Saturday, September 24, 2011

"This is the long forgotten..."

"...light at the end of the world."

Good morning, Rockies.

Some lonely trail lit by a rising sun.

Hallett Peak. 

Don't get too close...

Getting too close, now...

Inches away from too close!

Remnants of the first snowfall in Bighorn Flats.

No words.

High elevation (11,000-13,000ft) alpine tundra is by far my favorite running terrain. Short-grass and moss fields strewn with lichen-covered boulders, rolling terrain, and the most expansive panoramas imaginable.

You feel very small here, overshadowed by rocky peaks but also overwhelmed by the amount of space. The steady wind chills your core while the strong sun burns your cheeks. It's humbling.

And it's empty. If you seek true solitude and wonder what "nothing" sounds like, this is the place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This is what a sunrise run sounds like

Solitude on a lonely trail under the pink and orange skies.

Bathing in the sounds and smells of a crisp autumn morning.

Feeling the warm tendrils of the sun pouring over the horizon.

Finding inner peace before the day awakens.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Easing back in

Worked my way back to 55 miles this past week. My IT-band doesn't hurt during running anymore - even on steep downhills - and it only feels sore if I sit for a long time (like I do every day as a grad student).

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, my usual haunt. Ran within a few feet of a large pack of mule deer. I think they're becoming accustomed to me whizzing by at 6AM.

 6:30 AM, good morning Fort Collins.

Tuesday: 8 miles, same time same place. I took the camera and photographed the sunrise under the stratus clouds just starting to roll in. Not half an hour after this beautiful shot the rain started to fall and the sun was choked out by a thick cloud deck. Looks like the Seattle weather finally found me.

 7:00 AM, not so good anymore. Well, rain is always good around here, I guess.

Wednesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail. This crisp morning the landscape was bathed in thick fog, though it wasn't too deep since the full moon was shining bright above. The lichen-covered rocks and twisty pines were eery silhouettes until sunrise, when the fog began to glow pink and orange. Absolutely beautiful. Also did 15 miles on the mountain bike in the afternoon. The clay mud was so thick that it kept clogging up the wheel at the front fork.

Thursday: nada. Busy day with classes, colloquia, and research.

Friday: 8 miles, Foothills trail. A clear but unusually cold morning filled with mule deer. I think they start their feeding a little later on the days when it isn't sunny. Reminds me of winter in Seattle, when getting up for a morning run in the dark overcast was nearly impossible.

Saturday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge trail. I added four miles to my usual route, extending the turn-around to the Reservoir Ridge loop just south of the Cache la Poudre Monument. I really like this area - the trail runs the ridge line through Ponderosa pine, thick shrub, and very tall grass before spilling onto this very prominent peak at the break in the Dakota Hogback. The trail is wider, the grass is shorter - and there is a short hill on the reservoir side that makes Widowmaker on the Lower Woodland course look like a joke.

Sunday: 11 miles, Blue Sky and Rimrock trails. An out-and-back along the heavily-trafficked Blue Sky (tons of mountain bikers) with a diversion into the Rimrock Open Space. There's a colony of prairie dogs guarding the entrance to the open space, and they were on full alarm as I and a group of bikers passed through. The varied landscapes on this run are striking: rich, pink and red soil trails on the west side of the hogback, full of green grasses and shrub; on the east side of the hogback, large red slabs, cacti and succulents, and sparse short grass. It's like going from the Methow Valley east of the Cascades to Arizona.

Total: 54 miles, ~8000ft of vertical.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I'll post a "race report" on Leadville soon. Despite DNFing, I can already say that it was one of the most defining moments of my life. Running 50 miles on a blown IT-band is hard, very hard.

From mile 35 to mile 70, where I dropped, I ran with a limp, and every thought I had was laced with physical pain. I told myself that the only thing that would take me out of the race was the inability to physically move forward - and that happened, as I had to be carried into a med tent at the Half Pipe aid station with a black, swollen IT-band!

I'm back to running; each run I'm going a little farther, while the tightness and irritation is dissipating. I have four exercises I'm working on to strengthen my glutes and tensor fasciae latae, I'm stretching the band out often, and I'm improving my downhill running form.

Apparently, I've been doin' it wrong. I think. I did a 14 mile out-and-back along the Foothills Trail today and tried out a new downhill technique, just for kicks. Boy does it work well, and it doesn't pull on my IT-band like my old style would.

Here's the technique: loosen your muscles and keep your legs fluid, point your toes down, and lean forward. I know, this sounds like any how-to-run-downhill technique, but you always imagine you're running correctly. It's easy to run uphill - running downhill is an art.

This style is responsive - instead of tensing up and committing to a particular foot placement/knee angle, the muscles tighten upon impact and respond to the terrain immediately. Running down rough trails is no longer jarring and much more enjoyable.

Be like the stream.