Monday, May 27, 2013

21st Bolder Boulder in a Row!

Sheri and I have run every Bolder Boulder since 1993. Today was our 21st running. It was the 12th year in a row that I've run under my age. It was the 11th year in a row for Danny and Derek. Danny ran in the BB wave with a goal of running 8 minutes/mile and breaking 50 minutes. Sheri ran with Derek and their goal at the start was to break 50 minutes as well, but Derek quickly decided that his legs were dead and they switched to an 8:15 pace.

It was perfect weather, but already getting pretty warm. I warmed up a couple of miles, seeing a number of friends including Noelle Green, Ellen Hart (former BB winner), and Jeff Valliere. I was in the AA wave for some reason, but my qualifying times only merited inclusion in the AB wave. It didn't affect me, as I was sticking to my plan of 7 minutes/mile. I got passed by some fast AB runners by the first mile! In fact, I got passed most of the race, but I stuck to my plan.

My Garmin 310XT watch told me I was sticking very close to my goal pace, and even a bit under it, but the Bolder Boulder timing did not agree. This has happened to be before and I should have been going more on my time at the BB mile marks, but was hoping that my watch was correct. Here are the differences in the splits:

     Mile Split        Garmin Watch       BB Timing
          1                      6:54                    6:48          
          2                      6:59                    7:08
          3                      7:00                    7:12
          4                      7:02                    7:07
          5                      6:50                    6:56
          6                      6:55                    7:08

The difference in the first mile was probably due to me starting my watch at the gun and then having to walk for at least ten seconds before reaching the starting line and starting to run. My watch consistently beeped out the mile mark well before the marked-mile on the course. Disappointing the difference, but it is what it is. I uploaded my GPS track to Strava and it also gave me faster mile splits.

My official time was 43:49 (Strava measured my 10K at 43:10), which gives me an average pace of 7:06 (6:58 according to Strava). My goal was 7 minutes/mile, so I didn't achieve the goal, but, as I said, I did really no speed work,  and hence didn't deserve to whine about my lack of speed. The last hills up to and into the CU Stadium were killer. I had nothing left and could not even muster any kick at all. I thought I was being wimpy until I glanced at my watch and saw my heart was beating at 176 bpm. That's all I've got, so in effect, I was already kicking despite the slow pace.

I saw ex-Tendril CTO Kent Dickson at the finish and he joined us in the stands, where we all regroup. I hung out down at the finish, trying to dodge the officials moving people out of there, until Danny finished. He ran incredible well - very evenly paced - and finished in 49:29! Sheri and Derek finished in 50:51 and were both pleased with the time. Sheri could have run faster on her own, but not fast enough to satisfy her, so he had a lot more fun running with Derek.

We hung out in the stands for a bit and regrouped with Kraig (brother in-law) and Samantha (niece). They ran together and Sammy ran 49:27. Nice. Kate and Craig came by to say hi as well. Then we packed up our "Runches" (bag lunches we got after 8 a.m.). I jogged back to the car, tacking on a bit extra to get two miles of cool-down. We got some Starbucks and Moe's Bagels for extra replenishment and headed home to watch the French Open.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Flatiron Classic With Derek

I've been working through the Gerry Roach Flatiron Classics lately and taking Derek up a number of them for the first time. Today we headed to the Morning After (aka The Thing). I hadn't climbed on this rock in probably a decade. It's a bit of a bushwhack to get there. We elected to try the traverse bushwhack from above Sentinel Pass on the way in, but decided that the straight-up bushwhack (from the 9th switchback on the Royal Arch Trail) was the better way to go. We took this latter route on the way out.

Derek is generally not a morning guy, but he appreciates getting things done early in the day. He made our plan to be hiking around 7 a.m. We did leave the house a bit late, as we were watching some of the first matches of the French Open, but we weren't too far behind schedule.

In an effort to make the climb quick and show Derek that these things needn't take up a big part of the day (in hopes that he'll climb with me even more often), I set too fast of a pace up the steep trail. Derek had played two tennis matches the day before and was worried about saving his legs for the Bolder Boulder 10K tomorrow, so we slowed it down to a more reasonable pace.

We made our way to the base of route route in 50 minutes and I was heading up the first pitch about 15 minutes later. The first pitch is a runout slab where I got in one cam about fifty feet up. I stopped at a big tree on the sloping slab below the crux 5.7 roof. The roof itself is very cool. It's steep and 1.5" crack splits it, providing bomber gear. I was worried that any jamming would stymie Derek and placed three pieces with slings on them for him to grab, just in case. Turning the roof is only a couple of moves, but I solved it with a big reach to a lieback hold and doubted Derek would be able to reach it.

I belayed just twenty feet above the roof at another tree, making for a very short pitch, but I wanted to stay close to Derek for the crux. Derek got up to the roof easily and quickly. I was surprised to see him peeking over the lip so soon. He could barely reach the hold I used, but I wasn't sure he liked it much. He retreated a couple of moves to rest and then easily cranked the move on his second time up.

The third pitch was some easy slab climbing to a super cool fist crack. A fist crack on a low-angle slab so that it wasn't necessary to use the crack at all at first and when it got steeper I then just used one edge of the crack, since it slanted across the face instead of going straight up. I belayed at a third tree, mainly to take some photos.

The fourth pitch heads up to the massive, signature flake that looks like another giant slab laid on top of the upper half of the East Face. I climbed up the dihedral formed by the left side of the flake and ran out the rope until I was on top of the flake. Derek easily scampered up to my belay and then it was a short fifty-foot slab to the summit.

A sling around a boulder on the south side of the summit was our rappel anchor and fifty feet down was the ground. We packed up and made our way carefully down the complicated terrain on the north side of the rock back to the base of the rock. For a lot of the descent there were signs of a faint climber's path and this only improved below the slab. Soon we were back on the Royal Arch Trail, passing tons of other hikers out enjoying the great day. We were back at the car three hours after leaving it and home before 11 a.m.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Busy Eldo This Morning

Homie and I continued our rock climbing training for Europe this morning. We did a couple of the classics on the Wind Tower. As we drove into the parking lot at 6 a.m. I was surprised to see two vehicles already there. I'm slipping, obviously... There was a party of six working their way up the East Slabs descent of the Redgarden Wall. They would eventually top out and it looked like they lowered in to TR the last pitch of the Naked Edge.

Later, we saw another guy, alone, fixing a single line from the top of the Bastille down Outer Space and XM. He rappelled the line and the TRed back to the top. Also, a party of three was starting the Bastille Creek and were up a pitch by the time we left.

We had the Wind Tower to ourselves, though. I put the first two pitches of the Wind Ridge (5.7) together and belayed Homie up to the big ledge. I then turned the tricky overhang on the third pitch. As I turned the lip I heard Homie say something. I paused and looked down and he was rubbing his forehead. He asked me if I knocked off a rock. Nope. He thought maybe I dropped a biner. I checked my rack and it all seemed to be there and we concluded that it must have been some random rock falling from above. But at the top of the route, when we re-racked, I realized I was missing the second 0.75 Camalot. I had only placed one piece on the pitch and it was the other 0.75. Oops. I must have dislodged it taking the other one off the rack and when I turned the roof, it fell free smacking Homie right between the eyes.

We scrambled off to the descend and then downclimbed the descent to the trail. We hiked down a bit and then I climbed up the ramp that leads to the top of the second pitch to search for the errant Camalot. I did not find it on the ledge, where I was hoping it had stopped. I was resigned to descending and climbing up Breezy or the Wind Ridge again to look for it when I spotted it lodged in a crack about thirty feet down the route. I down-soloed to the piece, retrieved it, and climbed back up.

Of course I felt horrible for beaning Homie with the gear and dropping the piece at all. What a bumbler, I am. I'm trying to instill in Homie some confidence in me. This isn't doing it. We've done a lot together, though, and I suspect he already thinks I'm a competent partner. I hope so. He sure is a rock solid partner himself.

We moved down the hill a bit and climbed the first pitch of Calypso to the sloping ledge. Then we finished up Reggae. Homie followed easily and we downclimbed to the rappel anchors. Two rappels put us on the ground and we were driving out of the park a little after 8 a.m.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Owls in the Amphitheater

I did a little scrambling this morning. My plan was to do the four classic (Gerry Roach Flatiron Classics) routes in the Amphitheater. I did really steep West Face of T-Zero (5.5) and downclimbed off to the north and then straight up the ramp/steep climbing, headed for the Southeast Face of First Pinnacle (5.4). Just before I got to the start of that route a large bird squawked fly off to my left. I wondered if the rocks were closed for raptors (they are not - the closure was lifted on May 8th). A bit further up I was able to see two large, fluffy owl chicks nestled in a natural hole right at the base of my intended route. I suspect it was the mama owl that flew off. I didn't go any closer and downclimbed straight to the ground.

Next I went up the Slot (5.6) on the West Bench. I was scrambling in my Boulder X shoes for the first time and this climb caused me to pause a number of times to ensure I was executing the moves in the safest,  easiest fashion. I took quite awhile to carefully climb this 50-foot route. I descended off the back and then down to the Amphitheater Trail before climbing up the South Face of the Second Pinnacle (5.2). I downclimbed steeply to the ground and then down the trail back to the Gregory Canyon parking lot where I dropped off my long-sleeve shirt.

I then headed up to the First Flation and climbed the East Face (5.6). I took nearly 30 minutes to climb this 11-pitch route, which might sound fast but for a Minion this is a glacial pace. I wasn't in a hurry and I took my time on all the tricky sections. I'm definitely not ready to race up this route, but hopefully will be come September and the 10th edition of the Tour de Flatirons.

I downclimbed the Southwest Face to the ground and trotted slowly back to my car. It was a fun morning of scrambling with the highlight being my owl spotting.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scrambling the Second and First Flatirons

I met my buddy Corey this morning at 6 a.m. at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead. He wanted to repeat our scramble on the Second Flatiron from last year to make sure he was comfortable with it before trying this stuff on his own. I don't think we accomplished that task today...

We hiked and trotted to the base of the Second Flatiron and started scrambling upwards. There is a tricky spot near the bottom where I use two tiny holds, but there are other options left and right. Corey looked at it for awhile and opted to take the left option. We climbed easily upwards from there to the jump move left, to get onto the next slab. Unlike the rain yesterday and forced us to abort, today we had perfect weather.

Another tricky section gave Corey a bit of a pause as well, but he worked it out. Near the top I took the right option to avoid the direct 5.6/7 steep crux that we did last time. I wanted him to know that this steep part could be avoided. The sneak on the right isn't trivial either, though, and the slick nature of the climbing got in Corey's head a bit. I asked how he was doing and he told me he was worried. I carefully downclimbed until I was right above him and braced myself securely. I offered my hand and he grabbed it and finished the slick section to a rest ledge.

After a moment to settle our minds, we moved on, now with me climbing below Corey. We climbed under the big flake and up the final dihedral to the trail. I asked if he wanted more and he did. We descended the trail to the base of the First Flatironette and then scrambled up that. We observed a party of six all climbing of the East Face of the First Flatiron. They seemed to be all roped together and moving at once, though they might have all been belayed by the leader above.

We topped out the Flatironette and moved north and down a bit to climb onto the classic Spy. We scampered up that (5.2) to its summit and then down the backside (small jump) to the ground. Corey's scrambling itch scratched, he opted to hike up to the backside of the First, while I continued up the North Arete of the First (5.4) to the summit and then downclimbed the Southwest Face back to the ground. We trotted down the climber's trail to the Saddlerock Trail and back to the parking lot.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Damn you, Raoul!"

I love Strava. The site has many unique features for sharing workouts and FKTs. It's ability to find segments amongst all the GPS tracks uploaded and to compare them is ground breaking stuff. It was a a new paradigm for comparing workouts and a dream for someone like myself that loves to keep track of the fastest times on various courses, locally specifically, but regionally and globally as well.

But Strava has some crazy issues/bugs/problems with how it does this GPS track comparisons. It is so bad right now that it can't be used to keep track of the actual course records. For Green Mountain above Boulder, it routinely takes off around a minute from the actual time, even though the segment is defined accurately and displayed accurately on the Strava site. I believe these are tricky problems and I'd love to work on improving this software. Alas, Strava is in San Francisco...

Here's another issue that has been brought to my attention, repeatedly, by Strava.

Being an avid Strava user and possessing moderate talent, I wasn't surprised to get an email notifying me that someone, in this case Raoul, had stolen my KOM (King of the Mountains). What was interesting was that I'd lost this particular KOM countless times, at least according to the emails I receive. And what's even more bizarre, I still have the KOM…

KOM's on Strava are for particular segments of trail or road. Strava automatically creates some segments based on the GPS tracks that are uploaded to its site. For road runs and road rides it seems to do a semi-reasonable job. For trails runs it does a fabulously terrible job. It does this so poorly and so hilariously that I am dumbfounded why Strava has not disabled this non-feature. 

Now I don't know if the segment in question was automatically created by Strava or defined by a person (there doesn't seem to be any way to tell, unless you personally have defined the segment, as then you can edit the segment), but I'd bet it was automatically generated. First, the name of the segment is "st / 2nd Flatiron Trail Climb". That is not a typo, though it looks like it probably should start with "1st / 2nd". Second, start and finish of this segment are a bit unusual. It starts halfway up the "Amphitheater Trail" and then continues up the Saddle Rock Trail to where it ends at the junction with the Greenman Trail. Who would create such a strange segment?! As it turns out, it was me…sort of. 

On Strava you can see all the segments you have created, but it doesn't just list the manual ones you specifically created. Apparently, it also lists all the automatic segments that were created based on your GPS track upload. In fact, I've created two segments named exactly "st / 2nd Flatiron Trail Climb" - one for running and one for walking (a ridiculous distinction in my mind, but a topic for another day). One gains 524 feet at a 24.2% grade and is 0.4 miles long. This segment goes from the Gregory Canyon Trailhead to the top of the Amphitheater Trail. The other is some segment that starts off the Mesa Trail and after heading west, off trail a bit, then flies, straight-line, up and over the ridge as if I hopped into the Peter-copter. (looks more like it tunneled through) to a random point on the Saddle Rock Trail. Neither of these segments match the aforementioned segment of the same name that started this rant. By the way, two of these segments have nothing do with the First or Second Flatirons - popular climbing rocks nearby but not accessed by these trails. 

The segment with the straight line is obviously a track with almost no GPS points. It should have been rejected out-of-hand by Strava's automatic segment-finding software. The other two are also bizarre choices. The segment that started all this looks to be a biking segment since the segment page states that it has been "ridden 16 times by 10 people." So, maybe that explains why we have three (all bogus) segments with the exact same name - they are walk, run, and ride segments. I don't expect Strava to know that no biking is allowed on these trails and even if it did, someone could have poached the trails on a bike, as that is not unheard of around here…

Since the straight-line segment is an impossible route and clearly an erroneous GPS track, it is perhaps not surprising that I have the one and only entry and therefore the KOM. I'm also the KOM on the segment covering the Amphitheater Trail, which is the most common trail to hike up Green Mountain and has been covered twice as fast as my time. Why am I the KOM? Because I uploaded that activity as a walk instead of a run. I no longer upload any activities as walks to avoid this Strava craziness. I also have the KOM for original sement, even that that also lies on the most popular route up Green Mountain. Maybe this is because, mistakenly, I might have uploaded that activity as a ride instead of a run. Okay, that explains why I have all three KOMs. 

So, if I have all three KOMs, why do I keep losing it? Over and over and over again? So far I have received at least 12 emails telling me that I've lost my KOM and I suspect they will keep on coming, since I still have the KOM. I'd think it was because Strava is confused and sends me the email about losing my KOM when someone enters a run that is faster than my "bike" time, but then doesn't update the bike leader board since, well, the other person ran and didn't bike. But I don't think that is it, since then I'd be getting many more emails, especially from my buddy Homie who runs this route almost daily and has run faster over this section many times, though I have never got an email about him taking my KOM. It's a mystery. If you click on my effort at the top of the leader board, it is listed as a run. It must be some stale data on Strava and they apparently have no automatic process in place to fix
things like this. 

So, instead of saying "Damn you, Raoul!" for taking my KOM, I should be saying, "Nice try, Raoul, but, no you didn't take my KOM and no one can! Despite my best hopes of losing it someday…"

Crazy Garmin Data

I love my 310XT Garmin watch. It has numerous features that make it a great training tool and even a reasonable navigation tool. One really neat feature is that if the watch is on and near my computer, all the data will be automatically transferred not just to the computer, but clear to the Garmin Connect online site well! That's slick. A nice online archive of all my workouts/adventures. But some things are annoying about the site. Here's one example of the site being inconsistent with itself. For this workout, a run across Zion National Park, the site lists 542 more feet of elevation loss than gain. For that to be true, the adventure must finish 542 feet BELOW where it started. Yet the site clearly shows the opposite to be true, which happens to be correct. 

The profile line clearly shows some erroneous points but that cannot explain the inconsistent data, since the graph is shown continuously. 

This sort of stuff annoys me. The developers should have put in a check to make sure they don't present something that they'd know is complete garbage. That's just lazy programming and/or insufficient QA.

Old Mesa Loop PR

Strava Link

I was supposed to run the Backside Loop today, but I just haven't developed a love of running that long. I suck at run long. I'm much better, relatively, in suffering for limited period of time - like an hour or so. Real athletes work their weaknesses and that fact that I have so much trouble doing this says a lot about my mediocrity. I put off running until I deemed it was too late to risk the private property on the Backside Loop and resigned myself to just running the Old Mesa Loop. As penance for not running long, I vowed to run hard.

My goal for the summer was to break 90 minutes on the 10-mile, 2000-feet-of-climbing loop. I had PRed on the Green Mountain Loop last Wednesday so I figured I had a shot. Now the 5000 feet of climbing I did while riding 55 miles in the mountains yesterday probably wasn't the best final preparation to run at your limit, but, despite trying to solve this problem for decades, I still cannot change what is in the past. In some respects it was a bonus: I already had a great excuse if I fell flat. Sweet.

I love stats and numbers and splits and check data on runs and hikes and rides at a frequency that tends to annoy anyone that happens to accompany me. Maybe that's why I do these things alone so often... Hmmm, food for thought. Anyway, for this effort I decided to not look at my watch very often. I think the only way for me to run a PR effort on this long of a run is to run by feel for the first 3.6 miles - the long gradual, opening climb. I need to make it to that summit feeling pretty relaxed, working hard, of course, but well within myself. There will be plenty of time to suffer but pacing is so key at this distance. I could run all-out and be on record pace at the top of this climb, but there is no point in that since I'd just detonate myself.

I made the top of the climb in 34:40, which I was pretty sure was on record pace. I really tried to run hard from here on the descent to the Fowler Trail and the flatish mile into Eldorado Canyon and then really tried to flow down the long, smooth hill. The descent on the road allowed me to run at 6:32 6th mile. The 7th mile, on the brutal Old Mesa Trail climb, was slow at 15:42, but I was still trying to stay somewhat comfortable. This paced allowed me to finish with miles of 9:27 (anything under 10 minutes for this mile is quite good), 7:04 and 6:56 for a PR of 1:29:31! I'd broken 90 minutes and 9 minute/mile average for the first times.

At the top of the Bluestem Trail my watch said 1:17:20 - I had 12:40 to finish under 90 minutes. I knew it was possible, but would be very difficult. I pushed as hard as I dared through the technical sections and as hard as my heart would allow on the smoother sections. I had to make the junction with the Mesa Trail under 1:25 or it was over. I didn't bother to look at my watch until then and I didn't hold back at all. If I was going too fast to sustain, it didn't matter because at that point it was all or nothing for sub-90.

Nearly blowing up, I hit the Mesa Trail and checked the watch: 1:24:01. It was in the bag. It wasn't trivial to finish in under 6 minutes from there, but it was slower than I had been going. I relaxed a bit, out of necessity somewhat but also to ease the pain. I didn't have it in me physically or mentally to try for sub 1:29. I still ran hard, though.

My best time ever for the Old Mesa mile is 14:29 (1:13 faster than I went today), but I followed that with a 10:15 mile (48 seconds slower than today) and preceded it with a 6:56 mile (34 seconds slower than today). I still have to walk for about 5 or more minutes of the Old Mesa, near the top, but there is probably no getting around that for me.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting Homie's Climbing Legs Back

When I say "Homie's climbing legs" I mean his technical climbing legs. We know that dude is a climbing machine while hiking/scrambling, but he hasn't done much technical climbing lately and he is joining me in Europe to climb the Eiger and the Cima Grande in July, so he wanted to prepare. My hope is that we'll visit of lot of the classic climbing routes he either did a long time ago or still has yet to do.

We started our training at the Dome in Boulder Canyon. This is basically where I learned to climb, back in 1980 when I was a freshman at CU. I have such fond memories of the climbs there. Even the smell of the place hark back to those days. We met at 6 a.m. and were at the base of the East Slab (5.5) around 6:25. I led this climb as one long pitch. In the earlier days, this was three short pitches... It's better as three short pitches. You to set up belays, re-group on ledges, scope the next pitch while belaying the second up. It's more adventure. Alas, it is also not very long and these days I tend to want to more quicker. Plus it there was a cold, strong wind blowing. Homie cruised up behind me, cleaning a booty stopper from the crux along the way.

We descended and immediately started up Cozyhang (5.7). This is a tricky, slick route. It climbs like a series of boulder problems. Once again I strung pitches, putting the first two together, which ends up traversing more than it ascends. I led up to the crux bulge, put in a bomber piece at my head, and cranked the move, which still felt a bit challenging all these years later. I moved up under the huge overhang and then traversed down and left, being careful to place good gear to protect Homie.

I got to the belay ledge and Homie followed, looking smoother than I did. He's a natural climber, but has elected to pursue other areas in the mountains, like marathon 14er-bagging and ultra-running. I did the last pitch up to the top, passing through the very bizarre, contortionist roof problem. This was a good test of my right shoulder and it help up. The key with this final problem is not getting your head stuck below the lip. Aware of this, I was careful about that. Homie took a couple of tries to get this right, but was soon on top with me. We decided that was a good introduction and called it a morning and headed to work, getting there around 8:15 a.m. Our plan is to get out once a week for some climbing. Maybe we'll rotate through the three classic areas of Boulder climbing: Boulder Canyon, Flatirons, and Eldorado Canyon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Green Mountain Loop PR!

PRs are hard to come by at my advanced age, though I do have a tried and true way of always getting one: run a new course. But that was not the case today. I ran the Green Mountain Loop, which I've run more than 100 times. Granted most of those have been in the last few years, but still...

My lifetime goal on this loop was to break an hour. Once I sort of did it, but it was tainted majorly by stopping the watch while I hiked back to find a Microspike I lost. So that doesn't count. My fastest real time was 1:01:??. I figured I had to have perfect snow conditions to break an hour and that on a dry trail that would not be possibly for me, though I vowed to give it a go if I ever broke 38 minutes on the ascent, which I viewed as the slowest ascent time that would have a shot at a roundtrip under an hour.

Homie had mentioned the other day that he had been having trouble breaking 40 minutes on the ascent lately. I responded that I was fearful of trying a hard ascent because I was afraid my time would be so slow that it would discourage me. Nevertheless, I decided to find out where I was at. So today when I took off I was not even thinking about the roundtrip, but was hoping I had it in me to break 40 minutes on the ascent.

I tried to start off at a sustainable pace and not blow up no the steep Amphitheater Trail. I ran some sections here, a lot more than usual, but that still amounted to only a minute or two at most of running. To break an hour the split at the Saddle Rock Trail junction needs to be around 8 minutes. I got there at 7:22 and immediately thought that it was too fast and I'd now probably blow up. 

I got to the little wood bridge at 13:22. I wanted to be in the 15's here at worst and possibly under 15. Either I was having a great day or a blow-up was still coming, but it hadn't happened yet. I got to the Greenman Trail junction at 21:25. At that point I knew I could break 40 minutes, though it would still take some serious suffering. 

I was doing the mental calculations, of course, and knew I could break 39 minutes. When I made the "10 minutes to go" switchback, I knew there was an outside shot of breaking 38 minutes. My all-time ascent PR is 37:30 or so. I pushed, did the direct scrambling on the summit boulder and made the true summit in 37:50.

At that point I was in a serious amount of pain, but I made a deal with myself about the roundtrip and had to continue to hurt. I immediately descended off the boulder and started down. The first couple of minutes of descending, as usual, where uncoordinated and didn't flow at all. Despite this I made the saddle and the junction with the Ranger Trail in 40:00. I pushed on the descent but was very focused to pick up my feet and to not take chances. Five minute down my playlist stopped and I even took the time to walk and switch to another playlist. I wondered if I'd regret taking that time later. Wondered if the the tunes would really help me enough to make up for that last time. No matter, I did it.

I went by the cabin at 48:55 and made the junction with the Gregory Canyon trail at 49:55. I pushed on the slight rise there and then went as hard as I could whenever the running was non-technical. I was very careful in the technical sections and slowed down there. I didn't take unnecessary risks there. It wasn't worth it to me to take too big of a risk in that terrain. But outside of the nasty sections, I pushed and I hurt.

I made the "4 minutes to go" bridge at 55:10. I knew I had my first sub-hour loop at that point. Did I ease up, be really careful and cruise in? Not my style. Probably not any competitive person's style. I had a shot to break 59 and  only had to hurt for four more minutes. The worst technical section was still to come and I was once again very careful there. I went as fast as I dared in the last minute and hit the trailhead in 58:59! What a shock. I'm thrilled with this result.

Homie was standing there, having just finished his run (where he PRed as well to Green's summit via Flagstaff's summit). On the 15-minute drive to work my body continued to pour out sweat at a tremendous rate. My engine was frantically trying to cool itself. On the drive to the trailhead that morning I turned on my heart-rate monitor and never saw my HR go below 60. That is usually an indication that today wasn't a day to push things, but mentally, I wanted to see where I was at, so I ignored that data point. I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

South Face of the Maiden Before Work

I climbed the regular route (North Face) of the Maiden this past Saturday and it rekindled an interest in this most imposing Flatiron spire. I discovered a trio of new, hard (too hard for me) routes that scale seemingly impossible rock. But even the easiest routes are super cool routes. Routes like the North and South Faces (5.7 and 5.9, respectively) weave their way up steep precipices that, at first glance, do seem possible, especially without a rash of bolts. Yet both of these routes go with almost no drilled protection by finding and following the few natural weaknesses.

Tom had never climbed the exciting South Face and so I suggested a Dawn Patrol outing. We met at the South Mesa Trail at 5:30 a.m. to start the long hike in to the Maiden. Tom started up the intimidating 5.7 first pitch at 6:26 a.m. The weather was perfect, though we heard a tremendous wind above us. That would come into play a bit later.

I followed and then led the short 5.7 traverse pitch over to the base of the crux pitch. I placed one piece of gear on this very short pitch and it was about the only place you could place gear. Tom was soon starting up the crux headwall. Here there are two options, though I've only ever done the straight up, exciting option. You can go sideways via three strange looking, cemented-in, ring bolts to a crack/ramp that cuts back up and left, or you can go straight up past a hidden fixed pin to the "jug hold" above you. Tom went this way and flew up it like every hold was big and solid. It had me thinking about how this pitch is sometimes rated 5.8. I figured that must be more accurate...until I followed it.

This section is short, but it is thin, airy, and exciting. By the time you get in gear above the crux you are at least thirty feet above the pin. Granted, the hard climbing ends about 15 feet above the pin but the holds are small and either insecure or so thin that you fear they will break and opt for the insecure holds instead. It takes some balance to make the big reach to the "jug hold" and, despite having done this route at least three times before, I was disappointed to feel how fingery it was. Sure, the hold is great, but it is no door handle - it takes some finger strength. You aren't done when you get this hold either. You have to pull your feet over the bulge. This involves another reach and pulling on another small, but positive hold before you can get off your arms.

We simul-climbed the next two easy (5.5) pitches to the summit, where that wind we had been hearing was there to greet us. I got to experience the somewhat terrifying experience of dangling fifteen feet from the ends of my rope (we'll knot them next time) while looking at the ground 120-feet below me and hoping the wind will ease and I'll swing back and be able to land on the rib of rock where the next rappel anchor lies. Obviously, I did swing back, but not after some trepidation. I anchored the ends of the rope to the rappel station so that Tom didn't have to repeat my anxiety.

Another rappel put us on the ground. We pulled and coiled the rope and descended a hundred feet or so back at our packs, arriving 70 minutes after we left them. We packed up and returned to the parking lot by 8:15 a.m. and easily made our 9 a.m. meeting with plenty of time to shower. What a great way to start the day.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rockies Run to Home Plate 5K

Our family has done this race many times. We use it as a training race for the Bolder Boulder. This year the boys used it as their only run before the Bolder Boulder (update: they both did one other run, just around the neighborhood). I guess that's still a training race for them. For Sheri it was her first road race in about a year. Same for me. Last year I trained hard for a fast Bolder Boulder and discovered I can no longer run as fast as I could before. I wasn't that broken up about it. It was bound to happen. I was never very fast to begin with, so I wasn't losing that much anyway. This year my target events are much more varied than just running. I have been running consistently, but almost all trail running and I've done zero speed work. Knowing that I decided to start at a conservative pace of 7:00/mile. If I could hold that, cool. If not, that would be disappointing, but what can you expect if you don't do the work? Ideally, I'd drop the pace and run negative splits.

I warmed up with a couple of miles of easy running and then joined the family to head over to the start. The race was huge this year and had a ton of race-day sign-ups, probably due to the absolutely perfect weather - a rarity this spring. We staged near the front. Even though this is a big race, the talent is not very deep. As evidence to that assertion, I won my age group last year.

I took out the first mile a bit over 7-minute pace and pressed a bit going down the hill. I went a bit too hard and my pace fell to 6:38/mile at one point. I eased up a lot and then the course turned uphill I made sure I was hardly working. That worked nicely and when I passed by the first mile mark, the woman their called out my pace: "7:00". Nice! Sheri and the boys were so close behind me that Sheri heard the lady call out my pace. 

I felt good and started picking up the pace a bit; nothing radical, just turning the screws a bit. There was still a long way to go. I climbed up over the overpass and then dropped down on the underpass. My second mile was 6:40. With just a bit over a mile to go, I gradually ramped up the effort, pushed the pain a bit. I entered the ballpark to make my loop around the warning track and gradually closed on two runners in front of me. I got them both before I exited and with no one close in front of me, I figured to just press to the finish and not have to kick. But the last guy I passed started kicking and came up on me. I wasn't having any of that and burst into a full-on sprint, holding him off. I finished in 21:01, quite pleased with my pace, effort, and time.

Sheri came in at around a 7:15 pace and Danny was only nine seconds behind her, having run the first two miles right with her. Derek was about forty seconds further back. He kicked pretty hard at the end and hurled in the chute. I view that as a badge of honor. He ran as hard as his body would allow and kicked so hard that his stomach rebelled. I used to be able to push hard enough to hurl at the finish, pretty frequently. Nowadays I'm not mentally tough enough to hurl.

I ended up getting second in my age group - out of 169 in my 5-year age group! Like I said, the field isn't very deep...but it is wide. Sheri also got second in her age group out of a remarkable 195! Danny was 17th and Derek 21st in the 15-19 age group, out of 128. Results here.