I decided to run a slightly new route up Mt. Audubon this morning. As per usual in the winter time, I start at the Brainard Lake Recreation area main parking lot and run the 3 or 4 miles to the Mitchell Lake trailhead via the South St. Vain trail. Snow conditions are always a bit hit or miss with the wind, but today the track has set-up nicely making forward progress on my snowshoes swift and pleasant. I take the regular Mt. Audubon trail up to treeline before it forks due north to gain the standard east ridge. Here, I contour west staying a couple hundred feet above Mitchell lake until I reach an obvious ascent option up a steep gully. The going is slow up the talus and there is just enough snow to make footing awkward. Once I gain the ridge, a fun craggy scramble, mainly on rock leads me further west before being interrupted by a snow covered notch. On either side of the notch, steep couloirs jut down 1,500 feet into a messy pile of rocks. I have little desire for a fast ride to the bottom, so I cautiously march over the 50 foot notch with my snowshoes, on a reasonably firm snow slab. The last 200 feet before gaining Audubon’s south ridge proper are covered in ice and hard packed snow. I meticulously step my way up the relatively steep terrain, ensuring to grab solid hand holds as my feet do not feel very secure. The precarity of the ascent is short lived and I’m soon back to marching up the mountains flank to the summit. This was a reasonably enticing change from the usual route, but the scrambling wasn’t much more satisfying than the standard hike and certainly more tedious. From now on, I’ll stick to the classic route, but may revisit this in the summer for a more direct and less crowded line.
Snowshoed the back half of the Sourdough snowshoe race course. I ran into RD, Kevin Lund about halfway around the loop, who was out marking the trail. We chatted about the somewhat challenging snow conditions on these parts and he gave me a rather amusing description of the course. He refers to the south section of the Sourdough as “the stick,” then there’s the “bowling alley,” followed by the “narrows” if I remember correctly, then the “humps.” I definitely get his visual description and appreciate his intimate knowledge of the track. I love to see people who are passionate about putting on a good event and get excited about the course and people’s experience on it. Kevin is a fantastic ambassador for our sport. Deanne and I watched Fruitvale Station, a Forest Whitaker and Ryan Coogler film. It’s a very powerful movie about the murder of Oscar Grant, by a police officer on New Year’s Eve at Fruitvale Station in Oakland, CA. I rarely watch films that move me in this way, where the story is told in a raw manner without the usual Hollywood embellishments. Oscar’s story is real, one people should know about and that demands deeper reflection.
Clarkie weaseled his way out of the snowshoe race yesterday, mentioning something about wife and kids and other such priorities, but invited me out to race the Frost Giant 5k/10k double in Estes Park to triple for the weekend. The snowshoe race was the shortest distance I’d ever raced, but after three and half plus hours of effort, I wasn’t feeling too sharp for the Sunday sprints. When I woke up, I nearly pulled the plug on the whole endeavor but it’s hard to pass up a trip to Estes for a fun community event and some fish tacos at Ed’s. Deanne and I arrived at the start of the 5k about 20 minutes before the 11 am kick off. I rushed registration and a 10 minute jog to get the legs moving. I barely had time to shit talk Clarkie before the siren got us on our way. The course starts with a pronounced douche grade uphill, where I lead for about a quarter mile before letting the ol’ British wizard set the pace, leaning into the climb with his trademark hunch over for full effect. Mike Hinterberg sits between the two of us, looking steady and smooth. I can already barely breath and my legs are tightening up. In fact, my whole body feels pretty uncoordinated and the tension in the middle of my back from the previous day’s racquet games isn’t helping. After about a mile the pavement turns into dirt as we arc onto a cross country section through a field. I keep my eyes peeled straight in front of me so as to not step in a gopher hole. Despite what feels like maximal effort, I gain nothing on Clarkie or Mark who are spread evenly a couple hundred feet ahead. On the final downhill road mile into town, I give it one more go, but no matter how hard I try, I feel like I’m running in quicksand. I let up slightly in the last half mile, my calves screaming and my chances of catching the two ahead clearly gone. Clarkie rattles off an interview with the local press, signs a few autographs, confirms to his son that he won, then joins me for a short jog on the urban trail before the 10k start at noon. There’s a lot of fast twitched, shaved leg nervous tension on the start line, making me feel slightly out of place. I feel worse now than before the 5k and am sort of dreading the forthcoming sprint. Luckily, the 10k course takes a steeper route, so the first 10 minutes don’t feel nearly as furious as the 5k. I find myself exactly in the same position behind Clarkie, this time with Mark trailing a few seconds behind. I figure that my best chance at beating him is to make a move on the 4 mile stretch of cross-country terrain. The track is rolling and choppy with grass tufts, interspersed with patches of snow and ice. Again, my stride feels locked up, my whole body restricted with tension as I desperately flail behind Clarkie. Short spurts of downhill have me believing I might catch him as I accordion back and forth with him. Eventually, the course flattens and we rejoin the downhill mile to the finish just like on the 5k. I have nothing. Mark is now far enough behind that he won’t catch me, but I can’t get any more out of myself as I helplessly watch Clarkie disappear over the rise ahead down the final straight to the finish. That was hard. Really hard. But, I’m very happy to have gotten a solid speed session in after the previous day’s slog. The course was hilly, challenging and was more of a cross country rather a road race. I’ve decided to be much more open this year to trying different types of events, while still only truly focusing on a select few. This was a good step in the right direction.
Good snowstorm today across the Front Range. I snowshoed around Gold Hill with dog, before deciding to run into town late evening to catch an indoor climb with TK. Running down Sunshine Canyon into Boulder was a bit of a poor choice as the road was really icy under a thin layer of snow. Stupidly, I chose not to wear my Orocs in favor of my Roclite GORE-TEX boots. I wanted to keep my feet warm in the wind and snow, but a little metal on the ice would have been welcome. Still, I really enjoy running at night in the snow. The downhill miles to Boulder always make me feel fast and efficient, while each section of the road has it’s points of interest. Early on, I marvel at the views of the Divide, followed by Sugarloaf and stride out on the long twisty switchbacks before the pavements starts and night falls. After that, snow in my headlamp beam restricts my vision, so I watch where I step, hoping to avoid the hidden potholes. Before long, the glow of the city lights, illuminate the tight canyon ahead, drawing me to its streets. I slip into a walk, casually fitting in with other pedestrians in my baggier than usual rain pants. We forgo the climbing and grab dinner instead, the winter night telling us to rest.
I felt tired today, rising early to see Deanne off to school. The rigors of being a PhD student far outweigh my mountain shenanigans and the short night has me struggling for concentration most of the morning. Good sleep is critical to successful training. Actually, I think it’s critical to be a well functioning human being. It’s easy to forgo proper rest, thinking that more will be accomplished without stopping. Yet, carving out time for rest, for contemplation, only enhances the quality of our daily lives.
Made it out to Hessie trailhead early morning for a snowshoe outing with Geoff. The roads are drifted with snow and icy. The wind is horrendous so we stay low in the trees, plowing through fresh powder up to Lost Lake. We sidehill east into thick forest following some ski lines from the previous day. The snow is pillowy and fun on this steep grade. Geoff is tired, but recovering well from last Saturday’s race. It’s so good to see that pep in his step again and the renewed motivation to get out. Just before home, I pass the UPS guy who’s truck is stuck in the ditch on the side of the road. He’d moved over to let another car come up the hill only to run out of road and wedge the passenger side of his truck in two feet of snow. I head home to grab some shovels to attempt to dig him out. I joke that he needs to give me my package before I assist him any further. After about a half hour of trying, our efforts go in vain so I invite him over to my home to call a tow truck. We hang out for about an hour waiting for help and he tells me about some of the struggles of his job. Yesterday, he had 149 stops to make before the end of the day. He stopped 39 short after a 13 hour shift. The benefits of the job are good though. His insurance helped pay for his wife’s chemo treatment after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She needed 8 shots total, each of which would have cost $3,700 a piece. I guess that’s one plus to being insured again after a 4 year hiatus. He's intrigued by my running and knows about Badwater. No I haven’t done it, I tell him and probably never will. It’s a bit odd for me to run a race in one of the hottest places on earth at the hottest time of the year. While the journey interests me, unnecessary extremes don’t as much. I am interested in extreme events, but without the need to make them contrivedly difficult. For instance, the ITI is different in that it’s a trail that doesn’t exist in the summer so the only option to complete it is during the winter...or maybe that’s just me trying to rationalize absurdity.