really culminate in hiking the majority of a rolling course, with an elevation gain that’s not too different from a mid week after-work outing?! I’m still trying to digest my performance and not let my seemingly fragile emotions overwhelm me.
One major thorn in my side was just trying to following the route. The .gpx track that I nick’d seemed to be pretty erroneous, and many of the trails used just a few years ago seemed to have changed. So instead of being able to just follow the track, I had to constantly check and recheck that my path was correct. Just plain awkward and that burned a ton of time.
I was also caught in a roaming thunderstorm that I decided to wait out, a little bit before the Windy Peak climb, which ate up at least twenty minutes. I brought absolutely nothing in terms of additional clothing – just short shorts and a top, so waiting seemed prudent, as the rain turned into freezing rain/hail and only got heavier as the storm passed above me. Thankfully, it wasn’t so bad that I had to call it, and run directly back to my bike. Windy Point turned out to be No Big Deal compared to what I usually run up and down.
I’m somewhat coming to the conclusion that I may just need a little break from running, and this break couldn’t come at a better time – Taper Time! I’m still two weeks out – plenty of time to polish some things and taper. I also need to be pretty grounded on how I train and for what. I’m a multi-disciplined person. Unless your name is “Dave Mackey“, your prep for an ultra race isn’t also happening in parallel of sessioning 5.12 climbs. I’m also looking into the near future, which doesn’t involve ultra trail races, but more along the lines of planning out unsupported (bring all your food from the start!) MTB speed runs across the entire length of the Colorado Trail. I’m never going to be as fast as a pure runner, unless I too become a pure runner, which I don’t really intend to do. That should be obvious.
So, predictions. Looking at last year’s results, Tony and Dan’s sub 5 hours run are totally out of my league, having better third place by almost an hour. If I can do a pretty lackluster performance of ~8hrs with my prerun, w/7hrs of actual moving time, including off-course errors, it would seem my absolute bottom placing would be around 67th, which isn’t much to write home about.
If I can somehow find an hour somewhere in the course – and believe you me I think I could find plenty more than that, a 6hr finish puts me somewhere in 17th place, which I would feel fairly happy with. Anything faster, and the odds are less than a good bet at any bookie. So, my realistic goal is in the upper echelons – between a 5 1/2 and 6 hour finish time – between 3rd and 20th place for my ultra trail race initiation. I want to keep confident that my taper will work, and that I can kick some ass properly rested. Wish me luck!
After the run, I packed it out, and headed back to Golden on my unfortunately breaking bicycle. The small chainring is completely unusable – the chain just derails off, and the shifting is shifty (in a bad way). The tires are getting bald and generally, it’s a bit touch and go in trusting my rig on this type of ride at the moment. Boy oh boy is this on the todo list. I decided to call it in Golden, since if I’m already tired, might as well not belabor my condition. Chrissy also wanted to climb tonight, so I thought I’d try to keep something in the tank. In the end, we didn’t go climbing this night. Thank God.
Saturday, May 15, 2015 – Climbing @ Movement
Woke up feeling pretty destroyed – not the greatest feeling. I was impressed at the amplitude of it though: instead of feeling the effects of a long day in the woods, I felt more like I just finished up the Tour Divide or something. Very curious. We got in a session at the gym though, focusing primarily on the very much overhanging lead wall, then whimpering back to top rope some harder problems (up to 5.11d), which we could both finish after falling off a time or two. At least for me, I could finish the route easily, once I got a good shake out: the moves came easy no matter how thoughtfully put together they seemed. It’s been a while since I’ve felt a pump in my back though. Ugh.
Sunday, May 15, 2015 – Green Mountain via Freeway (S)
Recovery sess. w/Chrissy. We hiked up to Freeway, then to the top of Green Mountain. Chrissy is pretty solid on Freeway, and I got her started on her addiction w/Strava. By the end of the day, she was looking at GPS devices in hopes of CR’ing the Freeway route, as our casual outing netted her second place.
All in all, a pretty solid week of running: 65 miles, 18k’ of vert, a few small bike rides on a mangey bike and three climbing sessions. I should be so lucky.
“Since trail running doesn’t really lend itself to have a controlled and deliberate gate: you’re going up steps of various sizes and the various obstacles in the way (roots, rocks, dogs, tourists, what have you), matching your breathing to this makes little sense.”
See the Scott Elliott section of this article for some related reading.
Yes, you have plenty of time to shave off the A-S-G roundtrip given your time for the loop.
I think this was my only experiment with the Scott Elliott breathing. Maybe I could be faster if I actually “trained.”
Regarding running all of A-S-G…
I think I’ve run every step of that one time out of probably 500+ times up that. My PR, in which I probably hiked the majority of the ascent, is over 7 minutes faster than when I ran every step (yes, I was more fit and worked harder during the PR). And I “mostly hiked” the ascent on my A-S-G roundtrip PR.
I’m not saying you should be hiking it. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m rarely going to be running uphill during my bigger adventures, so I might as well just hike uphill during my “training” which I’m thinking will help me hike uphill faster during those bigger adventures. But this is coming from someone who doesn’t really want to “train” (even if I knew how to). I just want to “get out.” Doing as I do is most likely a recipe for not being as fast as I can be.