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.  


  1. Hey Jill - Been reading your blog for years love the pics and the writing. I live right by the Sourdough trail, we ride fat bikes (more than a mile :) ) all over the area. Check some pics out here:


    1. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing, Joe. I told Beat that it probably wouldn't take long to figure out where the fat-bikers ride around here. Looks like there are a lot of opportunities.

  2. Still no rest days. You are amazing, even if you say it's low to moderate cardio ( I suspect that your low to moderate is a lot of people's moderate to high). I looked back at your last training post and what you put about 20 hours. Nope, not unreasonable. I think the difference between us is that I have to save longer or all day jaunts for weekends which brings up the total. It seems like this is working for you (long sustained efforts with no days off). As far as weights, congrats on the pushups. They are hard but once you get them it's easy to go higher. It's those pesky pull ups that plague me.

    1. Thanks! I'll have to write a blog post about my thoughts on this sometime, but I still believe endurance can be accumulated and increased over time with volume. It's the "thru-hiker" theory — the way some hikers just get stronger as they go. I've seen this myself with the Tour Divide. And again, when I was backpacking in the Wind Rivers on the CDT in August. Those northbound hikers who'd been at it for three months could move with enviable grace and speed, maintaining 30 miles a day average. I'd been resting for a month and yeah, I'd been quite sick, but I had decent fitness in the spring, and I was blown after 10 miles.

      Of course, eventually many people hit a point of wearing down/breaking down, but I've long wondered what factors contribute to this arc, and whether it would be possible to keep it on an upward slope even amid high energy expenditures. My theory is that much of this is mental, related to personal goals and also the amount of time and mental energy one has to contribute to other aspects of life. (Thru-hikers dedicate all their energy essentially to hiking and staying alive. I realize that for most people even 20 hours a week is too much time to invest.)

      More than ever this year, I've also considered the risk of testing limits, given how sick I was for most of the summer. Still ... can I blame my illness on my activity level at the time? Or was it simply an environmental factor of allergies and a virus and a collision of bad luck? Of that I'm not sure. More on this soon! :)

    2. Also ... I still haven't achieved a full-body-weight pull-up. Will I ever? Still seems doubtful. ;)

  3. Great pictures and adventures, glad you had some fun in the Front Range. Because of the sunshine, some of us like to think we live in Arizona, not buy snow tires (I do), and wear shorts and T-shirts as late in the year as possible. Actually in the sun this works fine, and the Flatirons and other foothills trails are so vertical that you work up a lot of heat on the ascents. Then you start getting hit with the wind coming over the top, you get chilly, and you try to warm up coming down. What a great park.

  4. Bear Peak was my first run up a mountain and a regular site of pilgrimage when I go home. Pretty heartwarming to see it on your site (a favorite read of mine). Also don't feel bad about hugging the boulders; still do that in Fern Canyon after years of running it. Also very impressed by the lack of rest days; I've been struggling with injury for over a year now. Lotta rest days, I'll say that.

  5. lucky to live there... diverse terrian lots to do...

  6. I used to teach a course on muscle physiology at the college level. One thing that people tend not to realize is that "strength" gains are actually the nervous system learning to do a specific task more effectively. For about the 1st 6 weeks of strength training, the majority of the increases in "strength" are actually neural learning. After that, the muscles have hypertrophied enough that their higher force output is also contributing.

    That leads me to my point. I am wondering if you should consider some specific Snoots strength training along with the gym stuff. You could take Snoots to some outlandish hills and push it up them repeatedly. Similarly, you could push Snoots through deep sand. You could carry Snoots up steps. Those are just some ideas of how you could translate the muscle strength gains that you'll make from your gym work into actual gains in pushing/carrying your loaded bike. Just my 2 cents!

    BTW, you gave me great advice before I purchased my first fat bike about 7 years ago. I ride near Boulder Canyon all the time. Feel free to contact me if you're ever out this way again.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate your input ... I hadn't read about neural learning when I started this, but it makes a lot of sense. I also agree that the most valuable training I can do in the Bay Area is to take my loaded Snoots for some long pushes/rides in the mountains. It's my intention to do so soon, but I admit I have difficulty with commitment when it comes to the less fun aspects of training — this is why I've failed to establish a strength routine before. But it is important.


Feedback is always appreciated!