Monday, March 28, 2011
I got to Grand Junction on Saturday early enough to go running. I was going to head down to a paved trail along the Colorado River. I ran this trail in the Fall. The trail had some rolling hills but nothing really steep. The elevati0n would be 4,700 feet so there would be more air than I am used to. I was looking forward to a fast 10K.
I never got there. Not even close.
My nephew's wife, Meghan, insisted that there were many good running trails in her neighborhood. My wife wanted to see the baby. Meghan wanted to show off little Alora. I was out voted by a landslide! I have to admit that Alora was a doll and a happy little thing.
Four month old Alora with wild blond hair and big blue eyes.
After holding the baby, making her laugh and getting drooled on, I put on my running stuff and left the house to run the beautiful trails Mehgan had told me about. I never found the trails that Mehgan had described. I did find a dirt trail. I started up the trail. Bad idea!
It turns out the trail went over desolate bluffs. This was also a technical trail strewn with boulders, rocks and loose gravel. Parts of the trail were plastered on the sides of steep hills. Other parts ran along cliffs. Here is a shot of the trail. I put some dots on the photo so you could make out the trail.
Dusty and rocky - this trail was brutal. So much for an easy run along the Colorado River.
I ran 6.5 miles on this trail. At 5.6 miles I stumbled on a rock and went down. I will spare you a photo of my bloody hands and banged-up right knee. I had dodged a hundred rocks. Unfortunately, I needed to dodge one-hundred and one!
I only managed an 11:24 min/mile pace over this mean chunk of wasteland. There were hills on this trail that were steep even by my standards at 30%+. The vertical rise in 6.5 miles was close to 2,000 feet.
I am ready to hop on a plane and go where the weather is nice, the terrain is flat and the biggest obstacle is an errant water sprinkler!
Thanks for reading my rant.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I live in the Rocky Mountains. I run hills. I have no choice.
Sometimes I wistfully think I would like to run where it is flat. I also would like to run where there is air. I am just feeling sorry for myself. I didn't go running today because the weather was very cold and extremely windy.
At least I don't have to run where it is hot and humid.
My wife ran early in the day before it got really cold. By the time I finished working, the weather was abysmal. She was so happy she had a great run. I just felt lazy and wimpy.
Besides, we are leaving early Saturday to go to visit family on the other side of the mountains in Grand Junction, Colorado. My nephew and his lovely wife have a new baby daughter, named Alora April Leigh Aldridge. That is a lot of name for such a tiny thing.
When Alora was born my wife called my Sister-in-law. My wife said, "Can I call you Old Granny". My sister-in-law laughed and said "Bite me!"
Grand Junction is a lot lower in elevation at 4,500 feet and, while not flat, is a lot flatter than where I live. In the Rocky Mountains, you don't run hills - you collide with them. Here is what I mean:
These are the roads by my house where I train. Look at the hill by the lakes on the right side of the photo. This is a steep hill. Ouch!
Each day that passes gets me closer to June 18th when I am going to take on a really big hill. I am registered for the highest road race in North America. The Mount Evans Ascent. What does 14.5 miles, 4,000 feet of vertical rise, and a finish line at 14,264 feet of elevation look like? A picture is worth a thousand words.
This is the last little bit of the race course. This is steep.
Here is a better shot of the summit.
This is stretch of road on Mount Evans. The weather can be really bad.
Tomorrow in Grand Junction I am going to do a really long run. Just posting these photos has scared me again. Here is my favorite mountain movies quote to motivate me.
Quote from Jeremiah Johnson (1972):
Bear Claw Chris Lapp (Will Geer) to Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford)
"Can't cheat the mountain, pilgrim.
Mountain's got its own ways."
On Mount Evans there ain't no way to cheat, there ain't no way to quit, and there ain't no place to hide.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I had gotten complacent in my training. I got comfortable running odd ball mountain races. I like running on dirt much better than running on pavement. I like shorter races much better than longer distance races. I was not training very hard and was kind of stagnating. I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone in a huge way. So I plunked down $75 to register for the most extreme road race I could find, the Mount Evans Ascent.
Prior to registering for this race, I weighed the pros, and the huge number of cons, of running a race that is 14.5 miles, all up hill, at extreme elevation. In end, I just figured nothing ventured, nothing gained. This has work like a charm. I now am paying a lot closer attention to my nutrition and training.
I was looking for a photo of the Mount Evans road for visualization purposes. I have found that the thought of racing 14.5 miles up an icy nightmare of a road is making me creative. I found a good photograph that I have burned into my mind's eye. Here it is:
I hope it is sunny on race day.
This is the Davidson Mesa trail in Louisville, Colorado - a piddling 5,700 feet of elevation. As I ran this trail I kept thinking that I have to be in a lot better shape to take on Mount Evans. I saw this dirt trail as the highway up Mount Evans.
I ran on the Davidson Mesa Trail doing a long slow distance. I ran 6 miles at consistent 10:30 min/mile pace. Six miles is an increase in my training mileage. I could have kept going but it got dark. I usually go a heck of a lot faster for a much shorter distance. I resisted the urge to go faster. I stayed well below my aerobic threshold. I plan to gradually increasing my training mileage. As the snow melts I have to start training at much higher elevations. Right now it is hard to get much above 10,000 feet without running into deep snow.
I found a website that allows people to rate their travel experiences on the highest paved road in North America. Here is a quote from a post by couple from California relating their experiences on Mount Evans:
“Amazing view but watch out for that Altitude!
We had an amazing time up there. The view was wonderful and breathtaking. HOWEVER, my boyfriend definitely got hit hard by the high altitude and barely could walk that quarter of the mile from the parking lot to the top...14,000 ft is pretty high for us, San Diegans. I was getting a headache and I was definitely exhausted after being up there even though we didn't do much trekking."
The headache and fatigue these people experienced is no joke. I think they were dramtically underestimating the seriousness of what was happening to them. The symptoms of fatigue and headaches that the lady describes are typical of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). AMS is thought to be caused by swelling of the brain!
Due to modern high-speed travel, it is conceivable that our friends from San Diego can be at sea level in the morning and at 14,000 feet in the afternoon. The human body is not designed to adjust that quickly to such a massive change in atmospheric pressure and lack of oxygen. A person can acclimatize to high elevation, but is takes a long time.
Now if our intrepid pair stays at the top Mount Evans the symptoms can get much get worse.
The mild first symptoms that our friends from sunny California experienced can progress to High Altitude Cerebral Edema (Hace). The first symptom of Hace is mental confusion. As the condition worsens, a person may have a difficult time keeping up with others. (think about the lady's boyfriend "getting hit hard by the high altitude") As Hace progresses, a person's walking and coordination become impaired. As the brain continues to swell, the person becomes more lethargic. If left untreated, the person will go into a coma and eventually die.
I wonder if our pair of adventurers from the warm shores of Southern California had any idea that the climbing to the top of the earth to take in the "amazing view” could be deadly.
The only problem that I have had when running at high-altitude is Hape (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). Hape is caused by the body shutting down the parts of the lungs that are no longer absorbing oxygen. This shutdown is a survival response. Unfortunately, without proper blood flow, fluid starts to accumulate in the lungs causing shortness of breath, gurgling sounds when breathing and hacking up white frothy stuff. Hape can lead to respiratory failure. As a result, breathing is no longer possible and it is "lights out". I can tell you that Hape hurts really badly. Forunately, all I have to do is stop running and my lungs will start working again.
I have a really good boiler room. For my height, I have realtively stubby legs which is a giagantic advantage. I have a long torso with great lung capacity.
If I haven’t bored you enough already, I will tell you about one other little problem that indicates that activity at high altitude puts a lot of a strain on the body. There is a condition called High Altitude Retinal Hemorrhage (Harh). Harh is a fancy way to say your eyes start to bleed. Blood vessels rupture in the retina and can cause permanent eye damage or vision loss.
Here is a sign on the summit of Mount Evans that describes the dangers of high-altitude sickness, lightning and hypothermia. I am now training like there is no tomorrow.
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