Monday, March 14, 2011
Mountain racing season is starting in Colorado. I have started to plan my race schedule.
Part 1 – Have I Lost My Mind?
I have just registered for a race that really scares me. The race is called the “Mount Evans Ascent” and is the highest road race in North America. How high is “highest”? The answer is - fourteen-thousand two-hundred and sixty-four feet. This race is on June 18th 2011. The field is limited to 500 runners. The starting line is at Echo Lake at 10,600 feet of elevation. The 14.5 mile course climbs 4,000 feet to the summit of Mount Evans. The finish line is at 14,264 feet. This is a one-way race that is all uphill. There is also a time limit. To finish within the time limit, you have to maintain a 15 min/mile pace for 14.5 miles while running up hill at an average elevation of 13,000 feet. This is not as easy as it sounds.
This race scares me on two levels: (1) I have never voluntarily run 14.5 miles in my entire life; and (2) my highest sustained run was only at 11,600 feet of elevation and that was only 6.2 miles.
The first line in the waiver statement doesn’t help allay any fears:
“I acknowledge that this athletic event is an extreme test of a person's physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss.”
I donated $5 to the Colorado Alpine Rescue Team along with my race fee. I think I may need the Alpine Rescue Team. Check out the race website:
My confirmation says: “Your entry has been received, and your spot on the starting line is confirmed”. This sounds like a threat to me. Here is what the "course" looks like:
It is still Winter at 14,000 feet in mid-June.
Part 2 – There are Such a Thing as Fun Runs
On May 8th, the polar opposite race to the Mount Evans Ascent is being held, which is the 2nd Annual Mother's Day 5K in Denver’s City Park. Here is the description:
“Whether running for a personal goal or walking with the stroller this event is all about Mom’s special day. Bring the whole family to this fun filled race”
The race waiver does not mention death.
Denver's City Park is near the zoo and is full of trees and grass. The elevation is a comfy 5,280 feet. I may or may not sign up for this race. This race is scheduled one day after the Lake George “Flatlander”. Besides I will probably get burned by a lady pushing twins in a baby stroller. So much for being an elite runner!
Part 3 – Other Races
I have registered for four races so far:
(1) Long Scraggy Ranch 4 mile trail run on April 30th
(2) Lake George "Flatlander" 5K trail race on May 7th
(3) The Mount Evans Ascent 14.5 mile race on June 18th
(4) Leadville LT10K on August 14th
I am going to register for at least 3 or 4 more trail races and maybe a few fun runs.
Part 4: Training Run – Boulder March 10th, 2011
I work in Boulder, Colorado. There is an area near my office that has some nicely maintained trails. The elevation is only 5,725 feet. I decided to go running after work. The temperature was 57.5 °F. This was so dang hot I ran in shorts and a short sleeve shirt.
These are nice trails and were loaded with other runners. I started running and intended to just be-bop along. I decided to give it enough effort to maintain a 9:30 min/mile pace. I ran for a while and looked at my Garmin timer. I was running at a 7:25 min/mile pace! I was shocked. Running at lower altitude on a gently rolling trail was easy. I throttled back quite a bit. It felt really good to run on a nice trail with the sun shining. I did 3.1 miles (5K) in 27:10 at an average 8:41 min/mile.
Part 5: Real Training – I have lost my mind, March 12, 2011
On Saturday I did a training run at the Flying J Open Space Park. It was muddy and icy. Springtime in the Rockies! Here are some photos. This was a hard run. I did 3.6 miles in 38 minutes at an average pace of 10:30 min/mile. Here is a photo essay of the run.
You are here. It is 27 degrees and you are standing at 8,250 feet of elevation.
Trail head and bear proof trash can. So far so good.
Pasted on the side of a hill. There are a few rocks and the trail is pretty narrow.
The trail is becoming treacherous. Hazard#1 - Mud!
Hazard#2 - Ice! This is slippery.
Hazard #3 - Rocks! When the trail is not muddy or icy, it is rocky.
Hazard #4 - Tree Roots. These are actually fun to run over. It is just like dancing!
Even the bridge over the frozen stream was icy.
Ice and mud. Mud and ice. I was happy with a 10:30 min/mile pace.
Running through icy muddy water does not feel as good as you might think!
My wife wanted me to pick up pizza on the way home.
She wanted lot of Pizza. We had friends coming over.
I find beer to be a better pain killer than Advil. Why did I need pain killer? Need you ask?
Friday, March 11, 2011
I make no secret that I like running on dirt. I live in the Colorado Rockies so running on dirt pretty easy to do. Pavement is actually in short supply. I get bored running the same old places. I have two races coming up: the Long Scraggy Ranch 4 mile and the Lake George "Flatlander" 5K. I also want to sign up for the Leadville LT100 10K. These are all pretty high races from 8,000 to 11,500 feet in elevation.
Anyway, I want to share with you a great new place I found to run. The place is called the Valley Trail in Beaver Ranch. Valley Trail is not a technical trail and is relatively flat. The elevation of the trail is 8,350 feet. During my run the temperature was 22.8 °F; humidity was 54%; and the wind was 8 mph. There also was intermittent snow. In other words, near perfect conditions for March in the Colorado Mountains.
I tooled along at about a 10 minute per mile pace. I ran about 3.5 miles in 35:36. A little bit before I was done running a snow flurry started. I had on a windbreaker, light gloves and a headband so I was comfortable. I love running on a new trail. I just don’t know what is beyond the next bend, which gives a little lightness to my step.
A nice sign like this is dead give away that the trail is not technical. (Technical means a trail has loose rocks, logs, steep hills, cliffs, streams and is not clearly defined.)
Unfortunately, a lot of the terrain on this map is still covered with deep snow. There is plenty of terrain that is runnable!
Warning about bears and lions. All through my run I didn't see any other creature. Solitude, sweet solitude.
Run this way.
Watch for the ice and snow here and there. There are few loose rocks but nothing even remotely dangerous.
Trail goes off into the distance. Beckoning you on. I'm going that way. Up and down little hills like a roller coaster.
This is a mountain trail so there are hills. "Relatively flat" is a loose term.
22 degrees F is still warm enough for shorts. I hate to run with anything on my legs. I often get asked what type of trail shoes I like. I don't wear trail shoes. I just wear running shoes. I find trail shoes are too stiff and clunky.
Snow can accumulate quickly. The snow is coming down sideways.
Time to go home after a good run. My lonely little Toyota Corolla is waiting for me. The car and I are the only ones there. Very dirty little car waiting for a runner with very dirty shoes.
Saturday, March 05, 2011
My favorite type of blog is when a fellow Sparker finds their "inner athlete". These people have a story about feeling physically inadequate most of their lives. Usually these feelings stem from bad experiences in gym class while in school.
I had a little different experience.
In grade school I was a big clumsy kid with two left feet. I fell down a lot and always had bruises on my knees. I was slow, uncoordinated and couldn't hit a ball with a bat to save my life. I remember one time in 6th grade I got up to bat during a softball game. I was determined to clobber the ball over the fence. I took a mighty swing as the ball neared the plate. I missed the ball, lost my balance and fell down on my back in a cloud of dust. The girls that were present burst into laughter. A teacher came over and asked me if I was alright. I shook my head and was sent behind the backstop at the end of the line. I hoped and prayed I would not have to get up to bat again. My prayers were answered.
In 7th grade we were all tested for the Presidential physical fitness award. Part of the testing process was to see how many chin-ups we could do. On the chin-up bar I hung there like a useless lump. The kind gym teacher told me if I could manage to bend my arms he would count it as one chin-up. I couldn't even bend my arms. I had a man-sized body with boy sized muscles. The gym teacher put me down for one chin-up anyway.
In 8th grade I got a paper route. I struggled to pedal my big heavy fat-tire bike up hills with the bike loaded with papers. In the summer my friends and I would race our bikes to the swimming pool and swim all day long. I traded my old Tonka trucks for a weight set. My dad was a welder and he built me a sturdy weight bench. I bought a book about weight lifting. I did curls, reverse curls, bench press, butterflies and military press. I did 3 sets of 10 reps just like the book said. By the way, I still have some of those weights even today.
In 9th grade, out of the blue, I got an invitation to go out for freshman football. There was an organizational meeting at the school prior to the season. When I walked into the room for the meeting my heart sank. There was a room full of better athletes than me. There were big kids, fast kids and strong kids all around me. It was standing room only. I went to a huge school. There must have been 75 kids there. I knew I didn't stand a chance.
We got our equipment for the first practice. The helmet was too tight and the shoes were too big. My dad had told me that I should volunteer for everything. He had been a college football player so I figured he knew what he was talking about. Just as a side note, my dad was an outstanding college football player. My mom had been a champion swimmer. I just thought the genetics didn't get passed to me. I was wrong.
Much to my surprise, I was fast and I was strong! I not only made the team, I started at defensive tackle and offensive guard. I was good. Really good. After football season was over I wrestled at heavy weight. I ran the 1/2 mile in track and was competitive. I was beating guys that were 50 pounds lighter than me. In 10th grade we were again testing for the Presidential physical fitness award. I got it! I was recruited to play college football. I decided to go to an elite smallish engineering school where I became a starter as a freshman.
But I still saw myself as a big clumsy kid. When I was senior in high school we played our arch rival in a football game. We beat the stuffing out of them. I was the blind side offensive tackle. After the game, some of the other players talked me into going to a pizzeria that was a local hang-out. As we walked through the door I saw the place was loaded with girls. They broke into clapping and cheering. Some of these girls were the same ones that had laughed at me in 6th grade when I fell down playing softball. I told my friends, "See ya", and walked out the door.
I just couldn't stand being treated like a hero by the same people that took so much pleasure in watching me fall down 6 years earlier. I never thought that athletic prowess made anyone special. I hung out with kids that had been my friends even when I was a clumsy athletic lost cause. Most of my friends were not part of the “in” crowd. But they were true hearted with lots of character.
Character is everything.
This is me in 1974. My hair was pretty short by 1970's standards. That kid weighed over 200 pounds and was really quick.
I threw the shot and discus and ran the 1/2 mile. To this day I still have real speed in the half mile. I would trade speed for endurance though!
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