Friday, December 28, 2012


As my preparation for Bandera kicked off in October, I thought I'd give streaking (not the naked running kind) a shot in order to mix it up and add a new dynamic to my training.  I've always had great respect for those that run every day.  My experience has been that there are just some days where running is not appealing or even possible due to a whole host of excuses reasons.

So starting on 10/30, I committed to running every day through the end of November with the streaking parameters being a minimum of 5 miles/day outside and on trails. The weather during the entire month was near perfect and made the challenge easy.  I had many long runs that I would have preferred taking a rest day after, but overall 11/30 came quickly.

When December rolled around, my daughter encouraged me to keep it going.  She said, "wouldn't it be cool if you ran for 62 straight days since you'll be running 62 miles at Bandera?"  Yes, that would be cool, but that would mean streaking until 12/30!  The new challenge was on.

Now that I'm just a few days away from completing it, here are my thoughts on streaking:
  • It's quite a silly endeavor that most people (even many runners) just don't understand the point.  I too was there prior to this experiment.
  • Streaking for 62 days is peanuts.  There are people that have been running every single day for 40+ years!
  • I love it!  For me, the motivation it produced was huge and lead me to one of my best training blocks ever. Every day the streak continued, the desire to keep it going swelled.
  • The last three weeks of snow and very cold morning temps accompanied by blustery wind, have been where the rubber meets the road.  There were days where I had no clue how to fit in the run.  But when I did, the satisfaction experienced after a simple 5-7 mile run was amazing.  And then it was on to the next day.
  • The runs that I typically would have bailed on were probably my favorites.  One dark and early morning, I ventured out into the thick fog.  When do we ever get fog in Colorado?  It was so thick that my headlamp barely lit up the trail in front of me.  I couldn't stop laughing as I was completely disoriented the entire run.  I could see no lights anywhere to help me set my bearings.  Another day I began running at 5am just as the snow started to fly.  The dry trails quickly turned white.  The flakes produced long streaks of light as they whipped past my headlamp. By the end I was tromping through two inches of snow in near white-out conditions.  Awesome!
  • More than any other benefit, the discipline and mental strength gained from persevering and "finding a way" through each day can only pay off in races (and life!) going forward.  During every ultra, there's a point when some obstacle seems insurmountable.  The battle then rages and one side of my brain screams that the best option is to pack it up and try again the next time.  Streaking didn't give me that option as I had to find a way to run.  I hope that mentality is ever present during the obstacle-ridden Bandera experience.

The streak will be broken on 1/1 as I rest, hang with the family, and probably watch some football.  But I'm guessing a new streak will be started at some point in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Indian Creek - Back Again...

While the snow stays away, it's off to Indian Creek to play...

That had been my motto during the last six weeks of fantastic trail running weather.  I ventured back over the first weekend in December to take advantage of a 68 degree day!  My partner in crime was Jim P, and we thoroughly enjoyed cruising the Roxborough and IC trails until we parted ways so I could suffer for a few more miles than he was planning.

I did almost the same loop as the previous week, but counter-clockwise.  That is definitely the way to go!  After knocking out the Roxborough SP road (sans traffic), you're immediately on fun singletrack.  By the time you start to fade late in the run, you're treated to long descents down the Ringtail & Sharptail trails.

Run Stats

Make no mistake, our early AM start was COLD!  We could have done without the blowing wind and clouds filtering the sun.

JP chomping some calories on Carpenter Peak
As we descended from Carpenter Peak towards Waterton Canyon, we kept looking up to spot some low-flying plane.  The roar was unmistakable   Well, we were mistaken, because the noise was simply the wind whipping through the powerlines overhead.

Thankfully, the wind died down as we cruised the Round Up trail.
At the top of Round Up, we said farewell as Jim made his way over to Ringtail and I started down Steven's Gulch.  At the bottom, I encountered more creepy cabins.

The most remote port-a-potty in CO.

Instead of heading south up the Indian Creek #800 trail, I took a new one over to the Colorado Trail.  Good move!

This new to me trail climbed up to a ridge with very nice views to the east and west.

This is how you know you've hit the CT.  While I would have liked to take Lenny's bench up on the offer, I didn't rest all that long.

The temps were climbing fast now.  I had to pinch myself a few times for a reality check that this was a December day!

I finally connected back to the Ringtail trail and welcomed the long, slow drop.

A comforting sight when you're tired and ready to wind things down.  I skipped the Swallowtail loops this time since I was already over my planned mileage.

Last shot of the rocks before the 4 mile stretch on Sharptail.

My take-aways this time around:
  • I ate regularly the entire run and felt just fine.  A good reminder that 100-150 calories every 30 minutes or so makes all the difference.
  • I brought plenty of water and only ran out when I arrived back at the parking lot.
  • Run this loop counter-clockwise.
  • My endurance is definitely coming around.  Funny how that coincides with eating.
  • Jim P is a great running partner!

Monday, November 26, 2012

More Indian Creek

Every fall, I wage an internal debate about taking some time away from running to lay low or keep plugging along with training.  And every fall I come to the conclusion that I'm wired for consistency and find great joy in watching small improvements in my running over the years.

I arrived at the same answer this year, but the cold, dark mornings are quite an obstacle to overcome when the alarm goes off.  In particular, the months of November and December are tough for me to train through.  For the last two years, I've had the Bandera 100K to keep me motivated through the end of the year and it works well because that race scares the pants off me.

After last year's DNF at Bandera, I've decided to return yet again and see if I can put together the kind of race I know I can run.  Whether that happens or not, I'm pleased that it has translated into the necessary desire to train.  At the end of October, I set a goal to run a minimum of 5 miles every day in November and top 300 by the end of the month.  I know that's nothing special, but so far so good on keeping the streak alive.

After dropping my folks off at the airport early Friday morning, I hoped to get in the first of two 50K training runs while the ladies of the house hit up Black Friday shopping.  The plan at first was to head to Buffalo Creek, but with the mild weather, I couldn't resist the urge to see if I could get the long miles on the Indian Creek trails.  Without touching the same trail twice, I racked up a 32 mile loop and left some options on the table for next time.

To avoid paying a parking fee, you can park here and run the 4 miles into Indian Creek.
This run was all about time on my feet and building endurance.  I was in no rush and wasn't sure of the exact mileage anyway, so I knew it would be about going with the flow.  

First up was running all the "tail" trails (Sharptail, Swallowtail, and Ringtail).

Sharptail Ridge is smooth running with a few ups & downs.

I was once again ready for my first bear encounter, but sadly, this was the only wildlife seen all day.

Ah, it's going to be a good day!

Came up this cabin/barn on the Swallowtail trail.  A truly sweet spot with nothing around it.  I'm ready to move in.

Starting the long climb up the Ringtail trail.  It provides a cool view of Roxborough from the south.

The Ringtail trail looks like this until you get close to the Indian Creek trailhead on Hwy 67. 

Creepy cabin on the Ringtail trail.

This was as far as I went in.

Nice views of Pikes and Devils Head.

Human encounters for the day = 3 mtn bikers.

One month ago, these trails had 3-4" of snow on them.
There was a lot of elevation gain on this run (6500') and I just wasn't feeling it on the climbs.  I'm guessing a big part of that was my eating issues.  Or I should say lack of eating.

Had to take the requisite shot of Roxborough descending the Carpenter Peak trail.
The only downside of this loop was the two miles of running the dirt road heading out of Roxborough SP.  There was consistent traffic and the dust kicked up was bad.  Instead of coming down the Carpenter Peak trail, you could take the Powerline trail as an alternative and re-connect with Sharptail Ridge, but that would add another 1-2 miles.

What were my takeaways from this run?
  • Bring more water than I think I'll need.  I ran out of water with almost an hour to go.  Not fun.
  • Eat!!  Duh.  I was out there for almost six hours and only ate around 600 calories.  When will I learn that eating more will make these long runs much more enjoyable?  I had another 500 in my pack, but just didn't feel like eating.
  • I'm not ready to go 100K right now.  Especially at Bandera.  I've got some work to do over the next month.
  • I'll be back soon!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HR Turkey Day 5K

This year's Turkey Day 5K featured a couple firsts in our family.  Both Megan & Zoe ran it as their first 5K.  We've been on several family training runs in the last month or so and they were ready to roll when the race finally arrived.

We also had my parents visiting for the holiday and they agreed to walk it as their first ever race!  

Trying to stay warm during the 15 minute delay at the start.

The masses.  They had a record turn-out this year.

Oh yeah, Zoe's looking strong and in charge close to the halfway point.
During training, we talked about trying to maintain a 12 minute pace for the race.  We cracked that a few times in training, but still thought that would be a good goal.  We got separated during the first mile, so I ended up running with Zoe while Tanya & Megan were somewhere right behind us.

Here's how the miles played out (11:55, 10:45, 10:15).  Zoe was working it hard!

Guess who dumped a cup of cold water on her head at the aid station? 

Hustling to a 34:23 finish!  So much for the 36 minute goal!

The tired, but happy runners.

Without much time to spare, we wrapped back around and met up with my folks to join them crossing their first ever finish line.  They're very fast walkers!

I just learned my parents signed up for a Jingle Mingle 5K race in their weekend!  Oh boy, it looks like it's only just begun!

A bunch of turkeys ready for a well deserved dinner.

Pancake Run Recap

2012 Pancake Run Crew
Front - Andy J, Becca, Donnie, Patrick, Ryan, Leila, Jaime, Nick, Todd, Troy, Stephen
Back - Andy G, Jim
Off Camera taking his own pic - George
We couldn't have landed better weather for this year's pancake run.  It was a little cool and breezy when we started at 7am, but it wasn't long before layers were being shed as we moved closer to the forecasted 60 degree temps.

Around mile 9.5 we pulled into Daniels Park for an extended break and pre-pancake fuel of some TommyKnocker Maple Nut Brown and powdered donuts.  It must have hit the spot because we left DP in a tear saying goodbye to the easy pace of the first half.  Thankfully, that only lasted about 2-3 miles before we settled back into something more conversational!

Around mile 16, we were starting to smell pancakes, so Becca led us on home!
Once again, Tanya had a delicious spread waiting for us when we returned.  She made this brown sugar encrusted bacon treat that was an amazing complement to the pancakes.

Thanks to everyone that came out to let me drag you around my local trails.  We'll do it again next year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

HR Backcountry Half Marathon

First off, a huge thanks to the Agile Fox, Chris Boyack, for all these really sweet pictures!  He showed up and used his mad skills to catch the true essence of the race in some amazing shots.

I've been wanting to run this race for years now, but it always fell on the same Saturday that we have an annual work meeting.  The first mile of the course heads up a bike path right behind my house and it just killed me not being able to run a trail race in my backyard.  This year the meeting date was changed, so I was all in.

With an iffy forecast, I was pleased to wake up on Saturday to sunny skies!  My cousin Scott came over and we jogged down to the start about a 1/2 mile away.  We kept jogging around the park to stay warm until the start.

After some confusion figuring out which direction to start the racers in, the organizers sent us on our way to the hilly course.  Like the Wildcat Mtn Trail Challenge, this race is constantly going up and down.  That's fine if you're out for an easy run, but try cranking up the pace and this course is tough.

Lindsay taking the lead from Nicole during this stretch.
Once we hit dirt, I found myself running with the #1 (Nicole) and #2 (Lindsay) ladies.  They were flying fast and I felt like I could sustain their pace.  We'd end up running very close to each other until mile 9.  It was fun watching the two of them jockey position and you could clearly see how Nicole was strong at the uphills while Lindsay excelled on the technical downs.

Around mile 6, our mellow weather came to an abrupt end as ice pellets started to fly.  Man, they hurt!  We got pinged for about 5 minutes before the ice turned to snow.  Then the biting wind and snow stuck around until the end.

Around mile 9, the last long uphill climb began and I was able to pass Lindsay and create some space between me and the ladies.  I wasn't feeling it on the climb, but I'm pretty sure they were feeling it less.  I set my sight on a guy ahead of me, but could only match his pace, so I didn't make up any ground.

While my heart continued to pound in my chest, I reached mile 11 and the long downhill stretch back to the finish.  Time to let loose and fly.  This was when I came upon a dude sitting in the tall grasses with a Boston Marathon jacket on.  Hey, I recognize the guy behind the camera lens....Chris!  I shouted a hello, but had to keep moving in order to end the pain.

More pics from Chris...

The end comes pretty fast once you hit the bike path.   Despite not catching the guy I was chasing, I did come upon another struggling runner that I passed right before the nasty little hill leading up to the finish.  Passing him got me into the top 10!  I finished in 1:28:32 which was a PR for me by about a minute.  But then I compared notes with a few other runners and learned the course is .3 miles short.  So, no PR for me, but it was pretty dang close and still came out to a sub-7 pace for the race.  Had it been a full 13.1, I probably would have been about a minute off my PR and for that course - whoa nelly!

There were some very fast times thrown down by other guys.  Scott came across the finish line soon after me nabbing 2nd in his age group - and that's with 58 miles of marathon training on his legs that week!  The top two guys went under Dave Mackey's course record with the winner breaking it by five minutes!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 HR Pancake Trail 20

Previously - Save the Date.

If you weren't at last year's pancake run, you may be wondering what this shindig is all about.

It ain't this., not this either.
A bunch of us trail runners will gather on Saturday, 11/17 to head out for a 20 mile group run around the Highlands Ranch trails.  The trails are all runnable, but hilly.  The run will probably take around 3-3:30 depending on how generous our stops are.

Here's the scoop:

6:30am - Feel free to arrive for juice/coffee/bathroom.
7:00am - We're off and running.
10:15-10:30am - FOOD!

2011 Pancake Run Crew - a few are missing.
When all the running is done, we'll arrive back at my place to hang out while devouring pancakes and a whole bunch of other sumptuous breakfast foods.  BYOB if you want something other than coffee/juice.

Please leave me a comment if you're coming (no need to if you already did on the "save the date" post).  If you need directions, include your email in with the comment.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Solitude at Indian Creek

Work has been pretty stressful for the last two months, and coaching my daughter's soccer team this fall has eaten up most of the available free time in my schedule.  So when I got word at 6:55am on Saturday that our soccer game was canceled, I grabbed my gear and headed for the hills.  I needed some real solitude to unwind and my gracious wife said these fantastic words as I stepped out the door, "Honey, take your time and just enjoy yourself.  Don't worry about us."

My destination was the best kept secret on the Front Range.  Indian Creek.  I haven't been back there for a year and half, and that's crazy when you see how amazing the running is.  I don't understand why it's not more popular.

What I didn't tell my wife, was that my "under the radar" plan was to go on a bear hunt.  I know that area is known for lots of bear crawling around and this time of year is perfect since they're actively on the prowl for food before the long winters nap.  I've never seen a bear in the wild, so I planned to run with my camera in hand and capture a shot - hopefully at a safe distance.

I started in Roxborough State Park heading up the Carpenter Peak trail before veering off on the Elk Valley trail.  Eventually that connects to the Indian Creek trail and the true fun begins.

Thursday's snow left a cushy, unspoiled blanket of white.

I think I woke this guy up.

He didn't budge while I ran by.  Probably too cold to move.

There are very few open expansive views on these trails.  For the most part you are running in the forest 90% of the time.  Perfect if you ask me.

Not much melting had occurred, so it was 3-4" of snow everywhere.  This kind of running is exactly what I was looking for.

Every so often, my large noggin would knock a branch like above and snow would pour down my neck or in my face.  Exhilarating!

I had planned to run a few more miles back there, but I came to several sections like this and had difficulty sticking with the trail.  I decided it would be a smart move to make my way back to Roxborough.

Sadly, I couldn't find a bear.  This baby track was the most excited wildlife encounter outside of spooking countless deer.

As I ran the Roxborough Connector trail, I started getting bummed the run was coming to a close.  Time to slow down and goof off with the camera.

I don't usually get too artsy with my pictures, but this is what happens when I start procrastinating.

I encountered my first people of the day on top of Carpenter Peak.  
The trails got quite muddy on the descent from Carpenter and I had to pull some serious willpower out to not turn around and head back into Indian Creek.  I wasn't ready to get back to real life stuff.

I can't tell you how thankful I am for the opportunity to run in such beautiful places that usher in the peace and solitude that I need.  Sure it gets eery being deep into a place that redefines what quiet means and where your footprints are the only ones those trails will see for days - or weeks.  And sure it stinks when its over, but as I've learned each time I head out the door - there's always another day to run.