Monday, November 30, 2015

ITI training, week seven

Monday: Hike, 1:33, 4.6 miles, 2,293 feet climbing. Beat used his lunch break to go for a jaunt up Green Mountain, whose trailhead is only about three miles from Google Boulder. The views from Green Mountain are spectacular — quite the enviable lunch run. I was wearing spikes and turned my ankle badly on the descent, but was able to work it out with minimal limping.                   
Tuesday: Morning, trail run, 1:35, 6.1 miles, 1,742 feet climbing. Evening: Weight routine. I started from the Baseline Road trailhead and explored some of the lower trails of the Flatirons. It was a toasty day at 60 degrees, and the area was crowded. I struggled with the rockiness of the trails, and did a lot of hiking after turning my ankle again. In the evening I went to the weight room in the hotel for another free-weight session.My shoulders and arms were still sore from Sunday's routine. Still managed 30 pushups over three sets, but most of them hurt and were probably ugly. 

 Wednesday: Trail run, 1:25, 6 miles, 939 feet climbing. Beat and I drove to Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving, but not without stopping in Grand Junction to pick up his latest two-wheeled acquisition. It's true, Beat and I disagree about the number of bicycles he purchases. I'm still considered the "cyclist" in our relationship, and yet I'm the one that attempts to put a moratorium on the n+1 rule. But Beat is an avid fan of Mike Curiak's one-of-a-kind work, and any time one of those bikes ends up on the market, Beat feels he must have it. He also has the appropriate justification of needing the perfect bicycle to take to Nome. Anyway, it's his money, and I admit I enjoy the fruits of his collection. (I'll probably rave about this bike once I have an opportunity to ride it.)

Beat wanted to take his new bike for a spin, so we hit the trails in Loma. While Beat had all the fun, I went for an awkward, slow "run" on the Moore Fun Trail, which is mostly a pile of rocks. I decided that running buffed-out trails in the Bay Area does not aid in my aspirations to become a desert or mountain trail runner. The same goes for mountain biking, although I admit that any technical terrain is far from my first choice if it doesn't involve a large reward (like amazing mountain vistas.) I only have so much patience for staring down at trails rather than looking up to my heart's content.

 Thursday: Snow hike, 1:31, 4.5 miles, 1,641 feet climbing. Beat, Dad, and I embarked on a quick pre-feast hike to lower Bell Canyon falls in the morning. Felt good, maintained a fairly fast pace on the powdery climb just trying to keep up with these two (6 out of 20 for the 2.1-mile Strava segment.) But this didn't feel like a hard effort.

 Friday: Snow hike, 3:04, 7.8 miles, 3,198 feet climbing. Gobbler's Knob is a 10,200-foot peak above Salt Lake City. Winter trail conditions were good, but even in good conditions — even in summer conditions — this climb is a grind. A cold front was moving in, carrying high winds and lower temperatures (it was probably 10F at this altitude, with a steady 20 mph wind gusting to 30, which was calmer than we expected.) Our total time was four and a half hours, and stopped time was fairly minimal in those fierce windchills. I so enjoy these difficult slogs, even if their numbers look so puny in my training log.

 Saturday: Snowshoe, 2:43, 7.9 miles, 2,574 feet climbing. The storm brought a few inches of new snow, so we opted for a winter wonderland jaunt to the Red Pine lakes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The temperature was 17 degrees at the trailhead, and it dropped swiftly when fog and flurries moved in. Later I learned a gauge at Snowbird recorded temperatures of 0 to -3F around this time, and we were just a few drainages over from the ski resort at a similar altitude. I was underdressed and not pulling my weight in the trail-breaking department, so I felt cold for most of the climb. We hiked along the slushy shoreline of Lower Red Pine Lake and continued a true slog to Upper Red Pine, breaking trail in several feet of powder through a treacherous boulder field. I struggled enough with my footing that I could barely keep up with Beat and Dad even though they were breaking trail, but didn't generate much heat at the 0.5 mph pace. A stiff breeze drove the windchill well into the minuses, and I became quite cold — numb shoulders and thighs cold. At the lake I did some callisthenics to push some blood back to my limbs. We were able to move a lot faster and even run some on the descent, but I didn't feel warm until a mile from the trailhead. In this way, it was a valuable training exercise.

Sunday: Afternoon: Snow run, 1:20, 6.7 miles, 1,178 feet climbing. Evening, weight lifting at gym. There was more fresh snow on Sunday, and not enough visibility to get excited about a mountain hike, so Beat and I ran a loop on the Ghost Falls and Clark trails in Corner Canyon. (Note: I did suggest Beat ride his bike instead, but he chose to run with me.) This was a fun run — I love loping downhill through fresh powder. The temperature at the trailhead was 26 degrees. It felt downright warm, until we hit the wind in the more open areas, then brrr. I took Beat to the airport in the evening, and then spent the next hour looking for a gym — I belong to this national chain that used to have several locations in the South Salt Lake Valley, but apparently at least two of them have closed. I kept trying new addresses because I'd already invested so much time, and finally I found a very nice franchise in West Jordan. Going back to my machine routine after two weeks away was encouraging — I felt very strong, upped all my weights, and didn't struggle with the third set as much as last time. It will be interesting to see how sore I feel tomorrow.

Total: 13:13, 43.9 miles run, 13,563 feet climbing. This felt like my lightest week since I started this training block. I would have liked to embark on a day-long effort, but it can be tough to squeeze in eight hours in a one push, especially while out of town and spending time with family. The Friday and Saturday hikes were both difficult, and good preparation for cold. Yes, still no rest days, but those other days of 90-minute jaunts are really just warm-ups. I'd like to hit closer to 20 hours per week for most of December, but I don't stress about specifics. As seriously as I'm taking ITI preparation, I will always prioritize "life" over "training" — I just do a lot of combining of the two.

A few more pictures from Saturday:

Dad and Beat after the climb, before they changed into their warm gear. Dad cracked a rib after he tripped while trail running more than a month ago, and is just getting back at it. (Dad and I share the clumsy gene.)

 While navigating the boulder field between Lower and Upper Red Pine lakes, we all stumbled into and over our fair share of hidden rocks. Here, Dad dropped his foot into the narrow opening between two boulders, and the snowshoe wedged underneath like a latch. Even with Beat reaching to loosen the binding, it took several minutes to work his leg free. This gives me more pause about solo winter travel — it would be unnerving to have this happen while alone. Because you can't see the boulders beneath the snow, you can't always avoid the holes. They're like miniature crevasses.

 Upper Red Pine basin, at 10,100 feet. The sun was trying to break through the fog. Scary boulder minefields, frozen fingers, frigid winds, and the 0.5 mph pace ended our desire to climb any higher. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Opt outside

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, just like Fall Grand Canyon is my favorite tradition, for many of the same reasons. Besides bringing the family together in a low-expectations format centered around mushy food and homemade pie (my favorite!), Thanksgiving also prompts reflection on gratitude. Expressing thankfulness is another way of compartmentalizing values. What am I thankful for? What in life do I value most? Same question. 

This Thanksgiving was particularly festive, as it brought everyone in my immediate family together for the first time in a long while. We always gather at my aunt's house near Ogden for a large traditional spread and brief catch-ups with some of my many first cousins, their kids, aunts, uncles, and my 85-year-old grandmother. It's often a noisy affair that begins in the early afternoon, so my dad, Beat and I only had a couple of hours in the morning to sneak in a hike.

 We went to the lower Bell Canyon falls amid a few inches of fresh snow and frosty temperatures. It was a quick hour-forty-five, stabbing at the steep slope and breathing cold fire. I loped down the canyon behind Beat and Dad — both faster than me — brimming with gratitude.

 For Friday, we embarked on what seems to have become our yearly tradition of climbing Gobblers Knob on Black Friday. This year, some of the hype surrounding this pseudo-holiday focused toward REI's smart marketing campaign, #optoutside. Yes, it's a social media ploy, but it's also a fun sentiment. I love the idea thousands of people venturing outdoors during what is often a cold and windy part of the shoulder season in many parts of the United States. More people still choose to battle crowds at stores on this day, and honestly I think that's fine, too — my sisters are among those who love the Black Friday sales. It's a small slice of consumer culture, and I recognize that I'm very much a part of this. But similar to expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving, it's great to actually set aside a day where you can reflect on what you value more — a cheap television, or a day outside?

 Temperatures dropped into the teens as we climbed up Butler Fork toward the fierce winds that were ripping along the ridge. Winds of 50 miles per hour were reported in the canyons earlier in the day, and I was fearful of potential hurricane-force gusts, but we seemed to find a relative window of calm amid the snow-driving weather happening all around us.

 We even found a tiny pocket of calm to sit down and enjoy a quick lunch of pita bread slathered in Nutella and peanut butter. Thanksgiving dinner is pretty good, but if everyone could taste a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich at 10,000 feet amid a windchill of 0F, lots would have a new favorite food tradition.

With our hands and feet numbed by the short stop, and shards of ice whipping around us, we started down the mountain in giddy moods. I thought about how lucky I am to share these experiences with two people I love, my closest family members, and how grateful I am for our health. Happiness is simple at its core, where reality aligns with our values. I wouldn't trade this for anything. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

ITI training, week six

Monday: Weight lifting at gym. Went for three sets this week, 12 exercises, 12 reps. I stuck with all the same weights as last Thursday and struggled with the third set. When doing these exercises, I contemplate how the movements might correlate with hours of pushing and lifting a loaded bike through unconsolidated snow. I think working toward three or even four sets might be more appropriate than simply trying to increase the amount of weight I can lift. Building moderate strength along with endurance? Seems plausible. 

Tuesday: Trail run, 0:50, 5.6 miles, 692 feet climbing. I again tried to run the Monta Vista loop quickly and only moderately succeeded — 8:55-minute-mile average. The difficulties I'm running up against now are slightly more sore and fatigued quads after long weekend rides, and I'm not willing to pound the descents. But I continue to improve in small increments on the climbs. 

Wednesday: Snowshoe, 2:08, 5.9 miles, 1,743 feet climbing. By Wednesday I was on the road without a bike, so my pedaling miles are going to be zero for two weeks. I believe that's not a problem in terms of training, as slogtastic activities such as snowshoeing are even more appropriate for the "skills" I'm attempting to boost. For consistency purposes I'm going by Strava numbers, but the software tends to short me on time — it seems if I'm moving slower than two miles an hour, I don't get counted for moving at all. I should also note that for training purposes, I count anything I do on foot as a "run." Even if I'm working on a 53-minute-mile through snow drifts, you can bet that, minute-for-minute, I'm putting more physical effort than my 9-minute-mile jaunts on trails, so I'm absolutely going to call it a two-hour run. (Or just call everything hiking. I don't really care.) Anyway, this was a tough climb to Castle Peak, starting at 7,000 feet and working my way up to 9,000 feet through slush, breakable wind crust, and shin-deep sugar. I pushed the pace (yes, at 1.5 mph) so I was blasted by the top, and my calf muscles were quivering. Actually this outing took closer to three hours of moving time, but again, I'm sticking to Strava numbers for this journal. 

Thursday: Snowshoe, 4:20, 11.7 miles, 3,050 feet climbing. Oof. This was actually a six-hour effort with only a few short stops, and I was really feeling the altitude. There were only a few inches of snow at 7,000 feet, but I was still moving at snail's pace as I waded up the Lehman Creek Trail in Great Basin National Park. Past a campground at 9,000 feet, there was more than a foot of fresh snow, and the slog really set in. Close to treeline, above 10,000 feet, I hit these snow-covered boulder fields that involved balancing on loose rocks while wearing snowshoes. I couldn't take the snowshoes off for fear I'd put my foot in a hidden hole and break my ankle in a spot where I was all by myself with only fire-starters and a space blanket as survival gear, and wind-chills were easily below 0F. Winter mountain travel is amazing but it's also extremely intimidating. For many good reasons, I constantly have the "danger, danger" sirens going off in my head, and stress adds to the fatigue I feel on these outings. I turned around about a half mile short of my destination but well past the amount of time I planned to use up for this "run." Damn, I was tired. This is such better training for the ITI than those silly bike rides I do in California. :P

Friday: Trail run, 2:06, 9.6 miles, 688 feet climbing. Calves were sore and hamstrings were tight, so I took it pretty easy on this fun jaunt into McDonald Creek Canyon along the Colorado River, near the Utah/Colorado border. There wasn't much of a trail in the canyon so this "run" involved quite a bit of hiking up and down slickrock ledges, and shuffling in the sandy wash. It was fun to embark on a desert adventure after two snowbound slogs. 
Saturday: Trail run, 1:35, 5 miles, 2,732 feet climbing. I finally made it the Boulder, and Beat and I met up with Daniel (the friend who recently lived in Frisco and helped rescue me when I was very sick during the Tour Divide, and now lives in Denver) and Joe Grant (professional ultra-runner and super nice guy who lives in Boulder) for lunch and a quick afternoon jaunt. Joe guided us on a hike up Bear Peak and we chatted about life on the Front Range. Again, I'm still calling this a run, because the pace was brisk for me and Beat (and clearly a stroll for Daniel and Joe.) I felt moderately embarrassed when I was hugging icy boulders with full-chest contact, and the Coloradans were dancing over them on their tip-toes. But this is who I am. It takes a lot more than a few snowy outings to fix clumsy. Running downhill with these guys did help push me past my comfort zone, which is a good thing. 

Sunday: Afternoon, snowshoe, 2:38, 7.6 miles, 1,082 feet climbing. Evening, weight lifting. Beat and I drove up Boulder Canyon for sightseeing, and chose a random trailhead near Niwot Mountain to go snowshoeing. We hoped to find good ridge access, but instead followed a trail that meandered through the woods in a long traverse around the mountain. Both of us were disappointed about the lack of views, but it was nice to get out for a more relaxing hike. I'm beginning to adjust to the altitude although still sucking wind at 10,000 feet. Beat had more difficulties. I also discovered our hotel has a small gym, so I spent a half hour on a free-weight routine — mostly adapted from exercises I could remember from the "Strength Training for Runners" program I did for eight weeks last fall. Shoulders were pretty sore after 30 pushups, broken up in three sets of 10. But that's far more than I was able to do at this time last year. 

Total: 13:39, 45.5 miles run, 9,978 feet climbing. Well, the numbers make this look like a pretty paltry week. It certainly didn't feel that way. But I'm glad to have this opportunity to embark on snowy adventures this week. These efforts certainly will help more toward my goals than a faster time on the Monta Vista loop. Here are a few more photos: 

Beat and I visited the Boulder Running Company, which is practically across the street from Google Boulder. I was interested in purchasing one of those Ultimate Direction hip belts named after well-known runners who live around here, but got the souvenir shirt instead. Who needs a hip belt when you can just stuff things in the pockets of a jacket and tie it around your waist?

 Joe pointed out all the notable landmarks. There was a stiff wind blowing and I'd guess the wind-chill was around 20 degrees, and Daniel was perfectly content in his T-shirt and shorts. Meanwhile, we Californians were pulling on jackets and mittens and being teased for this, because we're purportedly preparing ourselves for Alaska cold.

 Although I prefer mountains, I share a fascination for the open spaces of the prairies. Colorado's Front Range has fast access to both landscapes. I like this photo for the sharp shadow of Bear Peak spread over the foothills.

 More Bear Peak views.

 Looking west toward Indian Peaks Wilderness. There was some fierce gusty weather happening on the Continental Divide.

 Sunset on Saturday evening.

 Beat hiking on the Sourdough Trail on Sunday. We were breaking fresh trail after a mile, despite seeing a dozen cars at the trailhead, which caused Beat to comment "Coloradans sure are lazy." I had to laugh. The main issue, I think, is that skiing is still pretty thin here, and people who snowshoe are usually pretty casual about it and really do only hike a mile. We did see a few fat bike tracks, and I wondered if they veered off in a different direction. Still, I really enjoyed this outing despite the lack of views. Snowshoeing is such a difficult but soothing activity.