Thursday, April 29, 2010


Rode 50 yesterday on the road bike in a tough wind, but pretty route. Better paceline work heading out, not possible heading in, as some crosswind gusts pushed me clear across the lane. It felt far enough on a bike!


Signed up to run 50 on Saturday.

I remember hearing good things about this one from several runners (Klopfenstein and Harsha) in last year's Silver Rush. J & I love BV, and sounded like a good diversion between ski season and real summer. Somehow, though, I was picturing sunny skies and clear views -- not this crap that's falling from the sky. Oh well.

No real big goals here, just testing the fitness, running, hanging out in BV with J, and beating my legs and body into submission for a few weeks so I can chill out next weekend and watch J and friends run the CM half next weekend. Then, hopefully the weather gets better for more ad-hoc playing outside -- "free" in both definitions of the word. Looking to get more long rides, hikes, and runs in. More social stuff as the days get longer and I can make it after work, more exploration.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Denver B-cycle

Denver's B-cycle urban self-service bike-sharing program is launched.

Jessica spotted a station this last weekend, when driving around Denver. Somehow, I missed the fact that this was coming -- this is awesome, and Denver is the first major US city to offer this model, similar to Velib in Paris.

The Paris system seemed great, and spread out across the city. I was dying to try it out, but I required a modern, Western European chip-based credit card, not the simple magnetic stripes of the states. (Those lame Western Europeans, with their modern credit cards, transportation infrastructure, wireless cell phone and internet technology, etc.)

I also lived in Madison, WI when they started their free red-bike program. I rarely saw these red bikes around town. So a system requiring some sort of accountability does seem necessary for success and sustainability.

Now, some observations on the Denver program:

1. There are a good number of stations open at initial launch -- but they're all clustered closely, downtown.
2. "System Hours: 5 am to 11 pm daily" Not practical for cutting down on the DUI's as much as I'd like -- but maybe avoiding BUI's and trashed bikes, for all I know.
3. "System closed during winter" -- You can't base your lifestyle on it, all year, for getting to work, school, etc. Somewhat understandable for keeping the bikes from getting trashed.

So far, I see this mostly as a service for summer tourism. Not that there's anything wrong with that...But the message remains: if you live and work downtown and need to get around, this cannot replace your means of transportation. If you live near one of the bike locations already (Cherry Creek, downtown, Highlands): congratulations, you're already affluent; or you're an urban hipster that already has a singlespeed with mismatched tires. That is, there aren't bike locations near where people can afford to live, or where they work. I even wonder if quick 0.75 mile bike trips in dense downtown will just as likely replace walking.

But maybe it's a gateway to more cycling. Maybe it will be mostly tourists, but they'll get outside and maybe go back home and fix up their old bike in the garage. Maybe tourists will pick Denver as a place to visit in summer for this very reason, much as I was excited to rent a bike in Amsterdam and Paris (though denied), and we otherwise pick cities for travel that don't require car rental. So it's not a bad thing -- it's just that it still puts bikes as a niche, limited-use means of transportation, when it doesn't have to be that way.

People for Bikes Pledge

Trying to get 1M folks signed up online:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Zimmerman Lake - Late season XC ski

Didn't get the x-country skis out as much as I would have liked this year.
Late season snow = nobody else out at Zimmerman Lake.

Less rambling, more video.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hot 102.1 and Cool 95.3

Sounds like Top 40 radio stations.

Last week, I had a fever from a compromised immune system and airplane travel, likely.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, once I was starting to feel better, I met up with Ben and Jonathan for a, hopefully, leisurely and uneventful road ride Wednesday night. Instead of hills, we were doing flats.

The weather was OK at 6PM, but some scattered showers were threatened. We planned on sticking close to town anyway, and only riding for 90 minutes or so, so no worries, right?

After a bit of a late start, we headed South, and then West, as darker clouds were boxing us in from the South and East. Some light rain started, but it was still warm enough in short sleeves. As we headed West, however, lightning continued to flash in the sky, as the storm spreaded up against the foothills. Nothing cloud-to-ground, though, but the rain picked up a bit.

Once we hit Taft, the thunder got louder, and the other 2 guys took off quickly to find objects taller than themselves. I fell back on the flats, kind of wishing we had an efficient paceline to get into town when we were on the flats, while also enjoying the light show which was still up in the sky. Maybe I set a bad precedent last week by charging up some hills, but a paceline is both difficult to maintain and nearly useless on the hills. In the exposed flats, however, it can be a savior.

Once we hit some rolling hills, though, we all quickly regrouped, and felt comfortable continuing Northward under cover of Things Taller Than Ourselves. After a few miles, however, the rain really started coming down, and it was time to put lights on. By now, we were entirely soaked, and the temperature was dropping as the storm moved in.

We decided to head to Ben's house and see if we could wait it out a bit. On the way, each time it seemed the rain couldn't get any harder -- it did. Skinny tires floated on water as thunder boomed overhead, but we made it.

And we were freezing. We stayed for a good half hour, but never seemed to warm up. With masculine pride and Earth Day and all that, Jonathan and I ignored spousal entreaties to pick us up. With the lightning now being distant and the rain being lighter, we headed off again.

Once we were outside, both of us were shivering nearly uncontrollably. My rain jacket was nearly useless, since the rest of me was soaked. Hoping that riding would warm us up, we continued, but for the first couple miles, it was difficult to hold a straight line (it was for me, and Jonathan said the same thing later), and my teeth were chattering constantly. Red lights bled precious minutes and fractions of degrees from our core temperature.

Eventually we made it to Riverside and started cruising. I spun a lower gear in order to keep warmer. We both stopped shivering here, though we don't know if that was good or bad -- at least we "felt" warmer. Eventually, Jonathan split off and I headed South, muttering the phrase "Hot Pizza" over and over to myself. For some reason (I did not end up eating pizza when I got home, but it sounded good).

I made it home and hit the shower. My feet were strangely numb, as my heels felt detached from the rest of me. I wrapped up in clothes and blankets, sat in front of the fireplace, and took my temperature: 95.7 and 95.3. Technically, hypothermia is below 95 -- so this is 'normal'.

Just not recommended.

Need for Speed

After returning from California, I had a touch of a cold: a little bit scratchy sore throat and nose. Not surprising after a whirlwind week "vacation" that left me more tired then when we left! I took it a little easy until last week Wednesday, when I rode the road bike for the first time in awhile...and took some hill-climbing a bit too fast.

The next 2 days, I developed a fever, and felt like garbage. 3 days in a row of no running, and a couple where I barely left the house. Ugh. Sunday, though, I was feeling better and rested...

So I ran a (slow) marathon.

This training has been all about building base miles, hoping that it pays off later. That's what all the cool kids have been doing, anyway.

The upshot is, my recovery after long runs seems much improved. Although there's a constant low-level dullness in the legs, I'm still able to get up and run as needed or desired, which is good. The downside is, I feel slow. I don't have that feedback that I usually get from a day of speedwork, which is what I usually do in early Spring as prep for a marathon.

So this Wednesday, still with a dull feeling in the legs, I hit some 8x800's on the road. The first one felt slow, as usual, and I was willing to be generous with my times, just wanted a baseline and consistency. So I was surprised to find my first lap around 10 seconds faster than expected. That means I needed to slow down on the next one...

But didn't. A half-mile at a time, they all ticked off pretty consistently. My legs do not feel snappy, but I did feel like my heart rate and breathing recovered quickly, and that this workout was as aerobically easy as it ever gets.

Huh. I guess that means the base-mileage, aerobically, is working as it should. Hopefully, future anaerobic training, and further adaptation to the mileage, will get some snap into the legs. Feeling much better about this situation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sycamore Canyon 50k

Driving down the 101
California here we come
Right back where we started from
- "California" by Phantom Planet, as made popular in "The OC" TV show

It was unexpectedly dark, and we were coming from the North after a detour into the hills, but soon we were back on the Pacific Coast Highway, driving the rented convertible with just enough daylight to see undulating cliffs and mountains blocking us from the left, and the ocean splashing up on the right. We found our way to the campground at Point Mugu State Park: 1.5 miles from the start of the next morning's PCTR series race at Sycamore canyon, and just yards from the ocean, on a cool, starry night.

I could just leave it at that, but full disclosure: we didn't pick up any food to grill, so we were left grilling Peep-S'mores on a weak fire. We were one of the only spots without a camper, in numbered sites separated just a few treeless car lengths from each other and highway traffic. Both poles of my 1.5-person tent were irreparably cracked, leaving a sad Charlie-Brown bivy sack held out just a couple feet from the ground, so Jessica opted to sleep in the car.

But I tell Jessica repeatedly it's all in how you present the story, so in my version, the crashing waves drowned out ambient noise, and my open, flyless tent let me stare at the stars before falling asleep. Which is true.

Morning came. Happy Easter! Wake up, Mike! Wake up, Jessica! Wake up, Jesus! Breakfast was what we brought: Pop Tarts and more Easter candy. This is the first time I was relying on the money I paid for a trail race to provide me with better nutrition options than I had on hand, counting on bananas, oranges, and PB&J. (I was not dissapointed).

Leaving our campsite to park at the race start, the temperature and humidity was remarkably cold. And here I was worried about it being too hot! In shorts and a long-sleeve tech shirt, my teeth were chattering. We were about half an hour early, so we hung around, not stretching, and tried to stay warm as I also tried not to think about coffee. It was cloudy, but I had already forgotten about how "clouds" (water vapor) near the coast don't "move" like they do in the rest of the country: they simply dissipate. Which means that morning clouds don't mean anything.

The race had a bunch of different metric options: 8k, 18k, 30k, and 50k. I thought Jessica might want to hang out on the beach and wait for me to trudge along, but she signed up for the 8k -- her first trail race! I was excited to find out what she thought. Because of the overlapping courses, I had a complicated series of colored ribbons to memorize. (Actually, the system was well-organized and intuitive...mostly). The course had over 5000 feet of climbing, in a variable Konami-code configuration of up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. The 50k'ers ended doing a full set of loops totalling 30k+, followed by another loop of the 18k+ route. I didn't know how I would feel about this. First, 18k is a weird distance that fundamentally bothers me, and I have a hard time figuring out even sitting here, sober. (Don't try telling me it's a 10k plus 5 miles, either: that's still weird). Second, how would I feel looping back to the start, then knowing I had to repeat another (18*0.62) miles? I've already assumed that multi-lap races would bother and confuse me, so I've never really thought about one.

Anyway, Jessica's race started 15 minutes after mine, but the rest of us were off at 8:30AM like a herd of turtles. We started out on a wide fire road, followed quickly by the first 1000 foot singletrack climb. There was no room to pass, however, so I was soon trapped in a chase group conga line. Reflexively, I was frustrated that I was bleeding minutes, if not hours, off of my planned finished, being stuck behind some headphone and camelback-wearing 30k-ers, but higher parts of my brain tried to remind me that starting out slowly is good, so stop worrying about it.

Eventually we had some room to pass and spread out, with one short (~20 seconds) steep section where walking was nearly efficient, but running could let you pass (if you didn't mind your heart slamming in your chest). And then, the reward: blasting down endless, smooth singletrack. It curved this way and that, and the ocean came into view. Wheeeeeee! Yes, I use to love roller coasters as a kid, but give me the ability to let my legs fly effortlessly on the trail beneath me, and I'm just as happy.

Soon, I was on the skirted heels of the women's leader, as we both passed a guy on some switchbacks.
Which reminds me, pre-race goals...Pretty much some default goals I came up with in the least year:
1. Top 10% overall
2. Top 5 or Top 10, depending on number of entries (and #1, above)
3. Don't get passed after the last aid station
4. Don't get chicked
5. A made-up even number time of sub-4:30

Back to the race: the women's leader was absolutely flying, and I thought that sounded like fun, so I stayed near as she got close to passing another dude. But: my stupid shoelace was untied! Not an uncommon problem for the Brooks Cascadia's, sad to say. I had no choice but to wait for the next flat spot and re-tie, which cost me probably 15 minutes (it felt like, anyway). Soon I was off again, hitting my stride, flying down the hill, and all was good....until the same shoe became untied. Aaargh. Nearest I can figure, if my laces hit some brush on the side of the trail, they slowly loosen over time. I cranked on it and started down the hill again, catching up to the 2 guys that passed me in the previous shoe-tying episode, and started to enjoy the rhythm again...

And I tripped.

I tried to save it, but couldn't, and skidded on my right side. (Oh, I was shirtless already, by the way). I willed my water bottle not to roll down the cliff, and luckily it worked. A quick inventory, and besides some blood, nothing was broken, no muscles were unusually tight or pulled.

Only around 26 miles to go!

Although it seemed a shame to trip that early, in hindsight, I bet that a trip near the end of the race, when the muscles and joints are fatigued, can often be worse. In this case, nothing got worse over the course of the day, so I was lucky.

Finally, 7-ish miles in, I grabbed some liquids and breakfast, and we separated from the 18k-ers. Now we were on the backside loop in the prettiest part of the course: the grassy La Jolla valley. Besides verdant singletrack, we ducked through some narrow tree tunnels and rocky stream crossings, along with a rocky, technical climb. I slowly lost contact with the female leader, as I'd catch up on climbs but she'd pull away on descents, but I did catch up with a couple other guys here. On the technical descent back out of the valley, I was in a good mood, keeping a good rhythm and humming to myself while stepping over the bigger rocks. Mentally, it felt good to be heading "back" to the start now.

We were back to the aid station, right at a half marathon. This was the longest stretch, ~9 miles, without aid...and one guy blew past the aid station! After stopping, I caught up to him going up the hill:

"Are you doing the 18k or 30k?" he asked.
"Uh...the 50k."
I looked at his race number, which began with a "1". He had already done 2 miles longer than his planned 18 run...and about 5.5 miles away from the start.
"Sorry dude!"

Back on the front loop, the sun was getting hot now, as the sky was perfectly clear. I enjoyed the mix of 18k, 30k, and 50k folks heading in both directions, and was pleased that all folks deferentially pulled to the side for faster or longer-distance runners. Finally, I was at the top, making my way down, when I saw a guy that looked vaguely familiar from my pre-race googling:
Dean Dobberteen

What was he doing that close to me? Or vice-versa? As he blew by, it was obvious that I started too fast, again. Ah well.

Soon, we reached a confusing junction in the last loop. A sign pointed one way, but ribbons went down the other. I saw two runners go down that way -- which I thought might be the wrong direction -- but I followed them anyway. It seemed we were going down the singletrack which we climbed, and that the return loop had a different route. Why didn't I take 10 seconds to read -- and process the meaning of -- the sign? I passed a hiker going up, and she said 3 or 4 people had passed in front of me, going the same way.

Finally, we were back on the fireroad, at the start/end turnaround. Here, I saw the leader maybe 10 total minutes ahead of me, and 4 other folks, including the lead female. Unless she blew up spectacularly, I wouldn't catch her...but could I catch one other guy to crack the very arbitrary top 5?

Hit the turnaround, refueled, and started out for another 18k loop. And you know what? It didn't bother me. It was somewhat comforting to tackle a known quantity one extra time. My conclusion is this: running something twice doesn't bother me. But counting above 2 is too complicated (this happens on the track sometimes).

Soon, the big climb up the singletrack again. I could see the guy ahead of my walking frequently. He was in a friendly mood, but was bonking pretty bad. Now I just had to hold on for top-5. Felt good climbing again, and then the descent: I was running well and consistently, but nowhere near as fast as the first time out. Again, that means I didn't pace this thing as evenly as I should have.

Finally, the last aid station, and the turnaround back out. Dean, who was running near me in the 2nd half of the race, was now 60 seconds behind first place. Next two were looking good. I headed back up and got a peak behind me, looks like I had a good 5-6 minutes on the next guy, who said "Top Five!" to me, which means he was counting. Which means he was coming after me. So I kept at it as best I could.

Kept running slowly to the top. Cheered on lots of folks still heading out, tried to talk a smiling hiker into trying out trail running sometime. Then started the descent, until the confusing intersection. The sign pointed ahead down the fireroad, and this time I could see other folks there, so I took it. This means at least one of the 2 times, for certain, I took the "wrong" way. But so did some other folks. Confusingly, there were some folks running up this direction as well, which made no sense. In hindsight, this layout made perfect sense: climb up the more technical singletrack, than blaze down the faster fireroad. Both are supposedly the same distance, and the 'wrong' way is more technical.

Finally hit the end in 4:47. Got chicked, but by a very strong European girl, and found out 4:30 was certainly harder than I thought. To do that, I would have needed better training specificity -- hills and trails -- which I hadn't been doing. You can't get somethin' for nothin'. I did feel like I ran better than Salida, and got some good heat training. Winner John Wesselcouch was a minute ahead of Dean, and both had been confused and taken the singletrack down both times. Nobody was too worried about it.

Overall, a fun time on a beautiful course. Dark chocolate and gummi bears at the aid stations, mmmm! Jessica had a fun time too, running all but that short steep section in her first trail race, running a big climb and descent at essentially the same pace she ran a perfectly flat 5 miler in Oklahoma on pavement. Then, by hobbling across the street, you can cool your burning legs off in the ocean.