I met up with Jeff Valliere this morning at Centennial trailhead. I like running with Jeff, but we rarely get the opportunity to meet because he has twins and both he and his wife work. I’m not a huge fan of the super early morning runs, which is typically what his schedule demands, so I was pleased with our leisurely 9:15am start time. Both Jeff and I prefer marching up steep hills, hands on knees and I actually think Jeff might be allergic to running flat terrain, so it came as a surprise to me when he suggested we do a fairly runnable loop even involving some sections of road. We started casually up the south trail of Mt. Sanitas. I had a bit of a side cramp and was taking a while to get warmed up. As soon as we hit the summit though, I began feeling much better and enjoyed the fun link trail west down to Sunshine Canyon. Jeff is a good conversationalist and we continuously gabbed up the paved road to Poorman. We connected down to Fourmile Canyon, then up and over to the Betasso trail system where intermittent bulletproof ice on the trail kept us vigilant. We made quick work of the link trail down to Canyon, then following the busy road down to Red Lion Lodge. From there, we took a steep, direct, off-trail route straight up the fault line to Flagstaff. Our pace remained casual and we chatted about everything from shoes, to doping issues in the sport and a plethora of other things. The trail down Flag was super muddy and Jeff took a good digger on one of the turns, ruining his beige (!) “errand” pants and slicing open his hand. He stopped at Boulder creek to wash off, while I continued on over Red Rocks to wrap up a great outing. I came home to find out that Dave Johnston just set the new record on the Iditarod Trail Invitational in just over 4 days. That’s an average of nearly 90 miles a day, pulling a sled, in the Alaskan winter. How fast one runs the ITI is very condition depend. This year’s hard pack trail and relatively warm temps were perfect for record setting. That being said, running 90 miles a day for four days straight, in any condition, is incredibly impressive. Adding to that, Dave set the Susitna 100 course record just one week prior to his ITI madness. Beyond the greatness of his athletic performance, Dave is a very humble person and his enthusiasm for running is contagious. Perhaps what is most compelling about Dave is his willingness to put himself out there on the line, to reach for the pinnacle of human performance in a way that many of us can only dream to ever experience. Most of us are stunted in our aspirations by our fears, our pain and our shortcomings. Dave seems to transcend such inadequacies and rise to the occasion to flirt with the unknown. I am deeply inspired by such honesty in his expression.
I strolled around the neighborhood feeling tired today after a bit of a late night. The snow was crusty and inconsistent making it hard to get into any sort of rhythm on the trail. I hiked most of the uphills, picking up the pace when I could on the flats and downs. I met Tony mid-afternoon to climb the Elephant Buttresses. While warm in the sun, it was deceivingly cold in the shade. I stood shivering belaying Tont up the Third Buttress. When it was my time to follow, I couldn’t feel my hands on the holds and my feet ached, wrapped in my small, hard rubber shoes. We set-up an anchor at the top to work a 10.a roof on top rope. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but I only gave it a half-hearted attempt focusing more on how cold my hands were and how the rope was getting in the way of my hand jam. Tony cleared it easily, before we called it a night. Geoff and Corlé invited us to see local, Boulder-based Intuit Band perform live. Their friend, Chloe, is the lead vocalist and cellist. We heard her sing at their wedding, so we were excited to see her play with her full band. When we arrived at the venue, we realised it was a house party, with a small stage arranged down in the basement. We felt pretty out of place in a smoky room full of college kids. We’re just getting old I guess. When the music kicked in though, it was well worth coming. Intuit Band put on an impressive set blending reggae, bluesy, jazzy vibes with strong vocals. I tend to forget how awesome live music is. Tony reminded me that he first saw The Lumineers at a house party in Denver much like this one before they blew up on a national level.
I’m finally feeling pretty recovered from the flu and travel so I wanted to put in a good long outing in preparation for my upcoming hundreds. I wake up just before dawn. The yard is graced by a good amount of snow, probably five or six inches, which will soften the pounding from the long day of running, but will also be more specific training for White Mountains. Unsure exactly of where I want to go, I set-off at a casual pace down Fourmile Canyon with the intention of being out for about eight hours. I pack six gels, along with a liter of water and a down jacket for after the run and to balance out the weight in the back of my vest. Immediately, I realize I should have brought microspikes or worn my Orocs, but am too lazy to turn back for the metal. It’s snowing heavily, making for a peaceful and quiet descent down to the Betasso link trail. There’s hardly any traffic on the road and the trail is untracked. The snow is fairly deep through here, above my ankle, making progress slow, but not unpleasant. I run the exact same route over to Flagstaff, that I did a couple days prior with Jeff. From there, I drop down to the Crown Rocks trail and on to Gregory trail to make my way up Green Mountain. The trails are more packed and in better shape than the roads, so I decide then that I’ll link Bear and South Boulder Peak to start and see how I’m feeling. I run into a lot of people I know, but don’t stop much to chat as I don’t want to get cold and prefer to keep a nice continuous effort going all day. Trail conditions make running slow, but it’s not strenuous to keep moving well. Down low everything is blanketed in snow and cloud. It continues to flurry up the West Ridge of Bear, until around 7,000 feet where I break out of the clouds to scale the peak, surrounded by an ocean of white. I haven’t been over to South Boulder Peak since the burn a few years back, a nice vantage point to rediscover. Charred black trees contrast with the white, silvery shimmer of the snow. I make my way down Shadow Canyon, which is nicely packed at first, but rapidly becomes a jumbly, treacherous mess. The flood pulled a lot of rumble onto the trail and now laced with a light dusting of snow, it’s hard to know where the good footing is. I run the Mesa trail back to Fern Canyon and decide on a second summit of Bear. This stretch always feels long to me and the small rollers aren’t negligible, particularly at this point in the run. The snowpack on Fern hasn’t quite set-up perfectly, so with each step I hit ice making for an awkward waddle up the hill. This is the only section where I truly wish I had some metal traction, since the rest of the run has proved better than initially anticipated. I descend quickly off the West Ridge and engage the final 1000 ft. climb back up Green. I’m a bit low on energy at this point and could really use an extra gel. Only later will I find one hidden away in one of my pockets. I take Ranger/Gregory trails down to the road and run that last few miles to Pearl Street to my truck in the waning evening light for a solid 7hr30’ of running with 9,000ft of climbing. I love the feeling of waking before dawn, easing into the day, then running until dusk. I gain such a deep sense of satisfaction from moving all day in the hills on my own two feet.
I get out late, around 4pm for a run after a busy day of work. I have a bit of a hard time getting going after yesterday’s long effort, so I let myself cruise down Fourmile to Salina. I turn on Fourmile Drive and continue running to the small hamlet that is Sunset. Feeling slightly better at this point, I work my way up the railroad grade of Switzerland Trail back to Gold Hill road. It’s dark by now, and the blustery wind has me a bit on edge, blowing branches and spindrift across the dirt path. For some reason, I feel compelled to tack on some miles and run west to Sawmill road, before turning around. My stomach feels off all of sudden and I rush to the bushes for a bout of violent diarrhea. Urgh! Only when you’ve spent a good amount of time running can you relate to the shocking casualness of such events. Unfortunatelly, I’m prompted to the bushes several more times before getting home, making me wonder if my drinking of John Muir’s sweet Sierra water back at Ventana camp last week might be catching up to me. Aside from the gastro-intestinal discomfort, I’m happy to follow yesterday’s outing with a solid 20 miler.
I’m expectedly tired today wallowing around for an hour and half on the neighborhood trails in punchy, crusty snow. The whole run feels pretty bumbly, and I definitely can’t match dog’s excitement. After getting a good chunk of work done, I decide to run into town late evening. The sunset over the Indian Peaks mixed in heavy clouds is particularly glorious. I lean into smooth downhill grade on Sunshine and coast into town. Tony and I meet up for a couple of hours of climbing in the gym. Despite feeling pretty beat from the running, we get some enjoyable climbing in, on a few new routes, with some interesting movement, liebacks and pinches.
It was kind of an odd day today with some bizarre light. The weather wasn’t sure what it was doing between trying to snow or be sunny, but remaining mostly overcast. The air seems to have a grey coloration. Perfect to match my mood. I mozy up Niwot Mountain on the snowshoes in the evening. There’s not a lick of wind. Thick, dark storm clouds tower over Boulder down in the valley - a peaceful night, atmospheric and suggestive of reflection.
I snowshoed for three hours with dog early this morning. I started at the South Sourdough parking lot and worked my way up Rainbow Lakes Road to Caribou. The snow was deep and I was sinking up to about mid-calf even with snowshoes. There were no other tracks ahead, but mine were quickly covered up by the strong wind. The outing felt aimless for some reason. Neither inspiring, nor frustrating, just sort of bland and unfocused as if the three hours never really took place. That’s how it goes some days.