Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MN Turkey Trot

We had a wonderful time in Minnesota last week visiting both my brother and sister and their families.

On Thanksgiving morning, we held our own "Turkey Trot" run. The highlight was our nephew, Nate, running two miles with us! He had been training for it and was excited for the big day to come.

I love getting in a run on Thanksgiving day. I'm convinced it enhances the taste of the turkey later on!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Waterton Canyon Bike/Run

Thanks to Nana hosting the girls for a sleepover on Friday night, Tanya & I were able to get up early and go for a bike/run up Waterton Canyon. We made it all the way up to the dam and back. What a difference in scenery from my run this summer. There was no water spilling over the dam this time of year, the greenery had turned to yellow, and the hillsides were still looking white from our storm last weekend.

On our return, Tanya got cold and so we swapped positions in order for her to warm up with a mile run. Shortly after the switch, we stopped to watch two bighorn sheep that were clearly "in love"!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marine Corp Marathon Recap

I had the privilege of traveling to Washington DC last weekend to visit my friend Brian and his family AND run in the Marine Corp Marathon with him and his bro-in-law...who also has the name Brian (Brian H going forward).

Brian & I went to high school together. He's a great friend...plain & simple. 20 years is a long time to keep in touch and I'm grateful we have.

Well, the race was spectacular. The MCM is the major marathon in DC. It's huge and the course is one of a kind. Brian & I concocted this plan to run it together almost 15 months ago. Over that span of time, Brian trained hard and we emailed often to check in on our preparations and to just get excited.

The crisp fall day finally came and it was a good one. The Brians' and I got to the start in plenty of time to get in line and enjoy the pre-race festivities. When the cannon boomed, we were off with 21,000 other runners.

As I mentioned the course was unique. It started at Arlington Nat'l Cemetary...crossed the Potomac River...cruised through Georgetown...circled around The Mall while passing the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, White House, and Capitol...then finished with a pass through Crystal City and the Pentagon...before reaching the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Seeing DC by foot made me very proud of our country. Not to mention that most of the volunteers were Marines.

Well, as with most marathons, unexpected things happen. Mine came at the .8 mile mark. Yes, that would be not even one mile into the race. We were just getting going when I kicked a raised piece of pavement. Next thing I knew, I was sprawled out of the road below me. My palms dug in but I needed my right knee to drag along the street to keep me from a complete face plant. Scraped up, shocked and utterly embarrassed...I popped up as quick as I could before I got trampled on...or caused a 200 person pile up!

Brian had an early battle with his hips, feet & left knee around the 11 mile mark. His pain was intense and it wasn't the type you could just work out. We tried helping him stretch, but unfortunately he dealt with it for the remaining 15 miles. What a huge inspiration to me and Brian H. to run by his side as he persevered against great adversity to finish ALL 26.2 miles...his first marathon! Yahoo! Or...Oorah! Marine slang!

The three of us were sore but celebrated our run with some greasy burgers & fries from "Five Guys". It was great to kick back and rehash the day and all the little details we could remember. Even though the race felt at times like it would never end, it did. Marathons do actually go by very fast no matter your finishing time. The true reward comes when that fleeting moment of the race leaves you with a memory of a lifetime. The MCM was no different.

Thanks Brian & Brian H for a great day. Let's not wait 20 years before we do it again!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Galloping Geese!

It's no surprise that I enjoy trail running. But what could be better than having my whole family share in the trail running love!

Little did we know, but a portion of Telluride's famous "Galloping Goose" trail was right behind our campground. Before we left to come home on Monday, we decided to take a family hike on the trail. When we got almost a half mile up the trail, we turned around and ran all the way back down! The girls loved it and were very good about controlling their speed and watching where they stepped.

At the bottom there was a little jump in the middle of the trail. As you can see above, we all took turns launching ourselves off the jump to finish our run!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Epic Trail Run - Lizard Head Loop

"Epic" was the only word I could come up with for a trail run I went on last Saturday.

About a week before we left for our trip, I started researching trail runs in the area. I stumbled upon the Lizard Head Wilderness & Lizard Head Peak. This peak (or rock tower) you see is considered Colorado's most difficult & dangerous mountain to summit. This is due to the "rotten" rock that is very loose and can crumble at any moment. Click on the link above to read Albert Ellingwood's description of the rock. Ellingwood was the first to climb the peak in 1920!

Well after seeing pictures, I made it my mission to find a trail to (not up!) Lizard Head. What I found was a loop that took me to the summit of Blackface Mountain (12,200'), along the ridge, and down to a meadow right below Lizard Head. Perfect. It appeared to be a 5-6 mile loop taking me to a different trailhead about two miles down the road from where I start.

More details in the next post...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lizard Head Loop - Cont.

I was dropped off by Tanya at the trailhead at 8:45 am. Assuming the the run would take me a little more than an hour, we agreed to meet two miles down the road at the other trailhead around 10:15 am.

The singletrack trail starts at 10,200' and meanders northeast through an aspen & pine forest for a mile or two, providing sweet views of Trout Lake (top left). It then turns west and some sharp switchbacks lead you to the summit of Blackface Mountain (12,200'). Blackface (top right) has a long, narrow ridge with a superb trail. Running above treeline provided panoramic views that words can't describe. Looking out at Lizard Head Peak was breath-taking with Gladstone Peak (13,913'), Mt. Wilson (14,246'), and El Diente Peak (14,159') as the backdrop. Actually, it could have been the altitude that was taking my breath away.

I started my descent of Blackface while soaking in the views of Lizard Head. After running down through a pine forest and out into an open meadow, I figured this was the closest I'd ever get to it (bottom left). Boy, was I wrong.

At this point I was about 5 miles into my run and I was looking for a trail junction that would take me south to the trailhead to meet up with Tanya. Well, that junction never came. The trail proceeded north...and up towards Lizard Head. I thought I missed it so I started to bushwhack my way to another ridge to see if I could see the trail down. I found nothing but wilderness. There was no other trail to be seen. After returning to the trail, I then backtracked about a half mile thinking I surely missed the junction. Nope.

My two options were to backtrack my entire run by re-summitting Blackface and then running the extra two miles from my starting point to the other trailhead. Or I could continue towards Lizard Head and hope I miscalculated where the junction was.

I chose to continue on. My concern continued to grow as I gained another 1000' in elevation and found myself very close to the base of Lizard Head (bottom right). Lo and behold I came across the junction, now 8.5 miles into my run. Seeing I was already a half hour late from my meeting time with Tanya, I started to cruise down the trail as fast as I could. I finally encountered another hiker and he confirmed I was on the right trail. Phew.

Thirty minutes later and 11 miles from where I began, I arrived at the trailhead to find our car...empty. I looked up and Tanya & the girls were about a half mile away...up a different trail. I continued my run for a bit more so I could meet up and enjoy the remainder of their hike!

All in all I had a blast. There were a few tense moments, but the memory of such an exciting and beautiful run will last a long time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

Sir Edmund Hillary made that statement and it couldn’t be anymore true in the case of the PPM. As I mentioned yesterday, I felt privileged to be able to take part in something so special. The race is unique in many ways and I have developed a strong affinity and appreciation for Pikes Peak. Alright, grab a cup of coffee because here we go…

Pre Race

Three days out and the forecast was looking sketchy to say the least. Forecasters were calling for an unseasonably strong cold front to hit Colorado on Saturday night. The summit forecast for Sunday featured a high temp of 35 with winds of 5-15 mph. There was a 40% chance of snow/rain showers all day. I trained on a snowy Pikes Peak on 8/1 and it wasn’t what I was looking forward to on race day.

On Sunday, I packed every piece of running gear I owned in my bag and departed for Manitou Springs at 4:25 am. I arrived in the dark, but as it lightened up, I noticed there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. It remained that way the entire morning. My usual annoyance with a botched forecast was easily replaced with relief. The weather couldn’t have been better!

As we all lined up at the start, we got a good glimpse of the peak lit up by the sun. It looked so far away! They had four high school aged girls sing an acapella version of “America the Beautiful”. Let’s just say it brought tears to my eyes. The song was beautiful, Pikes off in the distance was beautiful, and I think I was starting to grasp what was about to happen.

About a minute before the start, they introduced Arlene Pieper to give us a “Ready. Set. Go.” As I mentioned last Friday, she was the first woman to ever run a marathon in the US. She accomplished this fifty years ago right here at the PPM. I was so inspired to see her and take in just how huge that must have been and still is! Well, she did her thing and we were off.

The Ascent – 7815’ Up

The first mile was on uphill paved roads as we meandered through town towards the Barr Trail. My strategy was to be conservative, but steady in my ascent. There are so many places you can blow your entire race if you try to run too fast. Once on the trail, things got a little crowded. There was room to pass, but you needed to be careful not to expend too much energy in the process. I got to the top of “The W’s” feeling great. The W’s are a steep section of fifteen switchbacks at the start of the trail. After about 4 miles, the runners spread out a bit as we were on a long, wider section of the trail heading to Barr Camp.

Barr Camp was the halfway point of the ascent. I was still feeling good and encouraged that I was ahead of my expected time. I was getting nervous that my faster pace was going to come back to haunt me above treeline.

Ken Chlouber (creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race) once said, “Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.” Well, at mile 9 I was introduced to a friend that would be my faithful companion for the rest of the race. You see I accidentally attempted a 50 yard field goal kick with a large rock embedded in the trail. My middle toe on my right foot was “rocked” with pain. Did I just break it?? I kept running and the pain subsided just a bit.

About a mile later, the walking/running combination began. Very few runners actually run the entire course. Above treeline, it is so easy to experience oxygen deprivation by pushing too hard. Despite noticing the air was getting thinner and thinner, I still felt okay and my hiking pace was much faster than I had anticipated.

When I got about 2 miles to the summit, Matt Carpenter came flying down the peak. I snapped a cool pic of him as he passed in a flash. He eventually won his 10th PPM with a time of 3:37.

The above treeline portion of the ascent was a slog. Walk 30-60 seconds, jog 10-15 seconds, and then repeat. The summit still looks so far away, but those few miles do go by quickly. When I approached the summit/turnaround, I was greeted by an enthusiastic crew of volunteers and spectators. The clock read 3:22, which was 8 minutes faster than even my best case scenario pace.

The Descent – 7770’ Down

I began the descent feeling pretty good about how the race was going so far. Based on my training run a month ago, I knew it could quickly turn problematic. I’ve learned a bit about running downhill, like try to land each step on your forefoot and not your heel. Take small, fast steps to control your speed and impact. Keep your body perpendicular to the trail and try to “hurdle” rocks & roots instead of stepping on them. Well, there were plenty of warnings out there about how many runners will experience falls on the descent. I didn’t want to become a statistic.

So I began my conservative pace thinking all was well. Next thing I knew, runners started streaming past me. I didn’t really care because I wasn’t about to change my strategy. About 2 miles down, I did another beautiful kick into a rock. Same foot and same toe. Oh man, I could feel some wetness in my sock now. With 10 miles to go, I had to keep moving and once again the pain subsided as other forms of pain took its place.

About the 19 mile mark, I hit my low point. Runners were still passing me in droves as they seemed to float down the trail without any symptoms of discomfort. For me, my strategy of “controlled running” was killing my legs. I started feeling symptoms of the dreaded “wall” and combining that with the discouragement of getting passed so frequently, I decided something needed to change or I was going to crumple into a ball on the side of the trail. My thoughts also shifted to hating that I ever signed up for the race and even thought about never running again!

My two choices were to give up and walk the rest, or let loose and fly down the trail with reckless abandon. I chose the latter. I can’t say it felt great, but it did wonders for my spirit. I was covering the remaining miles much faster and I didn’t have time to think about the pain because I was too afraid of biting it on the trail. One runner in front of me did just that…face first into the gravel and rocks. I stopped to help him get up and aside from scrapped knees and palms, he went right back at it. We later commiserated in the medic tent after the race!

With a mile to go, I hit the paved Ruxton Ave that leads back into town. I started cruising down the road as fast as I could. There were many cheering spectators and it felt grand...until I got a nasty cramp in my side. I must have looked like a complete invalid running down the road hunched over, hand on my side, and my face screwed up like I had a mouthful of Sour Patch Kids. The cramp went away with only about 500 feet to go. I then went into my preparations for a flying finish line jump.

What was I thinking? After the successful RnR Marathon jump with James, I wanted to attempt another one. I shouldn’t have. I launched into the air (all 2 inches off the ground), tried to grab my legs (which wouldn’t bend), and landed with an immediate buckling of the legs which sent me to the pavement below! I caught myself by planting my palms into the road and managed to save myself from a complete splat!

I finished!!! 5 hours and 47 minutes after it began.

I proceeded to sit with the throngs of runners waiting for assistance from the medics. My friend who bit it on the trail was right next to me getting his wounds cleaned up. The doctor came over and looked at my toe. He diagnosed me on the spot with a “stubbed” toe. They wiped off the blood and slapped a band-aid on and off I went to party!

Post Race

The party in the park across the street was first-rate. We lingered for several hours. Highlights included: spending time my three ladies, EATING, a twenty-five minute leg massage, cooling our feet in the creek, wearing my medal and new jacket that was awarded to all finishers, and just enjoying the “fall-like” weather.

Well, there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said above. As with any marathon, this one was no different in that you end up learning quite a bit about yourself and what you’re capable of doing. The PPM had some really high highs (like standing at 14,110’) and some really low lows. Somewhere in between I experienced growth that causes me to get choked up when I think about it. Sir Edmund Hillary hit the nail on the head. I may have ascended & descended Pikes Peak, but conquering my fears, frustrations & self-doubt is what I’ll take away from this day.

I’ll end this race report with an invitation to join me in my preparation and running of the PPM by watching a slideshow I put together. I carried our point & click camera on the ascent. All pictures were taken on the go, so expect plenty of subpar shots. I had to stash the camera on the descent because I needed my hands free in the event of a fall. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!!

2009 Pikes Peak Marathon from CO Runner on Vimeo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

PPM Recap

Sorry, but you're going to have to wait until tomorrow for the recap. The computer screen is looking a little blurry to me right now, so I'll take a crack at it tomorrow.

The very short recap is this. The race was amazing, incredible & awesome all wrapped into one. The whole experience was a privilege to participate in. I ran it much faster than I was expecting. I finished in 122nd place with a time 5:47:49. My legs are hurtin' good, but no injuries (well, I did need to see the medic after the race).

More to come tomorrow...

Friday, August 14, 2009

The PPM is here!

This Sunday at 7am MDT, the shotgun will sound and I'll be joining 841 other marathoners who are crazy enough to try to run up and down Pikes Peak. After about 10 miles, I'll come out of the trees and make my way up the eastern face you see above. If all goes well, I'll have enough left in the legs to turnaround and begin the 13 mile descent back to Manitou. I guess I don't really have a choice!

In preparing for Pikes, it's been fun for me to learn some interesting facts about the peak & race. Some of those tidbits are below.

* This year the PPM is celebrating 50 years of women competing in marathons. Not that long ago, women were banned from marathoning. I read once that race directors thought that if a woman ran a marathon, her uterus might fall out! Well in 1959, Arlene Pieper ran the entire PPM and became the first woman to complete a marathon in the United States. Glad she picked an easy one! Click on this link to read more about her stroll up the peak.

* The PPM (54 years) is the 3rd oldest marathon in the US. Boston (114 years) is on top, but can you guess #2? The Yonkers Marathon (84 years) in New York. Bet you never saw that one coming, but you probably never thought Pikes was #3.

* The lyrics for the song "America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates were started as she stood atop Pikes in 1893.

* Matt Carpenter, whom I wrote about when I ran in the Mt. Evans Ascent, will be defending his title. He's won the PPM nine times and is the current course record holder. Do you know what the course record is?? 3:16:39. Incredible.

* The air on the summit contains only 60% of the oxygen available at sea level. Race rules state that you are disqualified if you're caught taking oxygen during the race!

* 48% of the runners are from Colorado. The next largest percentages comes from Texas (9%) & California (4%). 43 other states are represented.

* Most "flatlanders" will arrive in CO the day before the race. The preferred method of avoiding altitude sickness is to arrive and begin your journey up as soon as possible.

* The average age of the runners in the PPM is 43. The oldest registered runner is 80. He's a "doubler" as he's running in the marathon AND the Ascent the day before.

* Only 34% of marathoners are attempting the PPM for the first time. That means 551 runners have done this at least once before. One runner is going for his 44th PPM!

* The average marathon finishing time for males in 2008 was 7hr10min. I'm hoping to finish somewhere in the 6hr to 6hr30min range.

* Taken from Wikipedia - Some have pursued oddball feats on the Barr trail (12 miles one way), such as dribbling a soccer ball or walking backwards to the top. In 1929 Bill Williams of Rio Hondo, Texas, pushed a peanut to the summit with his nose over the course of three weeks.

Some may think I'm crazy for wanting to run this race, but clearly there are those with much grander aspiration on the peak than I. Check back Monday for a race report.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Please pinch me...

...was last Saturday really August 1st??

I went on my final training run down at Pikes. My plan was to drive up the auto road to the summit and complete a "3-2-1" run. In this run, you start at the top and run 3 miles down & up, 2 miles down & up, and then 1 mile down & up. The total run is 12 miles...all above 12K feet.

My plan was foiled when I got stopped 3 miles from the summit. They got a little snow on the peak overnight and the road had too much ice on it. They told me it would reopen in about 2 hours. Well, that wouldn't work, so I pulled into a parking area above treeline and found a different trail up.

I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting day when a sign at the bottom read, "Summit Temp = 28 Windchill = 18". Thankfully, I was prepared with a headband to cover my ears, gloves, and a warm fleece. The run up went well, but once it got more rocky, the trail was very difficult to follow. Fortunately, there was a hiker much further ahead that left me his footprints in the snow to follow.

When I caught up with the hiker, I found a 56 year old guy who was climbing is 51st 14er! He's only got two more until he's climbed them all! Well, we walked the final 75 feet to the summit and chatted. He was very encouraging & inspiring!

When I ran down the Barr Trail on the eastern face, I bumped into another runner. We talked about the PPM and he told me that he ran it last year and finished in 4:15! That's insane! I looked him up when I got home and sure enough, he finished in 5th place. I also recognized his name. Come to find out he won the Colorado Colfax Marathon back in 2007. That was my first marathon.

12 days and counting...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pikes Peak

Last weekend, I had a slight change of plans and decided to go for a training run/hike up Pikes to the summit. Previously, my plan was to wait until the race in order to make hitting the peak that much more memorable. The reasons for making a summit attempt before the race began piling up over the last few weeks.

* On my previous training run to Barr Camp, I chatted with a guy who had run several PPM's. He strongly recommended hiking the entire trail once so I would be familiar with it on race day.

* I needed at least one training run that involved me being on my feet for 5-6 hours. That would help me get used to how long I'll be on my feet on race day. Who am I kidding? It would be a miracle if I broke 6 hours during the PPM.

* I found out the marathon turnaround point is actually about 50 feet from the summit. There's no way I was going to run up this mountain and head back down without standing on the true top. I suppose I could have run past the turnaround and gone up the last 50 feet, but then I'd have issues detailed in my next point.

* On previous 14er climbs, one of my favorite parts is enjoying a nice, long rest on top. I love taking in the views from every direction and soaking in the reward of the climb. I know that wouldn't have happened during the race. I'd be too concerned with the ticking clock and be anxious to start the descent.

* And my last reason...there's a restaurant/gift shop on the summit for those that choose to drive up or take the Cog railway. I keep hearing about these "world famous" high altitude donuts they make up there. I wanted to have a chance to try one. See more on this below...

I started at 5:00 am and needed a headlamp for the first mile or so. I was not alone on the trail. I had to pass about 5 groups of hikers in that mile. I later bumped into a couple that had started hiking at 2:30 am! The ascent was fun and about as difficult as I had expected. I arrived at the summit around 8:30 am.

Let's get back to those donuts. I entered the Summit House restaurant and bought my two treats. What a tremendous disappointment! I could only choke down one and what a grease bomb it was. I tossed the second. I wish I had read this FAQ from some guy's website who regularly climbs the peak (before I ate):

Q. What's up with the donuts?
A. I wish I knew. People always told me that if I ever go to the top of Pikes Peak, I absolutely MUST eat the donuts. After eating (part of) one, I was convinced that these people were playing a cruel, practical joke. When I tried a Peak donut, I noticed a distinct trace of bratwurst flavor which, incidentally, they also sell at the Summit House. I couldn't get that experience out of my head for weeks afterwards.

With a slight stomach ache, I made my way outside for the descent. It was brutal. About a mile in, my legs were hurtin' and I was discouraged by how much further I had to go. I tried to jog as much as I could, but eventually that became impossible during that last couple miles. It also got very hot on the descent and of course I ran out of Gatorade in my pack with two miles to go. Two long miles! Despite being very dehydrated and having to walk down the final hill backwards (yes, my legs refused to walk the normal way), I was glad I made it all the way up and down experiencing every step of the Barr Trail.

The race is in 23 days. I'll need to be ready to go a few more miles than I went on Saturday. I think I'm as nervous & excited as I've ever been for a race. Pikes is an amazing mountain. I've been staring at it for almost 4 years...wondering what it must be like to stand on top. Now I know. What a treat it was to climb.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Leadville Heavy Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday morning, I ran in the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon as a part of my training for the PPM. What is a "heavy" half marathon you ask?? Here's how they describe it on their website, "13.1 (plus a couple more) miles of breathtaking, Leadville Rocky Mountain trails." In total it was about 15.5 miles. Most importantly, it was at high altitude. The race began at 10,200' and the turnaround was on top of Mosquito Pass at about 13,200'.

This was my first race on trails. Wow, what a difference from a road race. With trail running, there is no "locking into" a pace. No, your pace is constantly changing due to varying factors of trail conditions, elevation gain, not being able to pass on narrow sections, etc. This race was almost entirely on a 4WD only road. It was rugged and steep. Almost all of us were relegated to hiking the last two miles to the top of the pass.

Trail races are fairly bare bones when it comes to frills. Let me tell you where they don't skimp. The aid stations. Boy, what a sight it was to approach the first aid station after a grueling 3.5 mile climb. Cold watermelon slices, jelly beans, M&Ms, Coke, Sprite, Gatorade, PB&J sandwiches, pretzels, energy bars...I could go on. I had to remind myself I was in a race and not to linger too long! I went for the watermelon slices and slurped them down with delight!

Another first for me? Breaking the tape as I crossed the finish line. Sorry to get you excited, but I didn't win the race. Since most runners were spaced out, they had several young girls hold a tape for every finisher to break as they cross the line. Despite my 25th place finish, it was a nice touch that I'm sure I'll never experience again.

I finished the race with a time of 2:53. It's hard for me to think about going another 11 miles, 4000' of elevation gain, and 3 hours on my about a month. But I was also encouraged that I felt pretty good after this race.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to James, who just completed his "26point2" video masterpiece. It's awesome! Check it out at the link below or on our Videos page.

26point2 - My First Marathon

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mt. Cardigan Run

I decided to go for a training run up Mt. Cardigan during our visit to New Hampshire. In training for Pikes, I need to find ways to get in long runs up and downhill. Mt. Cardigan fit the bill except I needed to start about five miles away from the trailhead in order to get in more time on my feet.

I began my early morning by parking in downtown Alexandria. The village square probably hasn't changed in 100 years. I proceeded on paved & dirt roads until I hit the AMC Cardigan Lodge. From there the 2.5 mile trail to the summit began.

The first half mile was uneventful. Then all the rain NH had received that week reared its ugly head. The trail was a mess. The rest of the way was pretty much what you see above in the sloppy trail photo.

As I got closer to the granite face summit, I entered the clouds. The temperature dropped & the wind picked up dramatically. They mark the trail on granite with small spray paint marks. If I didn't have those, I surely would have gotten disoriented and lost. It was a very weird feeling to be surrounded by thick fog on top of mountain. Visibility was about 50 feet. I contemplated turning around, but wanted to find the fire tower, which marked the summit. Slowly, it came into view. It was so spooky up there, that the fire tower took on a "haunted house" look and I no longer cared to hang around!

The run back was nice once I got out of the fog & wind. So in total, I got in about 15 miles and 3000 feet of elevation gain. It was a good run for conditioning my legs. I need to be up at higher altitudes in order to prepare for that piece of the Pikes equation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barr Camp Run

If you can't tell, I love documenting these runs. As I type, I just picture myself 40 years from now reading about these adventures and reliving the experience all over again.

So the PPM course I talked about on Monday follows the Barr Trail up the peak. I've been reading a 12 page course description for a few weeks now. The course features many distinct parts that are separated by landmarks. The guide talks about these parts and how you should plan on running them. Quite honestly, it's a little overwhelming to read and try to visualize what you're going to do on marathon day.

The lightbulb went off and I decided to head down to Manitou Springs early last Saturday morning and attempt running the first half of the trail. I was on the road at 3:30am, drove through a herd of elk, and arrived at the trailhead an hour later. I got there a little too early as I had to wait about 20 minutes for the sky to lighten up a bit.

Once I started, the words I had been reading seemed to come alive as I came across The W's, The Rock Arch, No Name Creek, 7.8 to summit sign, and finally Barr Camp. Barr Camp is the halfway point of ascent portion of the marathon after climbing 3900' from Manitou. I felt great getting up there, but the thought of going another 3900' over six miles to reach the summit was daunting.

The day was overcast, cool & windy. I stopped and talked with several hikers that were heading to the summit. I sure hope they made it, but I have my doubts. The summit shot above was the only time I saw it the whole morning. As you can see, there is still quite a bit of snow, and I can only imagine how much more nasty the wind was up there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waterton Canyon to Roxborough State Park

Two Saturdays ago, I went on my first longer trail run. It was a 14 mile loop from Waterton Canyon over to Roxborough State Park. I like to get up and out early so I can get most of my run in while the ladies of the house are sleeping.

Despite living only 20 minutes away from Waterton Canyon, I had never been up the 6 mile dirt road to the Strontia Springs Dam. Wow, what a sight that was. It's 234' high! The water was gushing out the top and thundering as it exploded on the riverbed below.

The five miles of trail over to Roxborough were serene. It had rained the night before so everything glistened as the sun came up. Every twist and turn in the trail brought something new and beautiful to take in. I'm not kidding when I say I almost ran right into my friend in the photo above.

I really enjoyed this first foray into trail running. Leaving the pavement, people, cars, and intersections behind and finding forests, meadows, rivers, wildlife & wildflowers is a gift. Running is a gift and I'm grateful for the opportunity to use my legs this way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Up next...the PPM!

On August 16th, I'll be heading down to Colorado Springs for what will no doubt be the most challenging running experience of my life. The Pikes Peak Marathon. The mountain is one of Colorado's most famous 14ers. It stands alone and can be seen from all along the Front Range. The race probably wouldn't be that bad if it started up high. No, the start line is in Manitou Spring at 6295' and rises another 7815' over 13 miles. The halfway point of the marathon has you standing at 14,110'...the summit. Then you turn around and head back down.

For obvious reasons, this marathon will be quite different than any other I've done. This is not a road race, nope...except for the first mile, it's all on trails. I've read that I should expect it to take the same amount of time it takes me to run a full marathon + 30 minutes...just to reach the summit. Needless to say, this is not a race that will have me running the entire time. Think power walking!

You're probably wondering why on earth I would ever want to put myself through the agony of ascending & descending 7815' over 26 miles. Well, I heard about this marathon a few years ago. I went to a trusty source for runner reviews,, and found the following review titles.

"This is freaking crazy!"
"Humbling, Inspiring, Life Changing"
"Holy cow, what a great marathon!!"
"Even Tougher Than I Expected"
"tough, beautiful, exhilarating"
"Remember it Forever"
"A must-do for love of running"
"The consummate running high"

I was amazed that everyone who did it, seemed to be in awe of the experience. Many come back to do it year after year. The full reviews can be found by clicking on the link below. - PPM Reviews

In 2008, the marathon filled its 800 spots in 20 minutes. Back in March, I thought I'd try to sign up, but figured I probably wouldn't get in. Well, I did. The race sold out in 24 hours this year.

So, I'll be hitting the hills in the early mornings this summer as the shift to trail running is on. No more pounding pavement. Whatever happens on 8/16, I'm excited to bag another 14er and experience what they call "America's Ultimate Challenge"!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ryan & Bart

When we went to the expo to pick up my packet on Saturday, I was amazed at how big the event was. It took up the entire San Diego Convention Center. After wandering around a bit, I got all giddy when I noticed some familiar faces in the Nissan booth. I couldn't resist the opportunity to get in line for an autograph from Ryan Hall and Bart Yasso.

You may not know who Ryan is. He recently placed 3rd in this years Boston Marathon. He also holds the record for the fastest debut marathon by an American runner (2007 London Marathon). On top of that, he is the US record holder in the 1/2 marathon (the only American to finish 13.1 miles in under an hour) at the 2007 Houston Half Marathon.

Bart, the older guy, is a running legend. He works for Runners World magazine, but it's his amazing running escapades which are chronicled in the book, "My Life On The Run", that have elevated him to legend status. He also invented a training workout called "Yasso 800's", which are a predictor of your marathon finish time.

I've been following Ryan Hall since last year's Olympics in which he placed 10th. The more I've gotten to know about him, the more I'm impressed with his character. I finished Bart's book a few months ago and was enthralled with all his stories. Needless to say, it was an absolute treat for me to meet BOTH of them and get their autographs on my race shirt!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Finish

About a month or two before the race, James emailed me a link to a YouTube video. The video was of some guy at a past San Diego RnR marathon that did a flying leap across the finish line. James stated that he wanted to come up with his own version of the flying leap. This shouldn't have surprised me as James is the one who introduced me to 14er leaps.

My initial reaction was...he’s crazy!!! He has no idea just how ridiculously heavy & in pain his legs are going to be. Yet, I was supportive and encouraged him to make that decision at mile 26...when he had only .2 miles left in the race.

As we approached the finish, he indicated the jump was on. Still dumbfounded...I figured that it would be a great way to celebrate my 8th marathon by trying the unthinkable with him.

With about 50 feet to go, we moved into a pocket with no other runners in front or behind us. We gathered a bit of steam right before the line and then launch into our synchronized leaps! Amazingly we didn’t land in a pile of crumpled flesh & bones. No we landed on our feet! It was over! I now look at this picture and have no idea how James was able to grab his legs in mid-air. Incredible. My legs don't bend after running 26 miles.

Monday, June 8, 2009

San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon Recap

On Sunday, 5/31, I ran the San Diego “Rock ‘n Roll” Marathon with James. It was his first one and let me tell you…he rocked it!

The day started by hopping in a mini-van with six other runners including James & his sister Wendi (who was also running her 1st). We were dropped off at the start at 5:00am by Wendi’s gracious husband, Jeff. Right at 6:30am, all 20,000 runners got it going and crossed the start line.

The weather was ideal. 60 degrees and very cloudy with a light breeze. The course hits many of the sights in downtown San Diego before cruising north and circling Mission Bay. There were a few hills, but the last 12-14 miles were relatively flat. The bands on the course were great. My favorite was one that was playing Dave Matthews songs. They sounded great!

James was our pace setter and we were hitting an 8 min/mile pace for the first 10 miles or so, before settling around an 8:30 pace. What was incredible was that James never slowed down from that pace. He was still hitting it at miles 25 & 26!

With a stellar run going, James shattered his goal of a 3:45 by crossing the finish line in 3:38:48. That is an incredible time for a 1st marathon! Oh yeah…check back tomorrow for more about the crossing of the finish line!

The picture above was taken at the 10 mile mark. At the top of the biggest hill, we had a big crew of cheering fans to greet us. Tanya & the girls, as well as, Steve, Jennifer, Katie & Andrew all got up early to cheer us on.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Boston or Bust!

It finally happened! I'm going to be heading to Boston in April 2010 for the 114th running of the world's oldest and most famous marathon! The Colorado Marathon was a great experience all the way around. The course was beautiful as we ran the first 17 miles down the Poudre (sounds like "pooper") Canyon right next to the Poudre River. The final 9 miles meandered through a small town named Laporte before ending in Old Town Fort Collins.

I needed a 3:15:59 to qualify and with a little help of some downhill running, I was able to finish in 3:09:43. The downhill was nice on the lungs, but for the first time I experienced minor leg cramps from about mile 3 on. It wasn't bad, but it had me more than concerned that it was going to unleash at any moment.

The day started with my alarm going off at 3:00am. The hotel we were staying at had buses waiting outside to drive us the 26 miles to the start. Those buses left at 4:00am. Thankfully they opened the Starbucks stand in the hotel lobby at 3:45, so I was a happy guy for the 50 minute ride.

When the buses arrived at the start (a campground in the canyon), we had a good hour and fifteen minutes until the race started. It was 35 degrees outside and pitch black. Thankfully we were able to stay in the bus for about 35 minutes before we got kicked out into the cold.

Once the race started at 6:15am, I just focused on making it to mile 17 which was the first spot spectators were allowed on the course. I was very excited to see my three favorite ladies! They did not disappoint. Loud cheers, cowbells & signs! What more could I ask for in getting a needed boost.

Everything went great until mile 24. I had a little encounter with "the wall", but somehow managed to hold it together enough to only lose a few minutes due to much slower running.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's Marathon Time...

I took this shot on a recent morning run. This barn is close to Daniels Park.

Sunday is the Colorado Marathon. I'm excited and ready. I need a 3:15 to qualify for Boston, so check back Monday to see if it happened.

Last Sunday was the London Marathon. It's one of the more popular ones. Apparently, if you want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the marathon to run. They have officials on the scene to verify any "record breaking" accomplishments. Here are a few recent ones. Enjoy!

* Fastest marathon in superhero costume (2 hr 49 min 50 sec)
* Fastest marathon on stilts (8hr 25 min).
* Most money raised for charity by a marathon runner ($2.7 million)
* Tallest costume worn while running a marathon (14 ft)
* Most linked runners to complete a marathon (24)
* Fastest marathon in a military uniform (5 hr 11 min 42 sec)
* Fastest marathon in a fireman's uniform (5 hr 36 min 12 sec)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Platte River Half Marathon Recap

Saturday was a run in the snow, and Sunday was a tune up half marathon. Many training schedules encourage you to fit in a 10K or half marathon to help work out some of the nervous energy and practice your pre-race routines before the marathon.

The Platte River 1/2 was an excellent race. I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a well organized event and fun course. It began in downtown Littleton, followed the Platte River Trail, and finished at Denver's "oldest restaurant", the Buckhorn Exchange.

I ran with Scott, who is in training for the Steamboat Marathon in June. We ran together and had a great time. We hit the pace we wanted while chatting most of the way. It sure made the time go by fast.

When we reached the finish, awaiting us was the best post-race indulgences. Burgers, beer and breakfast burritos! I partook in the two latter items...I know...quite the combination. Actually, it was my first post-race beer ever. Typically, that would be the last thing I wanted after running...or at 10:45 in the morning!

Monday, April 6, 2009

No Running Style...

This winter I've been in an informal email group with three friends (Scott, James & Brian) who are all running marathons in 2009. It's been fun to throw questions out to the group, check in on how training is going, offer encouragement after crummy runs, etc.

One promise I made to the group was that I was going to wear ski goggles the next time I went for a run in the snow. My previous two experiences this winter were not pleasant. Especially when the wind is whipping the snow into your eyeballs. The only thing you can do is run with your head straight down, which gets annoying after several miles.

We were supposed to get a foot of snow on Saturday, but when we awoke, we had nothing. It snowed a bit, but I think we maxed out at a half an inch. So I went running...and fulfilled my vow to wear goggles. I definitely did not get any style points, but it worked like a charm. Now I just need to invent goggles with wiper blades & defrosters on the front so the snow and ice won't build up!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Reward

I chose REI as my runabout destination for two reasons. 1. They have cool stuff to look at. 2. They have a Starbucks.

It took me about 3 hours to get the 20.5 miles from HR to downtown. I did eat a bit before I left, but I was quite hungry when I entered Starbucks. Before I could indulge in what you see above, I had to visit the restroom to wash my face. Unfortunately, running long distances produces a lot of sweat that dries to a nice white salty powder on my face. No need to give a ghostly scare to the other patrons trying to enjoy their morning coffee!

After my snack, I walked the store a bit. I then made my way over to the 16th Street Mall and found Barnes & Nobles. Forty-five minutes later I was on the light rail beginning my trek home. Upon arriving at the Littleton light rail station, I had to take a bus to HR. The best I could do was get dropped off 2 miles from our house. After sitting for over an hour, my legs had tightened up. That 2 mile jog home was much worse than the 20 mile run downtown!

Oh yeah...I don't get Frappuccinos or any other fancy coffee drinks often, but I can say this one was the best ever!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Denver Runabout

I recently read a book called 50/50 by Dean Karnazes. It chronicles his attempt to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. Dean has many other unbelievable running accomplishments that have earned him the nickname "Ultramarathon Man".

In 50/50 he offers many tidbits of advice to marathoners. One of them was an idea to break up the monotony of training by going on a "runabout". A runabout (Dean-style) is to grab a cell phone & credit card and head out the door before sunrise and not return until after sunset. Just pick a direction and go. The goal is to continue jogging/walking most of the day.

With Tanya & the girls in CA, I decided to go on a runabout (Woody-style) on Sunday morning. I packed up my Camelbak with: 60 oz of Gatorade, phone, wallet, change of shirt, granola bar, and...public transportation schedule! I've learned to be prepared! I left around 8:30am and headed north. My destination? REI in downtown Denver.

I didn't realize how much fun this adventure was going to be. It's not that anything out of the ordinary happened. No, the fun part was venturing out on a gorgeous day and just going somewhere by foot that I would never of thought going before without a car. As I got closer to downtown, I weaved my way through Washington & Cheeseman Parks, the heart of downtown, then out to Coors Field, and finally through Riverfront & Commons Parks which brought me to Confluence Park & REI.

More to come tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


This shot is my favorite running picture of all. It was taken by the course photographer right at the end of the NH Marathon. I posted a similar picture last October, but it didn't have Zoe it in, and it didn't catch the expressions on our faces. I think I can make out a look of frustration on Zoe's face...she tried really hard to keep up.

Switching gears...this May I'm going to give trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon another shot. I'm going to run in the Colorado Marathon up in Fort Collins. I'm just over 10 weeks through a different 18 week training program that is kicking my a good way. Training can be a bit stressful at points. For an example, read on...

The other night I had a dream that my Boston qualifying race had come. For some reason it wasn't the CO Marathon, but some other race and I have no idea where it was. Anyway, for some reason I was very late getting to it. When I arrived, I absent-mindedly put the envelope containing my race bib and timing chip aside and just hopped into the race. Boy, did I run a good time. I was approaching the finish and happily looked at my watch and knew I was about to qualify. For some reason this was also the time I realized that without a timing chip, I would not receive an official time and thus my effort was worthless.

Most nights I sleep quite peacefully. This particular night, I woke up breathing heavy, panicking, heart-broken, angry for not wearing my chip...and with a light glaze of sweat covering me. You better believe that timing chip will be on securely on May 3rd!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Full Moon Jog

This past Saturday night was special. In the sky that night was a "perigee moon". This huge full moon lit up the night. Spontaneously, I got an email from James saying we ought to go for a "full moon" run. James is training for the San Diego Marathon in May. His idea was awesome.

He came over at 9:30pm and off we went into the backcountry. We hit up some nice trails and marveled at the views of the mountains and city. It was cold, but as you can see, we were dressed well and didn't feel it. In marathon training, you're supposed to do your longer runs at "conversational" pace. We did just that and 7.5 miles were completed quite easily.