Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011: LT100?

Thinking about 2011.

Looking for a (singular) 100-miler.
WS lottery fail...and I would like a Hardrock qualifier, so I can at least begin the cycle of that lottery every year.

August timeframe works pretty well: I should have a better situation to train next spring and summer then I do now. Being within driving distance is another bonus.

That leaves Leadville. Some love it...some don't. I've been worried about it being overhyped (ironically, I've deeply bought into the WS100 hype), so I never thought too much about it, but I think a big part of that is the attention of the mt. bike race. If it's clearly a crowded, money-making endeavor, I could imagine being a bit bummed -- will it be worse this year, with more "Born to Run" hype, or better, with new sponsorship? I'm looking for a chill day in the mountains, with occasional calories and fresh water and llamas. Another criticism is there's a fair amount of jeep trail and roads in this trail marathon. Then again, I was perfectly pleased with the Silver Rush course...and also running near the highway, at times, in South Dakota. I kind of enjoy the variety.

So on the other hand, there's the camaraderie: there's always a large contingent of recognizable folks, sort of like a reunion atmosphere, as well as any family/friends that might make it out there. It's the home-state 100. Should be fun knowing some people, and some of the trail sections (CO trail, Hope Pass, Turquoise Lake) have historical meaning to me. And I read about epic stuff going on at night, and it starts to sound pretty interesting.

Wasatch sounds fantastic, but the travel and timing make it a bit tougher to swing. Same with Bighorn and Black Hills 100: both look awesome, but being in June conflicts with the end of my school schedule.

So that leaves Leadville -- should I pull the trigger?
What does anyone else think? Who's in, who's out, who's got a better idea?


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eldora is Swell-dora

Eldora Ski Area

I bought my first ski season pass since moving to Colorado -- at $150 for students, the Eldora Pass seems like a bargain. It's not as big as the other resorts, but much closer, being about 40 minutes or so from Boulder, and has bus service from Boulder. I haven't bused there yet, but I've gotten half a dozen weekday ski sessions in so far.

The Bad:
* Runs are short compared to Summit County, etc.
* Lifts are slow
* In combination, it takes twice as long (~11 minutes) to get up the mountain as it does to get down (~4-5 minutes) on anything that doesn't have bumps on it

On the other hand,
The Good:
* Runs are still much better than midwest garbage heaps
* Parking is free and very close
* My drive down the canyon is dialed in, unlike the I-70 weekend parking lot
* Lift lines outside of holidays/weekends are almost non-existent
* Nordic area, included in the season pass, is pretty good

So what I've been doing is bringing both my alpine skis and waxless backcountry skis. I'll do a few hours of downhill, where I can literally ski onto a lift chair without losing momentum. I'll do 8-10 runs in 1.5-2 hours before switching to the BC skis.

On the BC skis, I've been able to play on the greens a little bit and work on my tele "technique." My lack of plastic boots and wider skis and, frankly, lack of technique, has held me back a bit, but it's still a fun transition.

Then I'll head to the Nordic area for a few hours. Outside of the first 1 mile of trails or so, it's never been too busy, and many folks will nod and say "Hello." Good folks out there.

I've been on every open trail on the mountain so far, so here are my thoughts:
Favourite Downhill:
* Upper Ambush is bumpy but doesn't get much traffic, and enough sun that the snow has stayed soft.
* Corona is a fun black cruiser.
* Jolly Jug Glades: Didn't discover it until recently since it's on Challenger, but the trees are nicely spaced.

I hiked over to Westridge once, didn't find the cleared run so ended up in steep glades with bad visibility, some soft snow but also rocks poking out. Heard some guys, found them drinking Bud Light and they guided me back on a traverse to the lift. I was in over my head on that one.

Favourite Nordic:
* Antelope Creek Loop: This just opened recently, great views and a relatively screaming downhill return (on XC skis) from the creek. I also poked around on the mountain above the creek and found some awesome powder, but had no idea where I was. Eventually found myself on Rollins Pass Road, followed that around for a bit and then turned around. Then saw "Private Property" signs on the way back, whoops, need to scout out on a map more.
* Zarlego Loop: Even if you didn't do Antelope, Zarlego and Jenny Creek is still great. Not many people go that way for some reason and stick really close to the base.
* Sawmill to Woodcutter: Fun swooping curves
* Mountain hut trail: Narrow and consistent hilly grade. Great views on top. Wasn't sure about going downhill on packed snow, but had to try it once -- just barely enough room to snowplow. Shared with snowshoers so careful on the downhill. Luckily, only encountered one skier, who took off her skis and walked because of the narrowness/steepness.

Anyway, it's a great alternative, and a great place for nordic skiing. The Jenny Creek trail, in fact, is free, so it's still worth checking out if you don't have or want a pass.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Baker's Tank Snowshoe/Ski

Baker's Tank (map), Breckenridge
5.5 Mile snowshoe/ski loop
10,300' - 11,000', ~3.5 hours with breaks

Stayed up in Summit County with J, Neil, and DJ for Xmas weekend. After a nice sunny day of downhill at Copper (if you're going to ski on a weekend, I really like Xmas and Super Bowl Sunday!), we did a leisurely snowshoe/ski loop up above Breckenridge.

For one thing, Summit County/Dillon Ranger District has a fabulous selection of free trail beta online. Looking for something moderate in the ~3 hour ranger, Baker's Tank seemed to fit the bill.

Baker's Tank is a restoration of a 125+ year-old water tank used to reply steam engines traveling along a railroad line over "Breckenridge Pass", later and currently named "Boreas Pass", between Como and Breckenridge, which was originally "Breckinridge" before being re-spelled during the Civil War. This railway was abandoned in 1937, and repurposed as a road. That is, Boreas Pass Road used to be a railway over Boreas Pass, which used to be Breckenridge Pass, which used to be spelled Breckinridge (the town, at least)...and did anybody ask the Utes about all this? I digress.

Anyway, Boreas Pass road itself is a scenic route worthy of a summer mountain/cross-bike ride, or winter excursion. Along with some parallel single-track, there are some great loop options as well. The trailhead is 3.5 miles east up Boreas Pass Rd (CR-10), from the (currently) southernmost stoplight in the town of Breckenridge. I've driven past this road dozens of times, but didn't register it, as we ended up passing it by a few miles. The road is switchbacked but graded well enough to be passable by passenger cars if it hasn't snowed very recently, and there was ample parking a the top.

We took the Baker's tank trail (Trail #40) as it steadily climbed through the trees, eventually winding through hardwoods and then descending slightly to the tank. This really opened up the views towards Hoosier Pass, Quandary, and Breckenridge Ski Area. We then descended along the sunny, gradual Boreas Pass Rd. itself.

This area has some great views and options, either making a loop, sticking to the trees on a windy day, or a scenic out-and-back on the road itself. Supposedly, the road allows snowmobile traffic, but we encountered none -- just mostly-friendly dogs (including an owner-less but also cask-less Burnese mountain dog roaming the slopes), though this includes a fair number of dog messes in close proximity to the trailhead, as it's also a popular locals spot. In general, though, this area would also be a great option for a trail run with light traction (Yak trax or microspikes) or even a winter mountain bike ride, depending on your tastes.

And, it's warmer and less windy than Hoosier Pass!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Big South Trail

Big South Trail Snowshoe/Ski
~4 miles roundtrip

After a trail run on Saturday, headed up with J, Caleb, and DJ for a snowshoe up in Cameron Pass. This was my first trip to CP this year, as I've been drooling over early season snow totals but unable to do anything about it.

On the way up, Caleb suggested the Big South trail, which is the closest trail that usually has semi-reliable snow. It's also one of the only trails I hadn't been on before, so it was an excellent suggestion.

Guidebooks talk about picking your way through rocks (depending on snow cover), and the trail being narrow in spots, but we found it to be excellent. It's not a smooth freeway like Zimmerman or Michigan Ditch, but has more of a topographical flavor of RMNP trails. No wonder: it follows a fork of the Poudre ultimately into and through the park. This makes for a great summertime option for a long loop into the park (although there is supposedly a washed-out bridge 7 or so miles in, so you may not make it through with all of your oxen intact).

The new snow from the recent storms coming out of California was more of a wet "Sierra cement" that stuck to my skis, but I would not hesitate to recommend this for skis as well. Only a couple of corners with downed logs and rocks were a little tricky, but most of it was fun rolling hills.

One spot with a big field of talus looked like it would be fun scrambling in the summer as well. Definitely an all-season trail to check out, and we didn't see any other folks on this trail on a weekend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chubby Cheeks 50k: Just what the Doctor Ordered

~32 miles, ~7800 ft climbing

Photo courtesy of Nick Clark

Awesome day on the trails in Ft. Collins, courtesy of Nick Clark.

Nick had been talking all year about creating a Fort Collins version of a Fat Ass self-supported winter run. He came through with flying colours (and flying pigs) with the inaugural "El Chubbo Grande", in which he sketched out a 50k route, along with a marathon and some lesser distance. Unfortunately, for all this work, Nick was unable to run due to circumstances out of his control, but he remained the consummate host and put on quite a show of Fort Collins best trails.

The ran began with staggered starts from Chez Clark in the morning. More than 50 folks showed up for running and/or socializing afterward. In his best Barkley impression, Nick drew an unimaginative course which essentially added every hill in Horsetooth Mountain Park and Lory State Park, before looping back and repeating the same in a slightly different conflagaration. Seriously, though, the nearly 8000 feet of gain included prominent scrambling summits of Horsetooth and Arthur's Rock, which are both postcard-worthy perches which many folks are satisfied to obtain even once in a year or in a lifetime.

I was happy to join Alex for a fabulous 7-hour jaunt. We had a chance to catch up since Lean Horse, and he was prepared enough to have trail knowledge as well as bring a camera:

Photo courtesy of Alex May

By running with Alex, the time flew by incredibly quickly. I've run 20+ miles exactly twice since August, so I didn't know how this was going to feel, mentally and physically. Happily, the ultra (-psychotic) mental training seems to last long enough such that the time went by in manageable chunks, one hour at a time. I also enjoyed catching up (metaphorically, not literally) with Rob and Pete, both who put up some fantastic times on their hometown course to set themselves up for a fantastic 2011 (including Pete's very impressive FKT and victory), and enjoyed seeing JT at the aid station. I also met a few new runners on the course, namely Kiwi Rob and Towers QotM Jenn Malberg, both who were full of running talent as well as friendliness, and enjoyed talking with other runners afterward at the party.

I had a blast on this course, and savored every minute. Alex kept me on track without having to look at the map or getting lost, but the course markings (courtesy of Nick, Pete, and Rob) were also fantastic -- better than paid races! I conservatively chose to hit the Lory visitor center for some extra water and a bathroom break, but the aid station, courtesy of Chris, was also a welcome addition with a surprising smorgasbord of calories.

This run, at the end of 2010, had some important personal psychological meaning as well. I had a brutal but expected return to school along with a move to Denver, which severely cut down on running miles as well as accessibility to trails. In fitting symmetry, I ended a 100-mile run the day before school, and enjoyed a 32-mile run the day after, on basically all of the classic showcase trails above Fort Collins (Bobcat and Coyote Ridge notwithstanding, my other local favorites). This was something I was looking forward to for weeks and was the perfect opportunity to clear my head and start the new year with fresh optimism. In addition, I had set a goal of more social running in 2010, which I wouldn't have been able to do without the strong and growing FCTR group. Finally, this run was a test for a lingering abdominal/groin injury, which has been a big unknown since October. While I'll need one more track run to claim victory, I was ecstatic to survive 7+ hours of running without any hint of recurring pain.

So, many thanks to Nick and all of the FCTR for a great event. Let's hope it's the beginning of a new tradition!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Bike to Work....

...Day, in Fort Collins.

Last year, I ran around town for a good 20ish miles, got a breakfast burrito from my wife's work, then headed to work.
The year before, I rode, and had my picture in the paper in the Coloradoan the next day, having breakfast at New Belgium.
Good times.

This year, I didn't need to leave the house in Auroraghetto, since I didn't have class today, though it was relatively nice out this morning.

My last day of the semester is tomorrow, when I'll have the privilege of riding through at least a few inches of slop. Looking forward to it!

Since I didn't commute today, I thought of some back-of-the-envelope stats:
* Non-motorized commutes this year: 200ish
* Non-motorized commutes in Colorado (since April, 2006): 1100+
* Longest streak of days in a row driving to work when I had to go to the airport afterward, carry something large, etc.: 1
* Longest streak of days in a row driving to work because the weather was crappy: 0
* Total non-motorized miles in Colorado for some sort of purpose (commute, errands, haircut, etc.) since April 2006: ~8000+
* Total dollar value of commuting miles using government reimbursement rate: ~$800/year
* How much of that saved money I would (or already did) waste on something stupid: 100%
* Percent of commute miles instead travelled somewhere else frivolous in a car, like skiing or hiking for a day, such that I can't make any serious claim to responsible environmentalism nor righteousness without provable hypocrisy: 200%, at least
* What this means I'm telling *you* to do: Nothing
* Most common bike used to commute this year: rusty Schwinn with one brake that I found on the side of the road in Mankato, Minnesota

There you have it. Happy Bike to Work Day*!

(*PS: That's every day!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snowmass: Return to Aspen

Getting crushed by the end of the school semester -- hence the less frequent posts -- but enjoyed a great conference out in Snowmass.

J came out as well, working remotely during the day, and we had a great time skiing and hanging out with friends at night. (Pictures on friend's camera, so I'll have to post later).

The only other time we were in Snowmass Village was a previous Fall visit, where Caleb and I rode the fabulous Government Trail on mountain bikes. It was fun to see the same mountains covered in snow -- and much easier to ride the lift up rather than pedal up!

Had a few excellent meals in Snowmass at Mountain Dragon and Il Poggio. Besides that, we also took the bus one night down to Aspen, a town which I've been openly ambivalent about in the past. This time, however, we were able to find some great and affordable(!) hangouts:

* New York Pizza, which had delicious, affordably pizza, beer/wine, and great service. It's small, but worth going out of your way and eating later if you don't want to spend a fortune.
* Zane's Tavern, which was a fun and sufficiently laid-back bar

So, I have softened a bit on Aspen, having enjoyed some good places with good friends, and don't necessarily need to go out of the way to avoid it. (Still prefer that other town on the other side of the Elks, though).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Milwaukee's New Summerfest Half Marathon and 10k

Pretty cool new race out of Wisconsin, the Summerfest Half Marathon and 10k in July (July 10, 2011). Both routes include I-794 on the Hoan Bridge, and the half marathon entry of $60 (early) includes Summerfest entry tickets. $20,000+ in prize money offered as well. The late 10AM start in July and running across the bridge aren't perfect conditions for the fastest times, but it looks like a promising course and well-planned new race, especially with the start times moved closer to 8AM. At best, it may get some local folks inspired to be more active; and either way, I imagine many sweaty runners wearing their technical shirts the rest of the day, with self-righteous talk off a "PR" while waiting in line for a bratwurst. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

For those that don't know, Summerfest is "The World's Largest Music Festival", attracting around a million people in 11 days. I was never a huge fan but probably didn't go as much as I should have, it can be a fun time. Mostly crowds, fried food, and expensive cheap beer, but I imagine it being more fun after a race, being comfortably exhausted and legitimately hungry enough to eat fried cheese curds and legitimately thirsty enough to swill Miller Lite.


More good news in Wisconsin, but maybe at the opposite end of the spectrum: Dunkin Donuts is planning a big expansion in SE Wisconsin.

(They don't really need it, but I do). I didn't know that Milwaukee only has 2 locations currently, as we always hit up at least the one near the airport. Now if we could just get one in Denver or Northern Colorado, since the nearest ones are otherwise in the Springs...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Favorite Intersection of All-Time

Fort Collins to Denver: Best Bike Route

With some housing business to take care of in Fort Collins, and my sister-in-law's birthday, we needed to be up in the Fort for the weekend. But, J and our car were already up there, so the choices were either to have her come back to pick me up; rent a car; find a rideshare; or ride the (darn) bike (RTDB).

Luckily, the temps were in the 50s for a decent December day. Unluckily, wind gusts were in the 20s/30s. I did get blown off the road for a brief moment when I wasn't crouched enough in the correct position, but other than that it was fairly manageable.

I've ridden this route 5 or 6 times for various reasons (including meeting J at a flea market, and riding to the Great American Beer Festival), and I'm now forming some more informed opinions (and vehement disagreement with Google Maps) on the "best" route. Some people have asked about this route, so that's the purpose of this post.

The worst part of the route is what I call the "Death Triangle" formed by the major freeways just north of Denver:

There is no real good way through here. I've tried the West side (relative to I-25) through Arvada/Broomfield/Westminster; the East side through Thornton; as well as some of both, crossing over in Thornton/Northglenn. There is no really good route, as it is a big time suck of stop lights and dangerous traffic.

Interestingly, the default Google Map Bicycling route suggests taking Huron St., which has a narrow shoulder and many stoplights and isn't any better than routes on the East, before suggesting Co Rd 3, which is a washboarded dirt road. (If you're looking for a Roubaix-style adventure, that one's for you). In short, the Google map option is a poor one.

In general, I suggest the following for the experienced distance rider who is looking for an efficient route:
* Use the extensive bike paths when you're south of the Death Triangle, where you can get to downtown Denver or Aurora. They're twisty and a bit longer, but both faster (lack of stoplights) and much safer.
* To get through the Death Triangle, I suggest staying East of I-25 and using Grant and Washington street. These roads are crowded, shoulderless, and unsafe, but so are most alternatives. I prefer these roads, however, because much of it is 3 lanes, so there is more room for cars to give you the whole lane if necessary; there are sidewalks or occasional parallel streets for the most part if traffic is really bad; the worst parts of the road are rolling hills, which I content are safer, because you have increased visibility going uphill and better speed matching going downhill.
* The quickest, most straightforward route to continue North is staying on the Frontage road. It is less scenic and has the drawback of being near the freeway, but it is easier to cruise, has a decent shoulder, and you don't have to look at a map to find out where the Weld County dirt roads are/aren't.
* If you want better scenery, I'd stay East of I-25 closer to Denver, and West near Dacono or further North. But be sure to stay sufficiently West to avoid dirt roads.
* Alternatively, Hwy 85 has been suggested to the East due to a wider shoulder, but certainly adds miles if you want to get between Denver and Fort Collins.
* Finally, if you're from out of town and just kind of want to ride across this part of the state but don't really -need- to go to between the towns by direct route, ride to Estes first and then take Peak-to-Peak highway towards Golden instead!

Anyway, those are my observations. Please share any that you may have if you ride this route. The most important observation is that the top suggestion for bicycling from Google maps is highly sub-optimal (Huron Street isn't that good unless you use the sidewalk only), and the biggest piece missing from a good bike route is a 4-5 mile N-S section south of I-470, so your concerns for timing should take into consideration of trying to avoid rush hour or lighting/visibility issues near Denver, as well as the slowed pace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Mexico Thanksgiving

Each year, J and I try to head to New Mexico for a quick getaway to another world.
Cities and towns like Santa Fe and Taos have a different vibe and history that is unmatched in North America, and the surrounding landscape of the "Land of Enchantment" evokes imagination and wonder.

Plus, they've got Trader Joe's.

So with a few days for Thanksgiving, and in celebration of J's 30th birthday, we headed down to Santa Fe. As usual, this will end up being mini-restaurant reviews, since a big point of going there is to eat.

We stayed at Pueblo Bonito inn and enjoyed the rooms and hospitality. Rates are very reasonable and it's got cozy rooms and a great location. Breakfast is a simple buffet.

Most importantly, the rooms have kiva fireplaces.

I'm almost afraid to go to New Mexico in the summer, because I enjoy it so much in the fall and winter. The elevation and dryness of the air means that the temperature drops quickly and noticeably, but a stroll around town ensures the consistent aroma of burning pinon. And, not being natives, we're also not bound by law to wear layers of expensive scarves and boots that Santa Feans need to avoid hypothermia, apparently, when chile serves the purpose even better. Also, the late Fall means expanses of gold, green, and brown, along with snow, which looks best in the flat light and shadow of a low sun.

La Choza
We arrived just in time Wednesday night to make a quick run to TJ's and then tried La Choza for dinner. La Choza was recommended since it's owned by The Shed, which has been one of our favourites, yet was supposed to have lower prices while still having great food. The top Google search, in fact, shows very good *lunch* prices -- but the dinner prices still start at ~$13-$15 and chips and salsa are not included (d'oh), although sopapillas are. Even still (and we did order chips and salsa), I finished my food quickly and could have eaten a bit more (not healthily, mind you, just sayin'.) Santa Fe Nut Brown though (just like at The Shed), always good stuff.

Thursday proper, with most things closed, we pretty much slept in and had breakfast at the inn, being pleasantly surprised with a light dusting of snow and blazing sunshine. The rumor was that the big cold front was coming through New Mexico and Colorado on Thursday, butit seemed fairly nice in the morning. We pretty much chilled out and I kept a promise to J not to make us run around and do a bunch of stuff. In the afternoon, though, she took a nap and I snuck out for a run up Picacho Peak.

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak is a little knobby point in the foothills above town, part of what looks to be a great trail system known as the Dale Ball trails, known for good mt. biking on one side and hiking on the other. I headed generally through town up Canyon road, hoping that the knobby thing ahead of me was the peak since it looked sufficiently interesting. (Not much further past Picacho is the higher but more bulbous Atalaya Peak).

I'll admit, around this time I felt kind of in a bit of a funk, with many things either going on or not going on in life. School has been busy but I can't say different than expected; I've been limited in running somewhat both with time and a persistent abdominal/groin pain (though it's not as bad as before, and doesn't hold me back on trail running or skiing -- it's just there). Enough of that whining though, you didn't sign up to read about that: I really wanted to mention because, ultimately, I felt significantly better after this run (why do things like that continue to be surprising?) as well as discussions with J about how, yeah, we pretty much have it really good (usually I'm the one doing that reminding) and everything in our control can and will get better. I guess that has something to do with Thanksgiving.

So yes, it didn't feel as cold as advertised -- and why should one's feeling about the weather be based on what's advertised? -- so I headed out in shorts and a long sleave shirt. I caught the unmistakable scent of masa being cooked, in addition to wood smoke, and started thinking about fossil fuels versus wood, thinking about how wood is so much more fresh and humane and direct and intimate, like eating a fruit, versus some artificial and unknown heavily-processed concoction. I probably then started thinking about food after that.

The TH toward Picacho was on the right (South) side of the road, and the trail system is nicely marked at each trail intersection. It's only a couple of miles to Picacho, and starts out somewhat steep and switchbacked, and with the snow and shadow there is potential for ice, but in this case it ended up being the perfectly runnable cottony snow that feels exactly what a children imagine when drawing clouds or heaven, then most of us forget again until we tread on fresh snow.

I encountered just a few parties on the trail, with a few saying things like, "Nice work" or "That's studly" while kindly yielding, which is nice but was really a very short, routine run on what ended up being a very pleasant, windless afternoon. "Black Friday?" Give me a trail day on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I promise you'll see the best of humanity. Go shopping the next day, and you're purposely choosing to see the worst!

At the top were great views in every direction. Here, I met a group: Jeff, Lucas, Gemini (my first Gemini!) and ? (unintroduced wife). All were in great spirits, and everyone was from out of town (California), visiting Jeff, the oldest of the group, who lived in Santa Fe (near the bottom of the trail) and gave a brief description of the surrounding environs. Atalaya was very close but required a descent to a saddle in the trees, and I thought I'd be pushing my time allowance, so I spent some time up top chatting and then headed down, figuring I'd tack on something at the end if I had any extratime. Jeff had headed down first out of paranoia of "holding up the group" -- I encountered him shortly but found him running - he made me laugh because he was so self-deprecating but obviously gets out and hikes and runs when he can. I hung behind him and chatted a bit, then decided to head back down. I did have some extra time so I took a longer loop around between marker 30 and 31, when I encountered Jeff again, almost at the bottom, sweaty and *way* ahead of the rest of the group.

"Did you happen to see a blue glove?"
Crap, I did -- sometime after passing him near the top. I didn't know if somebody else going up or down would see it, so I had left it. Since I knew where it was, I headed right back up again, thinking I'd probably see the rest of the group and find out if they had picked it up. Turns out, they bushwhacked in a different direction and were probably 15 minutes back, and the place where I had seen the glove was actually pretty close to the top, so I ended up going up about twice, though it's more fun when there's kind of a reason or a "quest." The guys said they'd jog down now that they were back on the trail, so we all jogged together and chatted.

Anyway, I got back in around 2:15 and felt significantly better.

Thanksgiving Meal
First, we had sushi and $3-buck Chuck in our room, then took a stroll around town.

We were waiting for 7pm, when we would join friends John and Kelly from Fort Collins for dinner. Jessica works with Kelly, and I've met them briefly twice: the first time, coincidentally, we saw them while waiting for a table at Snooze in Ft. Collins. They had an hour wait, but instead we shared a table and I enjoyed meeting them. We never had a chance to get together before moving, but they were at J's birthday party the previous week, and talked about how they were headed to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving! So we decided to meet up for dinner at Los Mayas.

Los Mayas Restaurant
We decided against typical (and more expensive) Thanksgiving faire for New Mexican instead. We had a cozy table at Los Mayas next to a fireplace, and enjoyed delicious chips and salsa with our meal. They only had bottled Mexican and American beers though, and prices seem to have gone up a bit. The food looked beautiful on big square white plates, but I was dismayed to have large, big white gaps between my food, mostly because they were (silently) out of both the rice and pozole that are supposed to accompany it, meaning that I stood a good chance of still being hungry. Another strike was that my "green chile and cheese tamale" ended up being an "(implied pork and) green chile and cheese tamale." Still, what I had was delicious, and I'm only being picky because there's so much emphasis on having a delicious meal that you can only really get in New Mexico, but this isn't really a problem in the grand scheme of things. I'm just telling you, The Shed, Pasqual's, and Tia Sophia's (breakfast) are still at the top.

We headed over to Del Charro Saloon for some drinks.

Now that's a fun place, as we sat in a covered patio with a fireplace and heat lamps, enjoying Santa Fe Brewing Co. beers, cocktails, and great hot mixed drinks. I really enjoyed getting to know John and Kelly more, as we all seemed to have quite a bit in common.

Tia Sophia's
By Friday, the tourist throngs were back out and things lost a bit of their magic. The Shed had a 1.5hr wait, so we had lunch at Tia Sophia's (only had breakfast there before). They're quick, attentive, and have a solid menu -- nothing stands out as great for lunch (prefer the breakfast menu) but everything is predictably very good.

We headed back Friday, so it was a quick trip, but fun as always. Lots to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hoosier Daddy

My alma mater, the Wisconsin Badgers, beat the Indiana Hoosiers

Undoubtedly, great numbers for spectators.
I guess I'm a "sports fan", too, but more a fan of these numbers: 18 (inches) and 13,000 (feet).

I decided to dust off the backcountry skis and check out Hoosier Pass for the first time. Generally, I wanted to check out the Bemrose Ski Circus trails. In my mind, I pictured clowns, elephants, and whimsical music -- always whimsical music! But in this context, "circus" is the European term for a junction of a bunch of a bunch of different roads (e.g. London's Picadilly Circus) or an interconnected ski area (e.g. Austria's Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Ski Circus, which seems to have everything including a dischotheken)

I took 285 from Denver and got there from East Denver in exactly 2 hours. Not as close as I'd like, but nice to avoid I-70. Not much snow all the way through Fairplay/South Park, but finally started picking up as I climbed out of Alma. Sure enough, a winter wonderland as promised at the pass itself.

I parked at the parking lot on the West side, and saw a dude, Clint, who just came up the pass. He told me "there's no love" out there, as it took him awhile to hitch a ride up to his car which had been left overnight, but told me the snow was good and talked about various routes off the ridge on the West. By the afternoon, saw a few cars with great bumper stickers, more friendly folk, and friendly dogs. Definitely a scene there that I dig, way better than the resorts.

Plenty of good options and an easy, accessible ridge from the West side, which I didn't know anything about. Later I learned that snowmobiles (ugh) are allowed on that side, but hopefully there are enough options to keep everyone satisfied. But I stuck to my plan of the Bemrose Ski Circus,and headed out clockwise around the main loop. It's generally flat with only occasional dips, a great spot for x-country or snowshoeing. The trail was already packed out to Bemrose Creek, where it ended abruptly without an obvious trail. The map shows a trail following the creek itself, but being early in the year, plenty of willows were still poking out.

So, too, was Hoosier Ridge to the East.

This early in the year, avalanche danger is generally high. I am certainly no expert (never will get there, but working on it), but the maxim is, "enough to ride = enough to slide." You could argue that there really wasn't even enough snow to ride, as plenty of vegetation was poking through. I decided to follow a mellow ridge to the North of Bemrose Creek, as far as I felt comfortable. Much of it was wind-swept with just a few inches. But, large sections were rock-free, so it was possible to keep the skis on.

I zig-zagged my way up, but took longer than I thought. A dark cloud had been coming in from the North, which was kind of neat when it was partially below me:

I was only a couple hundred feet from the summit, right below the steeper section of bare rock, and the clouds were moving in fast. I no longer could see the summit with the clouds and wind picking up the snow, and decided on a new rule: Don't climb solo on something you can't see

Plus, the view below was becoming obscured, and I needed to be able to see a line to safely avoid rocks, or I would have had to descend very slowly.

So I turned around, a little disappointed at not getting on the peak in front of me.
But what about the descent? Funny, I was mostly looking forward to the ascent, as I am a sketchy descender on these narrow, short backcountry skis and soft boots. I've had a little success at the resorts, but generally am happy enough on rolling trails in the backcountry. I had ascended today only because of the mellow angle, and having enough width to cut back and forth across the fall line to control speed. I want to get better at this.

I started a little shaky, but then it happened: I linked together a couple of halfway decent, useful telemark turns. For all that work, I though, yes, this is a pretty cool way to go down a mountain.

So no summit for the day, which wasn't entirely planned anyway, but a fun descent and a great workout, more familiarity with the skis and a new area, and no I-70. Not bad for November.

I'll certainly be back to explore more. Across the street? Northstar Mtn. and Quandary.

I'd especially like to do a winter ascent of Quandary and Sherman this year, and could use company.
Anyone let me know if interested (snowshoes generally OK depending on what/when). I hope to do more of this this winter, I didn't do as much last year as I would have liked, but I'd like to learn and push the daily elevation more this year.


Threw my name in the hat for WS100, we'll see what it brings.
Rooting for Alex and Brandon to get in as well.

Popular race, of course. I remember being enthralled reading about it in "Karno's" book 5 years ago, after meeting him at a book talk. We can all joke about that, but I'll admit still that some of that really got me intrigued about ultramarathons (keeping in mind I had barely done a few half marathons at that point), precisely and ironically because of the lack of glamour of the whole thing when he talked about training and running at night, etc.

Anyway, this race and Hardrock are the two I'd most like to do, and (lacking a HR qualifier) it would be most convenient to do them in that order!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


J and I headed to Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay for a couple weeks in January. Stoked.

Posting here on the blog not in the "brag on Facebook" sort of thing (I hate that, and wonder why I'm even on Facebook when that's half of people's updates), but to look for any suggestions people might have. No lodging or anything yet. Besides city stuff in the 2 major cities, definitely going to see some vineyards (J's wish is to find out where our cheap but passable Concha y Toro comes from) and hope to get to the beach for surfing. There are some gorgeous mountains in the north as well, figuring out where to go and how to get there (generally prefer mass transit abroad -- one of the major advantages -- but have to figure out how far of the city we can get). Ordered a pile of relevant used books: besides the travel aspect, I love Latin American culture, land, and history.

Flying into Santiago; in Chile for more than a week; bus to Mendoza; Mendoza to Buenos Aires for a few days, with a day-trip to Colonia, Uruguay.

Rushed as it is, so not going to make it to Patagonia. Realistically, J said she wouldn't want to spend the whole time trekking, so that's a separate trip that'll have to be without her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Evergreen Mountain

~(10-12 miles)
~2+ hours, plus some scrambling

I hadn't run at all for a week since my lower abdomen started feeling sore, and with the great weather, I was dying to get out to some trails. It would've been a perfect weekend to spend the whole time in the mountains, but I only had a few hours. Thursday's test run went alright, so I decided to check out Evergreen Mountain. I know JP gets out there frequently -- turns out he was there earlier in the day.

It takes about 50 minutes for me to drive there (ugh), but I really enjoy Parmalee Gulch up through Evergreen. I decided to park and start from the lake and take the Dedisse trail connection before heading up Mt. Evergreen itself.

I felt sluggish chugging up the hill, but enjoyed it immediately after crossing a creek and heading into the trees. Hung a left at Three Sisters and then started heading up Evergreen Mountain. Not feeling too fast, and not even sure how many miles this route is, but sped up a little bit when I didn't know where the summit was and my watch was getting close to an hour. On the way up, saw no runners, but hikers that moved out of the way, and a fair share of mt. bikers. I generally wave the mt. bikers down to 'keep going' while I stay right on the edge of the trail so that neither of us have to give up momentum or stoke.

Had a few minutes up top to myself:

which reminds me, two people commented on how awesome it is to be shirtless in November (yes!)...met Bryan Anderson and his son Evan up there. Bryan asked if I was a "Leadville or Pikes guy"...I demurred about not having run those (not sure how much people know about other races), but then figured out he was totally into the scene and had done various flavors of Leadville distances and modes (bike and run), and also volunteered other years (which just reminded me how much I need to volunteer for something). I commented on how cool it was that his son was up there riding already and how lucky he was, since we both hadn't started this stuff until our 20's or later, in his case.

Started stiffening up as I headed down, mostly from lack of running as well as extra biking, but passed a couple timid mt. bikers going downhill(!), even though it's fairly non-technical, so I made it my goal to stay ahead of them the rest of the downhill (I could see if they were getting anywhere close on the switchbacks). I made it down to the trail intersection at a bench, then pulled up for a map check as they caught up and passed. I intended on taking a different route back and ended up with a wrong out-and-back repeat for an extra mile, but then got back on track. Saw an interesting rock outcropping on the Three Sisters trail so quickly scrambled up that for a view.

I was thinking about how my abdomen was feeling better, but then I sneezed and it quickly reminded me that it's not quite there. It doesn't really hold me up running, maybe I feel it a little bit downhill if at all, but it's not perfect. I'll still avoid speedwork and core work for a bit hoping that it gets 100% eventually.

Otherwise, a great afternoon. I really like it up there: 12 bikeable miles from Echo mountain, 28 from Mt. Evans... On the way back, I passed the RTD sign and pulled over to check the schedule: 40 minutes to downtown Denver. I tried convincing J when I got home that we could realistically live there. Except for the housing price thing, d'oh.

Another great trail in Evergreen. I like the Dedisse connection as well, and I can see why Alderfor-3 Sisters is popular for mt. biking, as the trail is fairly buff and rideable all around.

Vail/Eagle County Justice is an Embarrassment

Bike rant.

Despite the highly-touted snow and terrain at Vail, I've purposely boycotted (OK, closer/cheaper options also help) actually skiing at Vail since I'm clearly
Front Range riff-raff.

However, just when I was thinking about maaayyyybeee giving it a shot this season, I read this story from CARD about why the DA Mark Hurlbert dropped felony charges (abruptly and without warning) against a driver who
* veered off the road
* hit a cyclist (the cyclist is a surgeon, by no means riff-raff)
* "left [him] for dead" (victim's words, as he was hemorrhaging from the brain -- luckily somebody else stopped)
* kept driving through Avon, then stopped at Pizza Hut to make a phone call...
* ask for his 2010 Mercedes to be towed for a bumper and side-mirror repair!

The best (worst) part? Since Erzinger is a director in private wealth management, “dedicated to ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations,” a felony charge would have to be reported within 30 days.

So, the DA decides to drop it to a misdemeanor:
“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said. “When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”

Emphasis mine. Even though a felony would theoretically affect anyone's "job implications" and "ability to pay", there are special laws and rules if you are incredibly wealthy. This DA just had the audacity to say it out loud.

Will Vail/Eagle County residents put up with it?


Pedaling and a Pint

...or three.

One last week of great weather in Colorado, but my abdomen was still ailing me. I decided to take a full week off of running, but hit the bike instead. Ended up with 3 decent rides in the last week, with no significant intrauterine pain (a good sign), though I still feel it when I cough, sneeze, or think about doing a situp. More on that as time goes on.

Leaving my apartment on a bike requires much monkey business to get into a groove. Yes, there are some great bike paths, such as the Highline Canal Trail which stretches over 70 miles, but many of them are not entirely practical for transport. I used to be able to get out and crank on county roads and highways immediately.

Falcon Brewing, Parker
However, I still have the pleasure of exploring new territory. I've never actually been to Parker, so that seemed like a good goal. The Cherry Creek trail roughly gets there, but has some gaps and twists. Luckily, I brought a printed map...which fell out of my jersey pocket. I kind of wandered around a bit before picking up Jordan Rd., which is a halfway decent N-S route. Finally got passed the "Welcome to Parker" signs, when I started looking for Parker proper. Had a hard time finding it, ended up on the bike paths again, when I saw a map, showing that "Main Street" was nearby. So I did find the downtown, which was very small but quaint. I recognized the Falcon Brewing Company logo, and stopped in for a quick pint. It's a decent brewpub that seemed like a fun place with great service. They only had a couple house beers on tap, in addition to some visiting beers (bonus). I tried the Hog Daddy Amber, which was incredibly thin and light. I guess that worked well for having to ride back home, but didn't have the body and flavor I'd expect. Still a nice place though, not as much a destination but worth checking out if you're in town.
This ended up being a 50-mile roundtrip with some of my detours.

Dry Dock Brewing, Aurora
Been wanting to check out Dry Dock due to great reviews online, and its only 7 miles from my house. But first, made a detour to Aurora Reservoir to soak in the last of summer in November:

Got to explore more of the bike trails in Aurora itself, which were nice, as well as some rolling hills on the roads. Man, I love hills, so that felt good, took some aggression out. The loop around the lake is longer than I would have thought due to the jagged shape, and the miles are marked: a nice place on an uncrowded weekday. Nearest I can tell from the signs, the entrance fees truly are for vehicles only. Heading back home gave me another even 50 miles. There is a dearth of bike lanes and painted shoulder lines in Aurora, but I did find a bright white one on Quincy that appeared brand new. After a few miles, I came upon some cones that blocked the lane off, and then a painting truck. I asked the guy if he painted the line, he did and smiled-- I thanked him and told him I "just used it."

But for every positive...
Quick rant...Skippable
I did decide to take Hampden, as traffic was relatively light mid-afternoon. There are three freaking lanes in each direction, but no shoulder. I was pinned to the right side, when a convoy of large construction trucks violated my 3 foot space and gave a honk, which did nothing but startle me. Now I did see them coming, and I had barely enough room on the side, but I need to set the scene up for you: these trucks were 3 abreast, at the back of a pack (meaning there was nobody behind them for a quarter mile), speeding up needlessly to a clearly visible red light ahead. No, I was not riding with my head down and headphones on -- like I said, I know who's around me in situations like that. It's incredible how little we ask or demand out of driving. And, had something happened to me, my poor wife (I've warned her about this many-a-time) will have to deal with armchair yokels telling about how bikes shouldn't be on the road, and why wasn't he on the taxpayer-funded bikepath that's only 3.8 miles north of that route, or why didn't he take the 3-times-as-long Route "X" instead, or his red bike and jersey weren't as visible as a blaze orange bike and jersey with a blinking headlight would have been, or I saw a different cyclist ride through a stop sign the other day and therefore they all suck, blah blah blah. I'm getting old for this and don't seek out crappy conflicts, I just need to get used to the area, and then I will take the longer-but-safer routes. Yes, Google-map "Bicycling" option -- Got it, but it's not perfect (see, "Huron Street", below).
/End Rant

Actually, that was the only negative encounter all week, and it was on a road that I didn't really want to be on in the first place. Not bad, considering. Looked forward to a pint at Dry Dock.

Dry Dock doesn't serve real food -- some snacks, and a free popcorn machine (bonus), but it is all about beer. The attached store sells homebrew supplies. It has a large patio, taken up at the time by cigar smokers (you decide if that's your thing or not). However, you can bring in your own food, and there's Mexican, Chinese, and sushi nearby. The beer board has a host of award listings on it, in addition to 2009 GABF Small Brewing Co. of the Year. I was debating, when a local barfly named Tim said I should try the hand-pulled Old Ale. He offered me a sip of his, so I did -- then demanded a refill from the bartender, ha! Excellent choice. I had a taste of the oat malt stout and vanilla porter as well, both very good. A great place that I look forward to visiting again. Unfortunately, nothing to drink for the missus, and the only other drawback would have to be the growler refill prices. They "start at $8" but I think that was only the IPA, other stuff was $10-$20+. So I don't know if I can make this a regular refill spot. But I would consider this place worth going out of your way, even as a destination, if you're into beer and visiting the Denver area.

Old Chicago, Fort Collins
Another great day of weather on Friday. There was some talk of going to a friend's event on Friday in Fort Collins, but I called J numerous (7) times throughout the day and she didn't answer her phone. The logical thing was to ride my bike up there unannounced, about 75 miles, and hope to catch a ride with J but figure out the details later if it turned out I couldn't. I've done Denver to Fort a few times for various reasons, but I had wanted to do a door-to-door (apartment to old condo) ride anyway, and the weather wasn't going to be any better. On the road bike, I roubaix'ed my way through the sandy, soft-surface Sand Creek trail before Platte River North -- a section around Commerce City which was surprisingly enjoyable. Then I crossed over 25, some ugliness in getting over there to Huron Street, which was green on Google maps but not all that pleasant up into Northglenn. I found a few official bike trails along the way, pursued some of them to dead ends, basically ended on Huron again. That's as much as I printed out, happy when it finally opened up to CR7.

Happy to be on County Roads -- able to crank along without stopping or navigating. Played the game where you hit a dead end, then head West again before the next Northerly road. Also played the game where roads unexpectedly turn to dirt, been there before, and you debate pressing on (always) or turning around (never), even if you get yourself into 4 miles of choppy roads. This is where Boulder tri-geeks on $5k bikes curse their GPS's or call for a ride, but the only thing I cursed was the washboards as I flew down the hills (not wanting to skid on dirt) and hoped the dirt isn't too loose at the bottom. It did lose its romanticism after awhile as I was slowed down big time going up the hills expecially. Finally got closer to Mead and got pavement back.

J finally answered the phone when I was almost in Loveland, saying we didn't have plans anymore. Then she was somewhat annoyed(!) at me -- what? I was cool with whatever, thinking it was a bonus that I could carpool with her on the ride home. But it was perfect time for happy hour at Old C's, the one on Harmony where my name is on the wall -- twice -- lots of good memories. Mother in law Debbie met us just like old times, and I saw a few coworkers as we sat out on the patio. Just before heading home, we called friends Neil and Deej and stopped there....Ended up driving home around midnight. Good times!

It took an 'injury' and lack of competitive running events to get me back on the road bike a bit more for the first time in months, but glad I did. Red bike, you've taken me lots of neat places -- thanks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Denver Film Festival

Denver Film Festival going on now, 3rd-14th of November.

On the schedule, this quote:
"It's like a marathon, only without all the senseless running."

Good point. Hope to check out at least one or two of these.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fairmount Cemetery

Feliz dia de los muertos!

Running routes in the 80247 (border of Denver and Aurora) certainly have some differences than other parts of the state. Trying to run on the sidewalks can be a deathwish, for example, as there is a palpable difference in driving skill and regard for pedestrians. That doesn't mean there aren't beautiful areas available to run and ride -- you just need to look. One of my favorite haunts, in fact, has ended up being the Fairmount Cemetery, where the residents mostly leave you alone, where you can run without fear of being hit by a car or assaulted with bad puns.

An old cemetery is a rare treat in the new West. (Rich White European) People simply haven't lived here long enough to have died here long enough. After moving from the midwest to Southern California, we were most certainly deprived -- land was too valuable for the dead, outside of military cemeteries (e.g. Pt. Loma), which can be inspiring and humbling in their uniformity and scale, but lack the heterogeneity of a civilian cemetery. One exception was a very small but tourist attraction in Old Town San Diego, and we enjoyed visiting there during Dia de los Muertos.
Fort Collins has one decent cemetery near City Park, but it's small, and the sidewalks on the West/Shields side aren't the best. And, the Poudre or Spring Creek trails are much better options but they don't go near the cemetery. Loveland has a decent one that I've ridden my bike past dozens of times en route to the mountains, but again, not easily accessible for running.

So Fairmount Cemetery has been a welcome surprise in the urban wasteland of Aurora/Denver. My run to Fairmount cemetery is an enjoyable mile and a half or so down the Highline Canal trail, and then plenty of serpentine roads and paths that wind through the cemetery itself. It has taken me several runs just to discover the basic layout of the cemetery -- the second-oldest continuously operating cemetery in Denver. There are many different sections, including a military section, and loose organizations of ethnicity (a specific Greek, Jewish, and Korean section, for example). All of these people living together in harmony, dead: we could learn something from them.

Generally, I run through the historic, old sections with objective irreverance. Headstones are great to play with words, by scrambling and anagramizing names, or looking for recognizable ones (For mtnrunner2: Is objectivism dead?)

or to play with numbers, by doing math -- particularly subtraction -- and nodding at results that make sense, like 80 or 90. But there is also a children's section, which is the one with the most balloons, toys, and fresh flowers, where I cannot help but think of general unfairness. I do not run through this section often, but the message is never far from my mind.

In addition to simple headstones, there are numerous large, ornate statues, symbols, and crypts.

Even more impressive are several historical landmarks dating to the 19th century, including the Ivy Chapel, which is "13th-century Ecclesiastical High French Gothic Revival style."

As my wife can attest, I am a sucker for church architecture (I actually don't know anything about architecture, and don't care to -- I just like looking at them!) -- in addition to classics like Notre Dame, Montmartre (which I entered in running clothes, during mass, at 11PM), Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey, I've dragged her to numerous other churches and chapels in Western Europe and South America, including one chapel made of human bones. (Be prepared for a future writeup where I connect at least 4 Denver churches in a run someday, but I'd like to be able to go inside each one). In my expertise, I can tell you that the Little Ivy Chapel is impressive for it's use of gargoyles, cool looking doors, pointy things on the roof, and general awesomeness:

My shadow has darkened the door a few times a week since moving here; sadly, it's never been open when I've been there.

In any case, Fairmount Cemetery is a peaceful, beautiful and quiet place to run in Denver -- a great place to check out, not check in!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sports hernia? Strain?

It's been awhile, I've got some other stuff to post, from visiting WI and other runs around here...but wanted to get this out there in case there's any advice...

Started having some lower abdominal pain after Denver Marathon 2 weeks ago. Felt like an acceptable level of "good" pain -- sore muscles -- didn't think much of it. I guess some low-level of pain was there on and off since then, but I kept running. Didn't really hurt while running, wouldn't have thought much of it...Until I did some track work last Wednesday. That actually didn't hurt either, but later that night, or the next day, it occurred to me that it hurts in one specific spot, at the bottom of my lower ab on my right side, just inside the point part of the pelvic bone. (You could argue that I previously had a slightly cranky hip and other imbalances that contributed to it, but unless you had a time machine, that wouldn't be useful advice -- and if you DID have a time machine, then we should be doing other fun things with it).

If I sneeze, it hurts. If I cough, it kinda hurts. It's not unbearable though. I stopped running as of last Wednesday (OK, I do a test jog for 5-10 seconds every once in awhile just to verify "It doesn't really hurt while running") Missed BBMM, something I was very much looking forward to all month. Mainly doing a situp or a leg raise feels like a "bad thing" which I shouldn't do. But, it also doesn't feel like a massageable, "good" pain like after a hard ab workout...and it's not going away by itself. There is no bulge or lower pelvic pain as in a classic inguinal hernia.

Any experience or suggestions here? Probably will see a doctor soon -- first time outside of urgent care in years! Gawd, I don't want a long, drawn-out process. If that's what it is, the first "conservative treatment" is basically months of doing nothing, and that hardly ever works, so you get surgery anyway. But if you just did activities that whole time, you probably won't make it much worse, until you can't take it anymore and get surgery anyway. Ugh. Not looking for a pity party, I'm in denial and hoping it's "something else." Each morning I wake up and really hope that it went away overnight, it's still "only" 2 weeks (or less than a week since it got worse) so there's still time for it to improve with rest. Any other magic answers?

EDIT: PT friend says abdominal strain, should get better in 2-3 weeks, OK to be active but below pain threshold. She was right about my knee so fingers crossed!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Draining a blood blister

Not for the squeamish, especially if you don't like blood or needles, or both.
But if you enjoy medical curiosities, kinda cool when it changed color at the end.
Just in time for Halloween!

(PS: Thanks Alex for the syringe and suggestion!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Denver Rock and Roll

Inaugural Rock and Roll Marathon in Denver.

J & Tammy with their bling:

J & Mara:

Had a fun time with friends on a gorgeous fall day in Denver. Nice and chilly to start, warmed up towards the end. J, Tammy, and Mara ran the half, and friend Nora graciously volunteered for the day, while my friends Alex and Will ran the full. Also saw my friend Ray from HP coming through the park, didn't know he was running, and he ended up with a great PR.

I didn't know what to expect heading in. I signed up since we were moving to Denver, other people were doing it, and hadn't done a road marathon since Boston last year. I thought with the Lean Horse training, it would either be a great idea, or a horrible idea. Turns out it was just a middling idea. All the miles helped to get 'er done, but lack of specificity for the marathon made it less than I know what I'm capable of. Still, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for around 3 hours, a barrier I've never broken in the marathon.

And still haven't, at 3:03:57. Oh well. It is a PR, and I can't feel too disappointed: I worked pretty hard to qualify for Boston a few years ago and just barely did it. Now it's kind of a default when I'm healthy, and even though I know much faster people, I can't take what I have for granted, ever. I lost those 4 minutes in the last 5 miles, but I know what I need to do to pick it up. Maybe getting at racing weight and/or an easier course would be enough, but certainly just putting in the work is really what I would need. I would like to do that, but I also really prefer the trails!

But it was a fun time. Another neat aspect of the 100M training, as Alex pointed out, is how fast, psychologically, a marathon goes by now. Right now an hour is a third of the race -- a 100M might be an hour to the next aid station, and there's 20 of 'em!

Back to Denver: the RnR series is sleek and run like a machine for the most part. I didn't hear all that much music though. The course is a fairly scenic tour of Denver, with the best spots being in the beginning and end, in my opinion. The parks are OK but have a lot of looping. The worst section was the Bridge of Death between miles 23 and 24: enough said if you ran it.

So I experimented with some racing flats for the first time, these bad boys:

They (Brooks Green Silence) deserve a separate review. I was and still am excited about these shoes, both in concept and execution, but I did have some blister issues. But, I only ran in them 3 times prior (couple 12-13 milers and a 3 miler), I did feel a pressure point in one foot. However, that is where I had a slight blister/callous from Lean Horse, which had a little bit of tender skin. Wasn't holding me back any, until today:

Whah! Actually didn't really slow me down or affect my gait, just something I could feel. Wish I had better results on these shoes for advertising purposes (though maybe, and likely, I would have been slower in trainers), but I do feel like they held up well for the duration and I'm going to keep them around for racing and speedwork.

On the way home, had a great time stopping for breakfast/lunch at Pete's Kitchen:

Finally got to try this iconic, 24-hour greasy spoon. The coffee was weak and bland, but the service was quick and the food was deliciously unhealthy: exactly what we wanted!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Denver Taper

2 days out from Denver marathon, had a textbook taper day:
No running, lots of eating, 2 hour nap.

Stopped drinking beer for the week, even though it's Isolation season.

I've done everything I can...except for training effectively and intelligently. Whoops!
I crammed some specificity in the last few weeks. Short distance speed is 'meh'...endurance seems OK but hasn't been tested...middle distance speed is OK. But I'm heavier than any marathon in awhile, gained a few pounds right after Lean (sic) Horse. C'est la vie. It'll be a fun time with friends and bands. Never did a Rock 'n Roll before, J and friends have enjoyed them, and I do enjoy a little energy from the crowds.

I won't lie, though: I will also try to get it over with as soon as possible.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jogger goes over Minneapolis street barrier, falls to death

Very sad Strib story about a man that fell to his death during a run in Minneapolis.

I guess he grew up and went to school there, then was home (from Alaska) visiting family. A family member dropped him off somewhere so he could go for a random jog. He came up some stairs from the Cedar Lake trail rec path onto a road overpass, then crossed the road to get to where he thought was a part of the trail. He hopped over a Jersey barrier
(these things)

...thinking he could see the trail on the other side, but not knowing there was a gap of empty space on the other side.

The article could use a picture, but based on the info, I'm guessing it was

View Large Zoomed-in Map.

Note that the East side of the road has a sidewalk alongside the bridge, while the West side has a very neat non-motorized bridge -- separated by a small but deep gap. An oddly assymetric design.

I know a 'normal' person might think this is kind of strange, but I can totally see doing this myself. Very tragic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"12 and Holding"

Mother: "Can you imagine me running a marathon?"
Leonard: "You just have to run to the end of the block. It's not as hard as you think it is."
Mother: "Easy for you to say."
Leonard: "No. It's not."

I've been tempted to do many movie and book reviews in the past, and enjoy other peoples' reviews, but for now have an arbitrary "theme" with the Blog so I keep it to certain topics, for now. I watch a fair number of Netflix "Watch Instantly" films, which is an interesting and underappreciated phenomenon in movie watching: it was one thing when Netflix came out as a lifesaving option to the crap that Blockbuster kept stocked, and for the last year or two the "Watch Instantly" selection has been an interesting mix of even more obscure films (since distribution and advertising are largely mitigated) that require little commitment to check out the first few minutes to see if you like it.

I'll make a brief mention of "12 and Holding" here because one of the subplots has an interesting tie into running. There is a short, general consensus on "Top Ten Running Movies" because there's about exactly 10 of them (couple Pre ones, some docs, award winners like "Chariots of Fire" and some recent humorous/somewhat campy ones like "Saint Ralph" and "Run, Fatboy, Run"...)

But then there's another list where a small but integral part of the movie has an activity like biking or running. Por ejemplo, I would throw out some ideas like this:

* "Forrest Gump" running scene
* "Donnie Darko" intro (slow-mo biking to INXS)
* "Goonies" bike scenes (the kids going to the beach...or Brandon going for a ride)
* "Back to the Future" skateboarding

In a way, those small parts of a better movie end up having more of an impact than an entire movie about the topic.

The quotes above for the running section are somewhat over the top, but I still thought the relationship between the "fat kid" and his mom ended up being pretty inspiring. Way more than Saint Ralph!

Anyway, "12 and Holding" is a hidden gem, if you ask me. Kind of a "Wonder Years", "Goonies", "The Sandlot", "My Girl" feeling of nostalgia and pre-teen angst, albeit darker and more disturbing. Some of the acting is uneven, especially and unfortunately both the lead male protagonist and antagonist (although things get much better toward the climax), but the lead girl, Zoe Weizenbaum, is absolutely phenomenal; and I went to see "The Town" partly because of how impressed I was with Jeremy Renner. I'm not giving too much away by saying there are multiple sub-plots with each of the kids, each one going farther and deeper than you'd think.

And, you'll never think of eating an apple the same way again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hooray for (Mt.) Ouray

Mt. Ouray, 13971 ft
East Ridge route, Class 2, 9 miles/4300' gain RT

Again, hoping to see more aspen, J and I took a (long) day-trip down to Mt. Ouray.

Mt. Ouray is a centennial 13er at the Southern end of the Sawatch range. I had it on 'the list' for awhile since it was scenic, high, and uncrowded, and had an interesting route through bristlecone forest, an open mountain cirque, and then a gorgeous ridge to the top.
Still, I had debated the night before on mountains and routes: J didn't want something too steep and long or scrambly; I have a perpetual aversion to crowds; and I wasn't sure if there were even any significant aspen in the area (I only knew about the bristlecone), and how impressive they would be (yeah, that's how picky I am), since there aren't enough pictures of Mt. Ouray in the fall. But, I found some great recommendations and pictures of Marshall Pass Rd, and luckily, it ended up being fabulously gorgeous. Unluckily, it ended up being steeper and slower than advertised: partly Roach's fault (he called it Class 1+, which I told J and based timing assumptions, though there was non-trivial talus hopping, which is why Summitpost calls it Class 2), partly our fault (we ended up going down more talus on the way down while chatting and not paying attention), and mostly my fault (because I have a selective memory on things like this and tend to downplay length/difficulty!)

Anyway, for the second wknd in a row, we headed down 285, south past Poncha Springs.
Now that it was daylight, with a waning gibbous moon waning gibbously, we could see Mt. Ouray from several miles away.

Nice. I like mountains that look cool from a distance, have a decent prominence, and when you hike in the direction of their best presentation, so you can stare at it for hours.

Two other cars were in the small parking lot at the Gray's Creek trail. Within the first half mile, we saw a couple and their dog, from the Springs, heading back to the TH. They had camped their for the night, not knowing it was a trailhead, then heard about the trail (presumably from the people in the other car), decided to hike up a bit, then turned around when the trail became lost at numerous creek crossings. I showed him the map and stats, they were in good spirits and decided to go mt. biking instead anyway, but J articulated to me, later, what I was also thinking about waking up and randomly deciding to do a hike of indeterminate length and difficulty without a map, etc. (Then again, I guess we did that for millions of years, and as long as you turn around when things get dicey...)

Indeed, the trail crossed the creek a few times right around a mile, and pretty much disappeared, but we stayed mostly North and followed the creek right up, and after 10-15 minutes a trail was easily discernible again. We wound our way through some nice aspen, steadily climbing upward in through the gulch:

J started asking if the steepness relented -- it's pretty much 1k/mile the whole way -- and wasn't too happy with how hot it was for the end of September, when I was paranoid about having gloves, hat, etc. I tried to offer my sympathy, but since I was shirtless already, it probably wasn't too helpful. Permanent note to J: non-cotton t-shirt or tank-top is *never* a bad layer to have!

Alright, the trail got a little rockier as we got closer to treeline. Then, we reached the famous bristlecone forest, something I was looking forward to... no small part because it reminds me of "The Legend of Zelda"

(BTW, I couldn't find any images of that online, so I had to spend 15 minutes going online to play it, then get a screen capture, just for your enjoyment. OH, and, while I did my capture, I only had one heart left, so the game kept beeping at me. You're welcome.)

Just a bit further up, and the entire cirque was visible, called the "Devil's Armchair."

Mt. Ouray is the high point in the middle. This route finds the easiest path up to the saddle to the left of the summit. To the right (Northeast of Mt. Ouray) is a big heap of scree that can serve as an alternative route along its shoulder. A descent there would make a fabulous Tour d'Ouray, but J called "no scree" so we didn't head that way.

Anyway, the half-mile grunt up to the saddle is a mixture of talus, faint trail, and tundra ramp. Take your pick!

We wound our way up to the ridge, leisurely. Did I mention there was essentially no wind and no clouds? Awesome weather. Once on the ridge, there was a faint climbing trail that zigzagged through the talus. Some bad news, though: several obvious false summits. I tried to remind J how quickly each little hump went by, 10-15 minutes or so, then the next one. Just moving forward. The trail actually winds around the backside of the ridge now, exposing new views to the West. Here, we actually saw a group of people descending. I apologized for 'crowding' the mountain, but we all laughed at the great day. And pushed forward, one hump of talus at a time.

Finally, the summit was achieved.

We shared the summit with a group of women, friends from various parts of the state that met to climb some 13ers the day before (Webster Pass ridge run to Horseshoe), then had taken the East ridge route (back side of the cirque) up to Mt. Ouray, while their respective husbands were toiling away at respective home projects.

J and I were able to sit right on the summit for half an hour, enjoying leftover pizza and Red Bull. Heaven!

J's spirits were better now and she enjoyed the descent, which is good as I worried I had pushed her into a longer hike and she wasn't enjoying it. I told her we went to 13,970+ feet, so basically 14 -- she had thought the whole time that we were on a 14er (since I was telling her about advantages/disadvantages of some options the night before). I told her we were less than 30 feet short -- also, note the lack of people -- did that bother or affect anything at all? "No," she replied, and I love her for it. Then she admitted enjoying the hike, but she's ready for some more "rolling, over the river and through the woods" hikes instead. I know what she means.

As I mentioned, we ended up going past the saddle and just decided to head straight down the talus. No biggie, a little slower but somewhat shorter and more interesting. Back into the gulch by line of sight, and we picked the trail up again.

End of September, and we were both sunburned! We looked forward to reaching treeline in this direction as well.
Now it was afternoon, and the aspens were even brighter:

Even though it was windless, it seemed like the trail was more covered in solid leaves, so you could "sense" a trail was there more than you could actually see it.

Back to the car, turns out almost 7 hours went by. We enjoyed even more views of the aspen...

...before the planned apres-hike food and drink at Eddyline. Yum!

A great day in the mountains with my favorite girl, how lucky can I be, 2 days before our 8th wedding anniversary!