Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

29.28 miles. Good start to the running season.

My running hasn't been going nearly as well as I've wanted it to lately. As I approach the end of the semester it's almost impossible to get in long runs and complete my school work. I already had to cancel running a race that I had planned for next weekend (it was going to be my first 50 miler but I'm nowhere near ready). I knew that if I didn't get in a good long training run soon I'd be so far behind in my training that it would be nearly impossible for me to accomplish the goals I've set for myself this year. So, I decided to put everything on hold for one day and head to the mountains.

I've been wanting to add some elevation to my runs in order to prepare me for the trail running that I want to do this year. The nearest roads with significant elevation gains are Gold Camp and Rampart Range. I've run Gold Camp numerous times and wanted a change so I headed for Rampart Range. I arrived at Garden of the Gods around 8:00am and parked near Balanced Rock (and the beginning of Rampart Range Road). I donned all my gear and headed for the road. I hate wearing my heavy hydration pack full of water, GU, etc... but since I wasn't running a loop where I could stash supplies, I had no choice.

I've driven Rampart Range Road hundreds of times but I guess I forgot that it's pretty much straight up for the first 11 miles. I'm great on elevation gains as long as I have some minor reprieves in the form of slight downhills every once in a while--there were absolutely none on Rampart Range. By the time I reached the "top" my hamstrings and calves were on fire and I was totally exhausted. On top of that my stomach decided that it didn't want to agree with GU that day and I was battling pretty bad nausea. I sat on the side of the road for a few minutes eating, drinking, and trying to stretch out my hamstrings. After a while I continued down the road walking some of the steeper inclines and running when I could.

My initial goal was to run up Rampart Range and then down Mt. Herman Road into Monument. I realized about 20 miles in that there was no way I was going to make it all the way. I texted Lindsey and had her start heading up Mt. Herman and I figured I'd stop whenever we met up. I was going in and out of cell phone service so communication was spotty. I didn't even find out whether or not she got my text until an hour after I sent it. I finally made it to Mt. Herman road and started the descent. The road was still in pretty bad shape--covered in snow in spots--and running was treacherous. During a brief moment of cell coverage I got a text form Lindsey telling me that there were trucks stuck in the snow in front of her and she had to wait behind them until she could pass. I didn't know if she was 2 miles ahead of me or 10 miles--and I was struggling pretty well at this point. Finally a truck pulled up and stopped me, "Does your wife drive a Silver 4Runner?" the driver asked. I told him that she does. "She's stuck in the snow down the road" "Oh great" I thought, I was approaching 29 miles and I was in no condition to try to get a truck unstuck out of the snow. I think the driver saw the look of despair on my face and he assured me "There's a bunch of trucks down there helping her get out, it's only about 1/4 mile from here. I can give you a ride if you want?” I was relieved to hear that is was so close so I thanked him for the offer but told him I could run it out.

I made my way to the group of trucks in the snow and waited with Lindsey as the guys dug and used a high-lift jack to get the 4runner out of the snow. After about 20 minutes the truck was free. We thanked the guys and drove up Mt. Herman and then down Rampart Range into Woodland Park and down the pass into Garden of the Gods to pickup my truck.

Overall I guess the run was pretty "bad". My legs were weak on the inclines, my stomach was miserable all day, my time was ridiculously slow, and I'm sore as hell today. But, having said all that, there's not much I'd rather do than spend a day having a "bad" run in the mountains.

Total mileage: 29.28
Total Time: 7:18:28


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Kicks

Even though my birthday isn't for a few days, my wife, family, and friends surprised me with an awesome Easter beginning with breakfast at Bon Ton's Cafe with my parents (they were in town from NM).  Next we headed up to Denver and met up with some friends and Lindsey's parents for some indoor skydiving (amazing!!!!).  We finished it up with a feast at Maggiano's.  Among other things I got a pair of New Balance MT100s.  I was eager to try them out when we got home but the 10lbs of spaghetti in my stomach wouldn't allow me to do anything but lay on the couch. 

After work on Monday I headed to Ute Valley for a short 5 miles (getting in long runs during the week is impossible at this point in the semester...luckily summer's right around the corner).  I was feeling great and attacked the trail pretty hard.  The shoes weigh next to nothing and they felt like running in slippers.  There's definitely a noticeable level of support missing compared to my regular running shoes but that's what I was expecting.  Despite the low-level  of cushioning (none), my legs didn't feel too bad after a hard 5 miles.  I definitely couldn't run any more than, say, a half-marathon in them right now.  But, I'll work on it.  Incorporating the shoes into my training should definitely make my legs, feet, ankles, and knees much stronger.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blodgett and Ute Valley

I set out today to get in a decent run.  I had never climbed to the top of Blodgett Peak despite hiking and running around the area many times.  I planned on being able to run to the top but that turned out to be impossible.  The trail was much steeper than I expected and it was covered in deep snow and mud in spots.  I still climbed to the top navigating through knee deep snow in spots (luckily four other guys had already made their way to the summit before I did so I was able to follow in their footprints).  I recharged at the summit for about 10 minutes and made my way down.  Descending was much more difficult and I basically slid halfway down the mountain.  Once back on the access road I ran the two miles down to the parking lot.  I was planning on running for 3-4 hours but I only had been hiking/running for 2:20 at that point.  I got in my truck and made my way over to Ute Valley Park eating some GU along the way.  I put in 56 minutes there.  Although I didn't run up Blodgett my legs were total jello from hiking through the mud and snow and it felt like I had run much farther than I did (total mileage including hiking Blodgett and running Ute Valley was 9.83).  Overall a pretty good day of hiking/running.

Elevation Blodgett then Ute Valley:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Moab Red Hot 50K+ 2010

On Saturday Feb. 13th 2010 I ran the Moab Red hot 50k+ trail race.  It was technically my first ultra-marathon if you define an ultra as anything longer than a marathon.  However, this year's course was only 32.47 miles (according to my Garmin) so it wasn't astonishingly farther than a traditional marathon.  I had been keeping an eye on the Moab weather for the past month or so and had been noticing that they'd been experiencing an extremely cold winter.  I'd check the conditions at 8:00am daily (the time the race was scheduled to start) and find the temperature to be in the teens or twenties at most.  Training through the Colorado winter had got me accustomed to running in the cold but it wasn't something I was looking forward to.  And, there was a significant difference between a 2 hour training run in the 30's and a potentially 5-8 hour run in the teens or twenties.  There was more than one occasion where I pondered dropping out due to the temperatures.  Also, I had been battling a terrible head cold for the past two weeks and was doing everything known to man to remedy it before race day.  Luckily it seemd to mostly clear up just in time.

Despite my concerns and thoughts of dropping out, my wife and I arrived in Moab around 3:00pm on Friday afternoon.  We stopped at the Gemini Bridges trail head (where the start of the race would take place the next morning) to check everything out.  Much to my dismay the trail was completely covered in snow.  We drove about 1 mile up the road before turning back in fear of getting stuck.  Despite the cold temperatures, I had never really considered the fact that there may be snow on the trail.  We got dinner and spent the remainder of the evening planning out the contents of my drop bags.  I had read countless blogs from people that had run the race before and given advice concerning the topic--advice which turned out to be priceless.

We arrived at the start at 6:45am to make sure we got there before the drop bag trucks left for the aid stations (of course this meant that we'd be sitting around in the car for a good hour before the race started but it wasn't too bad).  Choosing what gear to wear at the start was difficult.  I had only put cooler gear in my drop bags hoping that it would warm up so I had to make sure I was wearing enough cold gear from the start in case it didn't.  It was around 20 degrees at start time.  I wore a long-sleeved dry-fit shirt followed by a short-sleeved dry-fit shirt covered in a thermal outer layer.  I tied my wind jacket around my waist in case it didn't warm up or the wind kicked up.  On bottom I wore my shorts covered by my usual thin running pants.  I started by having only thin throw-away gloves but when I left the car for the start my fingers were cold after about 30 seconds so I returned and added my thicker fleece gloves as well.

The race got underway and after the first .25 miles or so (which is flat) the road got significantly steeper.  The loosely packed snow meant that you only gained about a 1/2 step for every step you took.  Even though I was walking I was having trouble keeping my heart rate down which was incredibly frustrating.  at the 1.25 mile point the trail began to descend and I was able to run again but my HR still didn't come down into a range I was comfortable with.  I walked again after a few miles and still no luck.  I decided that I was just going to have to keep going and hope that either, I could sustain a HR which I had never been able to sustain for long periods of time, or that it would finally come under control (which it finally did about 13 miles later, I guess I could sustain that level longer than I thought).

The portion of the race run on Metal Masher trail was completely covered in snow that was about 12" deep.  It made running treacherous (although I think running through the snow was much easier than walking in it) and made passing anyone nearly impossible (you had to attempt to go around them in the virgin snow on the sides of the trail which usually resulted in falling through the top layer of crust to the powder below).  Despite all of this I ran into the 2nd aid station around mile 13 in pretty good shape.  I was still on pace for around a 6 hour finish which would have been perfect.  My shoes and socks were soaked all the way through.  Knowing that there was miles of slick rock ahead I had packed fresh shoes and socks in the drop bag at this aid station.  I sat on a tarp covering the snow, removed my wet footwear, dried my feet with a towel that I had packed, and put on my dry shoes and socks.  Another racer getting food at the station saw me and enviously said "DRY SOCKS?!?!  DUUUUUUDE!!!".    The weather had warmed quite a bit so I removed my pants as well.  I moved my bib from my pants to my shorts, thanked the volunteers, and headed out of the aid station feeling great.  That feeling would fade fast.        

Once on the slick rock the game changed significantly.  I was prepared for running on the rock.  What I wasn't prepared for was the constant, and sometimes extreme (albeit short), elevation changes.  I wasn't able to manage much more than a shuffle on the inclines (mostly bent over with my hands on my knees) and then I was too tired to take full advantages of the downhills.  It was rough, but I had trained on much more extreme ups and downs.  I think this might have been the penalty for letting my HR stay out of control for so long during the beginning of the race. I had been playing leap frog with another runner for a few miles and we finally started walking together on the slick rock.  He asked me how many ultras I had done and I admitted that this was my first.  "Shit man, you're kicking ass then, this race is no joke"  he replied.  That made me feel a little better even though I knew my goal of a 6 hour finish was out of the question at this point (I knew that I'd need a miracle to even finish in the 7 hour range).  His name was Phil and he was from Ogden, UT.  If I remember right this was his 3rd time running the race and teaming up with him when I did was a huge huge help.  He knew the course well and his live narration was mentally exactly what I needed, "slight up hill around this corner........long downhill coming up."   Without him I don't know if I could have finished.  This was definitely the low point in my race.  I had been drinking religiously but I was still feeling dehydrated.  I couldn't choke down anymore Gu and even Clif Shot Blocks weren't doing the trick.  The temperature had climbed significantly and even though I had shed my pants I was still wearing the 3 upper layers and two pairs of gloves.   I had stopped sweating and was feeling dizzy and nauseous.  I put my hands on my knees and felt like I was going to have to sit for a while, "Aid station just at the top of this hill"  Phil encouraged.  I dug down deep and walked slowly.

I arrived in the aid station at mile 21 and immediately shed every piece of clothing that I had (other than my shorts).  I sat on a dry rock and soaked up the sun trying not to vomit.  The aid station had run out of water.  Luckily, I had read about this happening last year and one blogger pricelessly advised to pack water in your drop bags.  I reached in my bag and pulled out a bottle of ice cold water.  Without that bottle I would've definitely had to drop at that point--no doubt.  Phil, seeing me struggling, asked if I needed anything.  "I think I'm good" I replied.  "You sure?  Gu? Peppermint?".   Oh, peppermint, that sounded amazing.  He gave me three peppermints and I held them in my hand.  I took a ginger pill, an electrolyte pill, drank some more of the water, and put one of the peppermints in my mouth.  I was starting to feel much much better. I pulled a fresh shirt from my drop bag and put it on.  I gathered the rest of my gear and started shuffling out of the aid station.  In retrospect, I had much more water than I needed and I could have easily given some to Phil and another runner that didn't get any at the aid station.  Of course, at the time, I wasn't thinking clearly and I feared that my own finish was in jeopardy.  I'll definitely make an attempt to be more aware of the well-being of fellow racers in the future.

After a few minutes I was able to run again and I caught up to Phil who had left the aid station before me.  I asked him if he needed anything and he said he was good.  I continued on; I wanted to stay near Phil but, despite all my rookie mistakes, I knew to follow one golden rule: run when you can.  I ran.  The slick rock soon leveled off and, eventually, we were off it altogether.  I passed a handful of runners in the next few miles all of whom were forced to walk due to not getting any water at the previous aid station.  I reached mile 29 and pulled my cell phone out of my pack to text my wife that I had 5 miles to go (the course was originally supposed to be 34 miles).  I sent the text but my phone had no service.  I put the phone away and kept running.  I was feeling good now.

I entered the aid station at mile 30 and they too informed me that they were really low on water.  And, to my surprise, informed me that I was 2.5 miles from the finish.  Again, I pulled a bottle from my drop bag and filled my hand-bottle.  Phil entered the station soon after me and shouted words of encouragement as I ran out "Good job Nick!! Keep it up!"

As I reached the switchbacks of the Poison Spider trail I could see my family down below.  I waved but I had changed clothes so many times during the race they didn't recognize me.  I ran the remainder of the way (it wasn't until I was about 50 yards away that my family finally realized it was me).  I crossed the finish line at 8:11--about 2-3 hours longer than I wanted.  At first, I was really disappointed.  But, as time went on after the race I realized that my body was in much better shape than it was after my last marathon which gave me some confidence in my training.  After the last marathon I was forced to take a 2-week break from running due to soreness in my legs.  I think I'll be able to head out for a few short runs this week, which makes me very excited. 

Plus, I kept moving for 8 hours, I hadn't gone even close to that before.  I was mentally much stronger than I've been before. 


Monday, January 18, 2010


Yesterday marked the third day in a row with a 3 hour run.  While most serious runners can complete a 3 hour run before breakfast and be unphased, and the distance isn't to challenging for me either, I had never run that amount of time three days in a row.  It would be a test of my recovery and my ability to run through pain and different levels of fatigue.

The first day was a Friday.  I took off of work a little early and headed to the trail.  The usual physical aspects of the run were no challenge at all but the sun went down around hour 2.  In Colorado sunset can cause a drastic drop in temperature and I spent the last hour of the run freezing my ass off.  With chattering teeth and numb fingers I reached the trail head at 2:53.  Rather than doddle around on the trail for another 7 minutes, I cut it short, got in my truck, threw off my sweaty (and freezing) shirt, and hoped the truck would warm up as soon as possible.   I arrived home, took a cool shower, refueled, and iced my knees (my usual trouble spot).

The forecast of the second day called for temperatures in the 50s--a welcome warm in Colorado in January.  I was eager to get the run underway but I knew it wouldn't warm up until 10:00am or so.  I messed with the playlist on my iPod and charged my Garmin to waste time but I just couldn't sit inside anymore.  I was approaching 300 miles on my current shoes so it was time for some new ones.  I figured I'd head to the running store and get a new pair--that would give the temperature some time to rise.  After taking about 6 pairs on test jogs around the block, there were two clear front-runners: the Saucony ProGrid Ride 2 and a New Balance model.  As far as brands go, I have the most respect for New Balance with their committment to U.S. manufacturing, etc... and I try to buy them whenever possible.  But, that day, the Saucony was far more comfortable (albeit a hideous shoe) so I went with that one.  By the time I reached the trail head to actually get running it was quite warm out.  Shorts and short sleeves were all that was required.  This day's trail was far more technical and my knees screamed for the first 5 miles or so.  After that, they either warmed up or went numb; either way, the pain stopped and the rest of the run was fairly pain free.  I struggled with some nauseau during the last hour but I had deviated from my normal fueling regime.  At one point, during the 3rd hour, I was struggling to ascend a rocky incline that I had climbed twice already duing the run.  I approached two kids, probably around 4 or 5 years old, who were hiking with their mom.  The two kids turned and saw me struggling up the terrain and immediately started clapping and cheering "GO!, GO!, GO!".  They had definitely attended some race before and I started laughing.  It was just what I needed to make it over the top.

Given the sharp inclines in the trail I had to walk quite a bit to keep my HR under control but it provided much more mental stimulation and the 3 hours went by in no time.  Despite being physically harder, I'd take a run on technical terrain over something long and flat any day.  I arrived home, took an ice bath, and ate some Chipotle.

I awoke on the thrid day and headed straight out to the trail.  The temperature was again supposed to be in the 50s but the clouds had yet to clear and it was around 30 degrees.  I dressed accordingly knowing that I'd have to come back to the car in an hour or so to switch to my old shoes--I was breaking in the new ones.  The first hour was cold but by the time I got back to the car it was about 50 degrees.  I stripped off my layers, put on a new dry shirt, changed my shoes, and I was off.  The last two hours of the run were uneventful.  My knees did hurt some but nothing compared to pain I had endured on other runs. 

Today, my legs are surprisingly almost pain free.  The only area of tenderness are my calves that feel like concrete blocks on the back of my legs.  I'm sure I'll get more sore throughout the day and tomorrow morning will probably be a different story.  I'll try to work in a massage this week.  Next weekend, if the weather improves, I'll be heading to Moab to get some runs in on the course of the Red Hot 50K+ so I know what I'm in for next month.  



Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Mexico

My parents moved to Rio Rancho New Mexico a few months ago (just north of Albuquerque).  My wife, brother, and I decided to drive down and spend New Years with them.  It's usually a few degrees warmer there than in Colorado Springs so I was looking forward to doing some runs in slighty more pleasurable temperatures. 

We arrived late Wed. night and spent most of Thursday morning playing Wii (my parent's have more video game systems than I do).  Around 1:00pm I got motivated to get outside and asked my parents where I should go.  The good thing about having adventerous and active parents is that they've already explored miles and miles of trails near their house.  They told me about Cibola National Forest that was about 10 minutes away.  I reached the trailhead and could see the Sandia mountain range in the distance.  The trail started going through the desert and I got too hot after about a mile.  I stopped and took off my pants, rolled them up, and bungeed them to my pack.  The temperature was perfect with just my shorts.  After two miles or so the trail joined up with a road and I travelled along that for about a mile before taking another trail towards the mountains.  The trail followed a narrow ravine and once it went beyond the reach of the sun it started looking more like home.  The snow was a few inches deep and the temperature dropped significantly.  I was still good in my shorts. It got pretty steep and narrow through the trees and I wasn't able to run as much as I would have liked.  I hiked and ran for about 30 mintes before I decided that I better head back before the sun went down.  I was able to decend much faster than I went up and I found myself back at the road in no time.  I traveled along the road for a couple of miles before I realized that my pack was light.  My pants had come out.  Shit.  I stopped and contemplated the cost of the pants and if it was worth it to go back and look for them.  It was.  I turned around and made my way back to the trail that headed up into the hills.  I hiked/ran for about 20 minutes before I found my pants laying by the side of the trail.  I tied them around my waste and decended once again.  I rejoined the road and headed back to toward the car.  I covered 7.25 miles.  It wasn't as long as I would have liked and I was frustrated with having to back-track to retreive my pants but it was a good run. 

Over the past two weeks I've run in the trails north of Colorado Springs, the beach of Southern California, back in Colorado Springs for a few days (and runs), and the desert and hills of New Mexico.  Not a bad end to my running year.  Tomorrow will mark the beginning of my most ambitious running year yet.  Happy New Years to all and a happy running 2010.