Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Gym Report

I finally got smart and switched from my Muiras (size 41) to my Mythos (size bigger) climbing shoes. Duh! Tom was telling me to do this for weeks, but I get forgetting to put them in my car. They were way more comfortable on my damaged toe (which is taking its sweet time to heal. No noticeable improvement in a couple of weeks).

I climbed with Bruno and warmed up on a 5.9, 10a, 10b. Then I tried a new route with votes from 10d to 11b, most for 11a. I fell once, near the top and then finished it. Next I tried a cool 11b route on a arete. It was my style, but I had to grab a draw to clip before continuing to the top. On my next try I sent it.

I went back to the new 10d/11a/11b route and tried again, failing on the same last move. I thought this route was harder than the 11b with a one other very hard move below that served to sap all my strength for the final hard move. I decided to give it one more go, even though I was tired, just to learn the bottom sequence better and set it up for sending on Monday. I was surprised to just barely scrape my way to the top clean.

Summary: 9, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 11b, 11a, 11a - 8 routes

Another five 5.11 session, so I'm solidifying things in the 11- range. Next week I'll go back to the blue 11c and see if I can get that baby.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Old Mesa Loop PR

Old Mesa Loop at Garmin Connect
Strava Link

Went hard today. It had been awhile since my last tempo effort (9 days) and needed to suffer a bit. I really wanted to PR on this loop, and I did, but I still haven't worked out the pacing. I started too fast and lost over a minute on the Old Mesa climb and then a bit more in each of the last three miles. I'm less than 100 seconds away from my goal of breaking 90 minutes on this course. When it's warmer, there is no ice on the trail (held me up a bit, but not much), I'm five pounds lighter, my toe is headed, etc., then it will happen. I have high hopes of pulling this off by May.

Here is a comparison of my mile splits for today and my previous PR:

Mile #         2/14/2013        1/17/2013 
1                 8:47            9:20
2                 9:36            9:50
3                 9:23            9:27
4                10:00            9:47
5                 7:31            7:42
6                 6:49            6:57
7                15:40           14:29
8                10:10           10:14
9                 7:22            7:53
10                6:50            6:35

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cleanup on Aisle 5.11!

This morning I finally had a solid session in the gym, but it cost me some pain. Frustrated that I couldn't complete that 11a on Monday, I resolved to endure the pain and put a climbing shoe on my right foot. I warmed up with my approach shoe and did a 5.9, 5.9, and 10a (hard one). Then I switched to my climbing shoe. I'd endure the pain to the top of the route and immediately pull off the shoe while being lowered to the ground.

Next I got on the 10d where I grabbed the draw on Monday and fired it clean. I then went to the green 11a where I had fallen on the last more three times in a row. Clean. Then I the orange 11b with the brutal sequence at the lip of the roof. My first effort was up to the crux and then I fell. I worked out the most efficient sequence and finished the route. On my second go, I sent it.

Then I went back to a neat 11a arete route where I hung once on a couple of weeks ago. This time I moved through the crux section quickly and felt very comfortable sending it.

Getting froggy, I got on the 11c I tried a week ago. I got the first five clips clean, but had to grab the last draw to clip it. I hung and then just barely finished. I'll keep working it.

I switched back to my approach shoe and warmed down on a 10a.

Summary: 9, 9, 10a, 10d, 11a, 11b (one hang), 11b, 11a, 11c (one hang), 10a -- ten routes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Gym Report

Weighed in at 165.8 - my first weigh-in under 166. Not real, I realize, but a nice perk for the 10,000 vert. I did this weekend. I figure all I need to do it 10,000 vert/weekend and I should lose some weight... :-)

Gym went reasonably well. Warmed up on a 5.9, then a 10a, 10b, and then onsighted a 10d, barely. I tried another 10d and grabbed the 4th draw, clipped, but did not hang, and then finished the route. I need to go back and clean that baby up, but today I moved on to a tough 11a that has been bugging me. I made good progress on this. My first time I made all but the last clip, hung, and then finished. I tried three more times and each time made all the clips and got to the last move before falling. It's a tough last move as I have to stand on my right, non-climbing shod foot and grab a very high, rounded undercling with my right hand. I just need to pull up into this and get my left foot up and I can then grab the top. It should go on Wednesday and probably on my first try. I might even brave a climbing shoe on my right foot to give me that extra edge.

Summary: 9, 10a, 10b, 10d, 10d (one draw grab), 11a, 11a, 11a, 11a (all with one hang). 

Nine routes is a big morning for me, but I was just climbing with Corey the entire time, so only two of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maroon Bells Attempt #2 - via Bell Cord Couloir

Garmin Connect - Details
Strava Link

With the good weather continuing in the Aspen area and little new snow accumulation, Homie and I had to head back for another try on the Bells. This time we were going to try the Bell Cord Couloir. Normally, at this time of year, this route would be out of the question due to avalanche danger. This couloir is steep and very narrow. If it slid, there'd be no where to hide. Because of this we brought two ropes and a full rack of gear so that we could protect the couloir and possibly survive an avalanche, but not being driven thousands of feet down the mountain and buried. 

Homie also recruited some other winter 14er enthusiasts. Homie needed to be home on Sunday, so we planned to head in Friday, camp at Crater Lake, and attempt the climb on Saturday. Dwight joined us and 13er Girl and her husband would come in on Saturday and attempt the climb on Sunday.

Homie picked me up at my house at 4:30 a.m. and we drove out to the Maroon Bells Road once again. Dwight had slept the night at the trailhead and started in, on foot, at 7 a.m. Homie and I started skiing up the road at 9 a.m. I was dragging a sled to take the weight off my back and give me extra capacity. We caught up to Dwight just before the end of the road and we stopped at the drink shack maintained by the snow mobile company that guides trips up to the lake. This place is decadent and I enjoyed a couple of cups of hot chocolate before continuing on. Dwight left first and Homie shortly after him. I left a bit later, taking the time to switch from my kicker skins to my full-length skins. Skiing down the small hill leading to Maroon Lake I got my sled caught behind a tree and the zip ties holding my homemade sled's PVC poles to the sled snapped. Bummer. I jury-rigged up something temporary and continued on.

I had some trouble pulling the sled up the steepest hills. I was worked over nicely by the time I caught up to Dwight. Homie and Dwight had been breaking trail since the shack. It wasn't very deep, but I was sure glad for the track. Dwight and I caught up to Homie at Crater Lake. He was scoping campsites, but we continued to the far side of the lake and camped just above it, in the last grove of trees, where there are official summer campsites, at just above 10,000 feet. After clearing a spot and setting up the tent, we headed up towards the Bell Cord to recon the approach. I led the way, switchbacking relentlessly up the ever steepening slope until I got to the bottom of some avalanche debris at around 10,900 feet. Homie had ditched his skis much lower and plunge-stepped directly up the slope. He dug and pit to assess the avalanche potential and found consistent snow down to five feet deep. 

We retreated back to camp. By then I was wet and cold and the temperature was rapidly falling. I got into my -40 degree sleeping bag about 3:30 p.m. and I'd stay there until 5:30 a.m. the next morning. Any body part not inside the sleeping bag was freezing and rapidly becoming numb. Homie worked the stove for hours, melting water and filling bottles. I did nothing. My full-time job was to not freeze to death and try to drink and eat enough to be strong on Saturday. I was becoming intimately familiar with why Homie prefers a long, long day vs. overnight, winter camping - there is just too much time to lay there and freeze. Everything you didn't want frozen had to be inside the sleeping. I had all my clothes and three liters of water inside my bag. I should have had my boots as well.

Fourteen hours later, we were up, melting a bit more water, and trying to warm up our boots. We didn't do a good job with the latter task and we started out with cold feet. It was -5 degrees when we left the tent and my feet would continually get colder. Homie and I both just wore our NNN backcountry ski boots, which aren't the warmest boots in town. These, and the frigid temperatures, would be our undoing.

I led the way again, following my switchbacked trail from the afternoon before. It didn't help Homie and Dwight much, as Dwight was on snowshoes and Homie would ditch his skis low again. He isn't as comfortable skiing down steep slopes, as am I, though he is probably as proficient, since I'm not particularly skilled. I rely mostly on the traverse and kick-turn - the same way I got up. Plus, Homie can posthole all day long, while that effort saps me quickly. Hence, I was strongly motivated to keep my skis on as long as possible. I was able to find a route and allowed me to do this to about 12,000 feet. At that point I was approaching the narrow part of the couloir and the snow was getting harder and the slope steeper. I ditched the skis and put Kahtoola steel crampons on my boots. By then Homie had caught up to me and I fell in behind him, using his steps to ease my progress.

My feet were getting worse with every step and when Homie started to pause to catch his breath, I volunteered to take my turn at the front. I did this partly out of shame for not doing my part, but also because I had to keep my feet moving. But this turned out to be a mistake. I was now plunging my feet deep into the snow and they were never not buried. After an embarrassingly short turn at the front I had to stomp out a stance so that I could swing my feet to try to save them from freezing. Homie took over the lead again, but paused a short distance above. His feet were freezing as well, but he was concerned about the snow conditions. It was getting looser and looser. We plunged deeper with each step. Though we carried our ropes and gear, we found no opportunities for placement in the walls of the couloir. If the couloir slid, it would be over. I wasn't that concerned about the snow conditions, but maybe I should have been. I didn't say as much, though, since I was so worried about my feet that I needed to turn around. We were at 13,400 feet, but probably still two hours from the summit. My feet couldn't last that long.

By then Dwight had joined us. His feet were fine. He's an expert winter camper/mountaineer and had pre-warmed his boots with hot water bottles before putting them on. He was ready to follow Homie up and was willing to try and set up a snow anchor to belay Homie. With Dwight ready to accompany Homie, I announced that I was going down, because of my feet. Homie hesitated just a moment or two and then decided he didn't like the conditions and was heading down as well. We all retreated. I went quickly, seeing the sunny slopes far below and wanting to be out in the sun as soon as possible.

When I stopped to switch back to my skis, Dwight and Homie caught up and went by. I caught them relatively quickly on the descent. We stayed somewhat together for another thousand feet, but once back below 11,000 feet, I continued down to camp and started preparing for the ski out. I fixed my sled with cord, what I should have used before, and packed up my gear. I sat in the sun, ate, drank, and tried to warm my feet, to no avail. My feet wouldn't completely defrost until we had driven to Glenwood Springs. And now, three weeks later, the tips of my toes are still numb and my right big toe still has a very painful, open blister. It was frustrating to turn back, again, especially after two days and getting so close, but it was the right call for my feet. It was the right decision and I don't regret it.

We skied out, passing Homie's friends on their way in. They'd camp in our spot that night. Use our tracks the next day. And summit. Good for them. I wish we could have as well, but there is much for me still to learn about winter 14er climbing.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Backside Loop via Bison Drive

Backside Loop via Bison Drive by billwright510 at Garmin Connect - Details
Strava Link

I've done this loop three times now and the last two Saturdays. This was my first time doing it solo. Last weekend I ran with Mark and expected to do a lot better than our previous effort. I felt this way because I'd been running the Old Mesa Loop and feeling strong at the end of that 10-mile loop. But I faded very badly after getting to Eldorado Canyon. Even running down the road - downhill, smooth surface - my connective tissue was seizing up. I could no longer take a regular stride. My groin, hips, and knees were just locking up. I was okay hiking up the Old Mesa Trail, but as we progressed along the difficult Mesa Trail back to the start at Chautauqua Park my gait bore a closer and closer resemblance to Frankenstein's walk. It was disappointing.

Mark tried to dismiss my poor performance by blaming it on my previous weekend attempting the Bells. I frost damaged my right big toe and it is still causing me quite a bit of pain on the downhills. Today was slightly better, but it is still very uncomfortable. I could have had a bad day or maybe I just need a bit more distance training. To be clear, I wasn't disappointed that 19 miles was hard, I was disappointed that I was falling apart after only 11.5 miles. I speculated that my pace rapidly slows once runs get longer then ten miles. Something like this:

So, I went back today to give it another try.

I had an appointment at 11 a.m. and knew it would be a challenge to break 4 hours, so I started at 6:35 a.m. I was pleasantly surprised to not need any light at all. I trotted over to Gregory Canyon and ran/walked up it. There were only a couple of sets of tracks up Long Canyon and it was completely snow-covered. I got to top of the Flagstaff Road in 52 minutes and prompted went down the wrong road - a long driveway. Doh! I backtracked and got onto Bison Drive.

It was still really early, but this road is so nice and smooth and almost all downhill and I was able to roll a 7:15 mile. I got to the Walker Ranch trailhead and ran down to the Eldorado Trail. I mostly hiked up this steep trail. After ten miles I saw my first people. I passed four people before arriving at the Eldorado Ranger Station to refill my water. I was in and out quickly and ran down the road much better than last time, doing an 8:38 mile. Sure, that isn't fast, but it was a normal stride.

I hiked up the Old Mesa Trail and found that I could still run semi-normally. This is a tough trail to run when you are fresh and I was far from that. I wanted to break four hours and now I figured if I ran well, I could break 3:50. I ended up doing 3:44, for an average 11:38/mile. Nothing miraculous, of course, at my very best I'm mediocre, but a solid improvement over last time. I plotted my actual run speed on this graph, though it isn't much data: