High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week in Review: January 20-26—Vertical is Exhausting

Monday, January 20th
AM—8 Miles—2:03—3,200’—Bear Peak
My legs felt a little sluggish this morning. I headed up the Mesa Trail out of Chautauqua; digging deep for some energy to get up that first climb. I was content to just do a short out-and-back on the Mesa Trail and call it a day, but my legs started to feel a little better. I hit the junction for Fern Canyon in around 30 minutes and started the haul up the hill at a casual pace. In 1:13 I was lounging on the summit, enjoying t beautiful sunny day. I decided against heading over to Green and opted to descend the same route I ascended. From the summit of Bear to the saddle was slow going due to the mixed rock, snow, and ice terrain. I left my spikes on for the rock sections so I just walked those sections in an effort to keep them sharp. A moderate effort on Mesa got me back to the Taco in a hair over two hours. 

Tuesday, January 21st
AM—6 Miles—4:14—3,100’—Horsetooth Peak (10,344’)
David Ponak and I headed out to the trailhead somewhat early in hopes of bagging Mt Meeker. However, relentless post holing slowed our pace enough to make us satisfied with simply standing atop Horsetooth Peak. The winds were fierce at times. The snow was up to my hips sometimes—up to my knees all the time. It’s been over two years since I’ve tried moving around in snow like that; I forgot how exhausting it can be. It took us almost 1.5 hours to cover the second mile of the day. Deep snow has a way of making you feel like you’re learning how to walk all over again. 

PM—5 Miles—1:46—2,400’—Green Mountain
After dropping David off at his house I headed back to Boulder. Naturally, I drove straight to Chautauqua and shed my warmer clothes from the earlier outing. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to get out and do something. So I just started running with the idea of a Flatiron access trail loop or something simple. Instead I headed up the icy front side of Green without spikes. I reached the summit rock just before the sun fell behind the mountains. The dim, icy descent was taken at an overly cautious pace. Slow outing all around. 

Wednesday, January 22nd
AM—13 Miles—2:19—3,250’—Mesa Trail Out-and-Back
All I really knew going into this run was that I was going to run to the South Mesa Trailhead. From there I would figure out the rest. I kept the effort easy-to-moderate all day long; never really getting out of breath or anything. There was a decent amount of ice and hard-packed snow covering the trails, which helped keep the effort in check. The first few climbs kind of sucked with my legs being anything but well-rested, but eventually the climbs got easier. I reached the South Trailhead in a casual 1:08 before turning around to grunt out the two mile climb from the trailhead. Surprisingly, I was able to keep my easy pace and top out on the climb in about 20 minutes. I cruised the rest of the Mesa back to Chautauqua for a 1:11 return trip. Nothing impressive. Just an easy day with a few mellow climbs here-and-there. 

Thursday, January 23rd
AM—7 Miles—2:51—2,600’—Green Mountain
I began the day slogging through some ankle-deep snow with Andrew Skurka. It didn’t take me long to realize that my legs were toast. About 10-15 minutes up Gregory I told him to go ahead and drop me. Then I enjoyed a leisurely hike to the summit of Green; taking lots of photos along the way. I ran into Fred coming off the NE ridge route and joined him for the remainder of the trip to the summit. I decided to walk the descent to avoid any potential ankle rolls on the snow-covered rocks. Little-to-no running done today. 

Friday, January 24th
AM—9 Miles—2:40—2,800’—Green Mountain
The initial climb out of Chautauqua almost killed me. I reached Bear Canyon in about 0:35 versus the usual 0:25. My legs did start to pep up a little heading up Bear Canyon. I was able to run every step up to the West Ridge trail junction before falling into a hike to the summit. I ran into Fred along the way and chatted for a few minutes. I intended to descend the NE Ridge, but an abundance of ice and a lack of Microspikes turned me around for a front side descent. I walked down most of the ice-covered front side. 

Saturday, January 25th
AM1—2 Miles—0:20—200’—Sourdough Snowshoe Race DNF
First time ever putting on snowshoes. I’m not quite sure if I had them on right, but I’m leaning towards “no.” Less than a mile into the run my feet felt like they were being crushed. So, I shed the shoes and jogged back to the trailhead with my tail tucked between my legs. I’m planning to get back out for some easy outings in the snowshoes to get them figured out. 

AM2—11 Miles—3:00—4,250’—Flagstaff Mountain and Green Mountain
With the snowshoe race debacle behind me I headed back to Boulder to soak up the sun of a beautiful, warm day. I ran up Flagstaff from Ebin G Fine, descended Gregory Canyon, ascended Green via the front side, descended Gregory Canyon, and finished off the day with a climb up-and-over Panorama Point. My legs were tired so I pretty much power hiked all of the climbs. Ran into Peter and William on the initial ascent of Flagstaff and chatted for a few minutes. 

Sunday, January 26th
AM—8 Miles—1:26—2,000’—Walker Ranch Loop
Woke up this morning with a slight hangover. I’m not sure what lured me to Walker Ranch since I’ve never actually ran that loop before. I ran the loop counter-clockwise—coasting the descents and leaning into the ascents. At about the 3-mile mark I started having some stomach distress (likely due to the previous nights’ beer and junk food). I’m looking forward to getting back out here sometime soon and giving the loop a decent effort.

Time— 20 hours 45 minutes
Elevation Gain— 24,000 feet

I decided to stay around 65-70 miles this week in an effort to give my legs a chance at recovery. It seems that the cumulative effect of the last few weeks is starting to reveal itself in the form of constant exhaustion. I keep trying to remind myself to ease back into things. I can’t run all of the miles and all of the vertical every day. I’m debating implementing an “active recovery” day every week (at least for the next 2-4 weeks) where I simply go out and hike with little-to-no running. We’ll see if that happens. 

A snowy slog up Green Mountain

Another Green Mountain summit shot

Walker Ranch Loop

Sunrise in Nederland, CO

Looking at Mt Meeker from Horsetooth

Fresh powder

View of Green Mountain from upper Greenman

Theater at the Nederland Rec Center

Snow-dusted Flatirons

Another morning in the mountains of Boulder

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week in Review: January 13-19—Ramping Up

Monday, January 13th
AM—7 Miles—2:45—2,800’—Green Mountain
I went up the NE ridge, which was an icy deathtrap. For almost the duration of the ascent I stayed off anything resembling a trail since there was just so much ice. I ended up reaching the summit in 2.02 miles—one day I’ll top out in less than two miles. The thought of meandering over to Bear Peak entered my mind, but common sense told me that Fern Canyon would be a ridiculous descent without any spikes. So I descended the West Ridge/Long Canyon/Flagstaff Trails back to Chautauqua hoping to minimize ice encounters. This worked for the most part, but I still busted my ass a few times.

Tuesday, January 14th
AM—17 Miles—4:04—4,400’—Eldorado Springs to Nederland (Almost)
After a late night drinking session with the Ponak’s David and I decided to run from Eldorado Springs over to Nederland. Every weather forecast we saw said it was supposed to be cold and super windy so we decided on this route versus our original plan of getting up high in the mountains. The weather was actually pretty amazing all day. I slowed David down considerably due to my inability to run anything even slightly uphill. My legs just didn’t have anything today. With the exception of a few icy patches of trail and jeep road we were treated to the best conditions I’ve ever experienced on this route. We were late to meet David’s wife, Aubrey, for lunch in Ned so we hitched the last few miles down into town. I’m looking forward to getting back on this route when my legs and lungs are back.

Wednesday, January 15th
AM—3 Miles—1:38—2,050’—2nd Flatiron
My original plan was an easy five miles or so on the Creek Path. This changed into an easy five miles or so on the Mesa Trail. This changed to me playing around on the icy 2nd Flatiron. I stuck way to the right hand side to allow for an easy exit should the rock get too icy. About halfway up I bailed off since the 110’s I had on weren’t gripping at all (they’re held together with Shoe Goo). I finished the trip up to the top of the 1st before turning back around and descending the access trail. Closed the access trail loop and cruised ~1/2 mile of Mesa back to the Taco.

Thursday, January 16th
AM—7 Miles—1:54—2,500’—Green Mountain
Up and down the middle route. Slow ascent and moderate descent with the exception of a few icy spots. I didn’t really feel like putting my spikes on for the way down so I just tip-toed around the ice. I opened up slightly on the Baseline trail back to Chautauqua and hit sub-6 pace for the stretch of trail.

Friday, January 17th
AM—5 Miles—1:32—2,400’—Green Mountain
I was sitting in Trident this morning when I got a call from Jeff saying he was heading out for a lap on Green. I immediately packed my stuff and headed towards the mountain. Nice and easy pace up and down the backside. Jeff brought his eleven-year-old dog, which thankfully slowed down the pace a bit. I’m still sucking wind on the ascents. Beautiful morning for a run in shorts!

Saturday, January 18th
AM—19 Miles—4:51—6,100—Flagstaff, Green, Bear, South Boulder, Bear, Green, Flagstaff
After spending a few hours in Trident waiting for it to warm up a bit I finally headed out. I met my old roommate Justin at Ebin G Fine and we began a casual ascent of Flagstaff. My breathing was a little heavy in places, but the effort was easy for the most part. We parted ways on top of Flagstaff and I made my way over to Green via the Middle Route maintaining the easy effort to the summit. Just below the summit I ran into Basit (surprise, surprise) and chatted for a second before continuing over to Bear Peak. I picked up the effort quite a bit on this segment, but had to maintain a little control due to all of the snow/ice on the trails. The climb up Bear went by effortlessly. Loads of soft snow made the initial trip over to South Boulder slow going, but I was able to run a significant portion of the trail before resorting to a grunting power hike up to the summit. I was surprised at my slower split for the return to Bear considering how much easier this section felt to run. Making my way back to Green was probably the strongest ascending I ran all day. It’s always a big confidence boost to be 10+ miles and 4,500 vertical feet into your day and feel like your strongest uphill running is yet to come. After charging up all of Green-Bear Trail and part of the West Ridge Trail I finally fell into a power hike for the last fraction of a mile to the summit. From the summit, I casually made my way down the upper stretches of Greenman trying to maintain some balance between speed and control on the snow-covered trails. There were a few stretches where I opened up the pace a little, but I never really pushed any of the descent until I reached the top of Flagstaff. There were several stretches between Flagstaff and Ebin G Fine where the trail conditions allowed for a fast paced descent without wearing Microspikes. I was happy to reach Ebin G Fine and not feel completely spent. My legs still had quite a bit in the tank, which made it hard to shun the summit of Sanitas. It’s beginning to feel like I’m getting my legs and lungs back. I probably could have taken this run close to 4:30 if I wouldn’t have refused to put on my Microspikes for some of the slippery portions (specifically, the steep portion of the Bear ascent/descent).

Sunday, January 19th
AM—7 Miles—1:46—2,200’—Green Mountain Bailout (Icy as Shit)
Started to head up the middle route from Chautauqua. The trails were surprisingly icy compared to being on them at the same time of day yesterday and never once putting on my spikes. I couldn’t get any traction on the trails, which made for a shit show of slipping and sliding. On lower Greenman I felt a blister starting to form on my heel. For some reason I thought today would be a great day to break in a new pair of 110’s sans socks. I decided to bail on Green and descend the front side, which presented ample opportunities for busting my ass on the ice. Once down, I returned to the Taco, taped up my heels, and headed back out for a quick loop on the Flatiron access trails. The trails were full of the usual “it’s 60 degrees and sunny on a winter Sunday” crowds, which led me to run off trail most of the way. Even so, I still hit sub-5:30 pace for a decent portion of the loop. I could definitely feel the fatigue of yesterday’s miles and vert in my legs on the ascents.

Time— 18 hours 31 minutes
Elevation Gain— 22,450 feet

The beginning of this week had me a little worried that I may have tried doing too much too soon. As previously stated, my first four runs in Boulder saw more vertical gain than the entire month of December. So, my left shin and left ankle/Achilles were bothersome the first few days this week. Around Wednesday or Thursday all of the discomfort just disappeared. No complaints here. 

Being back in Boulder has me feeling a bit like a kid let loose on a playground. If I suspected my body could handle it then I’d simply run all day, every day. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and a little common sense must be practiced. The result is the low mileage days of Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. I wanted to run more on these days, but I’m trying to ramp up my volume at a rate that makes sense. Sure, a 100+ mile week would be possible right now, but then I’d be injured in a few weeks with nothing to do but kick myself in the ass for being an idiot. 

I signed up for another race this week, too. The Run Through Time trail marathon in Salida, CO in mid-March. I might actually do a little speed work for this fast trail marathon…

Top of the 1st Flatiron

Staring up at the icy 2nd Flatiron

Some fast snow-covered trail on lower Greenman

Sunrise from lower Greenman

Staring back at Green Mountain (left) and Bear Peak (right) from the summit of South Boulder

Sunrise near the last switchback of upper Greenman

Cruising along upper Greenman on a warm day

Looking over at the 3rd Flatiron from Green Mountain's NE ridge

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week in Review: January 6-12—Back to Boulder

Monday, January 6th
AM—2 Miles—0:17—0’—Orrick Roads
First run after eleven days off with a vicious cold. Brutally cold this morning with -30F wind chills.

Tuesday, January 7th
PM—5 Miles—0:38—0’—Orrick Roads
Considerably warmer today. Went out with a jacket and tights, but could have got by with just a long-sleeved shirt and shorts. Legs still felt crappy after coming off my cold.

Wednesday, January 8th
OFF—Drive from Missouri to Colorado

Thursday, January 9th
AM—11 Miles—3:41—4,100’—Green Mountain and Bear Peak
I arrived in Boulder around 6AM this morning. Before 7AM I had my running clothes on and was heading up Green Mountain. The combination of being at sea level the past six weeks and the trails being covered in snow made it a chore to get to the summit. I called JV from the summit to arrange a rendezvous somewhere along Fern. The trip up Bear was pretty miserable. Relentless winds, being in the shade, and plenty of snow drifts left me chilled to the bone. The descent of Fern was a blast with perfect snow pack all the way. Felt great to experience the burn of elevation again after six weeks without even seeing a mountain.

Friday, January 10th
AM—6 Miles—1:23—1,600’—Flagstaff Mountain
I started off from Settlers Park with super tight hamstrings that had me questioning my decision to run. They eventually loosened up and I was able to run somewhat. The snow and ice helped keep my pace slow-as-hell, which isn’t a bad thing since I’m trying to ease back into things. I hit the summit in ~50 minutes versus my PR of 29 minutes. The descent started out rough with my quads wondering what the hell was going on. They eventually accepted the fact that we were running downhill and I hit a comfortable pace for the remaining descent. The round trip was terribly unimpressive—1:23 versus a PR of 0:49. Oh, the joys of getting acclimated…

Saturday, January 11th
AM—13 Miles—2:52—3,800’—Green Mountain
I started off with the intention of a Mesa Trail out-and-back, but my legs felt descent when I reached the Bear Canyon junction so I decided to take the easy way up Green Mountain. The initial climb out of Chautauqua was into a fierce headwind the entire way. There were a few places in Bear Canyon that I power hiked due to snow-induced bad footing. Once I hit the West Ridge trail I hiked all the way to the summit since the snow was an unconsolidated mess. I was a bit please with how good my legs and lungs felt today given how crappy they felt the previous two days. On the way down I ran into Basit and Shad, chatted with them for a few minutes, decided to join them for another ascent of Green, decided to bail on the second summit of Green since I’d only had a couple of apples to eat all day, and then made my way back to Chautauqua. Always a blast to descend on perfectly packed snow even if you are wearing an old pair of 110’s with no tread and held together by Shoe Goo.

Sunday, January 12th
AM—3 Miles—1:22—2,000’—Mount Sanitas
While sitting at the coffeeshop I came to the conclusion that I should take today pretty easy. So, I decided to head up Sanitas and explore around the mountain a little bit. I tried to stay off the trail as much as possible and enjoyed some easy scrambling/bouldering when the opportunity presented itself. I found some sweet goat trails on the way down and never stepped foot on the actual trail until reaching the staircases near the very bottom. Love that off-trail stuff.

Time— 10 hours 16 minutes
Elevation Gain— 11,500 feet

Well, 2014 got off to a bit of a rough start with me being sick the first five days of January. I’m not terribly sure that going out for a run in -30 wind chills was the best way to celebrate being over my cold, but it felt great to finally run again. 

The first few days of running in Boulder were a bit of a challenge and left me wondering how long it would take to get acclimated again. Fortunately, come Saturday and Sunday I started feeling close(er) to normal. Right now the biggest challenge is running in the snow; I haven’t really ran in snow since winter 2011-12. I almost forgot how fun it is to cruise down perfectly packed snow. 

I’m definitely excited to be back in Boulder and running up/down mountains again. In four days of running in Boulder I surpassed the total elevation gain I had for the entire month of December running in Missouri. 

Oh, almost forgot to mention that I registered for my first race of 2014—the Free State Trail Runs 100km in Lawrence, KS. Not sure what made me decide on this one since it doesn’t seem to be particularly scenic or challenging in terms of elevation gain. I think I picked it mainly because of the timing. It’s on April 19th. I was looking for an early season 100km. Guess I found it. 

Looking down at Boulder on my way up Bear Peak. Feels good to be home...

Green Mountain on a windy morning

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Highlights

Looking back on the past year brings up mixed feelings. A full year of funemployment and playing around in the mountains is way more fun than it sounds—and it sounds pretty damn fun. At the same time, I realize that the likelihood of topping 2013 is pretty low (but I’ll sure as hell try!). 

I started off 2013 in the bustling city of Buenos Aires. After five months of traveling around Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia I returned to the United States to enjoy Colorado’s mountains. During six months of high country shenanigans I sought out the thin air of 14,000+ feet as much as possible.  I only had one goal in 2013—get as high as possible as fast as possible. 

For what it’s worth, here are my numbers from 2013…

2013 Stats:
2,227 Miles (2,500 in 2012)
705 Hours 9 Minutes (514:40 in 2012)
663,900 Vertical Feet (524,150 in 2012)
246 Outings (255 in 2012)

14ers: 85
Green Mountain: 33 (111 Lifetime Summits)
Bear Peak: 11 (17 Lifetime Summits)
Flagstaff Mountain: 5 (129 Lifetime Summits)
South Boulder Peak: 3 (9 Lifetime Summits)
Mount Sanitas : 3 (19 Lifetime Summits)

Now I’ll leave you with my favorite photos from the past year. These are a little taste of what I have to top in 2014…

Wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin

Wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin


Beautiful day on Shavano and Tabeguache

River bathing in Buena Vista

Wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin

Relaxing at iRF Headquarters

Columbines in Yankee Boy Basin

Playing around Snowmass and its sub-peaks

Treasure Falls near Pagosa Springs

On the way down from Antero

More wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin

Sunset over Leadville

A nice lake near Snowmass

Crossing the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

A mountain goat standing proud on Kelso Ridge

Yankee Boy Basin with Sneffels in the background

Sunrise on my way the Wilson Peak

A rest day before heading up Capitol Peak (seen in the background)

Sunrise in Canyonlands National Park

Heading up The Cables Route with Alan (Photo: Alan Smith)

Early morning haze for the Hardrock start

Turning Aspens near Little Bear Ranch

Vastness of Canyonlands NP

Where a big day in Chicago Basin begins and ends

Getting ready to cross the infamous Knife Edge of Capitol Peak

The Catwalk between Eolus and North Eolus

Scrambling up Eolus (Look close and you can see me in the photo)

Having fun around Longs Peak (Photo: Alan Smith)

Fortunately, I didn't see any while at the Grand Canyon

Fun up high in Chicago Basin

View of Capitol Lake on the Capitol Peak descent

Heading back to the Taco after tag teaming Bierstadt and Evans

View of North Maroon from the summit of Maroon Peak

Wildflowers on Mount Sopris

Thomas Lakes near Mount Sopris

Bunch of dirtbags in Piedra Parada, Argentina (Photo: Chris Reddy)

Just being a badass at the world's biggest biker bar in Sturgis, SD

Words of wisdom on the Full Throttle Saloon's bar

Buckle from Black Hills 100. My first 100 finish. 

Me and dad/crew at the Black Hills finish. Can't wait to have him crew me again sometime. 

Showing off the hardware. (Photo: Rob Timko)

Sunset over the mining ruins of Leadville

Cruising into an aid station at the Telluride Mountain Run

I measure all of my runs in units of "miles/ounce of espresso"

The Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile Dream Team at the finish line

Sun rising on my way to tackle Mount Lindsey

Sunrise in the Grand Canyon

Sun still rising in the Grand Canyon

Cool graffiti on a water storage tank near Kayenta, AZ

A snowy slog up Bear Peak with Basit and Josh (Photo: Josh Emdur)

Sunset from Refugio Frey in Argentina

Set setting on Bariloche, Argentina

Playing in the mountains near Refugio Frey, Argentina

Lago Schmoll near Refugio Frey, Argentina

Some sweet trails leading back to Refugio Frey, Argentina

Looking down on Refugio Frey (near the water) after a short-but-sweet scramble

Sweet view of a volcano on the way up Catedral Sur near Frey

Circle of life in Piedra Parada

Asado time in Piedra Parada!

Mountains, and glaciars, and lakes, oh my! Fitz Roy with Laguna de los Tres. 

Glacial lake near Fitz Roy

View of Paso de las Agachonas from Mirador Loma del Pligue Tumbado in El Chalten, Argentina

El Fin del Mundo. Standing on the shores of Isla Navarino looking across the Beagle Channel towards Argentina. 

Running the Dientes de Navarino circuit. 

Sunset from the shores of Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino

Puerto Williams is a long ways away from most places...

An old war ship turned into a fine drinking establishment in Puerto Williams, Chile. 

Plaza de la Virgen. Starting point for the Dientes de Navarino circuit

Sunset outside of Fort Collins

Sunset outside of Fort Collins

Bailing on Peak One with Mike due to a large cornice near the summit

Nothing better than warming your feet by a nice, hot fire

Cruising to Elbert's summit (Photo: Mike Ambrose)

Celebrating my last night at Refugio Frey

Chorillo del Salto near El Chalten

One of the few stretches of runnable trail near Ushuaia, Argentina

An easy day up to the Royal Arch with Kim and Stephanie

A little dip in the awesome lakes of Bariloche, Argentina

El Chalten with Fitz Roy in the background. One of my favorite places on earth. 

Looking down on Ushuaia, Argentina from high up in the nearby mountains. 

Dodging traffic in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The jagged peaks surrounding Refugio Frey

Embracing the Argentinian way of life

Standard Green Mountain summit shot (Photo: Robbie Pike)

Barging up Greys and Torreys (Photo: David Ponak)

Safe from the brutally cold temperatures and winds at the summit of Pikes

Sending up dreams from a hammock in Piedra Parada, Argentina

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn

Torreys and its inviting Kelso Ridge

Standing atop Handies Peak