Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trifecta at the Mesa

Week Summary 7/28/2013

Ophir OB: 6.0 mi (+626 ft); 9:38 pace
North Loop: 3.8 mi (+366 ft); 9:57 pace
Grand Mesa 60K: 34.5 mi (+3,200 ft); 13:20 pace
Weekly Totals: 44.4 mi (+4,191 ft); 9:12:10 on trail

They did it! The Grand Mesa 60K is on the books. Thirteen hours and thirteen minutes after the 5:00 AM start, after cajoling from Footfeathers and encouragement from other runners and Aid Station volunteers, Dennis and Mary crossed the finish with great relief and that ultra-joy of success.

We started in the cool darkness at almost 11,000 feet on the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction, Colorado, under perfect conditions for a day of trail running, though those in the 100-mile distance would deal with harsh monsoon conditions through coming night. I started up in the combined pack, all three races started together, looking for a good training run under race conditions, and D&M settled in with a bigger group further back with Tim as their guide and pacer for the day. Although Dad had worried about the technical conditions of this first 11-mile loop over Crags Crest, the trail was a joy to run. It was too early for the mosquitos to ruin things, and the trail through the forest made us pay attention but it was soon light enough to enjoy passing above the lakes before climbing to the crest. Mom did take a fall in the first section of single track -- getting it over with early in the day! -- and I joined a small line of runners for a short detour, but we made the crest at sunrise.

At first glance, the course would not seem that demanding. Not much climb, mostly single track, and a few roads. It isn't even a full 60K, actually totaling a little over 34 miles. But the single tracks are adventurous cross-country ghost-trails or newly developed, just-hacked out of the ground paths. It grows into a love-hate relationship very quickly after leaving the beautiful Crags Crest loop and heading west on a snowmobile path. The rocky meadows are picturesque spaces in the forest, but on this "trail" it is difficult to get any running rhythm going. I cruised through the Mesa Top aid station happy to get moving south on the Mesa Top single track. Elizabeth Gold, winner of the 50-mile, joined me early on trail south, but smartly, she had a race to run and soon left me to stumble my way toward Flowing Park. And stumble I did. For some reason I had little focus on this section and though parts of it were exhilarating running on expansive cliff edges, I felt awkward and lethargic most of the way. Once I was passed by the in-bound leaders of my event, the focus returned, or maybe the s-caps kicked in. Patrick was first and he was making good time high on his return. Michael was next just before the transition to the road. I was feeling better on the gravel road above Flowing Park when I saw Chris Wright coming smoothly up the road. He's a friend of ours from Grand Junction, and coming off a nice sub-24 finish at Western States. Joshua was a little behind him. That's it. Hmm, that means I'm in fifth when I hit Flowing Park. About the time I hit Flowing Park, D&M were leaving the cross-country trail and coming into Mesa Top.

I felt great on the return to Mesa Top; I even had some delusions of catching Joshua, but his mohawk never appeared. I met D&M as I passed through 29 miles; they were in their 17th mile. They were in good spirits and only a little rough for the wear. Tim was still laughing in the midst of one of the tougher pacing duties he'd volunteered for.

The snowless snowmobile trail made for an interesting finish as I tried to keep momentum up to the finish. Patrick and Joshua cheered kindly as I crossed the line at 7:39. Patrick had killed it a 6:04 and I hadn't made much time on Joshua. Chris had indeed caught Michael near the finish and got second place with a same-time finish for Michael at 6:45. I'm super happy with a top-5 on this course, but also realize it was a small field event. Still, good to be competitive and done.

Back on the course, D&M continued a relentless move toward the finish. Dad joined Mom and I in taking a good fall, and though bruising a rib or two, got moving again. Tim encouraged them forward, keeping them fueled and hydrated and encouraging constant movement. I saw them as I retrieved drop bags from Flowing Park. The looked tired but, as always, their spirits remained high and they kept moving. They were gone when I came back up the road -- back on the single-track heading toward Mesa Top.

In the meantime, I cruised to Grand Junction to get Tim's dog from his home-bound confinement. Pippit had been waiting since our 3:00 AM departure, 14 hours ago. I cheated and grabbed a shower too. I then figured I would meet them at Mesa Top and encourage them onward, secretly hoping that they wouldn't be too long in getting there or too discouraged once they got there, if they got there. I rolled into the aid station parking lot at about 5:40. As I walked up to the station, the volunteers excitedly told me, "they were here and gone at 4:42! That coach of yours was really pushing them." I jumped back in the car and dashed for the finish, they may already be there.

But the finish was quiet when I pulled up. I chatted with a 50-mile finisher and mentioned I was waiting for my parents. He said, "Oh, I just saw them, only a few minutes ago." With that, I saw Tim's hat in the forest, and soon he pulled aside, letting Dennis and Mary come down the last hill, crossing the finish line together. 13:13. They are ultra-runners now. Happy, tired, and wonderful.

Thirty-five miles of thanks to Tim for advice, constant encouragement, stubborn maintenance of task, and shared joy. Thanks, of course, to Phil Berghauser the Race Director. If you want a hard challenge in great scenery, a race you'll love and hate in equal parts, do his race. You won't forget it.

The Young Mountain Runners are a bit wobbly today, but today's talk is of success and amazing little details that these events of endurance burn into us. Now on to Leadville.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

High in the Whites

Rock-scape of White Mountain Peak
Week Summary 7/14/2013

Ophir OB (Walk): 4.0 mi (+399 ft); 15:34 pace
Yellow Jacket (Hills): 5.8 mi (+1,115 ft); 11:03 pace
North Loop: 3.8 mi (+359); 10:21 pace
Occidental Hills: 6.2 mi (+798 ft); 10:19 pace

Geiger Summit OB: 10.4 mi (+1,381 ft); 10:58 pace
White Mtn 14,252: 15.0 mi (+3,365 ft); 13:31 pace

Weekly Totals: 45.2 mi (+7,416 ft); 9:06:02 on trail

I started the week among the echoes of the descent from Freel Peak – my quads reverberating with each step. Here’s to hoping it’s good seasoning for the tasks at hand, Grand Mesa and, of course, Leadville. I tried to break through a bit with an hour of brisk walking on Monday. Efficient walking and the transition from running to power-hiking are critical weaknesses that I’ve simply suffered through in my previous 100s. Still, even in a little Monday walk, I feel clumsy in the transitions, going too fast or too slow and only occasionally hitting a groove. This is something I will focus on over the coming weeks.

On Tuesday I pushed some hill repeats on the switchbacks of the Yellow Jacket Mine at Gold Hill. They actually felt pretty darn fast with the legs responding pretty nicely for early in the week, only a few days after the Freel Peak tour. Tephra hates the up-and-down intervals, probably thinks I’ve gone nuts and wonders why I bark at her for constantly chasing squirrels. Doing 10, one-minute all-out intervals ain’t much different.

Simple morning runs the rest of the week, really getting in the groove of the early mornings. Dad and Mom went for a practice run on the upper loop of Crags Crest at Grand Mesa. They were pretty disappointed with the outcome, mostly due to the technical trail conditions. It is a big step up for them and the rock-strewn, exposed trail must be intimidating. They are concerned about the cut-off times but are determined to push it and do their best to get through. They missed the cut-off during practice by a bit over an hour, but Footfeathers and I are sure if they stay focused, race-day will be very different.

Camp at Grandview
I write this in pinyon-juniper of Grandview Campground at 8,400 feet in the White Mountains. After a morning run at Virginia City, Darren and I hit the road for a go at White Mountain Peak via the dirt road to the research station. It’s a perfect evening in camp and I’m looking forward to getting some time at high elevation as we make for the summit at 14,252 feet...  tomorrow...

What a great morning! Sure, we could have backed off the road a little bit, instead of driving all the way to the gate below Barcroft, but the test was the altitude. We left camp just after dawn and took our time driving to the gate, and it takes some time. The trail isn't really a challenge, you're basically on a two-track road all the way to the summit of White Mountain Peak. Not too surprising to see several cars at the trailhead gate given that is probably the easiest 14er in California -- it's the third highest point in the state. We worked our way to the summit feeling pretty good. I pushed where I could and tried to the keep the hikes steady. I averaged a bit better than 16 min/mile on the climb to the peak. Picked up the pace on the descent, of course.

The Gate

Darren on the way up
We passed several hikers and met couple others on top. No wind, clear skies. Perfect. The descent was easy -- actually took us longer to drive back to the highway below the bristlecones than it did to get back to the truck at the gate. The trip home left us stiff, Highway 395 can hurt worse than any run.

Summit and Beyond
Great to spend a night on the mountain with Darren and happy to be feeling good at altitude. I'm hoping to stay high for the next few weekends.
The register, as always...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blog vacation: Trails continue...

Darren on Freel.
Week Summary 7/7/2013

Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+438 ft); 10:43 pace
Carson River Flats (Tempo): 8.2 mi (+37 ft); 9:12 pace
Ophir Grade OB (PR): 9.5 mi (+902); 9:44 pace
North Loop: 3.9 mi (+359 ft); 10:32 pace

Freel 3 Peaks: 21.7 mi (+5,245 ft); 15:20 pace
Long Valley OB: 9.5 mi (+145 ft); 10:48 pace
Weekly Totals: 61.3 mi (+7,125 ft); 11:01:06 on trail

Ok, Trail Option is back after a month-long vacation from blogland. I hope we've all been on the trail in the meantime. I've had some good weeks moving toward Grand Mesa 60K and Leadville 100M. The heat let up a little around here, maybe back to just a little above normal.

This was my first week in a summer-time run pattern. I have shifted all my training runs to the morning. Always consistent in getting to work by 6:30 or so, I have never been a fan of daily morning runs. I like breaking the day with a couple hours out on the trail at lunch, and the out-of-bed and into-a-workout idea has never been appealing. Except on raceday. But the heat is unbearable and probably unhealthy in daily doses. So up and out at dawn is the new routine. And it's been surprisingly nice. Tephra thinks so too, she can come along and harass the squirrels again.

This beast tugged on Darren's shirt for a handout. Where's Tephra?
I'm looking toward Grand Mesa 60K as a prep-race for Leadville. It'll be good to run at altitude in race-like conditions, although the field right now is only about 14 people. Most entrants at Grand Mesa are going after longer distances (50M & 100M), but that small field includes Dad and Mom, and that'll be the highlight of the weekend. They are going for their first ultra, a big step on a challenging course at Crags Crest high on the mesa.

Cool times above Lake Tahoe
My Tempo work felt good this week, running on the flats at the river. One of the benefits of that kind of workout comes when you slow back into your base or cool-down pace and find that this new pace is actually quite a bit faster than your previous base pace. This carried into the next morning when I cruised up and down Ophir Grade on a Base effort and knocked out a PR for that course. Easy enough.

The link from summit of Freel to Jobs Sister and Jobs Peak,
descending single track trough the forest on the right.
The highlight of the week, as is often the case, was Saturday's link up of the three summits of Freel, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak, all above 10,300 feet. Darren and I started in Hope Valley and cruised the forest roads to the connector to Armstrong Pass on the TRT. We then followed the standard trail to Freel (10,880) and then dropped over to Jobs Sister, and then really dropped over and back up to Jobs. The descents took their toll, especially coming off Jobs, twisting trail dropping over a 1,000 feet per mile. It took some effort to keep the pace going back to Hope Valley, and that pace wasn't very impressive. But I couldn't ask for a better day on the trail, especially good to be back out with Darren in the high country.

Freel Peak (10,880 ft - highpoint above Lake Tahoe)

After last week's PR from Tahoe Meadows to Spooner (23 miles; 4:09), I may have been getting a little over-confident for Leadville. Putting some steeps in the way (22 miles: 5:31) makes the reality a little clearer. The focus continues.

Des and Strider made some big leaps forward this week. Multiple long rides, visiting Jumbo Grade (the backside of Ophir Grade) and the highlands of Hobart Reservoir near the TRT. Easily a PR totals week for that team.

Vacation Week Summaries---

Week Summary 6/30/2013

Mexican Dam (6x2 Hill Repeats): 6.7 mi (+765 ft); 11:10 pace
North Loop: 4.1 mi (+378 ft); 10:14 pace
River Flats (Tempo): 7.0 mi (+31); 8:59 pace
Emma Quarry: 5.6 mi (+446 ft); 10:22 pace
Combination OB: 2.8 mi (+96 ft); 9:57 pace
TRT - Tahoe Meadows to Spooner (PR): 22.5 mi (+2,476 ft); 10:55 pace

Weekly Totals: 48.7 mi (+4,193 ft); 8:31:43 on trail
June  Totals: 179.8 mi (+22,343 ft); 34:26:20 on trail

Week Summary 6/23/2013

Goni East OB: 3.1 mi (+481 ft); 10:07 pace
River Flats: 4.8 mi (+15 ft); 9:37 pace
Mexican Dam OB: 6.4 mi (+143); 9:48 pace
Spooner South OB: 14.0 mi (+2,129 ft); 11:20 pace

Weekly Totals: 28.3 mi (+2,768 ft); 4:58:29 on trail

Week Summary 6/16/2013

River Flats: 4.8 mi (+15 ft); 10:02 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.7 mi (+403 ft); 10:01 pace
Weekly Totals: 10.5 mi (+418 ft); 1:44:45 on trail